After we have been triking through Germany and the Netherlands the past two years, we thought to aim a little higher, so why not heading into Switzerland? This years spring was very rainy at our home-base, so we had to wait until end of May until summer came and offered sunny days. Öffnen went.
Author: Stefan Hartmann
“Always good to have a plan”, which initially consisted of a route down to the lake of Constance, along the Rhine River until it would meet the river Aare, which we wanted to follow upstream. Level, smooth riding, I hoped.
“Always good to have a plan” is a basephrase of my lovely wife, and as soon as she says it, there is a change of plan! Why don’t we head to Freiburg im Breisgau to visit our friends? I am supposed to answer “great idea”, thinking, there is a black forest hill in between, which may be pretty steep and high? The new plan turned our path straight west, down from the Allgäu hills into the valley of the Schussen creek. Past Gaisbeuren and the cloister Reute. Enjoyed our first travel lunch at a beautiful and very old chapel on a little creek. We passed the mobile home factory of the Carthago company and entered the town of Aulendorf. Nice and flowing cycle path beside a road, riding up, up, up the other side of the Schussen valley up to the magnificent avenue, intentionally designed to be pointing in straight line to Jerusalem, to the imposing entrance of the new castle of Altshausen. The castle has been the seat of the teutonic knights order for Swabia, Alsace and Burgund, and later belonged to the King of Württemberg. Unfortunately the castle is not open for visitors. So we where on our way over many steep hills and the villages Hoßkirch and Ostrach until we reached Krauchenwies and our first campsite, after 78 kilometers. We where greeted by a receptionist in a conversation by phone with another guest who seemed not to be able to make up his mind, which day and what place he wanted to camp. After that call she was happy to receive us, simple: two people, two trikes, one tent, one night, today, Thanks. We selected a site, found an electric outlet to charge, had a little trouble getting our tent pegs into the ground, it was a gravel pit before! Went shopping for dinner. Got into conversation with three teenagers across, coming from Stuttgart and heading to the lake of Constance. Two guys had analog mountain bikes and just a small backpack, the one guy on an electric assist bike hauled everything else. Group dynamics and who had the saying was entertaining us till bedtime.
We broke tent and headed out before the youngsters got their gear together, competitive? Always. Nice route through Engelswies, translated the angels meadows, Kreenheinstetten, no translation for that. We where surprised to pass through many villages without spotting anybody, or a restaurant, beer garden, bakery, Café, even a little grocery. Having chosen a route off the well frequented cycling path along the gorge of the river Danube, whenever expected to find us in such a remote area. Obviously the military thought so too, as a huge CH-53 Sikorsky helicopter exercised touchdowns and go’s right beside us. We stopped to have a break and enjoy some sandwiches, checking around, we discovered a grave stone for an Austrian soldier, which died here 1815 fighting Napoleons Army.
As we sloped down to Neuhausen ob Eck and went into the town of Tuttlingen, all was busy and crowded again. Quite a difference. We finally got our Espresso on a friendly “beach” Café, took up afterwards the Danube track, and headed on. We had to stop where the Danube vanishes into the ground, remembering the big surprise years ago when we followed the river down on kayaks. Quite an experience to cross one of the mightiest rivers of Europe with dry feet.
Further on where the river valley opens up, entering the so called Baar flat. Reached the Riedsee campsite after 87 kilometers to a friendly “welcome back”. We set up camp and went straight to the campsite restaurant, as we remembered the grandiose Schnitzel dishes.
Got up early again and headed right into the town of Huefingen, racing a very old couple on a side by side three-wheeler with electric assist. Stumbled onto Café “Suesser Winkel”, sweet corner, and ordered the breakfast for two, after a little wait we where surprised by a heavily loaded etagere, which would have fed four. We dug in and did our best. The left overs found a place in the provided carry away bag. That’s how days should start. We toured the village and found it very lovely. Rolling on into the black forest foot hills, passing the lake at Kirnberg, in its beautiful setting. From there we followed the so-called “old avenue”, which is a gravel forest road going straight uphill for 5 miles with an average inclination of 12 percent. Surrounded by the huge forest trees we reached 1000 meters elevation. Down to Friedenweiler and up again to the summit overlooking the town of Titisee-Neustadt. Through there and over to the lake where we headed, after 44 kilometers that day, to a campsite situated on the lake shore. Beautiful beach where we enjoyed a sundowner.
After breakfast we packed our tent and headed back into the village, where we found a nice cycling path over gravel, through the forest and past a bog with pretty wildflowers to the village of Hinterzarten. Bought groceries and headed further uphill to 1180 meters elevation at Rinken. Enjoyed our lunch looking over to the Feldberg, proud we made it on top of the black forest. Took out our jackets as we where ready to drive down the Zastlertal. Starting with rough gravel, this route down into the valley opening to the town of Freiburg, was a challenge to the brakes on our trikes, with its continuous more than 15 percent decline. Had to stop twice to make sure the disc’s would not overheat. Tarmac came, which made control easier, and cutting the many curves more fun. Two girls from New Zealand came uphill on their gravel bikes and cheered us on. Rolling out into the flat we entered the city and arrived at our friends place after 48 kilometers. She welcomed us and after settling in lured us into a beer/wine Besenwirtschaft just another 18 kilometers away. Great evening and a well deserved bed.
Toured 18 kilometers into the village of Umkirch, just saying “Hello” to old friends and places.
Packed up and followed our friend to Sölden, visited her Island horse in its stable. Sayed our goodbyes and drove on past Bad Krozingen, until we reached the Rhine River cycle path. Followed this until Bad Bellingen where we drove uphill to the well known campsite Luginsland. Set up tent after 67 kilometers and enjoyed our meal while a stunning sun set over the Rhine valley and the Vosges mountain range.
After breakfast, and enjoying the most glamorous showers again, we met a couple on velomobiles from Switzerland. Had a nice chat, they where en route up into Germany. That got us adventurous and we decided to cross over the hills instead of following the river path. So we climbed over Mappach, Schöllbach into Schopfheim. Up and down in a very nice rural setting. Fetched a bite sitting across a monument that teasingly remembered the failed revolution in Southwest Germany of 1848. We followed a beautiful cycle path along the river Wehra to the city Wehr and met there with the Rhine River cycle route again. Up river into and through beautiful Bad Säckingen. Took some shots of our Azub Trikes on the longest ancient covered wooden bridge crossing the Rhine. After 65 kilometers we found a very basic nature campground upstream, got groceries, had dinner and many interesting conversations with travelers on cycle and kayaks.
Left early, crossing the famous bridge into, finally Switzerland. Decided to take the challenge and cross over the hills, passing Frick, over the very steep Bänkerjoch. Reaching the summit after gaining 400 meters elevation, we needed a brake, as temperatures reached over 33 degrees Celsius. Downhill into the Aare river valley was easier but we had to watch our speed. Reached the city of Aarau and took our time to swallow up all the beautiful sightseeing highlights. So many picturesque buildings and painted gables. Considering that there was no campground nearby and all the hotel websites shouted “fully booked”, we decided to try the tourist information office. My wife got lucky, I know she charmed the receptionist, after some calls we got a hotel room with a spot where our Azub trikes would park safe. Occupied our nice room, cleaned up and walked back to town for an excellent Palestinian dinner, well earned after 35 kilometers.
Following the river Aare we passed Gösgen and shortly after the shut down nuclear power plant. Heading thrugh bussy Olten a cycle route deviation misled us onto a road with heavy traffic. Switzerland has a system to signal with a dashed line on the side of the road that that’s supposed to be the space for bicycles. That leaves approximately one meter on the side of the road, which is not much for Azub trikes being nearly 80 centimeters wide. Can’t imagine someone on a regular bike with a trailer and kids inside, especially as Swiss car drivers seem to assume that the dashed line is the edge where their car can pass! And than comes a truck or a bus…horror. We made it save into Aarburg and, relaxing, had a nice lunch. On we went to the city of Solothurn and, after 72 kilometers, to the next campground, run by the Swiss touring club. We got a tiny spot where there was supposed to be tents only back at the end of the area, passing hundreds of mobil homes, only to find a few of them stacked in with the few tents. Well, electricity was close and included in the not so cheap price. The other tent companions where nice and chit chatting we ended that hot day.
We took a day of touring and rolled around beautiful Solothurn, visiting the impressive cathedral, having luck to hear the organ exercise. We suggest to visit, as we did, the famous Café Höfer and try something with chocolat. My wife found a tiny little boutique, hidden in a narrow bend of an alley, with reduced pricing. The owner was very attentive and after some trying out she found some beautiful clothes, not Swiss priced and made in Germany. Her saddlebags had space left and she was happy. We skittered into the park with the ancient fortifications and hugged a huge Sequoia tree. Back at the campground I ventured for a short swim into the swift river, very refreshing. Had lunch at the restaurant and another chat with tent neighbors. The lady was Australian born, but Swiss resident, and gladly accepted the offer to test ride an Azub trike, she found it very much more comfortable than her Brompton. Only 9 kilometers today.