Swiss Lakes and Black Forest

Route details: Zurich – Interlaken – Bern – Basel – Freiburg – Karlsruhe – Tubingen

Distance: 633km

Duration: 13 days (actual riding: 7 days)

Difficulty: ★★

Accommodation: Warmshower hosts/friends (11 nights); camping (2 nights)

Expenditure: €55.9

12. Swiss and Black Forest

Switzerland is the most expensive country I have been, everything is like double or triple the price compare to Italy or Spain. Recently the Swiss government lowered the exchange rate of CHF:Euro to 1:1 which made things a little bit more reasonable-priced.

IMG_38091st August is National Day of Switzerland, there were many firework shows all over the country except Zurich, I really have no idea why the Zurich local government did not do it, but instead they organized a day-time street parade. I was lucky to witness that, it was quite special, but sadly there were not many people knowing that, I asked quite a few Warmshowers hosts and they all do not know the parade. It was completely different compare with any Asian festivals with parades, you cannot even get a spot to see because they are always packed with people. The Swiss style is kind of “don’t care, don’t know”, so the crowd watching the parade were mainly tourists.

This Swiss long blowing instrument reminds me the Digeridoo from Indigenous Australian, but they sound totally different.

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My Warmshowers host Esther was super duper nice, although she was in holiday, she trusted me and let me use her flat for a couple of days, the only deals were to feed her cat and water the plants. Thanks so much that I had a few days resting and planning my trip.

However, the main reason I visited Zurich was to meet my secondary school teacher Miss Chan, she taught me Chinese language and culture when more than 10 years ago, and since I graduated, we always keep in touch and have gatherings from time to time. There is a saying in Chinese 一日為師,終生為師which means “Even if you call a person teacher for only one day, he/she is your teacher of a lifetime!” I still cannot get enough from her knowledge, especially relating to the theories with Chinese cultural background. We met for a whole day touring in Zurich, and my main highlight was chatting outside Zurich University. Thank you Miss Chan for reminding me the importance of family value in Chinese society!

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I stayed in Zurich for 5 days, during a long distance bike tour, I found these longer stays are essential to make you feel grounded and balance out the time that you are constantly on the go. Not only my physical body get enough rest, my mind can take a break from all the new information and ideas; and let all the things I have learned to be digested and consolidated.

Usually after 3-4 days, the road is calling me again, and it was time to get going! I knew one day riding from Zurich to Interlaken sounds crazy, it is around 130km, but I started quite early in the morning, passing Lucerne at around noon, and arrived Interlaken before dark. It was a tough ride because at around Sarnen I climbed up a 1000km hill. The view beside the Brienzersee lake is absolutely charming, that is why people come to Switzerland, to embrace the hills and lakes!

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My hosts Conny and Peter are very chill person, they have done some bike trips in Africa, as well as Walking 6 months in New Zealand! That’s awesome! Of course we shared a lot of interesting stories we had on the road! Thanks for having me for a night!

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I really do not want to stay too long in places where Asian and Arabic tourists flock to, and Interlaken is becoming one of them. Even in the morning, the whole town is packed with tourists, no wonder Miss Chan told me she could not find the tranquility of Interlaken anymore. The view of the snowy mountain is still the reason why people come to see!

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IMG_3923From Interlaken to Bern, it is a short ride, about 60km along the Thunersee lakeside and then the Aare river. I did not intend to visit Bern, but I know my friends Christian and Jules are living there now, and they have a baby girl last year, so I decide to visit them! It turned out to be a very nice gathering! This couple was my Couchsurfing guests 5 years ago in Hongkong, and now they became my host in Bern!

IMG_4120Spending time with people that I know and talking about deeper feelings are always great! Sometimes I do wish to have a time machine to go back and treasure the moments. However, life moves on! Some people said I am stuck in the past, partially correct because I do not want myself to always moving forwards like everyone else, sometimes going back to the past can make me realize how lucky I am to meet so many wonderful souls in my self-discovering journey!

IMG_4077During the summer in Bern, you can see a lot of people “floating” in the Aare River, the stream can take them possibly more than 30km with a floating foam or just an inflated bag. People are having fun embracing the natural entertainment they can obtain for free.

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After the good catch up with Christian and Juliane, time to carry on to my final Swiss stop Basel. I just follow Road 12, anybody know what does this road sign means? I suppose it means there is a possibility of flooding, but sometimes after this sign there is a hill…?

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IMG_4146Basel is at the intersection between 3 countries: Switzerland, Germany and France, separated by River Rhein. I arrived quite early, did some random sightseeing and decided to continue crossing to Germany. There are some huge dams along the borders, I suppose they are the sources of hydroelectric power in the region.

Along the German side of River Rhein, there is an extensive unpaved cycling path which is quite rideable. Before sunset, I found a place near Neuenburg am Rhein just next to the River, so I quickly set up my tent like this:

What is better than cleaning myself in the river after a long riding day? The water is quite clean but very shallow, it only allows people to dip their feet. It is fantastic to run my body with fresh water! That camping spot is really a nice one, no wonder there are another homeless guy staying there as well.

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The next day I followed Road 3 heading to Freiburg and meet my host Norberg. We cycled around town and thanks for his guided tour. He works as a bicycle delivery man, who transports parcels within short period of time around the city. I still do not understand why the post office cannot provide such express services.

Freiburg is at the border of Schwarzwald, known as Black Forest, in the Southwest part of Germany. Brothers Grimm wrote a lot of fairy tales based on the mystery of this forest, such as Hansel and Gretel, Snow White…we listened to those stories when we were young, it was surreal to visit the place where the fairy tales were being written. Last time I had similar feeling when I was sitting in a café in Edinburgh where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter!

IMG_4332The forest is full of dense evergreen oak and fir trees, and many other kinds. They grow so tall that always cover the sun shining on the ground, creating a micro-climate which is dark and humid, allowing the flourishing of ferns and mosses. It took me 2 days to cycle from the south to north of the forest.

First day I followed Road 294 Wolfach, but on the way I was stopped by the police because I was riding on a highway…

One thing touring cyclists have to remind themselves are the colors different countries use to represent their roads and highways. For example:

Switzerland: Highways are Green, and Secondary roads are Blue

Germany: Highways are Blue and Secondary roads are Yellow

And also the signs of Highway are different. And at some point of the Yellow road, suddenly there is a Highway sign that I was unaware of, the German police tstopped me because I was not allowed to cycle there. So the Yellow B roads are not always cycling permitting, how confusing is that.

But my host actually suggested me to take either L or K roads, which contain less traffic than B roads.

Here is the view of the forest along the way.

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At Wolfach, I took L96 which is a short cut, but also a harsh climb up to 1000m. The scenery at the top is gorgeous without doubt. At the crossroad, I joined the B500 which is known as Panoramic Road, where it offers a bird eye view of the forest in both sides.

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IMG_4318The weather is unpredictable in the forest, at around sunset time, thick clouds gathered and occasionally I could hear a loud thunder far away. I planned to camp next to a lake Mummelsee which is almost at the highest point of the panoramic road. I use maps.me to navigate and it showed there is a shelter nearby, it is easy to locate those small empty houses (also called refuges) in the forest, they are set up to provide shelters for hikers and cyclists. Because I don’t want to be caught up in the middle and get all wet, and the refuge looked quite good, I stayed on night there, in the middle of Black Forest! I will never forget this experience.

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Once I put everything inside and started cooking, the thunderstorm came! Thanks God that I was lucky to have a place to stay for tonight. Surprisingly I slept very well, and not even waken by the storm!

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This region is named as Baden, which means hot pools. I could not find any in the wild, but in the town Baden-Baden, hot pools are traditional and famous there!

IMG_4439Keep going north to Karlsruhe, there I met 2 of my Trimuti Yoga classmates Daniel and Julia. Time really flies, it has already been one and a half year since we all gathered in the hall and did yoga together. I was so glad to see them in their hometown, especially listening to Daniel’s healthy diet advice and his yoga teaching experience! I will surely take your advice and this winter I am going to instruct yoga in Finland and Italy, hopefully I can have enough time to prepare and study to provide good lessons!

I stayed with a Warmshowers host Robert in Karlsruhe, he was so kind to give me a city tour and introduced me some interesting facts about the city, including 2 famous guys: Karl Benz who founded Mercedes-Benz and Karl Drais who invented two-wheeler principle basic to bicycle and motorcycle. I was also surprised how bicycle-friendly Karlsruhe is, Robert explained me indeed Karlsruhe is the second bike-friendly city in the whole Germany, followed by Münster.

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Thanks to Robert who recommended me a very nice route to ride to Tubingen, passing Pforzheim and go along Nagold River to Calw, it is basically flat until Calw which I climbed a hill to Herrenberg, and the last 20km to Tubingen. Many people asked me how could I plan my route? My answer is very simple, I pick some cities that I really want to visit, link them together, then if the distance between 2 points is longer than one-day ride, I will search Warmshowers for hosts along my way. If there is a host accepted me, I will ride and stay with them. If not, just have a few more free-camping nights, it does not hurt.

My hosts in Tubingen are Super lovely, they wrote a sign putting on a Turquoise bike giving me direction to their home because it is kind of hidden. I felt so warm seeing the sign, and already felt like going home!

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IMG_4529Martin and Sirke gave me a big hug when I turned up at their house in the middle of a forest. They are very artistic and ecological: planting their vegetables, raising bees to make honey, making their own desks, chairs and even an outdoor bathtub!! I wish I could stay longer with them to learn more about sustainable living style! At least I helped them filling up the honey jars that they have collected during the summer. The last night Martin told us that there will be meteors aka shooting stars falling upon the sky, we immediately grabbed some pillows and lied on the grass for an hour. It was fascinating! We saw around 10 shooting stars, and of course we did not forget to make a few wishes.

I learned from Martin that there are a lot of Community housing projects within Germany, that once you are involved in a community, you can live there and contribute your skills and time to help with them community growth, for example growing vegetables, organizing events, or helping with renovation….In the future, I would love to stay in a healthy community like these, and surround myself with people having positive mindsets and ideas which can stimulate personal development of each other.

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I thought the shooting stars were going to give me good luck in my upcoming trips, however, things do not always happen as we wish, and if we can go through all the challenges and aim at the target, we can easily come to term with all the difficult times. And here was the “worst” cycling coming up next….

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