A (cycle)journey through the sleeping giants of Switzerland

holm
Mikkel Holm @holm
· October 2019 · 8 min read · Switzerland · #traveladvice

My legs feel like burning jelly, the salvia in my mouth has turned into some thick metallic tasting goo. I try not to look up from the sheer fear of seeing how far there's left or even worse, not being able to see it. I try to ignore the cars that seem to get impatient behind me, giving them as much space as I can without tipping off the edge on these narrow snaky roads that seem to never stop leading me upwards. I am trying to distract myself with the good thoughts, but all I can think of at that moment is Of all places in the world why did I decide to bike through Switzerland?



The Giants awaits me...

The country with 8.42 Million people, 4 languages and the tallest Alps in Europe


Just because Switzerland is small they are by no means unknown. They are an economic powerhouse that only a few other countries can match, their sky-high prices match their sky-high mountains that would make only a mad-man decide to bike through.

Located in the heart of Europe with neighbors such as France, Italy, Germany, and Austria it is easy to see where their 4 languages come from. Yes, you guessed right, depending on what part of Switzerland you are in you will either have to speak Swiss-French, Swiss-German or Swiss-Italian. The 4th and a bit more uncommon language are called Romansh. Which some parts of Switzerland still tries to keep alive.
The Alps have mostly been the cause of this multitude of languages. Back in time, the hard-to-pass alps have had the effect of isolating the people of the country from each other and left them mostly to be influenced by their neighboring country. It does give a interesting feeling when you travel through the country. For example, when heading out from what seems like a typical German town, over a mountain pass and suddenly it feels like you just entered into Italy on the other side of the valley.

So not only are the Alps offering probably something of the most beautiful nature to observe, but it also has had a huge impact on how the culture has developed throughout history in this country.

Hell, even today you can see some funny stuff like the excessive amount of E-bikes going around. My own theory is that many of the cities and towns have too many hills to allow regular people using regular bikes. Instead, you will see people use E-bikes as their preferred vehicle of choice

While we talk about history, did you know that Switzerland managed completely avoid getting pulled into both the first and second world war?

Not that I am gonna go into details about this horrific certain time in history. But diplomacy is a reason why they have become such an economic powerhouse. Despite not being part of the European Union, having almost no military and are a relatively small country this country are way better off than one would assume.

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So why would one even consider travel in Switzerland by bike?


First and foremost you need to remember who writes this article, yep you guessed right, that's me. A person who cycles everywhere and have by now crossed over 20.000km throughout Europe by bike. So maybe take my word as ”slightly-biased”

Now with that out of the way let’s actually look at why would a person choose to go through Switzerland on the two-wheeled device, shall we?

Switzerland is very expensive. Here the cheapest hostel can easily cost 60 euros/day which is a lot comparative to cheaper countries in Europe that can go all the way down to 10-20 euros/day. This ratio in price is also the same case with about everything else you might use your money on in Switzerland, such as food or transportation.

This means if you are anything like me who both have a low budget but also like to travel for a long time(In my case this can be months) Switzerland can be a death sentence to your wallet.


The Edge was really never far away from my biking lane.

When you travel there are three main expenses you will have to cover:
Transportation, accommodation, and food.

Biking is free, so that takes transportation out of the picture.
Accommodation can be free if you travel on a loaded bike and uses a tent. Be aware that Like most places in Europe, Switzerland does have laws against wild-camping and it is known that some people have received huge fines. But if you are a bit of a risk-taker like me, don’t start any fires and choosing places that are nicely hidden you should really not have a problem here.

I would also like to add if you do indeed to break the law and wild-camp. Try to do your best and leave the nature behind as it was when you came, preferably even better. Most people don't mind you staying inside some forest. People do mind, however, you leave all your trash behind. So respect the nature or I do prey for you to get one of those huge swiss-fines.

So that leaves us with food, everyone has to eat but if you stick to supermarkets you can at least make a little bit of saving there. For me, I did get tempted a bit too many times to visit cities which did lead to some larger expenses but money is there to be used, right?

While the Alps is what I came for, I do need to confess the cities in Switzerland had its charm and I still keep a lot of great memories from their beautiful architecture, good food, and wine.

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Sometimes I had a nice big lane for myself like here, but mostly I would not be that lucky.

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Even during summer there will be a lot of snow at 2000m

But the ALPS! What about the ALPS?!


The Alps are the sole reason to visit Switzerland, but at the same time, it is the sole reason to stay away if you are on a bike. That is at least if you are not in for a challenge.

I had the delightful advantage of first biking from Denmark to Switzerland so by the time I got there I was already in pretty decent shape. However, I would be lying if Switzerland's alps didn’t kick my ass… multiple times.

But every time you climb one of these sleeping giants, the next one will get easier, it will never get truly easy, but it will get easier. That is the true reward of going through Switzerland by bike. You feel powerful, strong and confident every time you manage to pull yourself through the pain. So yes, maybe at the moment when you are struggling over the mountain-passes you will feel like I described at the beginning of this article.

BUT once you reach to top there’s no one else to gratulate of this feat but yourself and your (tired) legs. You will be feeling like a complete badass when you walk around in 2000m heights. As the only one with a fully-loaded bike on top of a mountain-passage, many will look at you with a confused look telling ” wait, you are really not supposed to be up here” (that or they feel sorry for you for not having money for a car).

It is fair to say that it does take a certain “character” to do the biking trips I do. Cycling through Switzerland even more so. But if you are the type who doesn’t shy away from a challenge it might be the most rewarding and memorable thing you will ever do for yourself.

Switzerland is just… Too beautiful not to see with your own eyes or to experience with your own body.

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See the bottom? that's not really the bottom. What you see are only half-way down.

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The lakes are unlike anything else, I wanted to jump in all the time if it wasn't so bloody cold

In the end, it really is true Swiss-quality as you would expect it to be


We all know their quality watches and chocolate. Yeah, it might be expensive and leave you in debt for your entire life, but it is also the quality of the highest standards. I cannot stop but feel visiting Switzerland is the exact same deal here. The experience regardless of where you go and what you do is sublime. The giants of Switzerland are no joke and are more beautiful, intimating and powerful than any object made by a human being. They will make you feel humble even when viewing them from afar, where they make buildings in front look like toy-houses.

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I feel like I spoke a lot about the Alps, but the food and the towns were at least as beautiful

As beautiful as they are rough if you do dare to challenge these Giants by bike(or hiking for that matter) they demand respect. One moment you might cycle under the clear sky and in an instant turn into hail and thunderstorms. Sometimes it feels like its the mountains that decides whether you are allowed or not to climb them.

You don’t have to experience Switzerland on a bike in order to see and enjoy the country. But it is a unique way to feel the power of your body(and its weakness) as it gets challenged biking through the Swiss Alps, while at the same time still getting to see some of the most spectacular nature in Europe, if not the world.

-holm




















Topics: TRAVELADVICEBUDGETTRAVELOUTDOORPHOTOGRAPHY

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phortun
phortun @phortunOctober 2019

Top notch again ;) Btw I have seen Steem also being referred to as "sleeping giant" :D


holm
Mikkel Holm @holmOctober 2019

lol I had no idea. I hope you are right about that though! cheers mate


karinxxl
karinxxl @karinxxlOctober 2019

Super sweet dude! The wooden bridge is actually only like a stone throw away from my house hahaha.

Regarding to wild camping, if you are above the tree line on no ones property, wild camping is always allowed :D


holm
Mikkel Holm @holmOctober 2019

Oh really? I loved that city so much!
I actually did not know it was allowed above treeline to wild camp but that is a pretty cool tip to know for the next time!


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