24/07/2014

REHUMANIZE THE P.I.G.S. (July 2010 Part 4)

On the second morning of July I find myself driving with Tobias, leaving his house behind where he hosted me  but for different reasons. My plan was to cross all Switzerland up to the Austrian border, he was just riding for his routine way to work. He was kind enough to ride with me for a few km. I say goodbye to one of the best friends I made through my trip and then we split. I head North east in great weather conditions.
As you may already know or imagine, Switzerland's countryside is like a fairytale. Therefore, it doesn't make that much sense to follow strict guidelines like “you have to go there it is a nice place” because even if you “don't go there” you'll probably find another nice place on your way, at least as long as you don't use the toll road. There are just some places that look even more beautiful than the rest, and I will try to mention only these exceptional ones from all that I've seen there in order not to overload this text.
First of all I've passed through Col de la Croix which is right before Les Diablerets.

The route was good enough so I didn't pay too much attention on the mediocre (for the Swiss standards) condition of the tarmac.

Right after Les Diablerets, heading East is the also interesting Col du Pillon at 1546m.

Later on, riding on the 11 was a really nice route that passes through Weissenbach, gets even better around Boltigen but what really touched me more was the city of Thun. It is a medieval city built right by the Thunersee lake.

It really worth spending  some time there even if you are in a hurry to walk around this gorgeous city and tour around the lake. Especially the route on the North side of this lake is amazing as there are spots where you cross some tunnels dug in the rock while the water of the lake is right beside you. The Brienzersee lake right at the east of Thunersee is as beautiful. The whole area there is very attractive and offers countless chances for enjoying stops.
I made a mistake later at Innertkitchen and instead of continuing east on 11 I took the 6 going South east. As I told you before though you can't go wrong at Switzerland and wherever you go you'll expose your eyes at wonderful views. This “mistake” of mine first led me to lake Raterichs,


then to Grimselsee

and the Grimsellpass, with nice lake Totesee beautifying this special place. Guaranteed attraction for the tourist buses.


At the end of the deviation that this “mistake” caused, I passed Furkapass which has a unique wild beauty, lies at 2436m with a lot of snow and cold, while the weather was about to rain limiting my joy a little bit.


Two guys with their bicycles – super happy to make it up to the top – asked me to take a photo of them under the sign as a proof. They did the same to me and I decide to continue riding before weather goes worse. I wish I make more mistakes like this on my next trips. This one offered me gorgeous km on almost perfect tarmac with nice bends in a snowy rocky landscape much higher than the tree line.
Heading for Austria I cross Lichtenstein which didn't impressed me for the second time (I was there last year) and the main road that crosses it has a lot of traffic. I enter Austria leaving it behind and I stay at Hohenems, a mediocre town where I found a nice hotel with great breakfast. I needed a good place to rest after 400 km on non toll roads crossing all Switzerland in one piece. As I was getting closer to Austria I saw more and more cars with German flags waving. Later I was informed that the German team had a great victory against the Argentinian one at football. The football fans where still noticeable wherever I went as the world championship was still on but fortunately they where less noisy this time.
After an overnight stay at Hohenems I leave it behind for the nearby town of Dornbirn. This is where I would meet our friend Luna. Among other things in her life she has done a tour around South America for  a year and a half alone on an Enfield and while I write these lines she is riding her transalp with her friend (on a BMW 650 GS) heading for Mongolia. When I arrived she was away for the weekend and so I would meet her sister Marianne first. I was early on our appointment so I decided to go at the river where I found a place under shadow to sit for a while as the day was quite hot.


I was looking at the families passing by with their bicycles, some other ones where enjoying the river's water and I find the perfect soundtrack for the whole view listening to “Ready for drowning” from the Manic Street Preachers on my netbook though I was not “Ready for drowning” in the river at all.
To be honest I couldn't have a better guide than Marianne in Dornbirn. She took me to Luna's place where I'd stay and as soon as I left my luggage there we went to the Bodensee lake where we made a very nice tour with her sailing boat after swimming for a while first – was too hot to say no to the lake's attractive water. The lake was full of people who had the same idea with us (swimming or sailing). Quite expectable on a Saturday that felt more like part of a Greek summer rather than an Austrian one.




Marianne hadn't run out of interesting things around the lake to show me yet,



as well as in the centre of Dornbirn,

where I was lucky enough to watch a great band from Rimini Italy playing for the local festival. What I really want to mention though, was her father's project. It has to do with a full restoring of a steam machine from Stuttgart, the oldest one around as it was manufactured on 1858 and used to work for textile industry.

It is placed inside a glass frame and if you put one euro you can see it working for a while. For some reason my euro made it work for more than a day but I really don't know why...maybe the Gstoehl family's products where generous to me like the Gstoehls themselves were! I was invited my the family for launch next day and since the weather was nice Marianne proposed me to go for hiking at the canyon (Rappenlochschlucht). Of course I said yes. It is actually a triple canyon, impressively narrow at some points and you have to walk inside a dark tunnel for some meters.






Somewhere in the middle is an artificial λίμνη which was made for the second oldest hydroelectric plant that was built there about a century ago.

After a lot of hours hiking in the deep forest with the rich vegetation and the extra tall trees we arrived at the cable car station which made our way back.



Dorbirn's view from the top there around 900m high is gorgeous and you can have a complete image of the whole area from there.



Another worth doing thing is visiting the well known Rolls Royce museum which is located before the canyon and has the richest collection of cars. The whole area is very nice and even if you are lazy enough not to go hiking you can just drive up to Ebnit and have an easy but beautiful route on the way.
On the same afternoon I was stopped by the local police as I was walking to Luna's house. Two guys come out of the van followed by a good looking girl. They were all very kind and told me it was a routine control – I just believe I looked quite different than the locals do. Fortunately the were speaking English and combined with their totally decent behaviour the whole procedure turned out to be a nice chat with me smiling by looking at them trying to pronounce my name reading my id card. At the end they offered me to take me where I was walking to, they asked me if I need anything in general, but I was in all ways very ok so I thanked them and continued walking to Luna's house. Later she arrived there so the day ended with the two of us drinking and chatting about her Mongolia trip at her balcony.

I was thinking about heading east next morning leaving from Dornbirn, though the forecast was expecting rain. What I had in my mind was not how much rain I would face the next day but the fact that I just had crossed Switzerland a couple of days ago, a biker's heaven country, and I just had a remarkable weekend at Dornbirn where except visiting some of the must see places there I feel lucky that I managed to meet the whole Gstoehl family (almost) and I want to thank every single one of them so much for everything they done for me will I stayed close to them.