Monday 30th July
Zürich to Stein am Rhein: 5 hours 55 minutes, 99km
“I caught the early rays of sunshine on the lake while chatting to Marco, a Dutch cycle tourist, who arrived at the campsite at the same time as me last night. He was travelling south to Italy to meet a business friend, before looping back up through Slovenia and into the Czech Republic. That meant he would cross the Alps twice!
I wanted to give Zürich a decent amount of exploring but also knew that today, I would have to back track for 32km along route 29. Normally I would have hated travelling along ground I’ve already covered but route 29 is such a pleasurable ride I didn’t mind.
So I left the lake campsite at 8am, with the plan to leave Zurich around 1pm. That would give me 5 hours to explore. One of those hours was spent in Starbucks charging my phone and using the Wifi. After my extended cup if coffee, I visited the old town located in the heart of Zurich. It is such a magical little place, narrow cobblestone streets lined with shops and cafes, it has side alleys jutting off in all directions and of course there are flags everywhere. I found a park that overlooked the city. The Zurich skyline consists of a number of steeples, all of them slim and elegantly Swiss, with a large and minimalistic designed clock face on the side.
I expected the traffic to be quite bad on a Monday morning, but the roads were relatively quite. It seems a lot of people use the public transport and bicycles. I saw many people in suits going to work riding their bicycle. Thus the wide roads are fairly free and traffic is not a problem. Even the trams don’t screech like back in Basel.
Moving around the city I noticed two distinct groups, the first being business people in their suits, walking with purpose or having a meeting in one of the numerous cafés. The other group, were Asian tourists taking lots of photos of the most random things.
The Swiss are famous for their chocolate so I went into old town and found a chocolatier. There were so many varieties that I was lost for choice. The prices were also exorbitant, so I told the lady behind the counter that I just wanted to sample one and asked her which was ‘the classic’. She pointed at a small round truffle like chocolate behind the glass. I told her I would take two, one milk and one dark. I must say they were pretty darn good.
I had given Zurich a good go (I thought) considering the time I had there. I headed north, treking up the huge hill I came down the previous evening. It took me 45 minutes to get out of the city and back on the route 29 path. It can be difficult navigating through big cities, as the tall buildings block out any possible landmarks and the twisting mesh of roads makes it easy lose your bearing.
Resting at a water fountain along route 29, a cyclist with a trailer stopped by to top up with water. He was a Swedish guy by the name of Magnus and he was heading back up to Sweden via Munich, after a hiking trip in the Alps. Since we were both going the same way, I suggested we ride together. His mountain bike was not in the best of shape with gears slipping every time there was a slight incline, but he just plodded on. It was interesting hearing his story. He studied physics in Sweden and loved camping and kayaking. Every night he would wild camp and he gave me a few tips. He told me a bit about Sweden, his Alpine adventure and his time on exchange in Japan. We ended up cycling all the way to Rheinfell, before parting ways. Rheinfell is a magnificent waterfall on the Rhine river, and Keller the newspaper guy from yesterday, had recommended I visit it. The best stretch of the river I’ve come across so far was between the waterfall and Stein am Rhein (my destination). The country side through this part was so diverse and the roads went through some amazing forests. The sun was on its way down and so the lighting was picture perfect.
Stein am Rhein is in Switzerland still and a gem of a town. Coming through the town centre, it felt like mini Zurich but without the trams. I pulled into the campsite that lay just past the town. The reception closed at 6pm a good two hours before I arrived. I set up my tent and would sort out the paper work tomorrow. This is one of the nicest campsites I’ve stayed at. Not in terms of location but certainly in quality of facilities. An immaculately kept lawn for pitching tents that is soft under foot making it easy to plant ones pegs. The showers are clean, have hot water and have no time limit or silly little button that you have to keep pushing. We will see tomorrow what price I pay for these privileges.”