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To dream the impossible dream

The Swiss are amazing. Their country is not a natural place to build railways, so they build them up to the top of mountains. They live in a country that does not naturally spring to mind when one thinks of cycle touring. The country is full of mountains and lakes, so common sense would suggest that it is a great place to go mountaineering, hill walking, sailing, or sailboarding or board sailing but cycling? The gut wrenching pictures of the top of the Tour de France climbs come to mind, but can we expect grannie to make it? Yes! You can actually. The Swiss have done the impossible and turned their country into a cyclist’s paradise.

How? Veloland Schweiz, a not-for-profit organisation, got together with local government planners and turned out some fantastically good route planning. In addition an eye for detail means that the signposting is perfect. The signs are big and you can read them from a long way away. After cycling about a third of the 9 national routes and many kilometres of cantonal and regional routes we have only found one spot where we had to stop and work out which way to go. There are some hairy routes, but there are also family routes. To be honest if a pair of grey-haired oldsters like us can cycle over the Gotthard Pass, anyone can do it. You just take your time. If it gets too much public transport is excellent. Just about all trains, lake steamers and even some buses take bikes!

There is a minor fly in the ointment. Switzerland is a high wage high price economy. Life is not cheap. Maps and guide books are superb. Hotels and restaurants are good. You can save money: oddly enough half board is often not that much more expensive than bed and breakfast, so enquire when you register. Hotels even posh ones up in the mountains often have walkers’ rooms which are a bit more primitive but clean, and after a day out on your fitness machine, you are going sleep like a world champion. If you are booking a room ask for a cheap one. If you don’t you will have a superb one and a superb bill the next morning. The best thing to do is to accept the fact that life is expensive and do not translate the prices into your currency. That way lies madness. Just try to ascertain what a reasonable Swiss price is and try to avoid paying much more than this.

PS Four of our books are about Switzerland: “The Rhine End to End Part 1: Andermatt to Basel” (Swiss Route 2),

“Mainly in High Gear A cycling guide around Lake Constance” (Part of Swiss Route 2 and the Thurgau regional routes)

“Where Marmots Dare Swiss route 3 from Basel to Chiasso”.

and "Cycle Touring in Switzerland" published by Cicerone.

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