As we cycled out of Switzerland into Austria, the cost of food and lodging decreased. We cycled through Bregenz (again) and chose the north shore route around the Bodensee (Lake Constance) as we would be able to stay in Austria. While we crossed back over to Switzerland once we passed by Lake Constance, we were able to cross into Germany where we spent the night, cycling to the top of a steep hill to obtain this cheap lodging rather than staying down by the river on the Swiss side. The most impressive part of this section of the Rhine is the Rheinfall (continental Europe’s largest waterfall by volume of water). We toured the Schloss Laufen and took the steps down to have a closer look at the waterfall. We decided against the tourboats which took you up close and personal with the wet waterfall!
A side trip to an alpine meadow above Maienfield brought us to the setting of the Swiss novel, Heidi, written by Johanna Spyri in 1880. This trip required a steep climb up the hillside to see the Heidi House and sculptures representing the characters in the story. Since “Heidi” was one of my favorite stories as a child, I had to visit this little part of Switzerland.
Leaving the alpine meadow behind, we returned to the Rhine River and were actually able to cycle off-road on a well-paved cycle trail.
As the Rhine River widens, we are now cycling in the valley between the mountains on much flatter terrain. We are approaching Lichtenstein and decide this will be a good place to stop for lunch. NOT! We walked into the center of Vaduz with our bikes where there was a large selection of eateries. We chose a small snackbar where a hamburger and fries for two ended up costing 30 Euros. We found Switzerland and Lichtenstein to be very expensive for food and lodging.
Our second day traveling the Rhine River started out drizzly and chilly. Our cyling guide indicated we would still be traveling downhill for the most part with some uphill climbs interspersed.
As we cycled on curvy roads above the Ruinaulta Gorge, road signs warned of rock falls. I was more afraid of traveling off road down the cliff-side. The views were striking but I needed to stop and get off my bike to look. Prior to crossing the bridge pictured below we were traveling quickly down the mountain road and came across a construction crew cleaning up a previous rock slide and limiting the road to one lane. I was thankful for good brakes!
Day 3 – on to Maienfield, location of Heidi’s house and Lichtenstein
Our last four weeks of our Spring cycle trip were spent traveling the Rhine River, from its source in Switzerland to where it empties into the North Sea in Holland. After a few trains from Bregenz to the top of
Oberalpspass (elevation 6,780 ft.) we were ready for a warm supper and a restful evening.
The next morning, gazing at the deep snow on the side of the roads, I was becoming anxious about the trek down the mountain. Wearing several layers because of the cold and misty rain, I started the descent with BOTH hands on the brakes. Nine hairpin turns later I could shake out my hands from the tension of holding on tight. The rest of the ride that day was more rolling through the countryside, following the Rhine as it wended its way down the Alps from a small mountain stream to a wider, rolling river.
Next stop – Ruinalta Canyon
Leaving Garmisch was a little daunting as it was still rainy and foggy, and security stops were being readied along the roadside.We had decided to tackle the trek through the forest on a dirt road rather than taking a longer route on paved roads. The road was fine and cyclable most of the way, with a few steep inclines that I chose to walk.
When we descended out of the forest, we came to the beautiful lake Plansee where we stopped for a coffee and apple torte. We continued around the lake and on to Nesselwang through a valley that made for easy cycling.
Our second day brought us to Weimer, Simmerburg where we searched and searched for a B and B, ending in a very nice hotel, Tannebaum. (main part of which was under construction – but this separate “manor house” was being used instead).
The next day took us on to Bregenz, Austria with a wonderful downhill run into the city and a short ride to locate the train station where we were able to get tickets to take us to Oberalpspass, our starting point for our cycle trip “down” the Rhine.
We arrived at 8:00 pm and the only choices we had after exiting the train were to stay in the B and B/hotel there or to begin our cycle down the snowy mountain pass. We opted to spend an expensive night on top of the mountain near the source of the Rhine – referred to as the Rheinquelle.
Next stop, Cycling the Rhine, from Switzerland to the North Sea
Due to continuing rain (three days worth), we stayed in Garmisch and walked around looking for familiar landmarks, again from the 1950’s. During my father’s tour of duty in Paris, we always spent Christmas in Garmisch. Our first Christmas as we arrived at the Green Arrow Inn on Christmas Eve, my father assured me that there would be snow on the ground for Christmas. Early on a still-dark Christmas morning, as promised by my dad, there was snow falling. He awakened me to show me the falling snow. As we went into the hotel restaurant that morning, I ran in and greeted everyone with the comment that my daddy had made it snow for Christmas.
Fast forward 60 years, and we are walking around Garmisch in late April. Snowflakes fall among the raindrops… my dad is still keeping his promises.
We walked to the Olympic Ice Rink, only to find it secured with guards and barb wired fencing as the town prepared for the upcoming G7 Summit.
The next day in the still falling rain, we walked out to where the Green Arrow Inn used to be. The buildings were still there, but the facility was now very guarded as it would be housing all the police and security forces for the upcoming G7… thwarted again!
My last “trip down memory lane” was to visit the churchyard and cemetery near the location of the Green Arrow Inn. To my surprise it was not secured and we were able to enter through the gate and walk among the beautifully maintained graves. When I visited this cemetery 60 years ago on a cold, Christmas Eve, there were candles lit on small trees on each grave. Families walked around visiting the graves listening as a brass band played Christmas carols on the back porch of the nearby church. I hope these traditions still continue.
From the Avenue Verte Cycling Trail, we made our way to Clamart, a suburb of Paris and the location of the “villa” that my father rented while he was stationed with MAAG in Paris. I recognized the house at once but was unable to reach anyone inside. It did appear empty and unused but at least it was still there. We continued to the main street of the little town of Clamart and I visited the stationery store and the grocer, under different ownership, bien sur, but still there.
From Clamart we cycled into Paris on muti-laned boulevards and avenues in crazy French traffic. We lucked out as we met up with a group of about 12 British gentlemen all in the same color jersey who had just finished a cycle tour of France and were headed to the same train station as us. We joined the “pack” and arrived safely at the Gare de L’Est, narrowly missing being hit by two impatient French drivers.
After our death-defying ride through Paris to the Gare de L’Est, we secured train tickets to take us and our bikes to Garmisch… 7 trains and an overnight stop in Strasbourg and we finally made it to Garmisch…
Our second two weeks of our Spring 2015 cycling trip were spent in France. Having lived in Paris in the 1950`s for three years and spending summer vacations in Criel-sur-Mer, I was eager to return. Our first few days in France we followed the Normandy coast from Le Cherbourg, past many of the WWII sites including Point du Hoc, Omaha Beach and Utah Beach.The cliffs at Point du Hoc were etched in my memory from my childhood visit with my dad, a Navy submariner. His tour of duty in Paris allowed us many travels to historic and cultural sites all over Europe.
Finally arriving in Criel-sur-Mer, I could not find the home in which I spent my summer vacations. As Thomas Wolfe said, “You can’t go home…”
We continued from Criel towards Paris by connecting with the “Avenue Verte”, a 406 kilometre cycle trail that will take travelers from London to Paris using old, no longer in use railroad lines. For our first overnight on the Avenue Verte, we stayed in Arques la Bataille at Maison Arquelles – looked and felt like a castle to me.