It’s hard to believe, but only two years ago, around this time, I had just finished school and had the whole summer for myself to enjoy and do whatever I pleased. I ended up cycling to Italy with my good friend Adam (@adsized). Because my memories of the trip are slowly fading, I am going to try and document it here in the hope of being able to read it even years from now.
We departed from where I used to live in Kortenberg. We got on a train to Aachen where we crashed at Niklas’ (@salkinium) place for the night. The next morning, we continued our journey by train and headed down to Karlsruhe. Even though I had already decided that I would study computer science there, it was my first time visiting the city. We did a bit of sightseeing and I submitted some documents to the Studienbüro at the university and before we knew it, the day had gone by.
Day 1: Freiburg - Mulhouse
We got off the train at Freiburg and started cycling. We crossed the border at Neuenburg and headed towards Mulhouse. Somehow, we managed to get lost (we didn’t have a map…), but in the end we managed to find a campsite very close to the city, Camping de l’Ill. The next problem we faced that we didn’t remember to buy anything to eat and we couldn’t be bothered to cycle all the way into the city. We ended up spending far too much money at McDonalds. It was delicious.
Day 2: Mulhouse - Liestal
After packing up our stuff, we headed into the city with the goal of buying a map. We found none that fit our needs, but we did find a wonderfully old-school cafe where we had a wonderful goat cheese crêpe for breakfast. We headed south towards Basel, following the Rhine but staying on the French side all the way. I met a cyclist who scammed me by selling me his map of the Rhine cycling route for a scandalous 4€. He had travelled all the way from Rotterdam to Basel and was now on his way back to Germany, probably to go home by train. We had coffee in Basel and then continued southwards. We stopped for the night at a small campsite near Bubendorf, just south of Liestal.
Day 3: Liestal - Solothurn
When we woke up the next day it was raining buckets. Still, we had no choice but to continue our journey southward. As we did not have a map (an iPod touch with a few low-resolution OpenStreetMap tiles doesn’t count), we were surprised to learn that we had to climb to reach Solothurn. Crawling up the mountain in the pouring rain was tedious, but the satisfaction after having reached the top was well worth it.
But the satisfaction didn’t last very long. Moments after the picture above was taken, I noticed that the cassette hat detached from my rear wheel. Luckily, it was all downhill from thereon (literally!) and I found a bike shop near Balsthal. After having installed a new cassette, the mechanic laughed at my worn-out brakes and hopelessly run-down chain. I figured that working breaks would be a great idea for the rest of our journey, so he replaced both the brakes and the chain for me as well.
We stayed at the TCS campsite in Solothurn for the night. In the evening, each of us blew around 15€ on pizza, which was absolutely worth its money. We also saw a very special tent on the campsite, built exclusively from trash!
Day 4: Solothurn - Lake Murten
In a rather uneventful day of cycling we continued through the moderately hilly landscape until we reached Lake Murten. Unfortunately, all we could find was a rather unpleasant campsite at at the southern end of the lake. We were hungry, so we decided to cycle to the nearby city of Avenches, but unfortunately all it had to offer were a few shady bars and an upper-class restaurant. We ended up buying bread and cheese at a gas station and calling it a night.
Day 5: Lake Murten - Chatel-Saint-Denis
The next morning we went into Friburg to find a decent supermarket to restock or food supplies. We found one and, while we were at it, also purchased some ice cream for immediate consumption.
We followed to southbound motorway until we reached Châtel-Saint-Denis, where we found a small campsite hiding in the woods on the slopes of the valley.
Day 6: Chatel-Saint-Denis - La Saravaz
The next morning, we only had to cycle a few kilometers to catch a first glimpse of the Lake Geneva. Rolling downhill into Montreux with a view of the lake was exhilarating. We stopped at the lake for a bit and then continued eastward, entering the Rhone valley.
In the afternoon we had the brilliant idea to barbecue in the evening, so we bought a throwaway grill, some meat and a few vegetables and stopped for the night at the Camping de la Saravaz. Even though I don’t think the owners of the campsite were very happy about the huge amounts of smoke that we produced and even though the grill didn’t heat up as much as we’d hoped because of the light drizzle, we didn’t stay hungry.
Day 7: La Saravaz - Brig
We continued to follow the river Rhone until Brig and decided to stay for the night at the campsite Brigerbad. We went into the town in the evening to eat a delicious Käseschnitte and went to sleep before nightfall; We knew we’d have to get up early the following morning (at least compared to our usual departure time around 11:30).
Day 8: Brig - Lago d'Orta
I got up at 4:30, departed the campsite alone and started crawling up the Simplon pass. I had the road practically to myself and even though it was freezing cold and I was tired, I could still enjoy standing on the Ganter bridge, the longest spanning bridge in Swizerland, all alone.
The lorries started rolling past me more and more around 7:30, but by 8:30 I’d reached the top. I’ve crossed this pass dozens of times by car, but standing up there alone with my bike was still an amazing feeling.
But it wasn’t over yet - the downhill part was still to come! I got back on my bike and joined the two-and-a-half-lane E62 highway. I took the exit to Simplon-Dorf and had breakfast at the Cafe Arnold, which is where I usually stop for a break when crossing the pass by car with my family. I rejoined the highway and rolled across the border into Italy. I met up with Adam who had taken the train through the Simplon tunnel in Iselle and together we continued southward.
Because cycling infrastructure in Italy seems to be practically non-existant, we sometimes had to use main roads on our way from Domodossola to Omegna, which was not a lot of fun. However, in the end we did arrive at the Lago d’Orta.