Aug
1
2009

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Suddenly Switzerland

by Tara

We awoke in a field of dew, the sun hurling down heat much sooner than usual as it rose on the east side of the mountains. Our free-camp field was plagued by flies; more than we'd ever seen in our lives. They swarmed around us and our tent loudly, so many in number it was as though we were in the eye of an insect tornado.

Morning Dew

We packed as quickly as we could and wheeled our bikes to the safety of the shaded road we came in on. Setting up our walkstools and sitting down, we made sure to have a much more nutritious breakfast than yesterday. Finally, before starting our final leg in France we backtracked to a public water fountain we'd passed yesterday to fill our bottles with deliciously cold spring water.

For most of the morning we did nothing but climb. It wasn't terrible though; there were several little downhills interspersed, making the climbs fairly comfortable. Through the Jura we went, from one town to the next, each proudly claiming their unique cheese fame. Morbier, Comte… it was cheese central!

Morbier

When we reached the Col de la Savine we enjoyed a 6km descent before the road turned upwards once more. As we began our second round of climbing, Tyler was starting to feel antsy about getting to Switzerland. I could tell that our (my) slow climbing was frustrating him so I countered with my usual teasing mock-agreement about our speed, lamenting that we would NEVER complete the final three kilometers to Switzerland if we continued at this pace.

Of course, we did reach the border, and the crossing itself was very anticlimactic. I'm not sure what I thought it would be like, but the reality of it was pretty uneventful. The French customs officers took no notice of us and the Swiss officers told us, "there's no point in stopping… keep pedaling!" Hmmmm.

Swiss Border

As US citizens we have a de-facto 90 day visa that extends across all EU countries. The "visa" lasts for six months from the first date of entry and the 90 day allotment starts anew after that. Because of this, we wanted to be stamped out of France to provide proof as to the length of our stay. As the Swiss weren't interested in stamping us in, I went to the French border and requested a stamp out. They looked at me strangely and stamped our visas with a non-dated stamp which bore the name of the border crossing, a token for passport stamp collectors. If the Italian border crossing is anything like this, the 90 day visa is a joke and we'll have no issues going way over our allotment. As it stands now we're going to spend several months in northern Africa so we probably have nothing to worry about anyway.

Cycling ever closer to Switzerland, Tyler and I had been wondering—would anything really change just because we crossed some arbitrary line? Would a cultural change happen gradually, or would everything just instantly seem different? Today we got our answer. Immediately after passing through customs, everything did change. Suddenly there were wooden chalets everywhere, completely decked out in garlands of Swiss flags. Cows jangled as they grazed in their pastures, their typical Swiss bells dangling from their necks. A group of club cyclists even yodeled at us as they passed!

Swiss Flag Chalet & Swiss Flags Save the Hedgehogs

The road from France into Switzerland continued to rise and rise and rise. I was not a happy camper. I'm usually fairly easy-going, but for some reason the climbing today seemed too much and all I wanted was to be DONE for the day. Tyler gently coaxed me on, always convinced the climb was nearly over. When I was about to give up he said, "give me one more kilometer, and then we'll stop for lunch." I begrudgingly consented and just as I was just starting to devolve into a whiny crumpled-up mass on the pavement we reached the Col de la Givrine (the highest point of the road)!

Tara Whining Tara Whining

After our lunch at the Col, everything was much better. Coasting down through rocky pastures and quaint villages, we were thrilled to be a little further into Switzerland and even more thrilled about the easy ride all the way down to Lac Leman. On our way, we stopped to snap some photos of the jingling cows. Much to my dismay, Tyler felt he had to climb a fence, into bull territory again to get a better picture. As usual, my fearful words of warning fell on deaf ears, returned with nonchalant rounds of I'll-be-fiiiines and promises that he wouldn't die.

Col de la Givrine

Everything was fine at first as Tyler inched forward but unsurprisingly, when he got too close, the hulking bull started charging! Tyler ran back with a huge grin on his face and swiftly hopped the 4-foot tall fence just in time, landing in a roll, escaping safely. Both Tyler and the camera were thankfully unscathed but he didn't escape my fuming "I TOLD YOU!"

Cowbell!

Safe and sound on the right side of the fence, we continued our descent amid vineyards (didn't know the Swiss did wine, but they do, and apparently it is the best! They drink it all themselves and don't export a single drop.) and fields of corn, apples, and pears. We may have swiped a few for a snack before coasting further down towards the lake. I have eyes like radars for campsite signs, and sure enough, alarm bells were sounding at the first sight of one.

I wanted to stop immediately, but Tyler disagreed. There was no shade, it was only 3:00 PM, and neither of us got a good "vibe" from the place. It's always a toss-up—will there be another campsite, or will we be exhaustedly searching for hours just to find a place to sleep? Tyler tells me I worry way too much about this, often citing the number of days we've been on the road and the fact that we've never not found a place to sleep. I took a deep breath, and we continued on down the mountains. It turned out to be a good thing we did!

Swiss Alps Swiss Alps

On our way down we came upon a shady little park with mammoth sycamore trees, and panoramic views of the distant alps. As we were sitting on the wooden giant-sized picnic table, we struck up a conversation with a local woman who recommended a campsite in the town of Rolle. The campsite was apparently right on the lake (and as Tyler noted, right on our route)! We thanked her, coasted into town, found the campsite easily, and were surprised to find it was packed with people. When we paid (a small fortune), we were told set up on a grassy area already filled with tents. We found a little spot and began setting up, watching in awe as more and more people poured in and set up next to us. Soon our little area became a veritable forest of tents, each one only a few inches from the next.

Paying the crowds and noise no heed, we made ourselves at home and Tyler cooked a spaghetti dinner while I made fried cheese sticks. Tyler thoughtfully cleaned up all of my messes and we settled in to relax. It was around this time that I noticed a sign for fireworks and realized it was Swiss National Day! As it turns out, we were in the right place at the right time yet again! Sitting on a Lac Leman pier by the light of the moon, watching the silhouettes of ducks floating majestically by the bobbing boats, sparkling fireworks exploding in the distance… could there be a more perfect way to begin our time in Switzerland?

Lake Léman Swiss National Day Fireworks Swiss National Day Fireworks Swiss National Day Fireworks Swiss National Day Fireworks Swiss National Day Fireworks Lantern Launch

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3 comments

Love reading your posts! We were both watching fireworks over a lake yesterday...Sending love! Eliza
Posted by Eliza on August 2nd, 2009 at 2:39 PM
How amazing is your luck? And how picture perfect are these places - do you ever see dingy, ugly places LOL?
Posted by YvetteDownunder on August 2nd, 2009 at 7:56 PM
Yes, we pass dingy, ugly places but we usually don't take pictures (we should though!).

Switzerland hasn't delivered anything dingy yet!
Posted by Tyler on August 9th, 2009 at 8:29 AM
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