Freiburg rests at the foot of the Black Forest in the south-west of Germany. It’s a medium sized city, founded almost 900 years ago, with cycle paths strewn all over, a high student population and is supposedly one of the warmest and sunniest parts of Germany. Of course, it was raining the whole time we were there. We met Phil again in the afternoon and despite the rain, and the possibility of a thunderstorm, we went for a walk up “Schlossberg”, a hill overlooking the city and the site of many ruined forts. As we walked up through the thick woodland and peering through the trees we could only see a wall of white, leaving little hope for a decent view. But then, just as we reached the top, the rain stopped and the clouds parted briefly to give a spectacular view of the city.
The next day it was time to leave and continue towards Switzerland, about 70km away. We munched lots of toast, peanut butter and honey for breakfast before heading off through the city, sticking to the cycle paths and then through the pedestrian area where we were both whacked by a pissed of UPS delivery guy and his trolley. We eventually found a good straight road out and into smaller towns nearby.
The sun now shining, and giving way to an exceptionally humid day, we decided to nip over to France for coffee; so we rejoined the Rhine and crossed over the border. We cycled down the French side keeping close to the river as the EuroVelo route is much further inland. With the mountains stately planted on each side and the wind at our backs, we effortlessly sped our way toward Switzerland through the corn and sunflower fields over the flood plains of the Rhine.
We wound up in St Louis, the last town in France before the border with Switzerland, which was a wholly joyless experience. The cycle paths were all over the place, and not signposted; and the roads all led to the motorway. We ended up just following the compass until we wound up in some strange lorry parking area, bumped up a couple of curbs, through a gap in a barrier and then hey, we were in Switzerland.
The cycle network here is extremely well organised and with nice wide lanes meaning there was no problems keeping segregated from the traffic in Basel. We stocked up on Swiss Francs and swiftly left the city, getting lost a little, and heading up and over the hills on the outskirts in the direction of Biel. We found somewhere to camp and waited until it got dark to pitch up so we wouldn’t be seen.
We got up really early and packed up the tent; this way nobody could give is into trouble for camping there. As storm clouds brewed in the distance we made off following this sign thinking that it would be a good ‘fun’ route. I can confirm that this is not some guy on a bike pulling a wheelie and having a really good time. I can only assume that this is a mountain bike and he is at an angle because he is always going up hills. So we left the dirt track in favour of some quiet roads and cycle paths.
We stopped at Lidl to grab some food, which proved that no matter where you go in Switzerland it’s expensive. As for water, there was plenty of public fountains and taps along the way with the freshest water imaginable. We began heading off the road in the valley we were cycling to look for somewhere to camp, and passed some locals sitting outside eating dinner who shouted us over. Eventually we ended up camping at the foot of their garden. The generosity of people never fails to surprise me. We made some dinner, supplemented by baby corn from the nearby field and slept, narrowly missing a thunderstorm.
The next day we had a lot of ground to make up as we were heading to Bern so Thomais could catch her train home. We cycled along several valleys but at some point took a wrong turn and wound up cycling up a steep gorge leading to an altitude of almost 1000m. A storm was waiting for us at the top of the hill so we took shelter in an old farm barn until it passed, before climbing some more. Finally we had reached the top near the Bellelay Monastery before descending into Tavennes for a late night coffee. It was beginning to get dark as we climbed our final hill over the Col de Pierre Petrus at 827m and then it was downhill all the way to Biel. We cycled through several tunnels cutting through the mountains surrounding us (one over 1km long) and with little wind resistance and a cycle path the whole way, I managed to hit 67km/h with ease.
The following day we continued, now in the rain, the final few kilometres to Bern where Thomais got her train back to Rotterdam. After wandering around the city for a bit, I found myself cycling across the hills towards the small town of Fribourg, and as the sun set, I watched the shadows imperceptibly moving up the mountains and then onto the orange drifting clouds above.
The next day I arrived in Fribourg. A small, charming city nestled not far from the mighty Alps, with typical Swiss architecture, balconies, pubs and surrounded by beautiful countryside. I met Patricia, who has been living here for the past two years, and who I actually first met on a cycle tour in either Slovakia or Hungary, whilst crossing the Danube 2 years ago. From here I’ll rest before heading into the Alps.