Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Heidi goes to Switzerland

How could I call my bike Heidi and NOT take her to Switzerland? Indeed

So, three days in; three countries crossed. I started on Sunday making my way down France to Verdun. Heidi gave me a little scare by lighting up the red warning triangle on the dash ( which supposedly means there is something wrong with the brakes) but it went away overnight, so I'm 'monitoring the situation.'

Monday I crossed in to Switzerland. The weather forecast was bad and the BBC world weather ( which I always mock) actually mentioned thunder storms on the French/Swiss border. I was one mile from that border when the heavens opened and I found myself in he middle of a summer thunder storm. I stopped the bike ( under some trees- I know, I know) and stood there for 20 minutes. If you've read 'Gone Riding' then you'll know how I felt.

Switzerland is obviously lovely but it hard to appreciate when it's either raining, or about to rain. Shame really. I had planned to ride the Grimsel and Furka Passes but the forecast was for snow flurries, no visibility and about 4 degrees C. I gave it a miss - after all, I've done The Sani pass I think I can miss this one for now.

This trip is slightly unusual for me as I'm not carrying any camping equipment and have actually booked my accommodation for the first week as I head for Hungary where Tracy will be flying in, on Saturday. It's weird to set off for the day knowing exactly where I'm heading for, and what's more I've got a GPS. So today I set my route and followed it. I still poured over my maps last night, working out where I wanted to go but once it was keyed in to the Garmin I just followed it. Very disconcerting in many ways as I didn't really know where I was. But also quite liberating as I could concentrate on the road and view ( when I had one) confident that the GPS would get me to my ' final destination'.

Switzerland has toll roads which I wanted to avoid ( it costs £30 for an annual pass to use them) and anyway, what's the point in being in the Alps and riding the motorway? So I took the (lowland) minor roads today and it took my 6 hours to cover the 140 miles to Chur. Lovely minor back roads twisting through farmland and small villages with very little traffic.

Another thing I'm getting used to is not having a camera. Or to be more precise, not having a dedicated camera. I have my smartphone and ipad so it can take pictures but no camera. This was a problem in the thunder storm on the border as I wanted to take photos but couldn't as the wet weather meant that my phone wouldn't react to my touch. Technology eh! This means I haven't got many photos and haven't worked out how to put photos I've taken on my camera onto this blog. Sorry.

As I got near to Chur this afternoon I realised ( because I was using my map NOT JUST the GPS) I was only 10 miles away from Liechtenstein. It seemed rude to pass a whole country by just for the sake of a 10 mile detour so I went to take a look. I didn't know much about the place so now I've been I've done my research. With a population of 35,000 Liechtenstein is one of the richest countries in the world.  Women only got the vote in 1984 ( the last country in Europe to do so) on a male only referendum vote of 51%!!!!!

Liechtenstein  Castle

This was my second visit to Liechtenstein. I first came here 28 years ago when travelling around Europe after my A Levels. God,  that makes me feel old.

Vaduz Castle stands on the hill above the town and is the private residence of the prince. I'll try to post a photo of the castle, either here or on my Facebook page.

Italy tomorrow, followed by Slovenia and then up to Budapest to meet Tracy.