Observations from the saddle of a bike: Switzerland



Freiheit = freedom.

Every human has four endowments—self-awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate freedom….The power to choose, to respond to change. Stephen Covey (1932-2012).

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) Scottish novelist and travel writer said, ‘I travel not to go anywhere, but to go, I travel for travel’s sake. Travel is the great affair’. This is no doubt true of travellers like us, however I would like to add, we travel not just to move but to learn.

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn (1930-2008) said, ‘Learning is the beginning of wealth. Learning is the beginning of health. Learning is the beginning of spirituality. Searching and learning is where the miracle process begins’.

If one was to analyse Jim Rohn’s statement relative to our personal station the wealth aspect for us means wealth of knowledge, riding bikes certainly keeps us healthy, we have developed a certain oneness with the world and its people and it’s a miracle that we can do it.

When on the road the foremost thought in one’s mind is where we are going to sleep each night and on this trip (at least in the more expensive countries such as Germany and Austria) we have decided to couchsurf wherever possible. I have also looked at pod camping, sleeping in the hay on farms or, as we did in Bosnia and Montenegro, in a private house. The degree of sophistication relative to our sleeping in private homes reflects the social condition of the residents. When we find someone at the station or bus terminal inviting us home we will go. I do not want hairdryers, shampoo and other luxuries, just somewhere to put my head down, knowing what we pay is going to someone in need.

 Couchsurfing is an online organisation where travellers can stay with locals at no cost. There are up to fourteen million prospective hosts worldwide. Bev and I belong to the group and we have travellers stay with us. Prior to leaving home on this trip we hosted a young couple from England as well as an Indian couchsurfer from Canberra who was doing a short trip testing his motorbike prior to setting off on an around Australia journey.

Couchsurfing blurb.

Our first couchsurf experience will be in Augsberg Germany. To arrange a couch all you have to do is search for a host with similar interests and make contact.

One of our intending hosts who we thought we were going to stay with at the start of this trip, until we changed direction, did a portrait drawing from the blog. After reading one of our posts in which there was a photograph of Bev she did a sketch from the photo then by only looking at the monitor she repeated the drawing. Sanne calls it blind drawing. Following are the results.







The original photograph and sketch by Sanne.







Inspiring drawings from Sanne, a prospective future host.

Pod camping involves renting a sleeping space in a set up pod-like structure.. The following two photographs show examples.

Schlaf-Fass, 8000 litre wine barrels converted to sleeping pods. Image credit: From uniqhotels.com/schlaf-fass

Concrete pipe pod, much better than a tent. Daspark Hotel Ottensheim Austria. Image credit: dasparkhotel web page.























It is interesting to note that the company who rent the pipe pods say when it comes to payment, pay ‘as you wish, leave a euro amount that you can afford’. When travelling through India in 1970 I remember seeing poverty stricken Indians living in concrete pipes. They slept on the hard concrete with no luxuries such as a mattress or a door like the one in the above photograph.

Sleeping in the hay: In Germany, Austria and Switzerland there are hotels called Heuhotels (heu is German for hay) where clients sleep for as little as $11 a night on a mattress stuffed with straw. Many farmers in Europe offer travellers the chance to sleep in the hay as well. Sleeping in the hay in a barn is becoming popular and is fast becoming a ‘staycation’ of choice. Eco-warriors, people who want to sleep close to nature, are utilizing this form of accommodation.

During our forthcoming journey sleeping in the hay may not be in a Heuhotel, it most probably will be in a farmer’s barn if we are unable to find accommodation elsewhere. On this trip we have no tent, only a tarp which we can sling up in an emergency to keep the rain off or place on the ground and pull over us.

Soon after arriving in Zurich we headed to the town of Brunnen and met with Franz. I had been corresponding with him for some time about fitting Add-e motors to our bikes. He does not have a bike shop as such but is an agent for a number of electric-driven contrivances such as the Elektro-smart-scooter.

An Elektro-smart-scooter.

The Elektro-smart scooter could be described I guess as an electric-powered dandy horse. It folds up and would be ideal for commuting.

The fitting of the Add-e motors to our bikes went without problems and we soon realized that they were going to be most helpful on the forthcoming trip. By coincidence we will be passing through the Austrian town of Villach where the motors are made later on this trip and visit the factory and meet with the inventor.

Franz removing the crank in order to fit the sensor.

The motor in position.

The Add-e is an electric motor where the revolving outer casing flips up into position and gives the rider a little help up hills. It is amazingly simple and weighs only 2.2kg (including the battery). There is a sensor on the crank, which determines speed and when the rider reaches about 5kph the motor clicks up and engages the rear wheel. The battery disguises itself as a water bottle. Following are two sketches showing the motor in the free-wheeling and in the engaged position.

Power on and power off.

This is what you get for your money. To achieve the required power output you simply rotate the black knob on the top of the battery.

Bev musing over the Add-e battery masquerading as a water bottle.

There is no doubt I will write more about this motor as time passes during this odyssey.

With a day free in Zurich we set out to solve a longstanding mystery. Some years ago Suzie, a friend living in St Gallen Switzerland, went on a Mediterranean holiday and wrote us a postcard which she forgot to post. The postcard was placed in a book that she was reading. Some time after her holiday the book moved on and ended up in a secondhand bookshop with card intact where it remained until Claude, a resident of Winterthur Switzerland, bought the book and found the card. Claude posted the postcard to us and since receiving it we have kept in contact but never met until now.

During our correspondence period we assumed Claude was a man but when we met, Claude turned out to be a woman. My prior vision was an old man with a walking stick!

Claude, purchaser of secondhand books. Her mother was Swiss French hence the name, used for both male and female.

Winterthur is a model Swiss town and dominating the square, as is the case in most Swiss towns, was a church. The city church of Winterthur is impressive with simple lines but the sheet metal gargoyles were most striking.

The simple lines of the Winterthur Parish Church.

Gargoyle ready to take on the evil spirits.

Technically, the gargoyles on the Winterthur church are not true gargoyles because gargoyles are supposed to be made from stone but these are in fact waterspouts made to look like gargoyles.

Gargoyles were made ugly on purpose as church authorities used them to transmit messages to the common people. Since illiteracy was common, images were the best way to constantly convey ideas. That’s why there are so many religious paintings in churches. Gargoyles were used as a representation of evil. It is thought that they were also used to scare people into coming to church, reminding them that the end of days were near if they didn’t come and seek forgiveness.  However, some medieval clergy viewed gargoyles as a form of idolatry. In the 12th century a church leader, St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1113), spoke out against their use. He suggested they were a waste of money. This might be the case but they are creative additions to church architecture.

Towns all around the world have a commercial gimmick and Winterthur’s gimmick is decorative seats. The artistic of the town have set to and created some. Following are a few images.

A seat outside a climbing shop.

A delicately carved seat in the main square, however not altogether so comfortable.

Carved detail of the seat in the previous photo.

A WC seat.

Rear view of the WC seat.

This seat has a built in library.

Using a seat for its intended purpose.

Enjoying the sunshine.

Not sure what it says

The other thing Winterthur is renowned for is bikes. It is a real bike town mainly due to the number of students but the centre of town is also open, flat and car free. If you give people the opportunity to ride bikes safely they will take it up and get on the saddle. Following are a few images showing bikes in their splendor.

There are many bike parking areas for commuter bicycles in Winterthur.

A publicity shoot.

A break in the shoot to allow a bicycle to pass.

No, don’t do it!

It is easy to drift into the tourist mode and simply wallow in the sights and just wander but Claude was not having it, she took us off to the Gewerbemuseum where there was a glass exhibition.

Bev and a piece of delicate glasswork.

Delicate bowl detail.

Crystal teardrop.

Simple lines.

Colourful examples of glasswork.

From the Gewerbemuseum we left Claude and returned to Zurich. As we had to pass through Zurich main station we took the opportunity to buy tickets for the next leg (first) of our journey to Stuttgart. For us most journeys will start and finish at railway stations. I love railway stations and the reason is they are more than just railway platforms where trains come and go, they are often places where the keen photographer can strike an image. Following are a couple of Zurich station images.

The Guardian Angel by Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002) hanging in the large hall of Zurich railway station.

The guardian angel by French Swiss painter, sculptor and film-maker Niki de St Phalle was a gift from her to mark the station’s 150th anniversary. The angel has been watching the comings and goings of travellers since 1997. Colourful works by Niki de Saint Phalle stand for joyful, liberated, self-confident women and are one of the most popular works of contemporary art.

A group of visitors looking down from on high.

A stag deer on high. Maybe a deer appears in the railway station because it symbolizes a gentle, enticing lure of new adventures.

Europeans as a whole take any advantage of sunning themselves. The following photograph shows a sunning arrangement In the backyard of our friends’ house in Zurich. We didn’t want to leave but we had to.

The garden that awaited us on our arrival in Zurich. The sun and the recliner chair provided a warm rest after the long flight. The garden furniture is produced by a prisoner enterprise in Zurich.

Of course, the countryside always awaits an afternoon bike ride.

Colourful pumpkins, squashes and gourds on the way.

Such a brilliant orange.

Some of the above are suitable for eating, some are ideal for soups and others are just for decoration. There is one called the spaghetti pumpkin because it has a stringy inner and when cooked is akin to spaghetti.

Getting ready for the forthcoming adventure.

That’s the end of this post. The most exciting thing about this post was the meeting with Claude, a surprise all around. The next post will mostly deal with meeting with friend Martin, Shard Hill and Stuttgart today. Bev and I hope you stay with us and make a comment if you wish. Also if you want to be alerted each time we do a post click on FOLLOW.





About tbeartravels

It's been said that I know a little bit about a lot of things and a lot about little things. I hope I can share some of this knowledge with you as we travel.
This entry was posted in Odyssey #5 2017: Cycling in Europe. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Observations from the saddle of a bike: Switzerland

  1. Kevin and Sue Dewar says:

    Just eating lunch while enjoying another interesting blog.Keep on cycling, looking forward to the next post. Travel safe.
    Cheers Kev and Sue

    • tbeartravels says:

      Sue and Kevin
      Thanks again for the comment. Bev and I are in Milan Italy and after viewing the biggest church in Italy tomorrow we were heading to see a lass who lived at Honeybottom in the 1980s however her husband has had problems with the heart so we have cancelled the visit and Bev is now looking at the map and deciding where to go. We will however visit the girl in a week. It’s a shame to have a week on our hands and having to decide where to go to kill a week. Such is our mode of travel.

      Enjoy lunch.

      Fred and Bev

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