Ben and Nick's European Vacation

Nick and Ben cycle from Sweden to Switzerland and beyond. Check out our cycling trip to Patagonia.

Ben Heumann
Nick Cowan

Sunday, July 17, 2005


Original Post:

After 14 days of continuous cycling, we have arrived in Switzerland sore and tired. Our total distance to Now from Lund is 1460km, + 100km for Nick who cycled from Copenhagen to Lund. Our last couple days of cycling were the most beautiful and most difficult as we negociated the hills and mountains between France and Switzerland. Yesterday we did 3, 8 km hill climbs, each 600 - 800 m elevation gain. Beautiful valleys and georges. At the Swiss border, we were greeted by an empty customs house and sign indicating that no one may enter Switzerland who doesn't have proper ID and is bringing excessive goods.

After climbing up into Switzerland, we caught a train to Lausanne. Both Nick and I are amazed by the natural beauty of Switzerland, but shocked by the grotesque 70's architecture and outrageous cost of everything. Last night we went out to dinner and spent 30 dollars each on an Indian meal, then had to go to McDonalds to fill our selves (another 10 dollars each). Nick and I are both curious how this inflated cost of living is supprted considereing how easy it is to bring goods over the border. Contrasting Sweden, Germany, France, and Switzerland is interesting from the perspective of a cycle tourist in terms of costs, motorists, access to services like grocery stores, and first impressions by the locals. Lausanne is pretty but seems to have a serious crime problem that we did not expect (our host Jean-Yves tells tales of kids throwing Molotov Cocktails into University Residences and getting jumped but not mugged walking out of a bar).

Tomorrow, Nick and I head for the Alps to vists a friend, Vince and do some hiking. From there we are going to Zurich; Nick will then go to Slovenia, and me back to Germany (where I can afford to continue travelling) to make my way by bike, train, and possibly boat back to Sweden. Sorry there are not any pictures, but I haven't had time to upload them.
Cycling Notes:

Day 14: Oh, The Hills (L’Isle sur le Doubs, France to La Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland) 76km
Its our last day of cycling and my knees can feel it. We have been cycling for 14 days straight. On our only rest day, we did a 30km ride, then walked 8 miles around Koln. Nick estimated that it would be 45km with two sets of hills. It was 76 km with three sets of hills. The first two were 500m climbs over 7km. The last hill was a 650m continuous climb over 10km of cliff-side switchbacks. The worst part was, we only got to go down twice. While I thoroughly enjoyed the steep descents, Nick was very concerned because his rear brakes were still out of commission and his front brakes could not handle the force of a fully loaded bike going down an 8 – 12% grade for several kilometers. Luckily, it was a cool day and we arrived in La Chaux de Fonds before the rain.
The French-Swiss border was at the bottom of the valley before our last hill climb. The border consisted of a bridge, a customs office, and a sign stating that you may not enter unless you have proper ID. If you have customs to declare, the office is open from 14:00 to 16:00. I didn’t even get a lousy stamp in my passport.
From La Chaux de Fonds, we took a local train to Neuchatel, then an intercity express to Lausanne. In Lausanne, we stayed with Nick’s friend, Jean-Yves. While Switzerland is rich in natural beauty, its cities suffer from the fact that Switzerland had an economic boom in the 70’s. Wonderful mountains, ugly buildings. That night, it was Saturday and all of the grocery stores were closed and Nick and I were forced to go out to eat. This is an expensive endeavor in Switzerland. For $30 each, Nick and I had a small Indian meal. We were so hungry afterwards, that we went to McDonalds, which still cost $12 for an extra value meal. So for $40, I ate 3 potatoes. I would like to state for the record that I have not eaten McDonalds in three years, and even in Switzerland it is crappy, but it fills you up.

Across the valley, Switzerland. Just one more hill.

The heavily guarded Swiss border.

Nick cycling into one of the many tunnels that may be rigged with explosives in case of invasion.

Day 15: Beer on the Beach (Lausanne) 0km
Finally, a rest day. Jean-Yves took me and Nick down to the lake shore to a nice little lounge, where we drank beer in the shade and relaxed. Surprisingly, the beer was reasonably priced considering the location, class of the place, and that there was no tip. That night, Nick and I met up with a friend, France, from Montreal, who is living in Switzerland for the fall. Sorry, no pictures, too tired and too much fun!