SWITZERLAND ALPS: Can't get much better.

Click on pictures to enlarge them.

Switzerland is stunning, almost antiseptically clean, efficient as Swiss are famed, surprisingly reasonably priced in most places. Great place for a few days ride-through or a proper destination holiday, either-or. Been here before but forgot how great it is.

We did mostly highways, partly due to inclement weather, [route map] stopped in Zurich (big discount chain Hotel √Čtape due to high local prices and low availability) just for a night to see a friend. Also stopped in Luzern [map], major shopping, nice clean lake, typical upscale tourist town, stayed in Hotel Baslertor which was just OK, internet in lobby, small room, not cheap, up-tight manager gave us grief about bring food to the room but we ignored him; find yourself a better hotel.

However if perfect tourist towns are not your thing, there's such stunning mountain driving/exploring in Switzerland-Italy-Austria, something we could/would do annually if we lived nearby. I hear rumors they have some skiing and hiking too.

The N American Rockies are of course great; wilder, geologically newer, far less developed, more 'rugged-wild-woods'. In developed parts, like the Banff-Jasper Highway, it's gorgeous, but a bit too 'tourist-tamed picture-perfect' for us after a few days. Back home, roads are mostly made for tame vehicles/drivers, not challenging – way, way up in north-west Canada, in upper BC, Yukon, Northwest Territories, now that's more like it.

The Alps are quite another thing, culturally, road-wise, more interesting things to see/do. For bikers, far more fun riding.

In charming Lauterbrunnen [map] we stayed two nights in Chalet Rosa which is leased in summers by a very nice Christian group, is a ski chalet in winters – but very comfortable, charming, reasonably priced place, highly recommended.

Toured the nearby spectacular Trummelbach Falls, [map] Wikipedia has some stuff on it, [photos] [video link with free Swiss polka thrown in] ... a truly spectacular underground canyon dug by 20,000 litres per second of water wearing its way through over the millennia. Not your normal tourist trap, quite wondrous; plus very impressive Swiss tunnel engineering had been ongoing for almost a hundred years. Well worth experiencing, even for jaded Niagara Falls been-to's.

Gathered our intestinal fortitude, went paragliding in Grindelwald Switzerland [terrain map], a life-experience folks, gather yours and try it! Our nice B&B there was Chalet Gydisdorf (Grindelwald CH, +41 0-33 853 13 03) which has the virtues of being both charming and a short walk from the ski lift and paragliding, so you can leave your stuff and vehicle there.

Paragliding first time: Dangling from strings at 6000’, sailed down about 3000 feet for a half-hour, our piggyback pilots were superb. Neither of us had any sense of fear once aloft – a bit apprehensive before natch. I got nervous when my pilot did the high-G turns, that pushed the envelope for me. Thao puked a little motion sickness (do not have breakfast if motion-sickness inclined), but her pilot had an airsick bag for her luckily … still she was never afraid, and has not even slightest regrets.

It's one of the most fun adventure things either of us have ever done. It was about $300 altogether, and cheap for the price, because we'll never forget it.

Pre-flight view ... that's my fake un-nervous look.
Thao's video from aloft.


Interlaken [map] Europe's major winter sports spot, home of a large music festival, major shopping. What you would expect, very nice and typical. I succumbed and bought a (duh) Swiss watch there at a discount – a Tissot T-Touch [video review] for about $700 that is actually a frequently used travelers' multi-tool; it even tells the time.

Next a super-wonderful biking road – but Google Maps refuses to plot it properly! Here's a [map] but we didn't take the long way round, we cut across Hwy 11. Superb.

If you want a couple days of quiet (or winter skiing) surrounded by Alpine splendor, family-owned Hotel Cresta in Sedrun, is ideal; nice people, good food, inexpensive quality for C$100 or so, internet, bike garage, fine breakfast: www.hotelcresta.ch We stayed an extra day that I unfortunately spent in email/phone contact with USA to find a factory defect in the bike's alarm (see tech blog) – a big thorn-in-side I wish I'd caught at home.

Then on to even better 'merely great riding' – Livigno Italy [map] and the amazing Stelvio Pass.



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