October view of the Alps

October 19, 2014

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It was probably the last good weekend of the year and I wanted to make sure that I made the most of it. Dan declined to join me, so it was just a matter of deciding which corner of the map I wanted to explore. I chose an area that I knew nothing about, and heard nothing about and was on the road by 10 am.

It is usually foggy by the Rhine but the low clouds didn’t let up as I headed south towards Bern. The Alps were hidden but I was confident that either the clouds would dry up with the sun, or I’d gain enough elevation to rise above them. Even if neither took place, it felt good to be out on the motorcycle.

Things started to clear up as I reached Bern, and then my unplanned exploration started. Usually from this point I continue south passed the towns of Thun and Spiez and on to Interlaken. But this time I would head west and see what was hiding in the mountains between Thun and Fribourg.

The ride started out in an unassuming manner. Once I left the motorway, it was nothing but low, rolling hills with fields and pastures surrounding small villages. The road gained in elevation and presented me with fantastic views.

The elevation gain meant that the fields were exchanged for forests. The roads were mostly empty for the first while and I enjoyed the corners and the colorful trees.

Two passing motorcyclists gave me a “slow down” motion and sure enough, two corners later I came upon an accident scene. I couldn’t tell what had happened or who was involved, but there were four vehicles and two motorcycles in the area. The bikes were upright and everyone seemed unconcerned as they milled along the roadside.

I didn’t have too much time to think about what had happened at that corner, as just a few corners ahead of me traffic backed up considerably. It turned out that Gurnigel Berghaus was perched on the outside of a switchback corner and it offered an astounding view. I made the snap judgement to stop and slipped through a break in the traffic to the parking lot.


View from Gurnigel Berghaus

The view surprised me as it was of Thunsee and I hadn’t expected to see that from here. It was truly a beautiful day. I considered getting something to eat or drink, but it was only noon and too early in the day for me. I decided to keep going and see what else I could find. Unfortunately, leaving the Berghaus was much more difficult – a constant stream of bikes, cars and caravans flowed in both directions. A space finally opened up and I was back on the road.


Traffic while departing Gurnigel Berghaus

But I wasn’t done with traffic. Far from being an isolated, little-known corner of Switzerland, I had stumbled up what seemed to be the destination of the entire country. Car after car was parked along the road, and parking lots were full of glistening metal. I had had enough.


The view back after leaving the Berghaus


Parked cars


More parked cars


And more parked cars


The view to the west

Most of the vehicles I was following kept to the main road but one motorcycle took a road that branched off to the right instead of following the switchback around. I had pretty much the same idea, but seeing him do it nailed it for me. I was tired of crowds and traffic and just wanted some “quiet time” with the bike. I found it. The road continued west and slightly north, giving me a peak-a-boo view of the flat plains near Fribourg.

I misread the GPS and took a premature left onto a gravel road. I had a slight moment of panic that I had missed the “no entry” sign, as everyone knows that there are no public unpaved roads in Switzerland. But there was enough evidence to give me confidence to keep going and I’m glad I did.


I wasn’t the only one enjoying the day

The road passed through a village and became paved once again. I was enjoying the continued emptiness of the road and was disappointed when it eventually came to an end.

At the junction I chose “the road less traveled” and went straight. I didn’t bother to check the GPS to see where this road went and felt that it was likely that it didn’t go anywhere at all. I was right. After 7 km it reached a dead end and I had to turn around. It was a nice detour.

I was back at the junction and had to make a decision. I chose another probable dead end, but with the promise of a mountain lake at the end of it. I headed for Schwarzsee. As soon as I joined the main road I could tell by the stream of vehicles that this was a popular destination. The lakeside town was a hive of activity.

Despite the crowds, I found a place to park and intended to get something to eat. Unfortunately the lakeside outdoor eating tables had all been taken and I didn’t want to wait around. It had gotten warm out but I walked around to see what people do for fun. Canoes and kayak rentals, specialized mountain bike rentals, ski lift rides up and down the mountain and – the one that was most interesting to me – a tracked sled ride down the side of the mountain. It looked like fun.


Town of Schwarzsee

I left the lake with the intent to go home along a leisurely path. I was rewarded some more great roads and views. Fortunately there was little traffic and the villages were few and far between.


A Swiss determined to get out and enjoy the sunshine

By now it was time to just head home. I set the GPS to “fastest route” and it directed me to Bern and then the motorway home. Traffic was tolerable and I resisted the urge to take some more back roads. I wanted to be home in time to enjoy the evening with Dan and relax before going to work on Monday.

3 comments

  1. Erika Leeuwenburgh says:

    Thank you for the reminder. I live vicariously through you and long for the day I too can ride in the Swiss countryside.

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