Switzerland

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Switzerland

Switzerland
That’s it

Okay, the summer is over, it wasn’t that great anyway. But what if the sun suddenly pops in autumn? Get on your bike, off to the Alps, on to the last lap – and don’t forget your hiking boots.

Michael Schroder

12/13/1996

Desolate times for motorcyclists. Poinsettias shine in front of the shops, and soon snow and ice will shine again on the streets. What remains now is the walk into the garage. Just take a look at the motorcycle, maybe think of the sun that tanned your nose through your visor, of passes with endless curves – or of the last tour that was just mercilessly good. Actually, I was already hoping for motorcycle weather given up. It had been raining for days. The summer, I realized, was over for good. But at least a few more nice days in autumn. Just get out once more, once more in the direction of the south and through the Alps – and come back with shining eyes. Again and again I called the weather service, again and again the same frustrating information from the tape: … heavy rain … thick fog … snow at altitudes above 1300 meters. Then not. Suddenly the voice on the other end of the line spoke of high above the Alps, told of a grandiose view and temperatures of up to 20 degrees. Well then. In the evening, the essentials disappear quickly in the aluminum suitcases, on top of which the heavy hiking boots still fit. If possible, I want to go up to the almost 3,500 meter high Jungfraujoch and take a look at the mighty glaciers that slide for miles into the valleys between the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. After the heavy snowfalls in the last few days it should look like the Arctic up there. Early the next morning. Jacket and up on the train, off to Switzerland. Stuttgart, Schaffhausen, Zurich, Bern. The temperature is still uncomfortable. Finally a few kilometers to Thun, then finally the narrow road that winds along the east bank of Lake Thun like a curvy work of art. In a flash, the changed environment drives away the twilight state that is typical of autobahns in my head. On the left rock walls rise steeply, on the right the bay-rich bank, now and then small towns where the warm glow of the sun has drawn people to the streets and squares. A few mountain bikers are preparing for their tour, many cafes along the promenade are full. Maybe for the last time this year. Behind the next bend suddenly the view of the mighty mountain trio Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. Snow-shining giants on the opposite shore of the lake, stretching their peaks into a deep blue sky. Shortly before Interlaken, turn left. The road swings dizzyingly up towards the village of Beatenberg, leads through dense mixed forests in fiery red autumn garb. Only now and then the dark needles of stately pines, the tips of which tower over the colorful canopy. Where alpine meadows interrupt this glowing wall, my gaze falls on the shimmering dark blue lakes of Thun and Brienz, which are now far below me. Like a fjord, they nestle on the other side against the towering backdrop of the Bernese High Alps, up to 4,200 meters high, ever-snow-covered mountain giants, behind which one of the largest contiguous glacier regions in Europe extends. Standing up there – that would be. Back to Interlaken. Shortly before the first houses I hit the brakes hard. I almost overlooked the little street that leads to Habkern. It looks good, the narrow stretch that follows a raging mountain stream steeply upwards. First through dense forest, the canopy of which surrounds the road like a tunnel, which eventually becomes lighter with every meter of altitude. Then, after two tight serpentines, I suddenly roll through a gently curving, almost treeless landscape. Lush pastures shine like a green billowing sea, artfully timbered houses with overhanging roofs and flower-covered balconies line the slopes, the national flag flies in front of many doors – so it does exist, this picture-perfect Switzerland. Perfectly designed down to the last detail. Even the toll fee is not missing: seven francs are due at a machine for further use of the small lane that disappears temptingly behind the next hill. I turn back. On the one hand for lack of change, on the other hand out of protest. Only a few kilometers separate the sun-drenched, sophisticated north shore of Lake Brienz from the alpine pasture region. And yet a lot is different. Magnificent chalets and Art Nouveau villas alternate, extensive spa promenades, spacious parks and colorful gardens, in which even bananas and oranges thrive due to the mild climate. The winding drive to Brienz along this “Riviera” of the Bernese Oberland goes by as if in a frenzy. In addition, the warm wind and the bright colors of autumn. It’s a shame that the sun is slowly disappearing behind the mountains. Many valleys are already in the shade in the early afternoon, and in a few minutes the coffee house owners will be folding their chairs on the viewing terraces here by the lake. To the south of Meiringen, I follow another narrow road that leads steeply into the mountains. Past the mighty Rosenlaui Glacier, past the jagged contours of the Wellhorn and almost to the flanks of the Wetterhorn, the summit of which is almost completely covered by a shiny layer of ice that for a brief moment reflects the last red glow of the sun like a mirror. This day couldn’t end any better. Especially since there is a hearty meal and a cozy room up here in a rustic mountain hut – four thirty. The alarm clock rips me out of my sleep. Bitter cold wind whistles around the hut, and there is still no trace of the sun. But a cloudless sky. Just right for a trip to the icy glacier world of the Jungfrau region. Get on your bike and off to the train station in Grindelwald. I almost missed the first train on the cog railway, which has been rattling up to the 3454 meter high station on the Jungfraujoch since 1912, which was promoted to the highest station in Europe, the “Top of Europe”. The little one struggles for an hour Train up to the transfer station on the bare summit of the Kleine Scheidegg below the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. It takes another hour to get to the top of the yoke, the passage seems almost endless to me at a stroll through the tunnel, which leads seven kilometers through the notorious north face of the Eiger. When I get to the top, I catch my breath. The oxygen-poor mountain air takes its toll, and an icy wind hits me in the face. It takes a long time for my eyes to get used to the light reflected from the snow in this almost arctic-looking scenery. In front of me, the wide snow and ice field of the Jungfraufirn extends to the wide Konkordiaplatz, behind it the by far largest ice flow in the Alps, the 20-kilometer-long Aletsch Glacier, rolls down into the valley. Deep crevasses tear the flat surface here and there. All around me the jagged peaks of Monch, Jungfrau, Aletschhorn and Fiescherhorner, all over 4000 meters high. In many places, the wind has piled the fresh snow masses on the slopes into undulating formations. The hike from Jungfraujoch to Monchsjochhutte, a refuge for mountaineers that boldly sticks to a steep rock face on high stilts, takes just under an hour. Step by step I follow the markings into this almost eerie white world, which seems to extend to the horizon under the bright blue sky. After a while, no one can be seen, no sound can be heard. Despite the nearby mountain station, I get the oppressive but at the same time pleasant feeling of total loneliness. For a long time I sit on my little backpack somewhere in the snow, marveling at a couple of ravens jumping over the ice in high spirits, and can’t get enough of this landscape, which offers no living space for humans. A few more minutes to the hut hot tea, then back to the Jungfraujoch, where countless tour groups from all over the world have now gathered, pushing their way through the souvenir shops or jostling at the bar and on the overcrowded viewing platform. No more trace of the quiet and loneliness of the last few hours. Time to retreat. It has long been shady again down in the valley when I got off the train in the late afternoon on weak legs and with a sunburn on my face. Autumn days are far too short. So off to the next hotel, a beer at the bar, a fondue in the restaurant and to bed around nine, because even in the Disneyland-like tourist village of Grindelwald, nobody is out and about. The streets are just as empty the next day. But a weather that makes every summer day fade away, no matter how beautiful it is. I eagerly follow the narrow road that leads through a narrow valley to Lauterbrunnen. Dark rock walls grow vertically to the right and left into the sky, from above thundering waterfalls tumble down – up to 300 meters deep. In front of me in the direction of travel, the snow-white northern flank of the Glacier Horn towers. But actually another side valley attracts me. The hotel manager had made me curious last night. He told of two daring, but toll gravel roads, which were supposed to lead south of Kandersteg through a landscape that was “better than Canada.” An hour later, at a lift station shortly after Kandersteg, I pay the road toll due for the two pistes that lead into Gastern – and Ueschinental run – five francs each way – and have to wait 20 minutes. The path blasted into the rock into the Gastern Valley is so narrow at the beginning that it can only be used in one direction at certain times of the day. Finally, it’s my turn. Finally, the rough profiles grip the loose gravel cover of a narrow slope, which hugs an almost vertical rock face and a little later winds through the narrow Gastern valley. All around me there is only dense forest, next to me a rushing and crystal clear brook, then rugged mountain giants, all over 3000 meters high. An unexpectedly wild and untouched region that I did not expect in the well-tended Bernese Oberland. Another four or five kilometers, then this off-road fun ends in the parking lot in front of a mountain hut. So back to just before the lift station and at the first small crossing to the left into the Ueschinental. The narrow supply path immediately climbs steeply and winds up in many tight bends to a wide, bare plateau. First gear, second gear, brake hard, into the corner and out again with a lot of steam. A dozen or more times, I am thrilled by the dramaturgy of the path. Then it’s on loose gravel across a slope. With a lot of gas, I grind the BMW over the stony ground to an abandoned hut. From here you can only continue on foot. I turn off the engine and look at the wild scenery below. Only now do I feel the wind that has driven the summer temperatures in the valleys away after the first few meters of altitude. It’s getting uncomfortable. Dark clouds move over the pyramid-shaped tip of the Balmhorn, I can feel the first raindrops on my face. In a few days this slope will be gone under a thick blanket of snow. That’s about it this year.

Info

A trip to Switzerland is always a great experience. And if you are already there, you should swap motorcycle boots for hiking boots for a few hours.

Arrival: The Bernese Oberland can be reached by motorway either from Basel via Bern to Thun or from Schaffhausen via Zurich to Lucerne and then via the Brunnig Pass to Brienz. Attention: the fees for driving too fast have been increased drastically. Accommodation: There is no shortage of hotels, guest houses and rooms in the Bernese Oberland. Mattress dormitories are cheap, but often occupied in summer: several people share a room with simple beds. From 30 marks. You can sleep well in the many mountain huts. The tip: the rustic Schwarzwaldalp below the Wetterhorn at the end of the cul-de-sac that branches off a few kilometers south of Meiringen. Overnight stay per person from 35 marks. Further information and brochures are available from the Swiss Tourist Office, Kaiserstrabe 23, 60311 Frankfurt, phone 0 69/25 60 01 0, fax 25 60 01 38. Activities: In addition to great motorcycle routes, the Bernese Oberland offers an almost endless network of hiking and trekking paths. Information about climbing courses, rafting tours, paragliding and mountain biking is available from the tourist office in Grindelwald, phone 00 41/36 54 12 12. A must is the train ride up to the 3454 meter high Jungfraujoch, the highest train station in Europe: the view of the huge glacier is overwhelming and worth the 160 marks for the train ticket. Definitely hike to the Monchsjoch hut 45 minutes away – great views of the eternal snow. The cold and oxygen-poor mountain air should not be underestimated. Sturdy shoes are necessary for mountain tours. The tip for enduro riders: the two gravel roads that are subject to tolls in the Gastern and Ueschinental areas south of Kandersteg lead through rugged mountain landscapes – and offer enormous driving pleasure. Five francs are due per route. Literature: The HB image atlas “Basel, Bern” gives a first impression of the Bernese Oberland for 14.80 marks. Good tips are available in the polyglot “Berner Oberland” for 9.80 marks, which thanks to its small size fits into any jacket pocket. Hotels and guesthouses that cost no more than 80 francs per night are listed in the hotel guide »Good & cheap overnight stay – Switzerland ”, Kartographischer Verlag Busche, listed, for 19.80. The Shell EuroKarte comes from Marco Polo across Switzerland on a scale of 1: 303,000. The excursion and tourist map “Bernese Oberland” from Kummerley is much more precise and essential for hikes & Frey on a scale of 1: 120,000 for 26.80 marks. Time required three daysDriven distance250 kilometers

The motorcycle – Switzerland

The motorcycleThe BMW R 100 GS was designed by Herbert Schwarz and Jochen Schanz from the company Touratech from Niedereschach prepared with many good ideas for long-distance travel and rally operations. The most striking thing is the completely redesigned cockpit: electrically operated road book holder, satellite navigation device with handlebar mount, map pocket and the multifunctional device IMO, which either replaces the speedometer and tachometer or can be used as an additional instrument with many special functions for rallies and trips. Roadbook and IMO can be operated remotely from the handlebars. Ohlins shock absorber, 43 liter tank, stainless steel exhaust system with carbon cover, steel braided brake lines as well as the carbon generator cover and elaborate hand protectors complete the picture. In addition, the handlebar risers and lowered footrests ensure a relaxed sitting position. The stable Zega aluminum boxes are suitable for the toughest applications, each hold 35 or 41 liters and can be ordered with a correspondingly large inner pocket with a shoulder strap. The robust luggage rack made of 18 millimeter thick round tubing is also available for the BMW R1100 GS, F 650 and for the KTM LC 4. Information on further accessories, prices and a new catalog is available from Touratech, PO Box 1082, 78074 Niedereschach, phone 0 77 28/97 92 0, fax 97 92 1.

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