Authored by veyrite1

If you had told us six months ago that we were going to cycle 400-plus kilometers last July, my husband, Brian, and I would have said, “You’re crazy!” But cycle we did, joining the wave of lockdown-weary Geneva residents taking “staycations” in Switzerland. Well, not exactly “stay” in our case. In fact, we biked 434 kilometers across the country. And that is now at the top of our favorite vacations ever.

Before I go any further, let me just state emphatically that Brian and I are not avid cyclists. However, the Swiss national cycle route 5—the Mittelland Route—had been beckoning us ever since our friends rode it several years ago, and this “coronavirus summer” seemed the perfect time to try it. So we packed our gear, loaded down our heavy city bikes, and launched. 

Our first challenge, in fact, was the packing. Having never attempted a trip like this before, we had to research. How do you prepare for every eventuality in the lightest way possible, knowing that your own muscles will be the only energy powering your weight across the kilometers? Two changes of clothes, rain gear, first aid kit, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, bike tools… the kilos added up quickly. 

The route was to begin at Romanshorn on Lake Constance, at the northeastern edge of Switzerland, and lead us southwestward to Lausanne. So we bought one-way train tickets for ourselves and our bikes to reach the starting point. The beauty of our plan was its safety net: if for any reason along the way we couldn’t continue cycling, due to bad weather or—dare I say it—obstinate muscles, we could easily hop on another train to get back home. 

Our second challenge, then, was getting on the train at Gare Cornavin with our saddlebag-laden bikes. Early Friday morning we filled our water bottles, donned our helmets, and set off from Veyrier. At the station we found our platform, spotted the train car reserved for bikes, and hoisted ours aboard. Having survived that, we were pumped. The next morning, we started riding from Romanshorn. 

Cycle routes crisscross the country, clearly marked, immaculately maintained, and laid out to showcase Switzerland’s beauty. We followed the signs quite easily, wending this way and that, drinking in the sights as we pedaled—along tranquil rivers and glistening lakes, through charming villages and bustling farms. Neat fields of cheerful sunflowers and golden barley stretched to the horizons. The countryside in July was stunningly beautiful. This didn’t come as a surprise—everyone knows that Switzerland is one giant postcard. But riding along the back roads was an up-close treat.

Since the Mittelland Route reaches only as far as Lausanne, we modified the daily stages to fit our need to get all the way to Geneva, averaging about 60 kilometers a day. On day seven, we rode across Mont Blanc bridge with a surge of pride. We had actually done it! And call it precision planning or psychology at work—as we rode triumphantly into our driveway and climbed off the bikes, we knew that our legs could not have pedaled another kilometer. A few days of rest and recovery, though, and we began to study other bike routes. Where could we go next?

For information about Swiss cycling routes—and a whole bank of other leisure activity information—search Switzerlandmobility.ch and/or download the app and discover the possibilities!

We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland. If you would like to learn more about our activities and excursions, visit our website at  http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/