Just over a week ago, on Saturday 12.03.22 I started the last stage of this Bikepacking Europe project. And even though it was not my first big departure, it was once again hard for me to say goodbye and leave everything behind. Luckily, though, it didn't take long this time to get into the right mode and find my rhythm. In this first week I already crossed 5 countries, and not only the landscapes, cultures, weather and food were extremely varied, but also my sleeping places. Forests, bus stops, harbors, meadows, basketball courts, camping kitchens, it was all there.... Accompanied by Andy, Peter and Nico I went from Lucerne via Basel to France and then on my own to Paris, where Charles (I met him in Porto in December) showed me around the whole city and invited me for the night. The ferry brought me from Dieppe to Newhaven. It continued across southern England and Wales before I arrived in Ireland in the meantime. Beautiful coastal roads along the Atlantic and wild mountain landscapes give me a wonderful time here. Now it goes on for me to Northern Ireland, Scotland and then via England and Wales back to the mainland.
My exact route: CLICK!
Actually, I should have been traveling to new countries somewhere at the other end of the continent already long ago. However, a couple of broken fingers prevented me from resuming my Bikepacking Europe project back in January. Instead I should stay at home until April and let my hand heal. But that was a bit too much for me, so I got back on the saddle in mid-February and set out to find the most beautiful cities, beaches, villages and landscapes in Italy and, as an additional mission, tried to find the best pizza in the country.
In 13 days I cycled through four countries (Switzerland, Italy, Vatican and San Marino), climbed 2 highest mountains (Vatican State and San Marino), visited three capitals (Vatican, San Marino and Rome), covered 2350 kilometers and 30'000 meters of altitude, slept mostly outside and found probably the best pizza in the world in Rome.
A few highlights were:
-The first sunrise at Lake Lucerne on the bike (after a much too long injury break).
-Ticino (which is almost as beautiful as Italy)
-Como (there is also bad pizza)
-Milan (already on the first day)
-Genoa (and having reached the Mediterranean Sea on the second day)
-Portofino (and spending the night under a boat in the local harbor because it rained)
-Cinque Terre on the Mediterranean (with the many beautiful colorful houses, completely without tourists)
-Lucca (the beautiful city where you can ride a bike on the city walls)
-Pisa (and the leaning tower, almost without tourists)
-Florence (the beautiful capital of Tuscany with the impressive Duomo)
-Tuscany (with the countless rolling hills and vineyards)
-Siena (a beautiful city in Tuscany)
-Viterbo (another beautiful city with not much to add)
-Rome (with a spontaneous private tour, see exciting insights and best food from a real hellebardier from the Swiss Guard)
-The Vatican (and the visit to the dome of St. Peter's Basilica, the highest point of the Vatican)
-Spoleto (very beautiful city)
-Assisi (very beautiful city)
-Perugia (very beautiful city, capital of Umbria)
-a beautiful sunset on the highest mountain in San Marino (Monte Titano, just 739m high)
-a night on the beach in Rimini (after the second pizza in the restaurant the owner gave me a homemade panetone to take with me)
-Ravenna (very nice city, unfortunately it rained)
-Venice (with the endless alleys and canals, on a rainy morning completely without tourists)
-when someone who saw me camping in the countryside called the police, who alerted the landowner to my presence and he then wanted to give me honey and olive oil (very sympathetic farmer, very unsympathetic person who called the police)
-Verona (very nice city, in the middle of the night)
-Lake Garda (biggest and most beautiful lake in Italy with many wonderful villages and the best ice cream)
-Madonna di Campiglio (in the middle of the night)
-Passo di Tornale (with lots of curves, in the middle of the night)
-Val di Sole (wonderful mountain landscapes, unfortunately in the rain)
-shortly before midnight at -18°, wind gusts over 100km/h and fierce snowstorm on the Bernina Pass (rather uncomfortable, not recommended...)
-the subsequent invitation for a warm night in Pontresina (in the basement of the restaurant, almost like in a hotel)
-the adventurous ride over the snow-covered Julierpass (rather uncomfortable, pass rides with the road bike are rather not recommended in February...)
But finally all the beautiful, perhaps less known places in between, the incredibly tasty food everywhere, the spontaneous invitations, all the lovely people when the sun came back after the bad weather or the fact that there were hardly any tourists on the road.
Once again I came home with the realization that the simple life on the bike is incredibly profitable and enriching on so many levels.
Now I'm trying to get my hand completely fit again, to do and prepare everything that is still necessary, to plan and organize, to optimize my material even more, to stay a few days in Saas Fee and then to tackle the remaining 40 countries in March highly motivated in 5 months. If everything goes reasonably well, I am firmly convinced that I will be able to do all the countries before I graduate.
As always, the best way to follow my adventures is on Instagram, where there are daily photo and video updates.
Actually, right now I should be cycling through Sicily in the sun, maybe even in shorts, discovering new places, swimming in the sea in between, having adventures, sleeping under the endless starry sky, meeting people, expanding my horizons, enjoying Italian cuisine, satisfying my curiosity and thirst for adventure, or in short: simply making dreams come true.
Instead, I'm stuck at home with 3 broken metacarpals. During my "short" Christmas break, a skiing accident that could hardly be more unspectacular was my undoing. The hand was patched up with screws and plates, the healing process is going well so far, but it will probably be spring before I'm back in the saddle. A painful fact. But in the end everything happens for a reason and maybe it just had to happen.
The time I have now I will use as productively as possible, keep fit, plan, organize and prepare the further course of the project, optimize my material, try to improve my skills in terms of photos, videos and social media, or think about my future after the project.
The most important insights / what I learned:
Live in the here and now, don't let the past drag you down and just let the future come to you.
- "It's going to be OK" is always true :)
-Be friendly, smile a lot, have positive thoughts
-Don't force anything, go with the flow
-Don't worry more than necessary
-Accept the things you can't control
-200km per day by bike is quite exhausting :)
-An average of 5-6 hours sleep per night somewhere outside is rather little :)
-Europe is quite beautiful, especially by bike
-I am stronger than the wind :)
-You can very well live mainly on kebab, bread, chocolate, biscuits and coke :)
-If you keep all your bike clothes on to sleep, you'll be ready faster in the morning :)
-If you never put up the tent, but just sleep somewhere outside, it's even faster :)
-If you also do without the inflatable mat and sleep with the sleeping bag directly on the ground, however, it becomes rather uncomfortable. Not recommended.
-The increase in performance due to the sawed-off toothbrush was not quite as great as hoped :)
-2 pairs of socks are more than enough
-11 days without a shower is rather long. Not recommended.
-6 weeks without exercise before I set off was the ideal preparation. Training is overrated...
-It's totally okay if you don't know anything about bikes, you just have to make sure nothing gets broken :)
-Bicycling somehow doesn't really get you anywhere with your choice of studies...
-When you're back home, you realise how cool the whole thing has been so far. That's why I'll soon be moving on again towards Italy, the Balkans, Greece, Turkey and Eastern Europe... Daily updates, pictures and videos will be back on Instagram as usual!
Until then, I wish everyone a great start to the new year and look forward to many more unforgettable adventures, experiences, emotions, encounters and new places to share with you. See you soon!
What a ride. The last kilometres of this 7'500km "warm-up lap" through 7 countries were just incredible. After Valencia, I did a short 300km day and was then invited by Johnny in Barcelona shortly after midnight. His hospitality was simply unbelievable, he cooked for me, did the laundry and I was able to take a shower at his place. Small detail: That was the last shower until I reached Switzerland... In Andorra, I was greeted by a considerable amount of snow. Admittedly, this small country doesn't have too much to offer, but I won't soon forget the day I spent in the mountains of Andorra. After just 3.5 hours of sleep in the snow, I crossed the entire ski area of Arinsal, followed a long and wild ridge and was almost on the summit of Comapedrosa - itself the highest mountain in Andorra at 2944m above sea level - when it became just too tricky and too risky for me. The place in question was incredibly exposed and icy - so mistakes were absolutely forbidden... In the mountains it is enormously important to find a good balance between "never give up" and "not too much risk", so I turned back with rather mixed feelings. A little later, however, my guilty conscience got the better of me, I felt that I couldn't just give up, so I turned back again. Somehow I managed to pass the tricky part and shortly afterwards I was standing on the roof of Andorra. An unbelievable feeling. I hadn't had anything to eat or drink for a long time, so the 6-hour descent in waist-deep snow was rather exhausting.
Back in France, I was treated to breathtaking roads, lots of sun, the sea and numerous wonderful towns and places - Aix-en-Provence, Saint Raphael, Cannes, Antibes, Nice, Monaco, or Menton, to name just a few - on the beautiful Côte d'Azur. In Monaco, the highest point is just 170 metres above sea level and therefore hardly worth mentioning. With a heavy heart, I left the Mediterranean and the almost summery weather in Imperia, Italy, behind me and continued north via Turin and the Simplon Pass back to Switzerland. The last few kilometres were hard, I just wanted to get home, so I just reeled off the last 500km in one piece...
Somehow I came home healthy, happy, really tired, but rich in memories, experiences, adventures, encounters and emotions. Now I'm enjoying a few days here with the people I've missed so much, a warm bed, a full fridge and without much exercise before I go back in January.
In the next few days, there will be a more detailed blog post about these first 7,500 kilometres.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my friends, sponsors and everyone who believes in the success of this project. Without you, this whole thing would hardly be possible!
Pictures say more than a thousand words, so here are a few impressions of the last few days. For daily updates, pictures and videos, it's definitely worth following me on Instagram or Facebook as well....
Merry Christmas and a good start into the new year!
Almost 2 weeks have passed since the last blog post. In this time I was able to experience, see and discover a lot. My tendonitis I got with the help of a Portuguese physiotherapist quickly so well under control that I could continue again. I enjoyed Lisbon enormously, as well as the sunny and warm south of Portugal. I drove along the Algarve coast with its breathtaking cliffs, paradisiacal beaches and fantastic sunsets back to Spain. There I enjoyed two more beautiful cities, Sevilla and Malaga. The Costa del Sol lived up to its name and spoiled me with lots of sun. I actually climbed the highest mountain in Spain directly from the sea. That day I left at 4am, first following the coast and then moving on to the mountains of the Sierra Nevada. I left my racing bike in the beautiful mountain village of Capileira and walked the last 2000 meters of altitude. Shortly before sunrise I reached the summit of the 3492 meter high Mulhacén. A magical moment with many emotions, strong wind and a breathtaking view over the whole country of Spain and as far as Africa. My journey continued via Granada to the capital Madrid, where thanks to an invitation I could finally take a shower and wash my clothes after far too long. Meanwhile Valencia is behind me and I am on my way to Barcelona, Andorra, South of France and should make it back to Switzerland until Christmas..
2 weeks are done and with the Torre in Portugal on 1993m above sea level I have climbed the first country high point. Snow, cold, sunshine, breathtaking views and winding roads I found up there in the Serra da Estrela. With Porto and Coimbra, I also enjoyed two wonderful Portuguese cities. The landscape here is incredibly beautiful, the weather pleasantly warm, the people very open and the drivers much more aggressive than in France or Spain. Unfortunately, the tendon in the back of my knee has become inflamed, so I will now be forced to spend a few days in Coimbra before hopefully continuing on towards Lisbon, the Algarve and southern Spain. Until then, I will use the time as good as I can for rest, good Portuguese food, exploring this wonderful city and for the necessary "office work". See you soon!
In the last 1 ½ weeks I have covered a good 2000 km and with France and Spain already two countries crossed from east to west. The weather of the last days was really bad with heavy rain and strong wind. Thanks to the high quality equipment from my sponsors I survived this phase well and thanks to generous donations from friends, I could afford to spend a night in a dry and warm air B&B accommodation and let my stuff dry. I was able to patch the first flat tire myself (amazingly - my handicraft skills are really below average). Now I cross the Portuguese border and look forward, there especially to Porto, Lisbon and hopefully the sunny warm south of the country.
Adventurer and athlete, soon bikepacking through europe, climbing the highest mountain and visiting the most beautiful cities in every of the 47 countries!