Switzerland part 1: Freiburg–Orbe

Leaving Freiburg, we cycled switftly along the Rhine to Basel and crossed the border into Switzerland. It is the first time that the Biketour visits Switzerland, it hasn’t ever been there in 27 years. We expected beautiful landscapes and good roads, expensive shops but full dumpsters.

The first two days in Switzerland were hard. We had to cross the Jura mountains and took mostly small roads which were very steep, but the landscapes and villages were beautiful. The first night we slept on a lawn just outside a small town, next to a garage for repairing cars and a small bike repair place next to it. The night was cold and rainy, but the owner gave us the key to the garage and we could use the toilet and water inside and have a circle meeting there.

Generally speaking, we found the Swiss cycling infrastructure in a perfect state unseen before. The roads are paved perfectly, everywhere along the road we found these pretty white fountains with cristal clear drinking water, every village had a perfectly clean public toilet with toilet paper, warm water and soap, in one village the bakery had a basket with bread from the last day outside to take for free, which was good luck for us, given the cost of 6 € for a small loaf. There were sign-posts for national networks of bike routes, mountain bike paths, hiking paths and even canoe routes, with detailed maps everywhere along the way. Every smallest village was had several different bus lines connecting it with nearby cities, the buses ran every hour until late at night, and it was even possible to take bikes onto the buses.

Dumpster-diving was okay, in most shops it was not possible, but there were so many shops (one in every small village) that in the end of the day we still found enough. One day we came across a recycling station without any workers or fences, and found 5 perfectly fine bicycles in the metal bin. We spent 1 or 2 hours in that bin, harvesting any parts that we could use for our own bikes.

The second day we entered the valley of the Aare river, from where we thought it would be mostly flat until France. In theory, it would be possible to follow that river and its lakes and then follow the Rhône all the way to France. In practice, we tried for a long time to follow the national bike routes, and it took us several days to finally give up on them and take the roads instead. While the roads went flat along the valley, the bike path meandered around it up and down the hills, and the closer we got to the French part of Switzerland, the worse the quality of the road surface got.

In the evening, two hospital people offered us again to stay in their garden and even let us use their water, toilet, showers, electricity and internet inside the house. We were happy about the shower and the pretty camping place. Thank you, friendly people! What would the world be without you?

The experiences with the car drivers were very different for different people. Some people had felt like the French car drivers were quite aggressive and the Swiss car drivers really careful and always keeping a distance, other felt the French car drivers had been very respectful and the Swiss drivers were really aggressive and overtaking at really high speed with no safety distance. Generally, there was quite a lot of police around and we got stopped multiple times, for cycling next to each other, against a one-way road, or simply for cycling. It seemed a bit like the police were just looking for something to legitimise their existence, as the complaints were complete bogus (they overtook us to stop and tell us that if we cycle next to each other, cars cannot overtake us). Others experienced not a single incident with the police the whole time. We are not sure about the different perceptions, it seems some people fit to certain regions and countries better than others. Nevertheless everyone should be free to cycle without being bullied by police or car drivers!

Soon we reached the first of three lakes that we would pass on our way to France. Along the lakes, we found public toilets with hot showers in every village, and camped close to one directly next to the water. We swam a lot and sang in the evenings.

In day 3 after the second lake we reached our stop for two nights in in the city Orbe. The agricultural cooperative hosted us for two days on a field for camping. We showered under open sky with a hose and some of us helped with the vegetables. We ate excellent and learned about the project. It is establishing a coop farm for organic agriculture and local food. And along it is part of the network against the spread of genetically modified plants (Switzerland hosts Syngenta, one of the world´s largest GMO companies). To see that affordable organic food as a coop is even possible in an expensive country like Switzerland was encouraging.

Besides working we had a small festivity the first night with a fire and self made music. The last night we were invited by our hosts for a great dinner. Saturday morning we left for Lausanne.

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