Bodensee detour - The four country loop

Having considered heading west to Geneva, north to Basle and south to Lucern I decided, after lots of fun playing around on google maps, to head east towards Bodensee. (Lake Constance.) There I would do a quick loop around her shores, dive up to Lichtenstein, before heading back west to Zurich and a couple of days rest with my friend Angie before hitting the Alps. I budgeted a healthy four days.

The heavy rain which had made me so appreciative to have a roof over my head in Neuerhof had cleared as I set off on Friday the 21st of June.

Initially my course took me north connecting up Swiss towns

 Baden, unlike her double named German counterpart had not to my knowledge ever been sullied by an English WAG invasion force.

Climbing out of one valley into the next was tough work but very rewarding as the fertile land opened up before me wth each crested valley side.

I got quite close to this magnificent Red Kite, which made a pleasant change from the almost ever present Buzzards. Although even at relativley close range the iphone doesn't exactly excel at wildlife snaps.

Cycling through Ehrendingen I spotted a fair crowd of Swiss families wandering through a nearby field and went to investigate.

school apparently being superceeded on fridays by fruit picking lessons, or have I wandered into a Swiss child labour camp?
My reward was discovering a pick your own Strawberries cooperative farm which happily let me join in.

My haul of excellent strawberries (Also note the newly shortened beard curtesy of the overzealous German barber)

The sun came out glorously as I peddaled along unoriginally to Strawberry Fields forever through picture postcard northern Switzerland.

 10 points to anyone who can spot the horserider in the picture

Before I was finally reunited with old father Rhine.

My first glimpse of the "High Rhine" flowing west along the Swiss/German border

Crossing back into Germany I followed the riverbank east a modest 30k or so as I closed in on Schaffhausen where I found a nice secluded place for lunch and a pretty nice view too...

Eating crusty bread and bree while watching the Rhine Fall

After lunch I circled round to get a closer look

 Europe's largest waterfall

Which inspired May Shelley to proclaim "we saw wave, and rock, and cloud, and the clear heavens through its glittering ever-moving veil." and it was certainly an impressive spectacle.

 but I think Iguasu falls may have slightly ruined all other waterfalls for me.

 I can't ork out exactly where this rather fine castle was (somewhere between Feurthalen and Hemishofen) but i parked up the bike to get a better look.

 Climbing up through the (too?)well protected vines to see what I could see

Inspecting the moat

and the armaments 

enjoying the views over the now namless town.

More towns followed as I ran east with the summer sun still high behind me as the afternoon tailed off. Approaching Lake Constance they became increasingly ornate and the number of snap happy tourists increased proportionately.

 Your not stuck in traffic you are the traffic. Your not surrounded by tourists you are the tourist.
As I closed in on Stein en Rhein where lake Constance drains back into the Rhine I thought long and hard about how you define the end of a lake and the start of a river and decided I was far from qualified to answer that question unassisted by google.  I began looking for a place to camp and following a dirt path through an orchard found a ridiculously good spot which even had a riverside table and chairs set out despite quite clearly not having been used for years and completley out of view.


As I settled in and began to cook my right to this spot was unceremoniously challenged by this very aggresive swan. Clearly he was of the opinion that this was his nighttime resting spot and was happy to waddle to land and make directly for me wings outstrethed and hissing menacingly.

 An uneasy equilibrium develops as the battle of wills continues after his initial incursion had been repulsed by out pluky hero; me.

Now an agressive swan all but charging you after a long day would usually be enough for me to retreat in search of the better part of valour but today I decided humanity had to stand and fight lest our avian cousins get too cocky.

Standing on a wobbly chair arms outstretched in turn hissing and explaining loudly that I was the king of this bank was enough to cause swany to stop in his tracks but not sufficient for him to completley resign his claims.

Our on and off posturing continued for a few minutes at which time I used my devious monkey brain to further increase my wing span by encorporating a nearby branch into my posturing and by semi-swinging on a sapling. This combined evidence of my incredible mental capacity saw my rival retreat to the waters edge with his feathers literally ruffled.

dominance demonstrated but no route achieved I had to keep a wary eye open as i got back to cooking dinner and occassional steps in my direction were met with a firm but respectful increase in my noise level to remind him who was boss.

An hour or so of this later I had grown quite fond of my feathered rival and so it was with a mixture of relief and sadness that i watched him conceed defeat and swim off in search of somewhere lese to spend the evening.

My victory was soured somewhat as my perfect camping spot turned from heaven to hell at dusk as mosquito hordes descended and despite my best efforts succeeded in breaching my tents defences forcing me into hand to hand combat within the tight confines. Five dead mosquitos later victory was mine but, as the bites prooved, they had gone down fighting.

Next morning my animal encounters continued.

 Perhaps feeling guilty for my earlier insect slaughter I spent some time defending this lizard underdog from the feline bully - allowing him to make his escape.

Pulling into Konstance I was now able to admire the lake while I ate my elevenses.

Third biggest Lake in Europe depending on how you define Europe. but we can surely all agree that big it is.

 Although the local fauna was sill unwilling to give me peace and quiet.

This gangster malard made it clear that if you were going to sit and eat lunch here you had to pay the bread toll.

A hop, skip and a free ferry to cut out the Uberlingseree and I was on Lake Constance's eastern shore.

 Coming into dock at Meersburg

 Slaloming south down the shoreline through vineyards and orchards was a fine way to while away the afternoon.

 Despite cycling through Champagne and Alsace these were some of the first vinyards I'd seen.

 Occasionally catching glimpses of the shimmering lake.

the lure of the cool blue waters was irristable and it wasn't long until i had found myself a spot to while away the evening spalshing around int he lake and soaking up the sunshine.

you can hardly blame me

 As the evening wore on and the sun dropped I considered camping right there on the banks hidden away the Eriskirch nature reserve only to find my solitude intruded on by half the towns teenage population. After a chat and a smoke i conceeded the beach to them and the growing cloud of mosquitos and headed off at 10:00pm into the dusk in search of a better spot.

not before watching the sunset

I was getting a little worried as I cycled through the fairly well built up town of Lengenargan with the dark gathering; swallowing mosquitos as i went. After a few false trails a small wood with an adjacent field out of view of the surrounding houses presented itself and I was snug inside the tent in record time as I sought, not wholy successfully, to avoid the attentions of the local mosqitos.

In my haste I forgot to take a picture of the campspot but waking to a blustery morning I did snap this wild orchid just steps from my tent zip.

David Bellamy eat your heart out.

With the wnd rising I was chased by storm clouds as I left Germany and crossed into Austria at the south eastern edge of the lake

Lindau's sheltered harbour 

the wind sloshed lake made for an entertaining cycle along the shore with occassional waves cresting the walls spraying me playfully

 my attempts to picture it were not very successful

Turning back west and passing through Bregenz  I met the Alpine Rhine and crossed into Switzerland where she feeds the lake and turned north for a stright 50k dash to Lichenstein.

 As I approached the mountains the clouds gathered

It was an odd feeling cycling north hard in the knowledge that I would have to retrace my steps to reach my evenings destination of St Gallen and a little part of me wanted to simply continue on north and find the Rhines source.

Shrugging off that inclination I turned around after a brief stop in Valduz for a milkshake and retraced my steps

 But not before the heavens openned

 I cut west out of the the Rhine's flood plain at Obberiet and without a map of this area I relied on my phone to find a route to St Gallen. unfortunatley the map I had downloaded was not topographical and so i couldn't know that the mist and cloud obscured foot hills that lay before me would proove a tougher task than i had anticipated.

It had been a fast days riding to this point and i had already covered more than 100k and so as I began to climb the hill towards Trogen at about 17:30 i was looking forward to getting out of the wet and into a warm shower in St Gallen. Alas the hill did not relent easily and the climb continued interminably with the rain only getting heavier.

It was at this point that my body berayed me. Suddenly the need for the toilet was unbearable. I endured the discomfort for another 45 minutes of painstacking climbing all the while desperatley thinking of how to convey in German at one of the many posh swiss houses I was passing that I, a drenched englishman, was ever so sorry to intrude but desperatley needed to use their facilities. Unfortunaley I didn't feel that "Das toiletten bitte" was sufficiently appologetic and so couldn't bring myself to knock.

thankfully there is no pictoral evidence of my increasing desperation as, with the steep hill unabating and the wind and rain swirling around me, I broke down, jumped off the bike, scrambled up into some scree floored steep forest and found a natural depression with obliging exposed roots for hand holds to go about my nasty, if natural, business. Squatting half naked with the rain drenching me further was an intersting and not wholey unejoyable experience and certainly the subsequent sense of relief i felt as I used a stick to bury my work was almost joyful.

Like a new man i set about cresting what remained of the hill and by 19:00 i had finally reached the 903 metre summit at Trogen.

 here I am hidng out in a train station at the summit to dry off - a picture which does absolutely no justice to either the weather or the altitude.

From Trogen it was all downhill to St Gallen where my gallant host Andreas came and met me at the train staton just as my phone died. He himself had cycled from Switzerland to Shanghai and so new without asking that i needed a shower, beer, lots of food and a place to dry my kit. He was a fantstic host and it was great to talk with him about his experiences and to have him give me a brief guideed tour of pretty St Gallen.

My detour completed all that remained was to roll into zurch the next day and get ready to take on the mountains proper en route to Italy.

Or so I thought.


  1. Brilliant post Tom. I am so proud of you for out-flapping that very intimidating looking swan Kxxx

  2. I agree - I'd like to see the Swans Blogpost of his encounter with "Swanny Tom" with photos of you flapping and squawking!!