St Gallen, Switzerland, August 2008
12 months into settled life here in St Gallen, we thought it was about time to report on life off the bikes. Returning from a 2-year cycle trip couldn’t have been better. We both started back immediately into our old jobs, found a gorgeous flat right in the centre of everything and instead of being on the move, the world came to visit us! It has been a fabulous year hosting friends and family here in St Gallen, and of course, we always look forward to the arrival of a cyclist or two to hear of their trials and tribulations on the road!
Felix (Germany), who we met in Argentina and cycled with in Bolivia, was one of the first to visit. After a year on the road in South America, Felix, our organic farmer, spent the summer on an Alp in the Bernese Oberland herding cattle and making cheese. After skipping down the mountains, he arrived with a rather large backpack…. filled with 1,500 slides, a slide projector and 20kgs of cheese… all of which we thoroughly enjoyed! Incidentally, Felix is known among cyclists as “The Map-Cutter” because of his ruthless removal of the oceans from all his South-American maps… to reduce weight!
Esther and Jereon (The Netherlands), after their 3-year bicycle trip around the world, settled down in St Gallen and are now enjoying their new addition: Rifka. They kindly treated us to packages of good Swiss chocolate and picture postcards of the Appenzell hills while we were pushing our way around Latin America. Esther and Jereon knew, from experience, what cyclists appreciate far away from home!
Daniela and Michi (Switzerland) were always a month or so ahead of us on their bikes in South America. We have them to thank for all their detailed information and warnings about the highs and lows ahead!
Irene was always about 3 days ahead of us on her bike in Argentina. This past year she has been working just up the hill from St Gallen making it easy to have numerous Malbec evenings together, reminiscent of Salta days!
Alain (Switzerland), who we met on numerous occasions in South America and cycled with in Bolivia, was next to visit. After completing the Pan Americana right up to Alaska, he flew to Vladivostok, took the Trans-Siberia train to St. Petersberg and then cylced home from there. We thawed him out in the November snow for a few days before his last leg into Soloturn. However, we have to admit, we were the ones that were spoilt with Alain’s home cooked meals on the table when we got back from work each day!
One of the popular fixtures on the annual St Gallen calendar is the OLMA pig race. This year, in glorious sunshine, it was an exciting photo finish between Ham and Bacon! This event even made it to the Colombian National press in South America, where our friends concluded we had lost the plot entirely!
Then it was time for Kurt’s “Almost Fifty Party”! As you can see, from the postage stamp designs opposite, the lad has had numerous PR gurus over the years… but didn’t he look sooooo cute at 5?
Kurt with a sorry dose of Post Party Syndrome!
However, we did manage to scrub him up in time for Darina’s annual high-heel fix!
Being based in St. Gallen is a dream for weekend get-aways to the mountains. With the Alpstein just a stone’s throw away, we have had numerous weekends hiking above the clouds in glorious sunshine.
With the nagging sensation that putting skiis on her feet carries a 50% risk of compound fractures, Darina doesn’t know herself with the discovery of snow shoes. Strapping tennis rackets to your boots and walking through virgin snow in pristine surrounds is the business for the winter months.
Then, as the sun goes down, it’s time to gather round the table in a cosy Swiss chalet for the ultimate treat: Swiss Cheese Fondue.
In Appenzellerland, just up the hills from here, Altersilvester, (the old new year) is celebrated according to the Gregorian calendar on Jan. 13th. With their farms all snowed in, the farmers deck themselves out in traditional dress, hang a couple of cow-bells round their necks, balance a miniature farm on their heads and run from farmhouse to farmhouse. There they yoddle wonderful harmonies and knock back whatever schnaps is available to warm the cockles of their hearts!
Then, across the border in Austria, winter is promptly dismissed in February with impressive Funken (huge bonfires) and fireworks displays in every little village.
Being close to our workplaces we haven’t had to endure public transportation during rush hour. Kurt has had an easy 7-minute cycle downhill to the river valley, whereas Darina has been starting her day with a workout of 400 odd steps. Who needs a stair master with hills like this at your doorstep?
One luxury that we missed on the road was the bathtub. So, if you had a lengthly phone chat with Darina during the winter months, the chances are this is where it happened!
Petra and Dipo (Switzerland and Germany) successfully completed their Pan American trip last year. Our paths crossed on numerous occasions in South America after our initial meeting in Salta, where 14 European cyclists happened upon each other, all northbound. Based in the Engadine, Switzerland Petra and Dipo organised a great get-together at Easter of the “Mafia de ciclistas”!
Then came springtime… and Kurt’s new toy!
Just as the daffodils and tulips began to bloom, the St. Gallen city council was busy erecting seasonal roadsigns. From 6pm to 7am certain roads are closed to traffic in springtime in order to accommodate a safe crossing for… the frogs! Something you might like to consider for your next life!
Dani (Switzerland), who we met in the desert in N. Chile, had us over in W. Switzerland for the Murten Lake Slow up. We enjoyed a hefty cyclists’ barbeque the evening before with Dani, Barbara and Matthias. On the Sunday, 55,000 joined us on bikes, trikes, unicycles and rollerblades making it a real slow-up cycle around the lake.
For our Pentecost long weekend we had a leisurely cycle around Lake Geneva, camping on the shores of the lake with vineyards and snowcapped mountains forming a dramatic picture-postcard setting. For more pictures click here.
Then, as the last of the snow melted away, it was time to hit the mountains again as the summer hiking season commenced.
5-lake hike with Gabi in the Bad Ragaz area
Darina somehow managed to get Kurt spruced up for the local openair opera festival. With the cathedral as the backdrop, Verdi’s Giovanna d’Arco (Joan of Arc) was quite the spectacle… and could be the start of an annual outing for the new Kurt!
Of course it’s the season again for barbeques. What better way to spend a summer afternoon than a spin through the woods, a cool dip in the river and a tasty meal at the campfire?
Just to round off the year, we took 3 weeks off and cycled along the lakes of Switzerland, down through the lavender fields of Provence to the shores of the Mediterranean. For more pictures and comments, click here.
So you can see, life off the road is not all that taxing! To celebrate our 12 months back we are organising a cyclists’ rendez-vous on the Sept. 6/7, 2008.
All the cyclists we met on the road are invited… and anyone else who is interested in joining in on the fun! The plan is a relaxed cycle from St. Gallen up into the Appenzell hills where we will tuck into a hearty barbeque, while ranting and raving about bicycle touring. We have arranged accommodation in a barn on a bed of straw and a good alpine breakfast the following morning. There should be time for a short hike through the hills before cycling back to St. Gallen and heading our different ways.
If you are interested in taking part, let us know before the end of August, so we can get the booking in on time. Looking forward to seeing you all then…