Sat 20th July.
Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein.
Tobias agreed to cycle with me to a nearby town and have breakfast and coffee. He took a few photos of me riding the bike on the way there, which I now realise are some of the few photos I have of me on a bike from the entire trip.
I look goofy in all of them, but here’s one.
We went to Lindau and being a Saturday a lot of people were out. The ride to the town was a novelty with a large group of cyclists and people stopping at a train crossing and setting off again. Especially Germans who love to obey the rules and are generous with space and time.
We had coffee and Tobias got some food. He was going to an indoor climbing place later and meeting his family tomorrow once they got back from their trip. I thanked him for helping me and got back around the lake.
The plan originally was to go to Munich and take the train to Italy. I had wanted to see Liechtenstein, but this would mean going out of my way. I went south for Liechtenstein and would decide when I got there on heading back to Munich, or moving south, crossing the alps and cycling to Italy.
The lake joined Austria at Bregenz. Having never been to Austria, I was excited, but I knew by now that boarders between countries didn’t mean anything and it would effectively be similar to any other German town on the lake. I got food (yogurts were becoming the favourite option) and sat down in the centre to consume.
A young guy came over to me and started talking about the bike and travelling. As it happens he was doing a similar thing and had stopped at a campsite nearby for a few days. He had come down from Belgium at an alarmingly quick rate, but started having knee problems and stopped (common among people who start long distances when they haven’t progressed correctly).
The purpose of his trip was to see a selection of buildings by his favourite Swiss architect. There was one in this town and more in Switzerland.
He was an architecture graduate and wanted to work for this architect he admired as part of the trip. Hoping to impress him with his pilgrimage of his buildings.
Something else about this young Belgian were his travels South America with a friend. Where he met an old man from Zürich who was sailing around the world on the boat of his dreams, making up for the lack of spontaneity in his earlier life.
He met the man from Zürich whiling crossing a river. They crossed the river together and the old man offered for him and his friend to come along with him. They decided to join him and spent forty days on the boat with this man, going around various parts of South America.
He mentioned a book they used that was written about a hundred years ago by Italian sailors. It had been translated into German and was their guide for these parts of the sea. The old man ignored all of the warnings in the book.
When they parted ways, the young Belgian and his friend stayed in touch but carried on around South America. The old man continued sailing around the world. They stayed in touch and met years later in Zürich.
He told me this while I had finished my yogurt and eyed up a nearby bin to deposit. Eager to get back on the road, but fascinated by his travels to tear away and leave. The odds of us meeting must have been microscopically remote, but there we were, talking because he spotted the bike and approached me.
His blog of South America can be seen here: http://onthehumanhighway.wordpress.com/
I visited the Kunsthaus, designed by the architect of his trip. The art museum had an exhibition of Gabriel Orozco’s work on, which I had seen a year ago at the Tate Modern in London. The feeling that everything was connected slotted into place and for a moment all was well in the universe.
I went west joining the Rhein river that started again at the lake. This river went through Austria, Liechtenstein, then ended (I think) back in Switzerland. Starting in the Netherlands and going into Germany and France. In some ways it felt like the kingpin of the trip.
I found the river with some effort and followed it south. I didn’t have any GPS maps for Austria or Liechtenstein, so I was using iPad screen grabs of maps, instinct and the sun as a compass (Rises in the east, sets in the west).
I hadn’t expected anything special from this region, but what was here was some of the most remarkable and memorable scenery I’d ever seen. I had the Rhein (or Rhine if you like) to my right, vast Austrian fields to my left and more Swiss mountain on the right, ever-changing as I progressed down the river.
Usually with cycling I check my bearings every half hour to make sure I’m on the right track, making it hard to develop a constant rhythm.
It was perfect day while I rode down the river and with time the sun set, creating the perfect riding climate. There were no cars or lorries to worry about and began to really shut off and enjoy the trip.
I listened to some music (another rare luxury) and enjoyed B.I.G’s ‘Ready to die’ while wading by the river.
I man came up beside me and cycled with me. He was Austrian, in a red jersey and we got talking about my trip. He had done a trip like it fifteen years ago, but only for a month. His trip included doing sixteen passes on the Alps going from Austria to Switzerland and he praised it as one of the best things he ever did.
He was a very nice man and seemed content in himself. He was out on a 40km round trip which he did regularly. He dropped in that he owned a bank in Liechtenstein. I began to wonder if he was some sort of humble millionaire, but it didn’t come up and with a puff of smoke we went our separate ways at a bridge.
A little further down the river and I was in Liechtenstein. I remember at the time I was listening to ‘Lonerism’ by Tame Impala and the blend of the music, the mountains and the sunset hues created a perfect union that was a pleasant accomplice to the end of the day.
I was in the capital, Vaduz and had to make a decision about where to stay. By this stage I had decided to cycle to Italy, leaving Munich behind.
Again knew I would be camping nearby. On the way out (I would return to Vaduz properly in the morning), I spotted a large sports complex which would be ideal camping as it would be empty until the morning.
I went to the sport complex, but opted out and decided to camp of the path beside instead. A few passers-by probably disapproved, but no one seemed to mind. As always I was there for one night.