Another guest post by Bert!
We woke up in our hotel room in Switzerland, well rested after the previous day’s exertions. Swiss mountains surrounded us in a panorama, forming beautiful white and grey silhouettes against the light blue sky.
Switzerland is well known for its exorbitant prices and high cost of living; before the trip, Matt warned that our goal would be to make it through Switzerland with our wallets intact. Hungry, we went to a grocery store to purchase food for breakfast; we would not achieve our goal.
With our hunger satiated, we cycled through Switzerland, observing new landscapes in the distance. One runs out of words to describe the wonder and majesty of the Swiss Alps.
The road to one mountain was uniquely lit up with grape trees on both sides of the road, dangling blue-purple pearls from their branches that appeared ready to burst and ready for use in the next vintage. Not far away, a different grape tree had several branches overhanging a fence onto public property; I accepted their invitation, helping them achieve their destined purpose.
Later, we cycled upwards a long and steady incline; it was one last expenditure Switzerland demanded before allowing us to leave. Thankfully, what comes up tends to come down, and we enjoyed a long, steep and picturesque descent as we crossed into Lichtenstein; it was one of the best descents on our journey. Our shirts, drenched in sweat, dried on the way down courtesy of the manufactured draft.
Lichtenstein is a small country; similar to Switzerland, it is surrounded by beautiful Alpine mountains. The bike paths were incredibly long and a pleasure to ride on, especially the long section running parallel to the Rhine. There, I stopped to pick wild blackberries, their purple and red luminance ready for their September spotlight.
We crossed a short wood covered bridge leading to the other side of the Rhine; the Hartland Bridge in New Brunswick need not feel threatened. At the halfway inflection point, we crossed back into Switzerland! Matthew joked that we should have an international lunch, with each of us sitting in separate countries, but we cycled on.
Later, we sat at a park bench for a lunch respite and ate sandwiches while our eyes devoured their own succulent feast: mountains in the distance and the blue water of the Rhine in the foreground.
Kilometers passed as the pedal strokes continued and signage informed us that we had passed into Austria. Like all the country borders visited, border guards were nowhere to be seen, making me wonder if I should have left my passport in Germany. I sampled an Austrian apple from a tree on the bike path.
We stopped in a cafe for a breather; I enjoyed the best cappucino of my trip, as well as a slice of strawberry cake; Matthew had a tea and chocolate cake slice. The cashier recognized our weary faces and kindly refilled our water bottles.
The scenery only got better as we passed into the Bregenzerwald forest, which had mountains, forests, lakes, streams and sparsely populated communities built on slopes, peaks and valleys. It made me think: these communities live through life’s highs and lows in a very literal sense.
Moving further, cows mooed in delight and swung their necks left to right, cowbells playing us a harsh harmonic melody. I convinced myself this was their way of congratulating us for our efforts and to tell us to keep moo-ving. We made it into Germany at the end of the day, as dusk caught up to the sun.
Four countries in one day using only man powered bicycle assisted movement. After 114 kilometers, one final fist bump between two ‘cycling envoys’ marked the end of the day’s efforts.
As our heavy eyes drifted towards sleep, nature called our names. On the way back from the bathroom, Matthew noticed the stars shining though a partially clear sky, like friends calling each other with bad reception. Fighting clouds and light pollution, we were able to map out Cassiopeia, Cygnus, Lyra, the little dipper, and finally, once back in the tent, the sandman.