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Tue Oct 06 2015: The Swiss Alps

The day starts off with a bit of sunshine. The rains from last night have mostly dried up as we pack our tent and head towards the Swiss border. Last night, Colleen and Dan shared with us some last-minute information on riding through Switzerland, given our agenda of passing through and not really focusing on touring anymore.


Packing up, getting ready to leave Germany

We were warned beforehand that there is a "vignette" system in Switzerland, which is a pre-paid toll scheme that permits you to drive on the main motorways in the country. Unfortunately, this toll covers an entire year - you can't just purchase it for a short period of time, and all we really wanted was a single day pass. The cost is 40CHF, which is about $40USD. Unfortunately, over the last few months, we've watched the value of our Canadian dollar plummet like a rock so a $40USD toll is quite a big deal for a single day of riding.

We talked last night with Colleen and Dan about how likely we were to get caught if we didn't buy a vignette. It's not an electronic system, just a sticker on your windshield, so as long as we didn't run into any traffic stops we should be okay. I checked the fine online, it's about 200CHF ($200USD). Hmmmm... What is that, like $1,000 CDN today?! Hard to believe it was par when we first left on our trip.

They told us that since these annual vignettes are issued at the beginning of the calendar year, the enforcement might not be as strict now at the end of the year. So we all decided that if we get caught and fined, we would send the bill to Colleen and Dan. Actually, we didn't all decide that, just Neda and I. Actually, not Neda and I. Just me.

So for the next few hours, we just have to avoid the Polizei, which means not calling attention to ourselves, which means not speeding, which means I am leading the ride since Neda believes she is invisible to radar.


A tunnel in Switzerland. Normally in this picture there would be a Neda and her motorcycle in front of me, but...

As you can see from the map above, the scenery doesn't really get interesting until you get to the southern part of Switzerland, closer to the Alps. So we spent most of the first part of the ride on boring highways made just a little more exciting because we were wary and paranoid of every police car in sight.

On the way, we saw a sign for Lucerne and I tapped on the communicator, "Hey do you want to stop in for a quick ride-by?". Neda knew what I was thinking: "Sure!"


We have fond memories of Lucerne. We got engaged here in 2002.

We had to fight a bit of traffic in the middle of a weekday. We were searching for a very specific place

It was a foggy ride through the downtown of the city, the lake is almost entirely shrouded in mist and you can't see the opposite shore. I don't remember the name of the hotel where we stayed back in 2002, but I recall that it was right on the water, so we rode up and down the shoreline road until we passed a familiar building:


Ah, The Palace Hotel! Right! See the green dome overlooking the lake? That's where I proposed to Neda

I remember it being a very fancy place. We got the rooftop suite and it was so luxurious! It overlooked the lake and that's when I knew it was the perfect spot to ask her to marry me. Spoiler: She said yes.

Riding by this swanky hotel really highlighted the huge change between our old lifestyle back then and the way we live our life now. It's 13 years later and we're in the exact same place except that this morning, we woke up in a tent. What a contrast! LOL! Hobos for life!

Well, enough of the nostalgia ride, back on the highway southbound!


Mountains ahead of us, it's going to get a bit more interesting now

The landscape rises up and envelops the highway around us the further south we ride

The road takes us to Andermatt, a town in the valley of the Adula Alps that's become quite popular with tourists lately

Andermatt is at the base of two adjoining mountains, the Nätschen to the North-East and the Gemsstock to the South

Based on Collen and Dan's recommendation, we are deviating from our southbound route and heading east, up an over Nätschen to ride some of the famous Swiss alpine passes.


Lots of hotels in town.

Andermatt has undergone a resurgence in popularity because the other Swiss resorts like St Moritz have become too expensive. Of course, expensive is a relative term, because Switzerland *is* the most expensive country not only in Europe but in the entire world. More expensive than Norway, which is #3 (behind Singapore). Thankfully, we were spared this knowledge first-hand because Bettina invited us to stay with her the last time we were in Switzerland.


Some German bikers riding through

Deserted streets during the middle of the weekday

This is the off-season for the Swiss Alps, too warm for skiing and too cold for hiking. But that doesn't halt the parade of motorcyclists riding through town on their way to and from all the great twisty passes in the area. Hard to believe that in a few weeks from now, all of this is going to be blanketed in snow and the near empty streets of Andermatt will be bustling with ski tourists.


Neda is window shopping

Eating a falafel at Collen and Dan's recommendation.

It was the cheapest thing on the menu, but still quite pricey! Yummy and worth it though. We're sitting outside because it costs extra to sit inside the restaurant. While we were munching on our falafels, we saw the German riders from before park near us and a couple of them were checking out our bikes. So we walked over to say hi to them and chat motorcycles for a while. They left Germany this morning and were going to do the Swiss Alps then ride back home the same day! I remember when we used to ride hardcore like that!

We headed out of Andermatt, eastwards up to Nätschen mountain


As we got further up, the grass turns brown

Great fun taking the switchbacks up and down! And it wasn't raining, so yay!

In the valleys, the grass is green again

Beautiful scenery as well too, can't complain too much about the day

Passing through small towns in the Swiss countryside


Swiss cheese production line

As we got closer to Lugano, there was a noticeable change in architecture in the buildings of the towns we were passing through. We didn't notice it the first time we rode here because we came from Italy and just dipped into the Italian canton of Ticino. But now, traveling through the entire country in a day, we saw the progression from the Germanic influences in the north to the Mediterranean style in the south. Very interesting.

Bettina was waiting for us in Lugano with a big smile and a warm dinner. It's so nice to be able to spend time with her like this, bonding over motorycles. We've hung out with her so often lately and we feel so comfortable around her that it feels like we've known her for such a long time.


Bettina got a new bike! Showing off the Monster! It's a beauty!

Relaxing on the couch while Bettina is helping us plan out a route for tomorrow

We've traversed the whole length of Switzerland in a day! Great company, great roads! Life is simple, but it's good.

Oh yeah, and here's a video:

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