The road on which I cycle makes large curves upwards. It is the tenth cycling day and so far I have managed to cycle the average 100 kilometers per day. But today is different, I climb from 700 to 2200 meters. The pendulums take me to the Julierpass in Switzerland. I have the weather with me today, but not my body. I’m tired of the last few days. It’s difficult for me to force myself to get the bike and all equipment to the top of the mountain pass. How do I ever get to the other side when all my strength is gone, I think sadly to myself. I hope that the sun will not soon set and I’ll be able to achieve my goal of arriving at the Nietzsche House in Sils Engadin/Segl in this ten cycling days.
In Petit-Réderching I stayed for two nights with a very hospitable and sweet family, Audrey and Alexy and their two children. They have converted their blue house they live in with a number of guest rooms. Everything looked structured and tidy in the house. The children walked past and said cheerfully: “bonjour!”. And if they forgot, their mother Audrey would remind them to be polite. It gave me a very nice feeling as if I belonged in that family.
Alexy was kind. He spent most of the day in an office room focused on his laptop and sometimes busy calling someone. He was starting up a new consultant company and had a chat with me now and then. “I think we need to find new ways of doing business,” Alexy said convincingly in English with a French accent. “A lot of people are waiting for the situation to get better but it is good to adapt and look for new possibilities in these changed times!” He looked very convinced of what he just said.
That next day I put on my cycling shorts, doubted for a long time whether I should wear my base layer on top of or under the cycling shorts and cycled into the fog of the French hills. It had frozen. The grass on the roadside had white tops and the trees had an enchanting mist around them. Days flew by and the cycling days were actually quite simple:
– Wake up before sunrise (alarm at 6am)
– Have breakfast and fill thermos with hot tea on the go
– Packing stuff
– Cycling (usually around 8am)
– A few short breaks and usually a larger one for lunch
– If necessary visit a supermarket or bakery
– Find a camping spot about an hour before sunset
– Set up camp and cook
– Sometimes make a small fire
– Writing, reading and sleeping (usually around 10pm)
With this routine it went so well that before I knew it I suddenly ended up in Switzerland! The country where a lolly has the price of a large bowl of fries! It all went so quickly and during the last part there were so many people everywhere that I hadn’t bought any groceries at all in Germany which now seems like a dirt cheap country.
With a curve I went around Lake Constance and fortunately ended up in Austria for a while. It was only Sunday. In Austria it is an absolute rarity that a supermarket is open on Sundays. Good for all rest but in this case bad for my wallet, I thought. Fortunately, I saw on my phone that a supermarket called Eurospar in Feldkirch was closing at 11:30am and that was in 35 minutes while I still had to cycle more than 10 kilometers! With screeching tires I shot through the country roads to Feldkirch. I arrived tired and wet with my own sweat and stared at a sign with the new opening times written in bright orange letters: “Sonntag geslosschen!”.
Fortunately, I found out that the Happy Market was open until 12:00am. A Turkish supermarket on the other side of the Rhine in Feldkirch. And this supermarket was affordable. So I could still start the climb to the Alps with a well-filled bag of calories. No fancy power bars, just those delicious Turkish chocolate caramel cookies.
I soon cycled into Liechtenstein, was surprised with all the beautiful castles I saw and started a magical climb afterwards. It was like cycling through winter wonderland. I could not believe my eyes! The pine trees with all the whiteness, really beautiful. The first climb to 700 meters was challenging, but the views gave me all the energy.
I ended up in a pine forest where I could find a nice place to sleep and in the evening carved a spatula out of the pine wood. A gift from nature, I thought enthusiastically when the spatula was ready.
I was tired of all this. In the night my thoughts were not clear anymore. I really needed sleep. Thoughts kept coming and going and it took some time before I finally fell into a deep sleep in my warm sleeping bag.
I need sugars, it hits my head! I walk while biting a chocolate caramel cookie and jump back on the bike with my mouth full. My legs immediately cramp. I gasp with half a cookie in my mouth. My whole body is protesting.
I can’t help but to walk the last windings. Everything hurts. A gray Volkswagen comes down and the lady behind the wheel playfully raises her thumb at me. Like: “Nice work, you there! You are almost there, just keep going. You can do it!” A flurry of good feeling comes over me, with this last energy I manage to continue to the top of the Julierpass.
A descent in the summer is completely enjoyable, finally you can zoom down in no time. A descent in freezing temperatures is different, because the danger starts to become real of getting too cold. You surface hot and sweaty, celebrate your victory and before you know it your body cools down fast. I’m aware of this and grab my thermos for a warm cup of tea and also pour a nice splash of honey in it. I immediately put on a windproof jacket to retain my body heat and put on thick mittens for the descent.
With a good feeling I zoom down and more than an hour later I take a photo at the Nietzsche House just before the night comes in. “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” wrote good old Nietszche in Twilight of the Idols. I think back to the determined Alexy, he seemed to make the most of all the circumstances. I feel that very well now, that determination. “All the worries I normally have, have now completely disappeared,” I wrote in my diary a few days ago. And that next day I closed my diary with: “today so little happened but that is so ok.”