Text: Keir Plaice | Photography: Tim Bardsley-Smith | Video: My Media Sydney
Switzerland is a small Mitteleuropean country, known for its mountains and penknives, chocolate, cheese, and neutrality, its fine watches and trains, cuckoo-clock cottages and banks. That’s the idea most people have of it, but there is so much more to Switzerland than that.
It’s a nation with four official languages, comprised of 26 staunchly independent cantons, with overlapping cultures. From the rolling fields of the Swiss Plateau to the thick forests and lakes of the Jura mountains to the high meadows and peaks of the Alps and the Riviera-like shores of the lakes in the south, its landscapes are vast and varied. Each part of the country has its own, unique charm.
We set out to discover Switzerland for ourselves, to explore the parts of the country that are not necessarily included on the routes set out in the usual guidebooks. Since the days of the grand tour, travellers have been coming to Switzerland, enticed by its natural beauty, its cultural sophistication, and its rustic allure.
The roads and rails between the country’s most famous attractions are well-worn, but on a bike, you see a country differently. You soon realise that the in-between places are often the most authentic and interesting—the local café in a hidden-away village, the view halfway up a climb on a side road you took by accident, the swimming spot you passed when you took that shortcut. Cities often aren’t destinations in themselves, but places to rest along the way. It’s not the top of the col you value most, but the road up to it. Surely, you enjoy the same luxuries that others do too; you just appreciate them more, because you’ve earned them riding.
And in Switzerland, the riding is phenomenal. We’d seen the Tour de Suisse and knew to expect grand alpine climbs, but we weren’t aware that there was such great cycling all over the country. From high-elevation mountain biking to cruisy road rides in lush valleys to blasting around cities on e-bikes, it’s all there, waiting to be discovered in Switzerland.
Over the coming ten weeks, our major Discovering Switzerland series will be showcasing the best of each region we visited. We’re looking forward to having you along for the ride.