How Small Is Switzerland? A Motorcycle Experience
Do you know Switzerland? I realized I don`t know it well enough for a Swiss guy. I used to travel only by train in Switzerland which means that I roughly knew where towns are located and how many minutes it takes to get there from my home town. That`s not enough I decided some months ago. So I bought myself a motorcycle and started exploring Switzerland by a means of travel that allows me to discover more isolated regions, to really sense elevation profiles and to improve my orientation skills. I expected a challenging but rewarding motorcycle experience and it turned out to be exactly that.
Visiting 26 Cantonal Capitals in Six Days
To feel how big or small Switzerland is, I decided to ride with my motorcycle through all Cantonal Capitals of Switzerland, 26 in number as you can see in the illustration above. It took me six days and cost me One Working Day; but I had to pay only two nights in youth hostels. Beforehand, I calculated 1300 kilometers (807 miles) for this motorcycle trip through Switzerland. However, I ended up riding more than 1650 km (1025 miles) which is 275 km (170 miles) per day. I rode over a dozen mountain passes and walked through the historic centers of all provincial capitals of Switzerland. Some old towns are really charming, such as Neuchâtel and Appenzell, some are not really noteworthy, such as Sarnen or Frauenfeld.
The twenty-six Cantons of Switzerland are diverse and boast a variety of different architectural styles (see picture above) and landscapes. However, you always feel like being in Switzerland or in other words: Crossing from one Canton to the next is not such a huge thing. When you cross the border to Germany, France or Italy, it really feels like stepping into another geographical setting, that is another country. My desire for discovering yet unknown places in Switzerland itself couldn`t be met by this motorcycle trip. To find those hidden spots you might have to leave the dense Swiss network of roads and start walking.
The Highlights of my Motorcycle Experience
For motorcyclists the most rewarding parts in Switzerland are certainly the more mountainous regions such as the Alps, the Jura Mountains and its spectacular passes. The most surprising towns, at least to me, were Neuchâtel & Appenzell and therefore are worth a visit. Areas of outstanding natural beauty I have predominantly found in more mountainous regions that is the Alpine Cantons of Switzerland, especially in the Valais, Grisons, Ticino, Vaud and Appenzell.
So How Small is Switzerland?
The crowds of Japanese, Chinese and other fast traveling tourists who “cover” Switzerland in two to four days miss a lot by not visiting more secluded regions of Switzerland. Even if Switzerland offers a great variety on a relatively small terrain, it`s just not possible to experience it in such a brief period. By motorcycle you can for sure reach many Swiss places relatively easy. But don`t underestimate the distances once you leave the highways. And that`s where you want to travel by motorcycle in Switzerland. Switzerland might be very small on a worldwide scale. However, natural barriers very often force you to cross high passes and make lengthy detours which “enlarges” the Swiss terrain to some extent. Would I calculate again only a week to discover the beauty of Switzerland by motorcycle? No way. The riding was quite tough, the daily riding hours long and the actual time spent at a particular place rather short. To illustrate this a bit further, check my different states of mood in the following “mood-o-gram”:
Have you had a similar motorcycle experience in Switzerland? What kind of motorcycle projects did you carry out in the past, in Switzerland? Please let me know by leaving a comment.
Patric Ganz, alias Traveling_Pat