Leaving Lake Constance

View from our camper on the Rhine

Mike and I recently completed our cycling ride around Lake Constance, spending a delightful two weeks at a campground on the Rhine River, very close to where the river exits Lake Constance. The photo above, taken from our camper, shows a castle across the Rhine under ominous skies, a common sight this year. Luckily, all the campers enjoyed a beautiful long weekend amidst the unpredictable weather.

We’ve now cycled from the Rhine’s source to Basel, which is the furthest upstream destination for most cruise boats and commercial ships. The Rhine Falls are about 100 km upstream from Basel. Surprisingly, there’s no way around them by water, despite various historical plans and attempts, including bombing the falls.

Our arrival at the first Swiss campground was quite interesting. Shortly after parking, a curious lady requested a tour of our RV. I asked her to wait for 5 minutes while we hooked up the electricity and opened up our camper. Within just a couple of minutes, a crowd had gathered outside! We welcomed about 13 visitors, many non-English speakers, in a spontaneous open house. A few nights later, we had a knock on our door from three more inquisitive people! Having people actually knock on a closed door was new for us.

Zurich, Switzerland
Say the colour, not the word

On a day with unpredictable weather, we drove to Zurich, which was about an hour away from our campsite. Having visited Zurich before, we decided to check out the “WOW Museum – Room for Illusions” for the first time. The museum offered a unique and quite different experience unlike other illusion museums that we have visited. In many rooms, a strategically placed camera captured photos of Mike or I as we stood in specific spots, and we later downloaded the amusing results. In one photo, I appeared to be falling down stairs, which I actually did a year ago. This time I was smiling. In another, I sat on a small elephant and ended up with a photo of six identical me’s all on white elephants in a circle, all thanks to cleverly positioned mirrors.

The museum also featured this classic illusion that I still find intriguing. It involves trying to say the actual color of each word out loud, which proves incredibly difficult as our minds instinctively read the letters instead.

A curious sight greeted us on one of the main bridges in Zurich’s Old Town – a group of policemen armed with long guns equipped with cylindrical canisters at the end. I couldn’t fathom their purpose, a testament to my limited knowledge of firearms.

One of our ferry trips on Lake Constance

That campsite’s Rhine River location and boat ramp tempted us to take our boat out for the first time in years. Overall, Mike and I are getting lazier these days. The thought of having to inflate and deflate the boat and haul around the motor every time that we want to get in and out of the water is disheartening. Mike says that the first thing we need to do is get rid of the old gas-oil fuel mixture, which is a task easier said than done. Adding to the challenge, our motor can’t be tested out of the water. The weather took a turn for the worse, with six out of eight days being predicted wet and cold. Our boat launching remains on hold, but perhaps we’ll have better luck at our next campground, an island in the middle of the Rhine.

Our Lake Constance cycle tour involved numerous ferry rides, a great alternative to trains. One of the ferries we were on could have been a bus, shuttling passengers between Constance/Konstanz and Meersburg, near the end of the lake, in just six minutes. This ferry ran continuously throughout the day, with one ferry being loaded before the previous one even left the dock.

Meersburg is a delightful town with most of it high on a hill. We suspect many tourists arrive by ferry and only explore the waterfront area and miss out on the rest of the town.

Mike looking for lunch in Meersburg, Germany.

While ferries were more enjoyable, we still relied on trains most often. Despite their high cost, or maybe because of it, Swiss trains proved to be some of the best we’ve ridden on for e-bikes. They had low platforms for easy boarding and either elevators, or ramps, at all their stations, at least in the Lake Constance area. Surprisingly, booking a Switzerland-to-Germany train ticket through the Swiss website was nearly double the price compared to booking the same trip on the German website.

A picturesque walk from our campground along the Rhine took us into Stein am Rhein, the town with a beautifully preserved Old City filled with medieval houses adorned with painted facades. I included pictures of it in my last posting. Near our campground, we spotted a swan nesting in the reeds, presumably on eggs we couldn’t see. Nearby, a pair of black and white ducks had built a smaller nest with four adorable ducklings just starting to swim. It was interesting to see that the parents were all back except for a distinct white stripe almost covering their black face and head while the babies where all redheads. I wish we had taken a picture. We were amazed by how quickly the ducklings grew in just a few days.

Cycling the Rhine River route with a short detour to Laufenburg, Switzerland

During one bike ride, we couldn’t resist venturing into the town of Laufenburg after spotting an intriguing tower entrance. Such spontaneous detours are one of the great things about cycling.

One aspect of our recent travels that has disappointed us is the decreased interaction with other campers. In our early years in Europe, we enjoyed meeting and talking with people from diverse backgrounds. However, now we predominantly encounter campers from the same country we’re in. During our time in Switzerland, we saw mainly Swiss campers and few others. We saw a handful of Dutch campers in Italy but not as many as we expected. The Dutch are huge travellers. We haven’t met a single camper from the UK or Ireland. This lack of diversity and English speaking campers is disheartening. At first, I thought that this might be because of Covid. The first few years after Covid, very few campers left their own countries. I think that the major Covid issues are probably far enough behind us that this isn’t the problem now. My guess is that we are in the more populated “Western” countries, and they don’t visit one another as much. When we were in Central/Eastern Europe we saw people from everywhere. That isn’t the case currently. Many items in Central/Eastern Europe are a bit cheaper than in Western Europe which might explain why tourists from the West are so common in these countries.

A funny incident occurred at an Italian restaurant in Germany. After Mike and I ordered a pizza to share the waiter replaced our nice cloth napkins with paper ones. The neighboring table with individual pizzas retained their cloth napkins. The waiter seemed a bit embarrassed when he made the switch, likely following restaurant protocol.

Lovely Swiss town of Rheinfelden. Nice stop while cycling the Rhine.

I stumbled upon Rheinfelden online and discovered yet another charming town on the Rhine. The German town of Rheinfelden is relatively new, built around a hydroelectric plant. If you rode across the bridge, which of course we did, you entered the 900+ year old Swiss town of Rheinfelden, which was filled with a Saturday market.

A short ride from Rheinfelden, we cycled past an estate that appeared to have once been an abbey and was now a hotel. We sat and had a long leisurely drink and strawberry sundae in the quiet gardens there before continuing our ride which was just lovely. At least I thought it was lovely, Mike grew impatient, prompting him to suggest that I need to bring an empty plastic bottle with me to pour my wine into, so that I can finish my “relaxing” much quicker.

We have just left a campground on the Rhine that cost us over 45€/night ($67 Cdn) and they wanted more. For us this was exorbitant considering that it is not high season. We are now camped on an island in the middle of the Rhine River and we are paying 13.10€/night ($19 Cdn). We are staying at one of a chain of camping places called Camping-Car Park. It is really too bad that they are mainly restricted to France. We have electricity, water, and a dumping area. Most campers usually stay in these camps for only one or two nights while they visit the nearby tourist attractions. Mike and I will probably be here for two weeks. We travel much slower than most. While these campsites lack amenities like bathrooms, kitchens and swimming pools, we love them. Upon arrival we were greeted by a stunning castle on the German side of the river, which we plan to visit soon. A medieval walled town on the French side within easy biking distance is also on our itinerary. We’re already eyeing our next potential destination, another Camping-Car Park. These campgrounds offer us everything we need at an affordable price, and their proximity to interesting towns makes them an ideal base for Mike and I.

We are hoping to cycle from Basel to Strasbourg before we leave this camping spot. Right now we are situated about half-way between the two cities. The cycling wouldn’t be a big problem if the trains cooperated. Neither the French nor the Germans have trains that run along the Rhine where I want them to. I have heard that there are quite a few Rhine ferries, I will check that out next and let you know in a week or two what happens.

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