Posted by: paulgilders | October 16, 2012

Express to Italy

After the UK our general plan was to head rapidly south. Poppy had a desire to see Italy and with the autumn well under way, we were all keen for warmer weather.

Our ferry from Harwich took us to the Hook of Holland. We had intended to get the overnight ferry, but unfortunately the sailing was cancelled. This disrupted our plans to cycle all the way to Utrecht, so we caught a train from the port. Incredibly, we were able to wheel the tandem and the trailer straight on and off the train without any dissassembly. Unfortunately, getting the bikes off the platform wasn’t so simple – the lift wasn’t big enough for the tandem, so we lugged up and down stairs.

We camped for the night in the town of Wöerden – arriving after dark. However, the following morning was bright and we were pleased to find a very pleasant town. After lunch we cycled the short, flat distance to Utrecht, where we were scheduled to catch the overnight train to Zurich.

On the way to Utrecht we stopped next to a massive greenhouse growing tomatoes.

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The town of Utrecht was a cycling experience. A third of all journeys are undertaken by bike and 90 percent of children ride their bikes to school. There are bikepaths everywhere and more parked bicycles than you can imagine. This is the scene outside the station.

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Of course, for us it was far from easy. We had difficulty navigating the tight bends along the bike paths and the relative instability of the tandem at slow speeds surrounded by other confident riders was extremely challenging. Lastly, the bike paths are not well signed and do not follow intuitive routes. We frequently took wrong turnings and had difficulty turning round. My advice would be to have a single bike in the towns of the Netherlands.

Despite our problems, it was wonderful to see so many bikes used as practical transport. We were frequently the subject to humour for the locals, since nobody else wore cycle clothing or helmets – we were truly wierd foreigners.

The old city of Utrecht was beautiful, with cobbled paths built along a main canal.

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Here are some of the great bikes.

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There were many cargo bikes (or bakfiets) – many taking children to and from school.

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That train from Utrecht to Zurich was also well equiped to take bikes. We even had a ticket for a tandem and parked in the tandem bike bay.

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Early the following morning we arrived in Zurich. After paying 46 Swiss Franks for three coffees and sandwiches, we decided to move rapidly towards Italy and caught yet another train to the town of Bellinzona. Here is a picture through the train window.

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At Bellinzona, there was little camping, so we stayed for a night at the local youth hostel, preparing for a bigger ride the following day. Bellinzona has two major castles used in the past to protect the town.
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We found a cycling map and decided to follow route 3 towards Como. We were expecting typically Swiss rural landscape, but found the ride south to be very industrial. The signposting of the route was also hit and miss – we frequently resorted to basic map reading after losing the trail.

We stayed for a couple of nights at Agno alongside lake Lugano waiting for better weather. Eventually, we progressed further south around lake Lugano and over a ridge to Como.

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Unfortunately, the weather here has again turned sour – a complete day of rain today. The ducks have left the wild lake and instead are enjoying the puddles in the park.

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The tourists aren’t happy, but tomorrow will be better!

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Responses

  1. Fantastic! I’m moving to the Netherlands! Love it. But what was the food like? Now there is the important factor…..


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