Spring came reluctantly in Switzerland this year – while its kind of warm, clouds cover the sky and it rains almost every evening.
Here on the Swiss Riviera, I can’t see much of the mountains, either to the south or to the north of me.
Still, I bought myself a motorcycle, a decent one, for the roads in the Alps, and went out for a ride very early last Saturday.
By the time the country woke up and people started going about their business I was crossing the Col du Pillon pass in the western Swiss Alps, on my way to Gstaad.
It’s not an easy ride, riding mostly in second or third gear, but the views make every kilometer worth it. The pass is at a lousy 1546 m elevation, but it felt like an achievement when I got up there. Arms aching and all that.
After living more than three years in Western Switzerland, I’ve come to think that life is tougher in the mountains, one that is very different than on the plains.
So people here are strong, they know how easy is it to die when one doesn’t make a right turn and falls into the abyss, especially in the winter.
And it’s always hard uphill or downhill wherever you go, but the scenery makes up for your efforts, if you’re inclined that way.
I was talking to a friend of mine, who flies up here in a quiet glider, and she said: “the mountains have a distinct smell at night, I love it.”
Riding through a small mountain village I came across a sprawling Bentley and Porsche dealership. “I must be getting close,” I thought. Bentleys sold in the mountains, hah!
Gstaad attracts celebrities the way a pot of honey attracts bees – it’s good to be seen here. Some have villas here – from Polanski to Bernie Ecclestone and Julie Andrews.
I had a coffee in town that morning, under a beautiful sky, trying to navigate the Swiss-German dialect and it was not easy. It’s possible that the people here don’t even understand each other.
Later, I turned east, riding through Rougemont towards Bern. They don’t have speed cameras there, so I switched the bike settings from soft mountain driving to the most aggressive there is on the menu.
When I reached the entrance to the highway, my front wheel was getting light under the hard acceleration, so I moved forward putting my weight on it and had a sweet flight in the sun all the way to Interlaken.
It’s a town between two lakes, hence the name, and they’re both an intense green like her eyes in the sun.
A lunch in Interlaken will set you back $60, but the food is splendid, and hey – it’s Switzerland. All worth it.
La douce vie.
Tom Kubiak is the author of The Traveler