Europe Travel

Birthday Bike Ride: Three Countries In One Day

Switzerland. Austria. Germany. Three countries along one fun, interesting bike ride. For my birthday this year, I knew we were going to be in Switzerland. Neal and I were trying to think what would be a great way to spend it. The first thing that came to mind was SPA. All day spa, baby. But then I was thinking what’s the point in a spa? I don’t find them that relaxing and they cost a lot of money. So when the day finally came, we were in St. Gallen, only a short train ride away from Lake Constance (Bodensee). We decided to do a bike ride.

Choosing a route

We had a few options. Stein am Rhein is at the north west corner of Lake Constance and we thought maybe we could somehow bike there? But that was going to be 50km and we hadn’t been on bikes since God knows when. It seemed too far. Then we thought, maybe we take the train to Romanshorn, take a ferry over to Friedrichshafen (Germany) and ride around the south east part of the lake until we’re too tired to ride anymore. That didn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Too aimless.

And it was hot. 95 degrees hot. So we changed tactics: find the bike rental place that opens the earliest and go from there. In Romashorn, it was going to be 10am. But in Rorschach, just a 15 minute train ride from St. Gallen, there was a place called Bischi Bikes that opened at 9. Rorschach won! We still didn’t have a place for the actual route, but at least we knew our starting point.

Lake Constance from Rorschach

Renting the Bike

Because we are such early risers, we got to Rorschach by 8:30. We walked along Lake Constance and made our way to bike rental shop. The guy running the shop opened the shop a bit early, so we didn’t end up waiting! We contemplated getting e-bikes and he told us we were young, we probably didn’t need e-bikes. E-bikes have little motors in them that take a little of the work out of it, but a little bit of fun out of it as well. They also were $50 for a day, whereas the regular bikes were $25. We went with the regular bikes.

This guy was really helpful. He told us different routes we could take. The route north west along Lake Constance, he said, was boring and family-friendly. Going the other way, he said, was a much better adventure. He said it was easy – you go around the south east bend of the lake, through Austria and end up in Germany. Then we had the option to take the ferry back to Rorschach, bike back, or take the train. Okay, we thought, great!

Riding through Switzerland

On our bikes we went! We had no map. Switzerland is very good at posting signs, so we really relied on that hoping Austria and Germany were, too. I did have google maps, if I absolutely had to use it. The route started along Lake Constance, but quickly turned onto roads. With cars. What??? We thought it was going to be a beautiful ride 100% along the lake… At this point, Neal already is like did we go the right way? There was a fair amount of uphill, and the guy told us it was totally flat…

Austria

We kept going along a busy road until it took us to a trailer park/camp park. There we saw water again! It gave us hope that we were on the right track. But it turned into a dirt road along what actually looked like a pond on one side and a farm field on the other. We rode through neighborhoods, fields, farms, along highways, until finally, Austria made its first appearance!

Then more fields, more farmland, more waterways. There were other people on the route, too. Many of them had e-bikes. Some were intent on going way faster than us, some were older folks just enjoying the outdoors. It was craziest when we shared narrow roads through fields with cars.

So much farmland!
Beautiful flower boat seen along the way.

We stopped and checked out this covered bridge.

Bregenz

When we hit a town that seemed rather large, and still couldn’t see the lake, I pulled out my GPS. We had made it to Bregenz! All I wanted to do was find the lake, so we set off in that direction. There it finally was, Lake Constance back in our sights! We stopped to have lunch and a birthday beer by the water. It was really nice, though still so hot!

Lake Constance looked vast from Bregenz. We couldn’t see any land looking out. To the left, however, we could see a very strange piece of what looked to be artwork on the shore. It kept moving. A giant hand going up and down. We chalked this up to weird antics in Austria.

It turned out to be a giant jester for the Bregenz Festival. Sadly, we didn’t get to see that in action! Here’s a pic I pulled from the internet:

As we rolled into Bregenz, I have to admit my legs were starting to get tired. We’d done about 25km in the extreme heat. But we weren’t done yet, so we hopped on our bikes and set out for Lindau, Germany.

Germany

The ride to Lindau was more pleasant in terms of the view. It was along Lake Constance and through woodsy areas at times. There also were more people. A lot more! Then, at the exact same time, Neal and my legs both sort of gave out. We were DYING. It was only another 13km to Lindau, but dear God, my legs didn’t want to do it anymore! We found a lakeside park and took a rest.

Of course, we didn’t come all this way not to make it Germany. Back on zee bikes!!

Lindau

Without looking at GPS, we were quite confused as to where to go in Lindau. We got to a bridge that looked like it led there. There appeared to be a city to the right and a giant wall to the left. There had to be a city in there, right? Yes, of course. Old town Lindau is an ancient walled-in city. Cool!

Lindau

We were sooooo hot at this point. All I could really think about was getting ice cream. As it turned out, most of Lindau is CASH ONLY. We’d been going on Swiss Francs and had no Euros. Good thing there are a million hotels along the water, though! They both had ice cream and took credit cards. We sat down and cooled off.

The next ferry wasn’t for three or four hours. Though we were burning up from the heat, we decided to park our bikes (the ground was cobblestone) and explore this little town. It was very cool. There were ancient paintings all over the buildings, large squares, narrow roads, and lots of shops.

The harbor, too, is beautiful. Lindau is famous for its lighthouse and lion tower that boats have to pass through to dock. We tried to go up to the top of these, but it cost money, and alas, we had no Euros. It was kind of a bummer, but that’s okay.

Back to Switzerland

We got on the ferry back, which was only half covered by our Swiss Pass, and rested. There were lots of other bikers on board as well!

On our way, we saw a zeppelin! We could see one on our bikes at various points, but could really see it on the boat. Lake Constance is known for these funny blimps. You can actually take these things around as sort of floating tour buses.

Birthday dinner

An hour or so later, we were on the shores of Rorschach and totally spent. We left our bikes with the rental place. I was very happy with our adventure! Back in St. Gallen, we had a really nice dinner at Lagerhaus. What a great way to ring in 34!

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2 Comments

  1. I loved this! I want to do more biking trips/activities but I am really nervous about hills. You mentioned some uphill at the start of the trip, but was the rest of the trip flat? Or were there more hills? And what would you say the breakdown was of riding on trails vs. roads?

    1. Totally! You can always get an e-bike to help with the hills. There is uphill at the beginning, but really it’s not too much. Then the rest is flat with a little downhill at one point going into Bregenz. The breakdown is a little hard to give because in some places where I thought we were on bike trails given we were going through farmland, a car would suddenly appear and we’d be sharing the roadway (they are going very slowly though). I think I would say only about 25% has no chance of cars. The man at the bike store told us that if you go the other way up Lake Constance, you’re along the lake path the whole way. I can’t speak to that, but that was true for small portions of this route (mainly between Bregenz and Lindau).

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