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To where I was born

Bijgewerkt op: 8 jul. 2023

A multiple day cycling tour from where I live to where I was born. I've wanted to do this tour ever since I moved to Switzerland. I thought it would be a great adventure to connect my old and new place of residence by bike. The plan became reality in 2023. What a great trip and what a wonderful feeling of freedom to be on the road with just my bike and minimal stuff.

Below is my day-to-day travel report. If you want to know more about the preps and the packing, just scroll all the way down.

Day to day travel report

In 8 days I cycled 1.182 km and 14.690 vertical meters to get to the place where I was born. There would have been easier and faster ways, but I took this chance to explore a bit more and add some nice detours.

Day 1: Sargans (CH) – Tiengen (DE)

165 km, 1.150 vm

I'm on the road! Today I woke up with rain in Sargans, but luckily soon it got better. Due to last week’s rain, there was a great waterfall festival along the whole coast of Walensee!

I passed many, many nice small and historical villages on the east side of the Lake of Zürich and also surprisingly quiet and green valleys were on my route. I didn’t expect this part of Switzerland to be that beautiful and special. Ans the cherry on the cake was were some nice vineyards on the hills.

I had very little bad luck this day since I lost my back light somewhere on the road. Safety first, so I looked around for a bike shop and found a very welcoming one in Pfungen. I guess we tried all back lights available in the shop, I chose the best one for me and continued my ride.

Tom told me that I should think about a goal per day. That would make the whole trip easier. Today’s goal was the Swiss-German border: goal achieved!

Accommodation: Hotel Mezzero (Basic, Clean, bike in the room, breakfast was basic but very okay)

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Day 2: Tiengen (DE) – Müllheim (DE)

130 km, 2.580 vm

Today was my first cycling tour in Schwarzwald! The village of Tiengen and my basic hotel were a good choice. The Italian restaurant (with Italian speaking waiters ;)) was molto buono as well.

I prepared three options for today’s tour: the basic plan, the shortcut and the extended. I started with the basic plan, considered to switch to extended but stayed with the basic at the end. My plan was to avoid the main roads with many cars and motorbikes on this public holiday. The first 40 km, there were hardly any cars. The part between Bernau to Präg was not carless but still pretty quiet and very nice. But the last part of my tour, Schauinsland to Müllheim, was my favorite!

I met a local in de last climb of the day and he told me that we drove through the area where Jan Ullrich and his team used to have their base. Well, I think he had a great training area over there.

Müllheim (destination of the day) seemed to be surrounded by vineyards, so I could not resist a very little wine tour before I headed to my hotel. This hotel used to be a hospital, and I wish every hospital to have this warm and welcome atmosphere as this place

Challenge of the day achieved: Schwarzwald in one day!

Accommodation: Altes Spital (Modern, clean & fresh, bike in the room, very okay service breakfast included)

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Day 3: Müllheim (DE) - Saint-Dié-des-Vosges (FR)

160 km, 2.400 vm

Today was a tough one for me but the goal of the day is achieved: Routes des Crêtes!

The day started with very easy breakfast. A German businessman joined me, and he said he was jealous at me. At that point, I was not jealous at him at all. It was going to be a big day, so I put on my adventure socks and took off! The first 45 km were flat, to cross from Schwarzwald to the Voges. The closer I got, it was great to see the Voges massif getting clearer and bigger. But still, in my opinion, it contains just big hills ;).

In Cernay the Routes des Crêtes started. The first climb of the day was to the highest point of the tour: le Grand Ballon. In easy pace and with partly sunny weather, I enjoyed climbing up and enjoying the views. The traffic was not too bad, and the cyclist were motivating each other. At the top, the sun was gone, there was light rain and a strong headwind. I fantasized about better conditions on this great panorama tour. But hey, I will not complain. At least I was not the businessman I met at breakfast being in the office all day.

Up there, it was time to recharge and eat something. After the third try, I found a place with a seat available. After the Tarte Flambée, I ordered Tarte aux Morilles. Not an average lunch for me, but I was hungry. Then it really was time to continue and challenge the wind. For a moment I thought about getting my motorbike licence. But no worries, just for a very short moment since I decided, I rather be cold then on a motorbike.

Despite the weather, the tour was great! At some point, I was also happy to go down again. The descent to Sainte-Marie aux Mines was nice and quiet. Like yesterday, I was happy to have one last climb from there to really warm up again. And like yesterday this last one was nice and quiet as well. During the descent I drove through these beautiful French villages you only know from the movies.

It was a bit of a stretch and I'm happy to call it a day, but that's all part of the challenge. While writing this report, my second main dish is served so I'll be back tomorrow. Bon appétit!

Accommodation: Hôtel Ibis Saint Dié des Vosges (Small outdated room with new bathroom and fresh common area, bike in the small room, breakfast very okay)

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Day 4: Saint-Dié-des-Vosges (FR) – Zetting (FR)

170 km, 2.200 vm

This is why I cycle! Today I wished I was born in the north of Norway. I love this tour and it is addictive. Goal of the day achieved: enjoy it like an easy coffee ride.

Yesterday was tough and such days need to be celebrated with a good glass of local wine. Alain, a local Potter in the bar, had a tough week and he invited me for another glass to start his weekend. I told him, I don't speak French but still he liked it and we had a good Frenchy chat about cycling and Tulips. He liked the black tulips, but they call them the blue ones... hmm, I always think the French are a bit strange

This morning, a felt reborn and was very much ready for the new day and I left the little city. Right after the start, I realized once more that I am not that much the cyclist for the epic cols and touristic places. I like these roads where it is quiet, where I can smell the fresh air, where I hear the birds and where I see some wildlife. All boxes checked in the first part of today’s tour.

I had one real climb today: Col Donon. I can recommend it and the descent even more. During the climb I passed a funny Tiny-House village. I would choose the one with the additional Sauna mini house. After Donon it was time for lunch. I thought the French have food available everywhere, but it was really hard to find something. One restaurant offered fries and cheese. I found it not the best food for a cycling lunch, so I continued to a little harbour village: Lützelburg. The bakery was open and offered what I needed.

Completely re-energized, I continued to the northern part of the Voges. It offered a nice hilly landscape and I'm happy a saw a bit of it. At some point, I realized I could not process any new impressions anymore, so it was time to go to my accommodation. A bug in my tour made my long tour even longer. But this day was too good to bother about it.

The house where I stayed is above any expectations and the best place to recover a bit. Last days were a bit longer than originally planned because there were hardly accommodations available. Basically, I'm back on track again now, but let's see what tomorrow brings. At least I have a date I look very much forward to .

Accommocation: Les Myositis (Nice B&B with three rooms and a garden, spacious, clean and modern room, bike in a locked space, very good breakfast with the other guests)

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Day 5: Zetting (FR) – Orscholz (DE)

110 km, 600 vm

I took a day off, or at least I took it easy today. After a few long days, I did not feel like making a plan for today. Just go with the flow, but no challenging goals. My goal of the day was to meet Tom somewhere on the way.

I had a great accommodation for the night! But I learned that I should not book anything if there is only one restaurant in town. The only restaurant was closed for some occasional reason... so I had to take the bike again to search for another restaurant. After the 4th try, a found a place with pizza and salat. The night ride back along the river was not the most comfortable. But the whole restaurant was ready to come and save me if something happened (all good!)

Today I had breakfast with Lea, a girl from Paris. She told me, she recently moved to the countryside to be able to cycle from her home since she was not able to do that in Paris. I cannot imagine living in a place where you cannot make a cycle tour from home. She told me, she will never go back to that as well.

I didn't work out a detailed plan for today. Just took the basic route that I prepared before I left Sargans. I would follow the Saar River and see how long I would enjoy. The wind was my friend in the first part and I was heading Tom, so all reasons the keep up the speed.

I had a very romantic idea about cycling along the river. But to be honest, I river with a lot of industry around, is not so romantic. Still impressive though! I also had a romantic idea about meeting Tom on the way and having lunch at the riverside in the sun. Well, we met in Völklingen. The industrial construction of Völklingen is world heritage and worth having a look. But don’t expect to find a warm and welcoming place for lunch. It is more the Döner Kebap kind of village. We had a sandwich lunch at a petrol station instead. After searching for 30 minutes, it seemed to be the best option. At the end it didn't matter where we met, it was just cool that we had this chance.

We said goodbye and I continued following the Saar River. In my original plan, I already thought that it would be boring for me to keep on following a river for too long. I added some random detours and I decided to follow them today. It took me to a village called Santa Barbara. Sounds more excited than it was but the descent over a forest gravel road was great fun! Back at the river, it started to be a bit more romantic like I imagined. And soon I also saw these huge cruise ships.

At Merzig, I was hungry again and I found a nice terras at a beer brewery. I took a break, ordered my food, and decided to book a hotel 20 km away from there. The hotel was on a hill, I didn't check the road to get there, and I know now why there still was a room available. I challenged the climb and arrived at a nice place with swimming pool and sauna.

The guy at the reception offered me to carry my luggage to the room. I thanked him and told him that I would just roll my bike myself. He laughed at his own comment. I am by the way very surprised how relaxed all accommodations are with taking your bike to the room. Not that it has to be on my side 24/7, but it's just easier with packing and unpacking.

To close the day, I enjoyed a bit of swimming, but I skipped the sauna since I sweated enough for today. It was great to have this easy, unprepared day! But I'm hungry again to make a plan for tomorrow. Luxembourg is waiting!

Accommocation: Buchnas Landhotel Saarschleife (Hotel with spa and swimmingpool, classic, clean and spacious room, bike in the room, the best breakfast buffet of all)

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Day 6: Orscholz (DE) – Asselborn (LU)

138 km, 2.270 vm

I am back! The day of Luxembourg, the day without a goal, the day that could continue for ever.

I woke up early because there was a chance for storm in the early afternoon and I wanted to be ahead of it. The breakfast was the best until now! Some people were complaining about the amount of choice. They said, that brings stress. I was not complaining at all and thought I had good value for my 12.50 euros.

I had other stress: the route of today was probably the most difficult one of this tour. I planned one day for Luxembourg, so I had to make choices. The waiter in the hotel told me that I should not go down to the Saar River again. It would be better to go to the Mosel and then directly to Luxembourg. That was helpful because I saved kilometres and vertical meters with that.

I took off at 8.15 A.M. and first, I went to the viewpoint in town to say goodbye to the Saar River. 5 minutes later, I continued direction Mosel. I was super happy to be on the road again and excited for the day! There was hardly anyone else in the early morning so I could enjoy the silence and the birds. Soon I was in between the great vineyards along the Mosel. I missed my exit to my vineyard tour, so I had to do some vineyard graveling to get back on track. Skipping this part was not an option!

After the wines I appeared to be on the Cider Route. Hmm, Cider sounded refreshing, but it was still too early for that. A little sweet pie would be an option though... Lucky me, I was on my way to Echternach for a stop at a good Pâtisserie. Before I got there, I could enjoy the first part of my Luxembourg tour. Nice streets, not yet too impressive but very enjoyable cruising.

In Echternach I thought I ordered a raspberry cake with coffee. But when I looked again, the cake was gone already. I could have ordered another one but it was time to continue. The weather looked good, and it looked like there would be no storm in the area where I was.

The day was already good but got even better and better. First the stony part through Müllerthal and then the road to Vianden. I was not at all thinking about the route, the weather forecast or with the climbing profiles. I just cycled and I enjoyed every part of the tour.

In Vianden I had lunch at du Pont. Caprese with a sandwich on the side. I checked the weather once more and the storm was everywhere around but not in my way. I could continue so I booked my hotel and decided to extend my original tour just a little bit. After Vianden I still had like 50km to go to the old mill where I would sleep in the tonight.

This day, I felt so blessed that I can do this and that my body still felt strong. I had just 2 more days to go to the place where I was born. That's good and sad. Because after a day like today, I didn’t want to stop this tour...

Accommocation: Domaine du Moulin d'Asselborn (Guest house with basic rooms at a beautiful location at the riverside, very basic (dorm) rooms, nice common space, bike in the room, good breakfast)

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Day 7: Asselborn (LU) – Noorbeek (NL)

162 km, 2.380 vm

The day on which I first defined a goal after 60 km and challenged Belgium. Goal of the day achieved: I crossed the Dutch border (for the first time).

The old mill was a nice location for the night. And the glass of Pinot Noir from Luxembourg I had with dinner last night, was a great surprise. The cycling in Luxembourg had been brilliant and I experienced that cycling without a goal can work out great. For today, I decided to just define direction and to see what the day would bring. I could go left or go right. Going straight was not an option. Going right gave me the chance to enjoy a bit more of Luxembourg and I could make a tour to the Dutch border that was doable in a day. I choose that one.

The day started with rain. Not too bad but unpredicted and a bit unpleasant. I took off anyway and despite this rain, I had a great start in the green and quiet hills. The air smelt like it does after a thunderstorm and I saw some squirrels crossing the road and hiding it the trees. I was in a curious mood and took some detours at places where the small streets looked attractive. Some with success and some ended up in steep gravel roads.

Since I didn't really have a plan for today, I realized that my speed was low and that I didn't make that much progression. Because of the light rain (it lasted for more than 3 hours), I fantasized about spending a long break in a nice and cosy coffee bar. Oeh that would be great! Thinking about coffee made me decide to make a stop in the next village. At St. Vith there would be a bakery or something like that for sure.

But then, so unexpected, I saw the restaurant, I fantasized about. A vegetarian restaurant with a nice and warm interior, homemade cakes and fresh coffee. I stopped and stayed there for a very good break. The longest and best of my tour. The waiter had a story for everything he served. The fresh tea from I specific garden, het coffee from a roastery in Luxembourg, the bread from a friend's bio bakery etc... All prepared with passion! The waiter told me all of this in German and first I didn't mention anything strange about it because I am used to switch between languages. Then a realized, I was in a very small German part of Belgium. I actually didn't know it exists. But if you go there, don't call the waiter a German guy. He would not like that. By the way, if you are curious: the place is called Waldbaden.

After a three courses lunch and a massive chocolate cake for dessert, I had the power to continue and I felt that I was ready for a goal. The goal was the Dutch border, and I just had another 100 km to go for this day. The route after lunch was not the most beautiful tour of my week and also not 100% representive for cycling in the Ardennes. But due to the distance I wanted to bridge, I could not add too many nice loops with vertical meters. I Basically followed Diekirch - Valkenswaard. A tour, I did not yet do before. Well, at least I saw some of Belgium like Belgium is.

My speed after lunch was way better than it was in the morning. But when two guys greeted me with Bonsoir instead of Bonjour, I knew it was getting late. The last part in the Voerstreek was like how I remembered cycling from the southern part of the Netherlands. The weather got better in the meantime and the roads were quiet. It was a very enjoyable finish. At around 19h, I crossed the Dutch border. Wow, what a special moment! I crossed it many times before, but this time, it was very different and very special to me. The border was just a small cycling path without any border-sign saying "Welkom in NL". So maybe tomorrow I can find another border place to make it official. Now it feels a bit like I sneaky entered the country.

My accomodation in Noordbeek was great and the service and local food at Café Tinus where good as well. Due to some unexpected very busy days in the local restaurant, they were running out of food. First the host told me that I could not come in anymore. But when I said, I was very hungry, they offered me some local "Zoervleisj". I guess, I don’t need to say how thankful I was.

I was sure, I was going to have a good night of sleep to get ready for the final ride. And I was happy that I came so far this day since that meant, that there would be no time pressure at all to get to the place where I was born.

Accommocation: Maison Village, (Very welcoming, nice and small hotel, modern, fresh, clean and very spacious rooms, bike in the room is supported with special bike-bags, breakfast is very good and adapted to personal preferences)

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Day 6: Noorbeek (NL) – Eindhoven (NL)

144 km, 700 vm

The final ride! Goal achieved! After 1.182 kilometres and 14.690 vertical meter, I reached the city where I was born!

After a very pleasent stay at "Hotel met een Knipoog" I left Noorbeek at about 9.30. I could not resist a little tour in the hills to warm up. And I had a PR on the Loorberg with luggage. Probably because there was a cyclist in front of me and I decided to catch him.

Next on my wishlist was the ferry at Eijsden. For just 1,20 euro I could join the little boat trip over the Maas. I crossed border again and most of my ride was in Belgium today. This day I was just playing around in areas I know well and areas I never was before. I enjoyed a little climb and descent to Kanne followed by a part along the river.

Then started a part that I didn't know well. The beginning was nice but later I thought there were a bit too many cars around me. That made me starting detouring again. First to the right over some gravel and MTB roads. Later in the left direction over cycling roads. I enjoyed the Dutch and Belgium cycling network. Especially the signs for coffee stops. With the coffee I had a cherry kind of pie (kersenflap) today.

I was heading the Belgium / Dutch border and I hugged the border a bit to get to the point I wanted to cross: Monastery / Abbey Achelse Kluis. I was hungry at that point, and I told myself that I cannot cross the border being hungry. So I had a little snack at the terras of Achelse Kluis and I fully enjoyed my break in my former and familiar backyard.

The official border crossing to NL! Followed by a nice ride over the Leenderheide to my finish spot: the Catharina church in Eindhoven. I was not born in the church but in the Catharina hospital. Riding to a hospital didn't feel so good, so I picked this location. For the ones that don't know: my official name is Catharina as well so that all came perfectly together.

This night I had the best accommodation of my trip. Unfortunately, you cannot book a room at my parents. But if you come by, there is always a glass of wine available. For me it was time to detox from this addictive tour. I had no goals anymore to achieve. But I must admit, my body started to give me the signals that a bit of rest might be good as well.

Accommodation: My parents place, the best of all!

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It all started with the wish to do this tour by bike and by booking a train ticket to get back home. This ticket for me and bike was critical in planning, the rest can be organized in several ways. My trip would start on the 17th of May and I booked a ticket for the night train on May 28.

I intended to plan the trip in 8 cycling days so that I would always have a little margin if I have trouble with my bike or in case of bad weather. For the planning I make an estimation of the average distance and altimeters I can cycle per day with luggage. Cycling with luggage is not completely new to me, but to do that 8 days in a row, it is.

I assumed that I could cover 6 hours of pure cycling time per day and that I cycle about 24 - 25 km per hour with luggage. Of course, I added some some vertical meters in the route, so I round the average day distance down to 125 km per day. 8 days x 125 km = 1000 km in total, so I aimed not to go too much above that amount of kilometres in my basic plan.

Then the planning of my route began. I made a basic plan to have some guidance, but I prefered to be flexible and to finalize the daily routes on the way. I kept possibilities to make the tour lighter, to expand it a bit of to sleep in other places than originally planned.

Until the border of Switzerland, I decided not to make the route too exciting because I can easily go back there any other time. I preferred to save my strength for Black Forest, the Vosges and the Ardennes. My route is a combination of several cycling routes. I was inspired by the Swiss National Routes, websites with recommended routes in the mountains, thin lines on google, bike tours of events and the European bike routes.

The Packing

Whether I make a short tour or a long tour, the packing is always about the same. This time I just decided to bring little additional clothes compared to the 2- or 3-day tour.

  • I had a 16L saddlebag, a handlebar bag for most of my stuff. In my frame bag I had all bike repair things, spare tires, and other small things that I preferred to be able to get easily. The last bag was a small one on the frame in which I had my personal stuff and phone.

  • The packaging list:

    • I started my trip on the bike so I would not forget my basic cycling outfit with shoes, helmet, glasses and cycling gloves.

    • My Wahoo (navigation computer) would be on the bike before I left.

    • I had one set of clothes to wear and two sets in the bag. With that, I hoped that one thorough wash on the way would suffice.

    • A buff, rain jacket, wind stopper, gloves, arm- and leg warmers for extra protection against wind and rain.

    • The basics for the bike repair and maintenance: Multi tool, 2 spare tires, tire lifters, bike pump, small bottle of chain lube, a cleaning towel.

    • Front- and backlights.

    • A small bike lock (in the night train back home I arranged something more solid).

    • New on my list was the charger for the bike's shifting system.

    • I brought energy bars for a few days and Isotonic powder to refill the bottles for the whole trip.

    • Clean clothes for the evening and light shoes. I needed clothes for all weather conditions, so I chose to bring different layers.

    • Bathing suit and a small travel towel in case I could and wanted to jump in the water somewhere.

    • Toiletries in travel size, sunscreen, basic first aid kit, earplugs.

    • Passport, phone, and chargers for the phone, navigation, and my watch.

    • Like always, I brought my pocketknife.

    • Disinfection and toilet tissues.

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