Dream roads in Swiss style

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MENTION Switzerland and one might be excused for thinking of cheese and chocolate. Of cows with bells ringing, grazing in vivid green pastures next to roads that wind through valleys then disappear into the mountains.

These roads exhilarate as they take riders over such famed passes as St Gotthard, San Bernardino or the revered Stelvio. Serpentine roads draw the rider through a plethora of tunnels, around sweeping corners, to negotiate tight hairpin bends whilst being drawn into breathtaking views across vast, jagged snow covered mountains. Always, to celebrate being on the top of the summit, there is a welcoming cafe with tempting coffees and delicious pastries. A place to pause with the many other bikers to chat, admire bikes or to grab a photo of the incredible beauty. Switzerland, could there be a better place for the Ulysses European gathering? I wouldn’t think so!

Lenore and I had hired a BMW R1200GS from ‘HOBI-MOTO AG’ in Winterthur near Zurich, with the idea that one can’t just front up to a Ulysses meet without sampling the roads in the nearby districts first. So with 15 mountain passes in several days under our belt we headed to the heart of the Swiss Alps. A tiny village of Parpan, Lenzerheide where the 2016, seventh European Ulysses Gathering was to be held, organised by the Ulysses Club of Switzerland.

Dinner was soon upon us together with opening formalities. Swiss president Hermann Schwalm warmly welcomed us in three languages


Surprise greeting

After a full day’s riding we arrived exhausted at the motorcycle filled car park of the Hotel Post Grischalodge. With helmets coming off and creaking stiffly after a big day in the saddle, a couple sporting Aussie accents greeted us. Well that was a pleasantly unexpected and warm beginning. Judith and David (resident Newcastle expats) who I had met via FB were beaming with smiles.

Then Hermann, larger than life was, vigorously shaking our hands welcoming and introducing us to everyone…. Jorge, Ivan, Peter then Gernot and.....

We had finally made it, but not alone. 63 other motorcycle inflicted members had also made their way from Germany, France, England, South Africa, Norway, and of course us few Aussies including John from Alice Springs.

Dinner was soon upon us together with opening formalities. Swiss president Hermann Schwalm warmly welcomed us in three languages, as you do, whilst adding jovial advice not to ride on the wrong side of the road!

What a wonderful evening. Friends in the making, stories told, rides to be had, laughter to be enjoyed, and did I mention the beer, complemented with wonderful hotel catering from Rene and his crew. The weekend was underway.


A day of spectacular sights

After a big night the challenge was to be on time for Saturday’s ride but knowing the glorious rides waiting, there was no option. At 9am the next morning (yes, the Swiss are always punctual), five groups gathered to be given a designated coloured ribbon and we all headed off.

David and Judy led our ride initially to the Ruinaulta Gorge (little Swiss grand canyon) on the young Rhine River. In good Ulysses fashion some riders were lost, some groups waylaid, but all getting together in time for a photo opportunity.

Riding on we continued over the Albula Pass, followed by Fluela Pass, hesitating for coffee and snaps taken of these spectacular passes. Ride day one of 240kms was completed with a gathering and drinks in a small scenic pub, the Berghotel Tgantieni, above the town of Lenzerheide. Drinking time was shortened, as foreboding black mountain clouds were brewing, causing us to scurry back to the hotel where dinner, drinks and stories were shared along with Jorge Walters birthday cake. The band Wow Now shook the crowd after the award for the longest rider, Uwe & Silke Prinz from Nth Germany, and the oldest rider Horst Guenter Pies at 75, got their respective awards.

A fundraising auction of a donated ancient gold coin, for a local paraplegic lad who had a skiing training accident, raised CHF 1300 (AUD$1800)! Well-done Europe Ulysseans!

Day 2, yes leaving at exactly 9 am, we travelled beside green fields busy with farmers harvesting (some the sixth time) riding our way through old stone roofed villages. Following fast flowing rivers up stream, whilst heading to the holy grail of more passes, and eventually meeting for lunch on the shore on the lake of St Moritz under a giant Trojan Horse. Hours later ending up with drinks in Lenzerheide, again in perfect weather. 210kms

To experience so many mountain passes and mind blowing beauty in a few warm up days prior to the AGM was outstanding. But the meeting of such wonderful welcoming friendly people is the full package.


Some goodbyes, and the Stelvio Pass

Day 3 (almost @9) the Gathering was saying farewells to some, but for others a ride into Austria then Italy to climb the famed Stelvio Pass was in order. This did not disappoint with its long trusted approach weaving through forests until above the tree line where glaciers made their spectacular presence felt. The switchbacks became tighter, the road camber unpredictable as the top of the mountain @2757m drew closer. Enjoying a packed hotel lunch at the summit shared with our other riders amidst the other enthusiasts (some on bicycles) and the bustling souvenir vendors. The ride down the other side and back into Switzerland was a wonderful descent ending up at a Swiss bakery for coffee and cherry pie in St Marie. 300kms.

For Lenore and I this was our departure point, having to end up back in Winterthur that night meant a much longer day in the saddle. So with fond farewells, we left knowing that we were fortunate to have been part of this extraordinary meet and now have the finest of friends in the making.

To experience so many mountain passes and mind blowing beauty in a few warm up days prior to the AGM was outstanding. But the meeting of such wonderful welcoming friendly people is the full package.

It demonstrates that the Ulysses spirit is carried over distance, borders and across cultures.

If ever any of you Ulysses Europeans come down under, look us up!

Ulysses Switzerland, what a great AGM! Cheers & Prost!

Kym Osborne #63056

Ulysses- Club Switzerland http://www.ulysses-club.ch/

Next European  Gathering 3-5 June 2017 Sarland Germany.


Maurice Blackburn Lawyers

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