• BLOG
  • Same Same but Different – Obersee Bike Tour

    rapperswil biking

    It’s spring and it’s bike season. And funny how similar they are, my longer – once or twice a week – bike routes in the current home in Switzerland, and the past in Lapland.

    Here in Switzerland, the route goes around Obersee (linked to the Zürichsee, around which goes my a bit longer – max once a week – route). It follows gravel roads by railways and the lake itself; rolls through more or less cute villages and towns; offers detours over hills and through forests; and passes patches of agricultural land and farms.

    In the distance, the Alps show off majestically when the weather is clear, and on the lake and fields swans look like they couldn’t care less. On the Seedamm, from Rapperswil to Pfäffikon SZ, it also lets me ride on a narrow bath of land between the two lakes, and it’s not just one good hot day plunge place I know along the way. 

    The scenes and scents aren’t much different in Lapland, where my usual tour route winds around the lake Kemijärvi. It doesn’t offer a beautiful castle and old town like Rapperswil, and up north the season for these tours is way shorter than in south. But there are the lake and the roads, the damm between the lakes, fells instead of Alps, and water so clean that on a hot day I happily take a midway plunge. And for the summer also the whooper swans return to the lakes of Lapland. (Some of them like to spent their winters as far as in Switzerland.)

    On top of the similarities, the adventures in Lapland also built me a good base for many great adventures; the bike tours in Switzerland included. Without the 20 to 40km tours, the 50km+ tours around lake Obersee wouldn’t go this smoothly. (Especially since in Lapland I biked with a heavy switchless city bike, with rough and wide tires. While here in Switzerland I now bike with the light road bike tuned a bit, but just a bit, to the gravel type.)

    It’s also the tours like these which are the summer version of nordic skiing. Both perfect exercise and meditation, the cycling works as an alternative restorative therapy. The movement itself is a bit monotone, flowing movement which resembles a dance choreography. And with the fresh air, changing landscape and focus on what lays ahead (in seconds and meters, not years and kilometres) it helps to clear the head and root for my surroundings strongly (though extreme rooting in a way of crashing isn’t advisable).

    I can’t say the head clearing is needed for too much work, but I admit that the recent creative sprints and challenging deadlines on top of the pandemic uncertainty (including the fact I still don’t know when I get to visit Lapland again) do built up some extra need for these tours. 

    The best “cure” ingredient though is the coffee or gelato stop (or both) before the last few kilometres. It’s the reason I do my Obersee tour counterclockwise and my a bit longer Zürichsee tour clockwise.

    For the best gelato with the best views one gets from Rapperswil. Just so you know. 

     

     

  • BLOG
  • Winter Tale

    In November I said goodbye to my mountain hideaway in Engelberg. My possessions in the van, packed neatly* we drove to the more urban settlement I call home now. It was nice in the mountains, but it’s nicer to share the pandemic everyday and weekend adventures with family.

    I expected the move to be a goodbye to a proper winter. The elevation dropped from over 1000m to just a bit over 600m, the winter rain here comes more likely as water than snow. Also, phenomenon called hochnebel –  high fog – makes the winter here more grey than sparkly. But like many things in this pandemic, the reality didn’t meet my expectations. Better so, luckily.

    The past winter in Schwyz was one of the warmest and snowiest in decades. (Please note that you don’t make me laugh asking where’s the climate change now with the winter so cold – for just a short intensive period that was.)

    This winter, I got to shovel snow more than I have shovelled the last 10 years combined. (I am sure though, nothing can beat the amounts of the snow I shovelled in Lapland as a kid. Nor what my mom shovelled this winter.) I also skied –both touring and nordic – more than I have done in many many years. Despite living further away from the mountains and not really traveling further than inside a circle with a radius of about 20km.

    It was great. Nordic skiing made sure I got enough of effective physical training (also it kept me fed with a job in the nordic ski rental). Of course, the shovelling was great training too (I think I have arm muscles now).

    Hopp Schwyz – My Pandemic Paradise

    This winter, I also got to explore properly ( read: a lot) a Swiss region new to me. Outside German speaking Switzerland and the Catholic Church (read: The ones who know the Einsiedeln Abbey), Schwyz is pretty unknown. While for the Zürich crowds our adventure destination of the pandemic (also kind of a paradise) is the closest and the most whole family friendly there is close by. (Beware if going, the traffic is busy in weekends. Especially in good weather.)

    On the downside, for a liberal young woman like me, it’s a region with very conservative and traditional to the extremes character and voting habits. But for many winter activities, when there is snow enough, it’s a pretty nice place. It has the Nordic skiing areas in Einsiedeln, Rothenthurm and Studen,  and small ski resorts (though we kept away from resorts this winter) as well as good skitouring areas in Brunni and Oberiberg. Not to forget, the remarkable mountain of Mythen and the good restaurants and cafe´s in Einsiedeln, when no pandemic restrictions around. 

    Microadventures On Skis

    From previous experience, I already knew how fun skitouring and nordic skiing is, far away from the lift lines, crowded slopes and noisy afterski bars. But if I have understood right, for my companion it took the pandemic winter to properly get how good it is to suffer more and enjoy less. Or well, it’s not really suffering and I always enjoy a lot on these tours as well. Except when I am “a little” tired and my old boots cause blisters and achy footbeds. Which always happens.

    But really, it’s very nice to move forward and upwards one step – or in this case slide – at a time. And repeat. And repeat. Listening the sound my skis and poles make with the snow, or the occasional talkative passer by. And finally, reach the flow in the middle of beautiful nature or on top of the mountain and the great powder run down. Mix of a fatigue and a great achievement.

    And skate skiing <3 which is basically dancing on snow.

    Right now, after a very springy period, the winter is back with proper March snow. Or as it’s called in schwiizerdütsch: Märzschnee. I haven’t yet packed away nor sold my skis and seems like there is another good winter adventure (or two) waiting this weekend.

    It’s a shame though the restaurants and cafe’s – and especially the terraces now in spring – have to keep shut still. Because they are the third best thing in the Swiss winter sports, after the mountains and the snow. Though another good thing I have noticed the past months is that Lapland prepared me well for not just all the shovelling but also for all the touring adjusted to the pandemic rules.

    No problem to carry my own snacks and water. No problem to have snack break on my skis, breathing in the fresh winter air, with the beautiful nature right at my fingertips. And really no problem when the Swiss winter sun shines, the birds sing and other people keep the proper distance.

    Wilderness has it’s perks, but so does this kind of Schwiiz (Schwyz) winter.

    I just wish I had sauna too.  

    pandemic winter tiina kivelä

    skitouring mythen

    skitouring wooden skis

    soulskiing

    skier

    winterwonder

    winter drive

    nordic skiing

    skate skiing

    nordic track

    einsiedeln

    einsiedeln

    mythen

    mythenregion

    skitouring

    soulskiing

    views

    retkellä

    hello

     

    skitouring 2021

    mythenregion 2021

    winterwander

    vanlife winter


    *All the neat packing is done by Swiss in the family, since I have not reached that preciseness and order of the average Swiss. Though I am becoming close with my excels, trello boards and nicely stacked and labeled storage units both here in Switzerland and Lapland.

  • BLOG
  • In Lapland I Called It Just Biking – Hopping On the Gravel Biking Trend

    sunset ride

    One of the biggest defeats of my childhood in Lapland was related to biking. In the incident, I was denied to cycle on my own to pre-school / kindergarten. Despite being a real “biker kid”. Fascinated by how far and fast I could go with my little bike, I also wanted to get to the pre-school and back on my own. (My first bike was a red tricycle with a registration plate in front. Next came a white/pastel peach coloured Tunturi Poni with pastel coloured spoke beads and a basket in front, decorated with plastic flowers).

    Of course, the far at the age of 5 was the kiosk 1,5 km away. Where I spent my weekly Saturday candy allowance. No more extreme. Though  before the age of 6, I biked also the 4 km trips to my grandparents. Again, highly motivated by the bakings of my grandma.

    The details of the story are a bit blurry. Though I know the kindergarten did not want to allow little kid to take so much responsibility. Basic risk management. Nevertheless I like the story like this, with the cut lines (sometimes fun when riding bikes as well). Because biking on my own to kindergarten would have been the most badass thing ever for a 5 year old. Especially so for the best route between the pre-school and my home included a single track and a gravel road. It also included a detour option, through a sandpit and a wasteland, where I liked to play a lot with my imaginary friends.(My tendency for detours on my ways to and from school hints why in reality also my parents may not have favoured the idea of me biking on my own.)

    tricycle tiina kivelä

    I wish I could have that commute now. Because now I would have the freedom to go for it without permissions, and because I am sure that single track could have been done on a gravel bike as well. Like all those gravel roads and related paths in Lapland, where I biked, ran and wandered a lot in my young years.

    Coming from Lapland, gravel road is the almost every road in the forest and countryside. Sometimes the road is perfectly smooth and velvety, thanks to the high amount of clay in the soil. Sometimes it is windy, with potholes the size of a football (the soccer one). Sometimes it is long and exhausting, with stretches reaching many km’s straight forward. And always the road continues with plenty of wood and bushes on both sides (with plenty of mosquitos), except when these are replaced by rivers and lakes and the vast fell landscapes and abandoned lawns the more north you ride.

    What’s the best thing about the gravel roads in Lapland though is the small single tracks cutting the roads here and there, made by people or in most cases by reindeer. Most of the time their direction do not seem to follow any sense and that is why they are so fascinating. 

    single track lapland

    In Switzerland, one does not find that kind of gravel road so easily. And where it is found in here, it regularly comes with not so fresh countryside smells, steep hills with tricky turns as well as occasional “no biking allowed” signs. Yet, I find gravel biking fascinating here too. Especially since last year – first time in my over 30 years of bike life – I got myself a bike which could be called a gravel bike. Including gravel suitable frame and tires, and a colour scheme of the Finnish frontier guard (my dad is a retired frontier guard and while Covid-19 keeps us far from each other it is even more funny to ride a bike reminding of him, though have to say the colours don’t really fit well with my personal style preferences).

    Thanks to that bike (and my newest enduro one) summer of 2020 was a proper bike summer for me too. (I expect 2021 to contain even bigger global and personal bike boom than 2020.) I did not bike as much as I would have liked to. Nor did I get to bike in every road and bikepark I would have liked to. But I got to bike a decent amount of single track, and some flow trail too. And I got to bike a good amount of sunset rides and gravel rides and ice cream rides. As well as easy summer rides to swim in the beautiful Swiss lakes, and not so easy road/gravel rides around the mentioned lakes. All this with no need for a permission. Except the “permission” to bike freely outside on my own, or with my family and few friends (talking of the pandemic rules here).

    So in 2020 I properly hopped on the gravel trend. Though for me it’s still basically just biking. Biking on whatever road I find leading from my home to new adventures. Or kindergarten. Or work, because what I wish the most for the summer of 2021 is the possibility to return to office.

    Riding my bike, of course. 

    rapperswil biking ice cream

    break biking rapperswil

    cham gravel biking

    gravel adventure tiina kivelä

    zürichsee rennvelo tiina kivelä