2016-06-21 (Day 05) Sutz – Chatel St Denis

Today’s photo shows a typical landscape of open pasture near Romont  in central Switzerland. I half expected Heidi to be running across one of these fields just like on the TV show many years ago.

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Travoy  beside sign for Camping Sutz. Camping Sutz was one of the best campsites I stayed at during the whole 2016 Tour de Travoy. The facilities were spotless, and the campsite is very well laid out with lots of room for anyone staying there. There were plenty of power points and it only cost €15 for the night, which for Switzerland is very good value. The owner even gave me change in Swiss Francs at 1.1 Francs to the Euro when I paid with a €50 note.All in all, it was a lovely place to stay and very peaceful so I got a good night’s sleep.

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Total cycled today – 90 km. Total cycled so far – 265 km.  The first half of today’s route looks easy but it was actually raining at times quite heavily so I actually preferred the second half of today’s trip eventhough it was much hillier.

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€12 for a cheeseburger – Sacre bleu. It was cloudy this morning as I left the campsite and near Morat, the rain started to teem down. So I decided to stop at a McDonalds to get some shelter from the rain. A Cheeseburger Rayale is a Tour de Travoy tradition so I thought I would order one. I didn’t even check the price and got a huge shock when the girl at the till asked for 13 SFr. The same meal in France or Ireland would cost €5 or €6 but here in Switzerland, they wanted the equivalent of €12. I could understand if the McDonalds was located in the centre of Geneva or Zurich but this McDo (as they are called in France) was located in an industrial estate beside a motorway. I had been warned that Switzerland was expensive but it was still quite a shock to pay €12 for a burger and a few frites. Back in the 70’s, a US dollar was worth 4 SFr but nowadays, the Swiss Franc is worth more than a US dollar. The Swiss people are amongst the highest paid in the world and most people can well afford €12 for a burger but the restaurant was quiet with more staff than customers, so perhaps even in Switzerland, people find the prices steep.

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Circular apartment block in Loewenberg. The rain started to ease off so I decided to push on. I had only gone a km or so when it started bucketing down again. So I took shelter for about 10 minutes under this circular apartment block. The building looked idyllic in the middle of a park but its location didn’t seem that practical as there wasn’t anywhere to park a car.

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Murky Tuesday morning in Murten. I had planned to cycle to Aigle today but after all the rain this morning, decided instead to only go as far as Chatel St Denis , about 50 km north of Aigle. It proved a good decision as soon after leaving the town of Murten, the gears started acting up on my bike. The derailleur wouldn’t change up to a faster gear but would change down. I gave it a kick and managed to get 6 out of the 10 gears to work. Fortunately, they were the 6 smallest gears but any flat or downhill section was slower than normal.

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Buffaloes grazing in a field beside a Nespresso capsule factory. Outside of Avenches, I passed by a Nespresso factory. If you own a Nespresso coffee machine and use the Nespresso capsules, then they were probably made here. There was a herd of buffalo grazing in a field beside the factory but as to whether buffalo milk is used in some of the capsules, I have no idea.

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Apartment block under construction in Domdidier. It is incredible just how much building work was going on in Switzerland. Every small town would often have a crane with building being renovated or as here in the town of Domdidier, new apartments being built. These flats were available to rent from about 1000 SFr per month but they would cost you up to 500,000 SFr to buy. This means landlords were getting yields of only 1% but as most Swiss Banks don’t pay interest and some even charge negative rates, this is probably seen as an attractive yield. For foreign investors, buying a Swiss property also gives you a Residence Permit and this may also explain the high prices despite relatively low rents.

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Follow the Yellow Brick road. In Dole last year, I came across a pavement painted yellow and tweeted that I was following the Yellow Brick Road a bit like Dorothy in Wizard of Oz. Well, here in Switzerland today, I came across another yellow line this time painted on the road. I have no idea what it was for. It was a bit narrow to be a cycle path so maybe it was to signify to drivers not to park there as it was only painted on one side of the road.

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This poor cow’s face was covered in flies so no wonder she looks a bit cheesed off. Cycling through Switzerland, you often hear bells from cows and sheep. It is understandable if you have a herd out on a mountain pasture as animals will wander for miles in search of fodder. But this Friesan cow was in a field only about 1/4 of an acre in size and there was no need to tie a heavy bell to her neck. The noise of the bell had no impact on the flies and fleas and her face was absolutely covered in insects. So no wonder she looked totally cheesed off as I took this photo.

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Medieval town of Romont. The picturesque town of Romont originated in the 10th Century and prospered due to its location halfway between the Swiss cities of Fribourg and Lausanne. However, in the 15th Century, the town was looted and burned to the ground twice during the Burgundian Wars. Then during the 16th Century, as the Swiss Reformation took hold in most of Switzerland, a lot of French speaking towns in central Switzerland, including Romont, joined the German speaking Catholic enclave of Fribourg. As a result, 2/3 of the population of the canton of Fribourg now speak French and only 1/3 speak German.

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Swiss canton of Fribourg. There are 26 cantons in Switzerland and most of them are a crazy shape similar to Fribourg. Incredibly, the main reason for this is due to religious reasons and not historical wars or  language differences. The Swiss Reformation in the 16th Century caused havoc throughout the country and led to a huge split between Catholic and Protestants, just like in Northern Ireland. For example, Romont was part of the French speaking region of Vaud for most of its history . But in the 16th Century, the canton of Vaud was occupied by the Protestant German speaking Bern region. Despite the language difference, the Vaud region turned Protestant during the Swiss Reformation, something which the residents of Romont were opposed to. So the French speaking town of Romont left the Vaud region and joined the German speaking Fribourg canton so as to retain their Catholic identity. So the crazy shape of the Fribourg canton today can be explained more by religious differences rather than language differences in times gone by.

Typical landscape in the Fribourg canton. As I climbed higher and higher through central Switzerland, surprisingly the landscape gave way to fewer trees and more open pasture. On the way to Romont, the landscape was hillier and fields were generally small and fenced off. On the plateau south of Romont, the fields were much bigger and and crops were being grown right alongside the road. Mercifully, near the village of Semsales, the road stopped climbimg and started to drop down towards Lake Geneva.

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House with solar panels in Chatel St Denis. It was after 7 before I made it to Chatel St Denis, my destination for today. I went past 100’s of houses in Chatel en route to the campsite but once again, the only sign of a Swiss flag was from a house with another flag, in this case an English flag. England had qualified for the knock-out round the night before by drawing 0-0 with Slovakia and as Switzerland had already qualified as well,  I am sure this was one happy household.

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