It’s all happening at the TNT/STA Travel Show today, from 9.30am-5.30pm. There’s a huge buzz as... Read more...
1st Dec 2012 4:49pm | By Grameme Green
“You must move like a princess or a ballerina,” insists Andre, our cycling tour guide.
"As a pretty sturdy guy, and a keen cyclist, I have to admit I’ve never really never thought of Kate Middleton or Anna Pavlova as training inspiration before. I’m a little non-plussed.
"But there’s a first time for everything, and this is all part of my lesson on how to ride an electronic bike in the Bernese region of Switzerland.
"Andre explains that less effort actually gets the bike to do more work, making cycling and even climbing hills easy and sweat-free.
"Everyone else in my group seems pretty content with the added assistance the electricity provides, but I’m a big fan of cycling the old-fashioned way. I can’t help thinking: “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”
The mountains and farm-covered countryside of northern Switzerland are prime biking territory.
The scene is classically Swiss – green, natural, with gentle clanging from Alpine cow bells sounding across the hills and valleys.
On our e-bikes, we ride past lavender fields and classic flower-covered farm chalets, racing down hills and effortlessly climbing to the tops of others. Always in the distance are the serene white peaks of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.
After a few hours free-wheeling, we park our bikes close to a grumbling line-up of bulky cattle at the Emmental Show Dairy.
Here we witness a traditional cheese-maker stirring milk from the Alps’ most important residents in a copper vat over a fire – the curd of this white gold will soon become a round of the region’s famous holey Emmental.
We taste the cheese at all stages of its evolution, from the creamy young varieties through to its deeper and nuttier incarnation that’s been aged for 18 months.
In the afternoon, we ride on through the countryside to Lützelflüh, where a toothless Swiss man named Rudolf teaches us how to play platzgen, a traditional Bernese game that involves throwing a heavy piece of metal – a star-shaped discus – at a pole stuck into several tonnes of clay.
It’s important, Rudolf says (as Andre translates), not to stand in front of the thrower. There’s speculation as to whether his absent teeth had something to do with him being a victim of this, so we take heed of his advice.
Platzgen is a simple game, a bit like amped-up boules. Rudolf keeps taking me aside and explaining in detail, with lots of pointing, exactly where I’m going wrong. For all I know he could be telling me: “I see a great platzgen champion in you.”
My German’s a little rusty. Our group heads over to our home for the night in Bern, the Swiss capital, walking through Old Town’s cobbled streets.
We eat at Altes Tramdepot, a big, loud, lively hall where hearty food is served, before getting stuck into its deliciously crisp local brews. Plenty more bars in the town centre turn out to be buzzing too, so we push on through to the early hours.
There are worse ways to shake a hangover than climbing ladders, dangling from ropes and hooks, and zip-lining through the treetops, so first thing the next day we drive south to Gantrisch Rope Park (£23; seilpark-gantrisch.ch) in the pine forests on the mountainside.
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