Since cycling past the cycle path sign, Basle 100km, while holidaying with the family at my parents last year in the Centre of Alsace, I was determined to cycle from Benfeld to Basle, and this year we set the project to completion. I love Basle in the summer, as amazing as it sounds, people are bathing in the Rhine river and letting themselves drifting through the current with their belongings protected in colourful bags around their bodies.
A group of 6, I the only female among a group of buoyant teenagers and a very experienced cyclist made me set my heart, my head more so, on a electric-assisted bike to cover the distance we would do in 2 days. I rented two bikes, one for me and my nephew at the Tourist office in Benfeld, where a charming lady took all the patience in the world to answer all my questions. The e-bikes were brand new and of a very sturdy make. Getting on them for the first time sounded weird, the setting was on full power and it felt like someone was just pushing me behind to let me ride very fast!
We set off our trip on Wednesday morning; we left rather late around 11 am, the sun was already powerful. It didn’t worry me too much as I expected to be cycling under the trees in the beautiful Ried area ( the Rhine flooded area) all along the Canal Rhone-Rhin. In fact, the route along the Canal starting near Boofzheim did not go further than Marckholsheim where we had a hefty lunch at the Auberge du Rhin, sitting outside, drinking litres of water to calm our thirst. We had to delay our the departure again and repair a puncture on one of the racing bikes.
The second part of the route was half on a road where had to share our way with cars between Markholsheim and Biesheim, to join the cycling path EV15. We cycled in the scorching sunshine, often stopping to drink sips of water, scoffing on sweets and stopping at a supermarket refilling for water. It was only when I stepped into the cool shop that I realised that my arm and legs were burning from the sunshine!
The boys felt so hot; they could not resist standing under a large sprinkler watering the cornfields, a niece feel of cold rain coming down as a surprise over our head to refresh the body. We cycled up to Ottmarsheim where we stayed for the night and dinner at the Als Hotel, 30 km from our destination Basle. We felt all exhausted, longing after a cool shower.
When we went down for dinner the waitress who did not welcome us, wanted us to eat inside, she refused to cover one of the tables which was still empty because there were not enough waiters, or so she said.
I could not face the idea of eating inside with this lovely weather, we let ourselves sit down at the empty table outside, to our luck the waitress ignored us, and we had a lover waiter, called Steve for the evening serving us dinner.
The second stroll of the trip was much shorter and wisely so. After cycling nearly 80 kilometres on the first day, the sore muscles and sun burns were taking their toll, the idea of cycling rather than driving on a motorway to Basle was still at the height of excitement.
We set off late in the morning, missing breakfast all together and stopping en route at the next village bakery to scoff on croissants and petit pains au chocolat. It was easy to trace back our way on the EV 15, Basle was indicated all the way. The first landmark was the Ecluse de Kembs, a very 1930’s style, strong concrete lockhouse designed by Le Corbusier, overlooking the Rhone au Rhin Canal while the cycle path takes some parallels with the motorway.
We drove through the Petite Camargue Alsacienne a natural reserve well worth the cycling trip. It did not take long to arrive at the three border frontier in Weil Am Rhein crossing the beautiful Three Countries bridge, entirely dedicated to pedestrian and cyclists. The crossing is between Huningue in France, cycling into Weil am Rhein for only a few meters to later arrive into Switzerland, three countries in less than 10 minutes that is some kind of record!
The cycle path in Basle follows the River Rhine over to the most beautiful pedestrian area in Basle along the river, with the amazing scenery of seeing people swimming, floating in the river with colourful waterproof bags containing their belongings which also serve as floatation devices, these bags are also called Fish Bags (Wicklefish). There must be some bravery in letting yourself carry away with the strong currents; this is undoubtedly an experience to try for a very seasoned swimmer.
Basle was the end of our trip, I was looking forward to an excellent a lunch seating outside along the river, but leaving it so late we did not think that the restaurants would not serve food after 2 pm! Be warned most of the restaurants’ kitchen close between 2 and 6 pm. This will still give you plenty of time to wander in the old city and buy some Laeckerli, the famous Basel “cookies” for tea!