Now or never: Netherlands to Italy

Discussion in 'EMEA' started by TexaNate, Aug 19, 2017.

  1. TexaNate

    TexaNate Been here awhile

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    I'm planning a mid/late September ~11 day trip originating in the Hague, heading through the Black Forest and hooking around the Swiss and Italian Alps on my Tiger 800 XC. I know it's highly ambitious, but this is probably my last riding season in Europe, so carpe diem and all that.

    To illustrate the concept, this is a rough outline (excluding TBD scenic/curvy detours):
    [​IMG]

    Cheap hostels and lean camping are on the menu, but I'll procure food as I go (especially in Italy). My intent is to avoid long-lead reservations, as final timing may depend on work.

    Preliminary plan as follows:

    Thursday Hague -> Frankfurt: Leave work and cover ~4 hours of the trip to the Black Forest. Camp near Frankfurt.

    Friday Frankfurt -> Black Forest: Up early in the morning and head to the Black Forest. Followed by interesting roads and sightseeing, and sleep at a cheap hostel.

    Saturday Black Forest -> Biel/Bienne: Finish exploring Black Forest. Take my grandfather's watch "home" to the factory in Biel/Bienne. Hostel near there for the night.

    Sunday Biel/Bienne -> Domodossola: Pass through the nearby Naturparks, sightseeing and perhaps take the Lotschberg tunnel train before proceeding into Italy, where I hear the hostels are cheap and the food is good.

    Monday Domodossola -> Near Como: Here I might pick up some part of the new Trans Euro Trail (TET) and find a hostel near it.

    Tuesday Como -> Como: Rest day around Como.

    Wednesday Como -> Buorm: Might pick up more of the TET in this area - either way I hear this is a stunning ride. If Stelvio Pass is open, I might go for that, but I see there are a number of scenic routes through the whole area.

    Thursday through Sunday will then be the ride back to the Hague through Austria.

    My remaining questions:
    - Any recommendations for accommodation along the route would be highly appreciated
    - Likewise "must ride" roads. I prefer safer roads with good visibility and low traffic - even if the quality of the tarmac isn't pristine. And I'm sure I'm going to be sick of motorways long before I even make it to the Black Forest.
    - How late is too late to book cheap hostels (~20-50eur/night) or campgrounds in the areas I'll be passing through?
    - Anyone with experience on the TET - are the sections near Como worthwhile on a loaded Tiger 800 XC on 90/10 street tires?

    General wisdom always appreciated as well. I've done a few "practice" camping excursions around Benelux and Germany but my longest trip by motorbike has been ~1,500km, so this will be a learning experience...

    Thanks!
    #1
  2. nickguzzi

    nickguzzi Long timer

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    The problem positing such a trip on here is that most people will want to entirely change your route.
    Consider me the first.
    I don't do routes or gps or make notes, but I have been doing similar for decades.

    You can can get yourself down to Switzerland in a myriad of ways other than the one you suggest. My first change would be to look at heading due south, to the Ardennes, hit a left in the vicinity of the Franco/Belgian border and meander along and around through Luxembourg, into the Eiffel - the German version. Trier is OK, but really a bit big for me.
    Saarbrucken not so nice, the area being quite industrial. I would keep east, stay in rural Saarland, it's excellent. The higher ground is full of nice roads and pleasant villages.

    Heading south to the French Vosges, with maybe Belfort as the aiming point. From there, it is an easy trip to Switzerland. Don't forget to take your piggybank. All motorways are covered by the need to have a full season vignetti/road toll sticker, €40ish. Stringently applied, so I'm told.

    It's hard to go wrong in Italy, and it's likely one or two people can direct you better than me. But meandering gets me to lots of places.
    See also "Italy:trip planning". in this forum.

    I would probably pick up your planned outwards route for the return. The Black Forest is decent riding. I would avoid the A7, possibly the most tedious motorway in the entire EU.
    Stuttgart has both the Benz and Porsche museums and a fine art gallery, so could be worth the detour. If you are a gear head, then another museum - one of many in the area - Sinnsheim, allow a day.

    Frankfurt has its campsite, alongside the Nidda, one of its smaller rivers. It also has a hostel - Jugendherberge along side its main river, the Main. Upstream and opposite side to the cathedral (Dom).
    The A5 is a shitty motorway too.

    If you have a smart phone, you can use Booking.com to make reservations - from outside the hotel/hostel if necessary.

    Have a great time.
    Which ever way
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  3. Don T

    Don T Bike Addict

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    First advise: Stay off the motorways. The ride you have in mind is doable in the allotted time without using the motorway.

    Check out Michelin's road maps where scenic routes are marked with green - excellent tool for creating nice routes.
    This is the online version: https://www.viamichelin.co.uk/web/Maps

    Booking accommodation late the same day is fine when you travel in September - most likely you can just show up and get a room.
    for 20-50 euro/night there is plenty to choose between. If you are arriving late there is a good chance that you can negotiate a good discount.
    I typical use booking.com when traveling around Europe - sometime only for locating places and then I just show up to hear what they can offer me.

    Regarding TET near Como - contact the Italian linesman, he is the one who can provide you with the most accurate info.
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  4. Riteris

    Riteris Dessert Runner

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    I would love to ride a bike in the Vosges and other parts of eastern France, including the Alsace region. (Great food here too!)

    Also, I do not mind using highways as a faster way to get to where I want to be.
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  5. alicethomas

    alicethomas Been here awhile

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    I'd ride through the middle Rhine valley at least once (if time permits, perhaps on the way back).
    Leave the highway A5 in Baden-Baden and follow the B500 to Freudenstadt. Very scenic at the Mummelsee and beyond.
    Southern Black Forest is the most beautiful. Consider the Kandel mountain road just before Freiburg. Or you could just follow the B500.
    Not much to see in the tunnel. Use the passes!

    Road signs to/on the highway is green in Switzerland, for rural roads blue. (Just contrary to Germany.) You have to buy+attach a "Vignette" sticker for Swiss green roads (available in most fuel stations near the border.)
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  6. bmp72

    bmp72 '15 Wave110i, '15 WR250X, '81 FXB

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    The Italian part of the trip... from Domodossola I would go Intra - Cannobia - Ascona/Locarno - Indemini (tiny mountain road) - Luino - Lugano - Menaggio and then down to Como.

    With the route you show you're missing all the lakes, you should visit Lago Maggiore, Lago di Lugano before going Lago di Como.

    Don't forget (I see you plan to go on the east side of Lago di Como) to visit the Moto Guzzi factory in Mandello del Lario !

    I'll be hopefully doing a similar trip the opposite way, from Zurich to Utrecht to visit family (on my WR250X). I'll be avoiding the highways and make sure I'll go through the Vosges, Eifel and Ardennes. Last year I went the Frankfurt-Heidelberg road (not the highway), avoid at all cost (!) as 150km of traffic lights.... Just played with getting routes from the Kurviger app (android) into my Zumo, Kurviger looks like a good app for making routes, can recommend it. (thanks to the guy here that pointed me to it !). I typically in the evening book the hotel for the next evening (also in the 50 euro range). I always look for hotels close to a KFC :happay (we dont have KFC here in Switzerland, my guilty pleasure)
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  7. alicethomas

    alicethomas Been here awhile

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    F<->HD is less than 90km. ;) Just stick to the B3.
    But of course the highway is much faster.
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  8. glitch_oz

    glitch_oz Long timer

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    Cutting to the chase...with only 11 days for the total loop...do you want to "wander about" or get in as much of the PRIME stuff as possible?
    If it's the latter, skip the Vosges/ Black Forest B500 and all the other secondary stuff and concentrate on the gems, rather than the padding.
    Mainly Autobahn E25 south , cut across to Biel on the major roads for one of your "personal" targets, then cut south-east via some more interesting stuff
    into the Valais/ Wallis, skip the whole Andermatt Circus for some prime gravel leading via backroads from Martigny across the St. Bernard/ Aosta, cutting back into your loop
    via the tiny roads past the stunning Santuario di Oropa and Borgosesia to Gravelone/ Intra for the ferry across to Lavene.
    Pick Varese and/ or Mandello for your bike-factory fix....and join the prime-time again at Sondrio.
    Not a lot of KFC's along that route though, only real food. :lol3
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  9. MichaelJ

    MichaelJ Long timer

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    I've done that - used booking.com to find some likely candidates and rode around to see what they actually looked like. I've booked more than one room from a hotel's parking lot.

    If you enter on a motorway, there will be a friendly Swiss to point you to where you can buy one on the spot or where you can exit the motorway without buying one. There's always a non-toll route available - sometimes running beside the Autobahn.
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  10. alicethomas

    alicethomas Been here awhile

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    But the friendly Swiss officer charges 200 SFR fine and you still have to buy the Vignette.
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  11. MichaelJ

    MichaelJ Long timer

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    Not if you enter from an adjoining country's motorway. The border guards scan vehicles for a Swiss Vignette and politely direct you to one of the two options that I mentioned above. No fines or other unpleasantries.

    Or at least that was my experience entering at Basel in 2013.
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  12. nickguzzi

    nickguzzi Long timer

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    Maybe they have changed it post Schengen, but arriving at Basle on the A5 southbound from De. the only option was to pay for the vignetti.
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  13. MichaelJ

    MichaelJ Long timer

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    7 July, 2013 coming in from DE on the A35 they gave me an option. Buy a vignette or exit the Autobahn. I bought one, as I was tired and didn't want to futz with Basel's traffic. I also planned to spend some time in Switzerland and having the option to bypass the traffic from Martigny to Sion was a plus.
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  14. TexaNate

    TexaNate Been here awhile

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    Thanks everyone for the feedback.

    glitch is right, I'm cutting to the chase. Blast out of The Hague as far as I can get in an afternoon on the motorway. Book a hotel late in the day wherever I end up late in the afternoon (I'm envisioning somewhere between Koblenz and Frankfurt).

    I will, however, get off the motorway for the Black Forest. Getting off on the B500 and some secondary roads, stay somewhere in the middle of the Black Forest for the next night. Should only add 1-3 hours on the way to Biel/Bienne.

    I will be purchasing a vignette near the border before entering Swiss motorways, just in case.

    Next questions...
    - Germany sounds OK to wait until last minute but how much luck do people have booking late-same-day hotels in Switzerland and Italy?
    - How late in the day is "normal"/acceptable to arrive for check in to these kinds of places? 7pm? 10pm?
    - (alicethomas) What passes to use instead of the Lotschberg tunnel?
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  15. MichaelJ

    MichaelJ Long timer

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    In order:

    * Pretty much 100%. Sometimes I've had to look around for a bit, but I haven't had to "sleep rough".

    * I'm usually stopping by 5 or 6. If it's a good riding area, I may stop early, get a room, and then head back out riding knowing that I've got a bed with my name on the pillow.

    * Not alicethomas, but if you swing north, you go over the Grimsel Pass. It will add about 95 km to your route from Spiez on the Thunersee (the Tunnel/Grimsel decision point) to Brig. I'd be willing to bet that it will take longer for the loading/ride/unloading process for the train than the 95km will. And the Grimsel is a great pass with a view of what's left of the Rhone Glacier on your way down to Gletsch. MUCH nicer ride. IMHO. A lot less traffic, too.
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  16. nickguzzi

    nickguzzi Long timer

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    Prime time in busy areas, many hotels will only keep a reservation until 7pm ish. I've arrived late - having rung in - to find the family in front is being sold my room. But don't be concerned - the owner put me up in his parents house.

    Turning up at 10pm - the doors may be closed. The sort of chain hotels that have a 24hr concierge tend to be in busy places. Smaller family run hotels often run on shorter hours - so can depend on where you are and what you are wanting.

    France (which has lots of Alps and other twisty hilly bits to play in) must be accommodation central. Austria is probably next.
    Pre on-line booking, Italy was always difficult with little advertising and hotels hidden away.
    I have family in Germany, so always had a place to stay. I have noticed more of the French style chain hotels in the last 5 - 10 years.

    Switzerland I could never afford.
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  17. alicethomas

    alicethomas Been here awhile

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    And at the top of Grimsel Pass, you could ride further into the mountains to Oberaarsee.
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  18. MichaelJ

    MichaelJ Long timer

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    Took me four or five tries. It seems that I always got there just after the window closed*. And I'm an impatient type who hates to wait. Great views, though, when I finally got to ride it.

    * Note to those who aren't familiar with the road. It's very narrow and is one way traffic only. You have a 10 minute window on the hour to go to the lake and another on the half hour to return. It's about 6km in length.

    Pic found on web:

    [​IMG]
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  19. TexaNate

    TexaNate Been here awhile

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    Something like this? You're right...that's a lot more appealing.

    [​IMG]

    Good spot, Grimsel Pass looks incredible. Updated my route for that day below. Maddeningly, I can't seem to get the town names to pop up, but I hope it's clear enough.

    [​IMG]

    Anybody have strong opinions about what to do after Stelvio and the surrounding area? Unmissable gems to the north in that part of Austria or Liechtenstein?
    #19
  20. MichaelJ

    MichaelJ Long timer

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    Ooh! You Win! Your route takes you over the Glaubenbeulen Panoramastrasse. Lovely ride. It ends at Giswil where you head south. After about 5 km, there is a turnoff from the main road to Lungern. Take it. Your choices are a few (about 4) kms along a lovely lake or bypass it in a tunnel. Either way, you will come to the Brunig Pass. Not a great pass, but any pass in a storm. The route will take you to Meiringen (google Meiringen and Sherlock Holmes) and past the Aareschlucht to Innertkirchen and on to the Grimsel.

    Puff, puff...

    Depending on your timetable and progress, or lack thereof, at Innertkirchen you have yet another choice: bear left to go over the Susten Pass to Wassen, up the Schollenen Gorge to Andermatt and over the Furka Pass to Gletsch, or bear right to go over the Grimsel. 86 km vs. 32 km. Tough choice, but I think that I'd take the Grimsel.

    How much time do you have?

    I'd head west from Stelvio. The town of Glorenza (Glurns) is worth a short visit, or at least a pass through. Touristy walled town. Then up and over the Reschen Pass (flooded village, campanile sticking out of the lake) and into Austria towards Imst.

    I'd avoid the Fern Pass (VERY trafficky - main commercial route) and opt for the Hantenjoch instead. Decision point at Imst. Either one will take you to Fussen (New Schwanstein, et. al.). Your map shows Garmisch - not that far east from Fussen, but it will depend on how you want to get back north.

    Another option after the Stelvio would be to head east towards Merano and San Leonardo in Passiria and over the Passo Rombo/Timmelsjoch (toll road on the Austrian side - but with a motorcycle museum at the top) and is a more direct route to Garmisch.
    #20
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