We were a couple of weeks into lockdown when one of my oldest friends sent me a picture with the note “Do you remember this hike?” I looked at the photo and smiled. It was taken on our hike through the Dolomites three years ago. I answered saying that I was thinking about another long-distance hike, was eyeballing the Jurassic Coast Path and if she’d be interested in joining me. For obvious reasons this would be happening next and not this year. She immediately answered yes.
In order to start training for this hike, I decided as soon as we got out of lockdown, I’d go on a three-day hike. Nothing too strenuous, something flat to allow my body to adjust. Once I started out on this hike, I was painfully aware of the fact that I had been sitting in my office chair for four months… I picked the ViaRhenana for several reasons: it was flat, the distances were doable, and it was along a body of water. The ViaRhenana is a ten day hike along the Rhine River, beginning in Kreuzlingen and ending in Basel. I set out to hike the first three days.
Day 1: After checking the weather report for the umpteenth time, I decided to leave an hour earlier than planned so I didn’t end up getting rained on. At 8 am, I stepped off the train in Kreuzlingen, passed at least two boarder crossings into Germany, walked past hundreds of community gardens and then into the woods and began the hike. The sky was a dark grey and worried me as I wanted to arrive in Steckborn (19 km / 12 mi) dry. Suffice to say, the rain predicted for 3 pm didn’t arrive until 10 pm, and I could have walked more slowly!
The path winds in and out of forests, through villages, up above the water and down along it. The wide lake slowly becomes narrower, specially at Steckborn where the current is more noticeable.
In Steckborn, I had some snacks while sitting on the lake watching sailboats take advantage of the winds.
Day 2: I knew it would be raining until noon so I enjoyed sleeping in and not starting out until 9 am when the worst of the rainstorm had passed. This day was the shortest of the three (16 km / 10 mi), but it was also the wettest. Luckily I was decked out in rain gear and it wasn’t pouring. I walked through a wet tunnel of leaves and past fruit orchards, and shortly before I reached Stein am Rhein, the rain stopped.
Looking at my map, I noticed a small island in the river which looked interesting. Before walking across the wooden bridge, I read the sign about the small chapel on the island dedicated to St. Omar who died on the island in 759. Here I spent a quiet hour having lunch, petting the resident cat and watching the sun come out.
The area around Stein am Rhein is known to have once had a Roman village and archeologists have found many objects from this time. The old town itself is beautifully preserved and well worth a visit. Having just watched the movie “Zwingli” about a leader of the Swiss Reformation, it was fun walking around the area which was used during filming. Although the movie is set in Zurich where Zwingli was pastor, St. George’s Abby in Stein am Rhein was used to portray Zurich because of the perfectly preserved architecture.
Day 3: I woke up to bright sunshine early the next morning and ready to start the last leg of my trip. This was the longest day (22 km / 14 mi), and I was glad the weather was perfect. This was the first part of the trail that lead directly along the the river and was very different from the first two days.
It was especially peaceful to walk under the trees, branches hanging over and brushing the water. Swans flapped loudly flying just above the river as boats chugged by.
Then the trail begins to wind through the forest and across meadows and pastures, but always along the river.
About an hour before reaching Schaffhausen, the trail marker pointed across the river and I was excited to cross with the ferry and walk through Germany for a bit before reentering Switzerland. I rang the bell and while I waited for the ferryman to come, I watched a swan family with seven cygnets float by and stop next to the boats. I watched some more as a dog come and the two adult swans hissed at it while protecting their babies. The ferryman never came. So I continued on and this was the hardest part of the whole hike because this last hour went right along the main road. It was loud and hot, and I hate walking along busy roads. I cursed the ferry, although in hindsight the reason the ferry didn’t run was probably due to Covid. My feet hurt, and I decided to take a three minute train ride to Schaffhausen just to get off that road. But the train had just left and by the time the next one came 30 minutes later, I would already be in Schaffhausen. So in the end, I walked the entire distance. Some things are meant to be because if I had taken the ferry or the train, I would never have walked past the ice cream shop where I treated myself to a delicious ice cream! I had originally had plans to walk through Schaffhausen and explore a bit but that will have to wait until next time.
I thoroughly enjoyed this hike and look forward to walking the remaining seven days to Basel before the end of the year!