The weather as I left Bad Zurzach was thundery and heavy. After the metal bridge that crosses the Aar at Koblenz, the cycle path followed the ‘Rhine Knee’ that surrounds Full-Reuenthal.
This is the location of the important defensive structure from 1939 which is now a military museum. Full-Reuenthal is also the location (in Jüppen) of important Roman defensive remains including the remains of a watchtower that was abandoned in 400 AD when the Romans – encouraged by the Alemanni – finally retreated south back over the Alps.
After Full-Reuenthal the Nuclear Power Station of Leibstadt became visible, first the huge baleful cloud from its cooling tower, then, half an hour later, the installation itself. It seems that if you cycle down the river valleys of Europe, encountering nuclear power stations is one of the inevitable features of such a journey.
The next place of any note was Laufenburg, a town with a chequered history that reflects the ability of the Rhine to generate conflict throughout history. It has been variously Austrian, Swiss, German, but is now divided down the middle into a Swiss bit and a German bit and has been so since the Treaty of Lunéville. I went to look at the place and though it’s a reasonably pretty little town I was astonished that it could be so deserted in the middle of the day. I cycled through most of its streets and literally saw no-one at all. It was as though the population – there must be one! – had simply vanished.
I rode down to the wooden bridge that crosses the Rhine to Bad Säckingen, but again, my lack of passport prevented me from venturing across, Bad Säckingen being in Germany.
Lunch was another damp affair by the river, but I was entertained by the antics of a crested grebe battling with the powerful current above and below water. I amused myself as I munched on my dull cheese sandwiches by trying to predict where the bird would bob up to the surface like a cork after a dive. Impossible!
After a long ride through the forest I spotted these strange-looking wooden towers:
A bit of research informed me that these are drilling towers for salt-mines. There are more of them around Bad Zurzach, which has long been known for its salt deposits.
Then suddenly, I was in Rheinfelden.
I went to the Tourist Information Office to inquire about accommodation for the night and was given a list of b&bs and hotels. I visited a couple of the addresses and was not encouraged by what I saw. One of the addresses was a door that opened onto a long, dark corridor. There was a note on the door saying “komme zurück in 5 Minuten – I’ll be back in 5 minutes”. It wasn’t clear who the I was, but I waited. A woman appeared and wanted to know what I was waiting for. I told her and she snorted contemptuously. But that was enough. I cycled around the town looking for a hotel and after passing through the town gate in the picture below, came on the Hotel Ochsen.
The room was a long, thin corridor of a place on the top floor. But it was good enough and the landlord had kindly stowed my bike in his office for the night, so I wasn’t unhappy. After the usual shower and change I went out to look at the town. This was almost as deserted as Laufenburg, though not quite. The inhabitants of small Swiss towns do seem to disappear as soon as the shops close.