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The Rhine 4: Bülach – Laufenburg

    24 November 2016 – Mileage: 43 – Elevation gain: 2257 feet

    I did not enjoy these miles. For two reasons: My right leg couldn’t be lifted as desired forwards and it nearly blocked every step. And the other reason: Bunkers. Lots of Bunkers.

    As usual I get up at 4 in the morning and walk to the train station. This time I’m just going to Bülach. A ride of half an hour. It’s warm. Yesterday I could walk around in the city just with a T-Shirt and a cotton sweater. Global warming? We have enough water and winter tourism isn’t in demand anymore anyways.

    I fly up the hill and up the next hill as well. Unfortunately, my right leg causes pain in going down. It’s dark, so I must rely on my headlamp. I see lots of eyes in the forest but once spotted, I try to not shine them in the face. Maybe they are preparing themselves to get breakfast or they are Catholics and will take part in an early mass. I don’t want to ruin their day and regardless, whether my light beam would be harmful, I respect their privacy.

    I was afraid about the dog in Nussbaumen but there is no one around. I get my poles out in the forest as the path will go down. The last part down to the Rhine is all stairways. My headlamp performs well, I even figured out how to switch the sensor, who normally does the light adjustment, off. In the fog the visibility is about 6 feet. Doesn’t matter I know the way. Down at the Rhine I just go left instead of right. Towards Basel.

    A woman is out with their dog. I quickly figure out how to switch my lamp to red-light and will now switch to red-light when in towns or near houses.

    There are wires on the ground. My first idea is to think, that it is for the Christmas decoration of the town of Eglisau. I never see a kind of LED unit, so I first think that they will be mounted later. A Google search reveals: They are performing seismic measurements. For the NAGRA. Although our nuclear power plants are the oldest on the planet who are still running (if they are not out of order), we haven’t figured out so far, what to do with the nuclear waste. This stuff needs to be buried for the short period of 100’000 years. If wiser people than we are, don’t figure out, how to recycle this highly toxic stuff.

    15 miles in, my leg still hurts. Doesn’t matter I have a cold anyways since I visited my sister in the mountains. Not too long ago I would not have the courage to even do my half marathon routine with this kind of problems. Hiking in my terms means to do pain management unfortunately. So far it works well. I never take medication. Once I took one pill of Ibuprofen. I was like high for three days.

    It’s winter, all the public bathrooms are closed. So, I must hike to the train station in Eglisau. It’s impossible to dig a cat hole in this terrain – unless you like to shit in public.

    I still can’t go down a stairway as my leg refuses to bend back on the hip. Whatever, I go sideways using my left leg to move me down. I reach the town of Kaiserstuhl. The region got his name in the 13th century. The Germans have a satellite dish on their castle and a maned border post. On the Swiss side, there is only a camera. To automatically run the number plates of the cars against a database with stolen cars. In case you forgot that you are riding in a stolen car, they will remind you.

    I pass the bunker “Bleiche”. I must revise my position towards those bunkers. There are 1500 bunkers in the canton Aargau alone. The army should have known, even in 1938, when all these bunkers on the Rhine were built, that they serve nothing. In the first World War between 1914 and 1918 the Italians fought against Austria and Hungary: Both armies built huge citadels in the mountains. Then they fired heavy artillery against each other. Thousands of soldiers died horrifying dead’s. Apparently, sometimes the men lost often their minds, when their position was under fire due to the noise.

    These bunkers were sitting ducks. The Germans or whoever else could easily destroy them from the distance or at least kill the occupants. They were built even into the Rhine, like islands, just to house machine guns. However: Probably entire Switzerland was fortified during the second world war. The tactical planning was to retreat into the mountains – the Reduit. Leaving all the cities or inhabited areas for the enemy.

    It became clear however, that against the German Blitzkrieg bunkers are worthless. I think the bunkers in the Rhine should  be removed. Some of them are in private hands and the history is polished towards “we weren’t invaded because of our glorious army”. I see new signs remembering the army units who did their service in the bunkers.

    Historians found evidence, that we weren’t invaded because we were the bank for the nazis – why spending money and effort to invade a country that is doing the kind of dirty business we want them to do anyways? Last time the history of the second world war was on the agenda here, we had to pay compensations to jewish organizations. It turned out, that we accepted the money of jewish individuals during the second world war but we didn’t accept the person itself. They were murdered in the holocaust.


    For every bunker that is removed, they could restore more natural Rhine shores. On the German side, there is much more natural habitat, for example for beavers. They build their bunkers too, but not directly on the Rhine.

    As I sometimes was hindered due to the topography and my leg, to keep my pace up, I try to compensate through absurd long stints. Walking for hours without a single break. So, in Koblenz I force myself to stop and eat. Before I was barked on for half I mile by dogs. I suspect them to belong to the border police. I feel safe as I am in view of the German border post and the Swiss at the same time. A big dog runs toward me. Here my past comes in handy: I shout at him in a language and with expressions I learnt from soldiers on checkpoints somewhere. He turns back quickly and hides behind his owner who also takes a step back. His smile is frozen; he tries to excuse for the behavior of his dog in English.


    After some road-walking and crossing many border posts the nuclear power plant of Leibstadt comes into view. It belongs to Alpiq and Axpo. Alpiq tried to give it away. Axpo threatens to demand compensation, if they must shut down their nuclear power plants because the citizens will eventually decide this on the ballots.

    It is not producing energy anyways: The fuel rods are rusted. And nuclear energy is now no longer interesting from a financial perspective. Doesn’t matter, it is an ideological question. Those who supported this technology in the past, find always new reasons for not shutting it off. There are political interests to: Political parties try to advance themselves as staunch advocates for this crap. Putting their voters in physical danger.

    A cold wind comes in my direction, I shiver. Once again I force myself to take a break. And I eat. One Snickers bar, one mars bar, one of these and one of these. Half a liter of Gatorade. For the desert and during walking I eat gel shots from power bar. That helps a lot. I get warm within 30 seconds. Still two hours and 35 minutes to Laufenburg. During the break, I loaded the Headlamp. It is nearly dark as I follow the path directly on the shore of the Rhine. Another roman watchtower from the year 400. I walk for another two hours in the dark. Lots of eyes in the forest. I wonder how others figure out, to which species the eyes belong? Other light? Nightvision?

    I wear Brooks Cascadia 11: A massive improvement compared to the version 9. However: The version 12 will be released in February. There is also the Norvan shoe from Arc’teryx that will be released around the same time.

    And I will also test Hoka One One, after I saw Mr. Zach Rotondo talking about them. Mr Rotondo has a unique style. Doing heavy miles on Mc Donald’s trash food only may sound crazy, but it worked out well.