swiss.crossing - Stage 1/12

Stage 1 – Rorschach-Herisau – 28.1 km / 737m D+ (2.5 miles)

The one where I start running, and I’m happy…

So happy, that the first 11 km, which are entirely uphill, go by themselves. 

Until a ghost town…

All you want to know about the swiss.crossing Lake2Lake adventure, is here.


I get up quite early, the sun is shining, I’m really lucky.

Basic breakfast, where I don’t bother to think about what to eat: it will be 2 croissants and 2 slices of wholemeal bread with strawberry-rhubarb jam, that’s all.

I don’t want to leave too early, so I rest a bit more in the room, quietly preparing myself. That’s when I suddenly realize what I’m doing, and I start jumping up and down laughing like an idiot, excited like a kid who just unwrapped his favorite Christmas present. Very good that nobody saw that.

Ready, I finally get out around 9:30am, and symbolically go to the start on a pier that juts out into the water. I can’t start closer to the lake, I’m right on top of it. But enough laughing, it’s time to run…

One last look at the water and towards the north, then I turn around.

That’s it, I turn my back to the Lake of Constance, and here I go, almost straight ahead to the Geneva Lake…

I start by crossing the small town of Rorschach, a port that has existed since well before the Middle Ages, on the borders of Switzerland, barely 7 km from the Austrian border, and facing Germany on the other side of the lake. 

This Lake Constance is in fact an excrescence of the Rhine, and consists of two parts, separated by a section of the river. The shores of this lake bathe the 3 countries: Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. With 536km2 in total, it is the 3rd largest lake in continental Europe, after Lake Balaton and Lake Geneva.

As soon as I move away from the shores of the lake, the path goes uphill. The city is small and I quickly reach some fields, I take a last look back at the lake…  

I feel good. Serene. And terribly happy and excited as well. So much so that I make my first mistake, miss a sign and don’t feel my watch vibrate, which made me go 500m back and forth in a forest for no reason. That will teach me to stay focused.

After a steep climb, I pass by the Castle of Sulzberg. I continue up through fields, through small villages. I meet my first animals: in order, horses, cows, sheep, a rooster, and a rabbit. I greet them all as being the first animals seen along my trip… by the way I didn’t see any cats today, isn’t it strange?

I run up like that for about ten kilometers, then it’s down again in a forest, to cross some gorges before going up on the other side.  This is where a country pub attracts me for a little break, but as it is close to a shooting range, and as the Swiss are very busy preparing the peace, although it is Sunday morning, the shooting is a little bit noisy for me. Even if it is a typically Swiss sound, I continue.

And after a farm, without any warning, I am suddenly in the quiet and deserted suburb of the town of St. Gallen.  The itinerary makes me avoid the main streets, and I pass through small paths at the foot of forests, before arriving at the entrance of the old town.

I enter by the Karlstor, which marks the entrance of the enclosure of the old convent. I pass another gallery, and find myself in the courtyard of the convent, in the middle of which the Abbey church and its two imposing bell towers are enthroned.

This convent of Benedictine obedience was founded around 612 by an Irishman called Gall.

The baroque cathedral was built in 1755, and its two bell towers rise to 68m. It is backed by a very old library and archives, which contain more than 170'000 books, in what is probably the most beautiful baroque hall in Switzerland. The Benedictine monks called this world famous library the “soul’s pharmacy”.

The sun is shining and it seems the perfect place to take a break. On the other hand, almost everything is closed (Sunday in Switzerland + Covid…). I finally find a small sandwich, which I eat on a public bench.

It’s windy, and despite the sun, it’s quickly cold, and I soon hit the road again. 

I leave the old town of St. Gallen, and suddenly I run on several streets and a square entirely red, in tartan, where the street furniture is also in tartan and of a bright red, as if a gigantic paint can had been spilled, and the whole overhung by big beige balls suspended between the buildings. I understand that this area is actually the headquarters of the Swiss Raiffeisen bank. It’s quite a strange impression but I find it quite nice.

It’s difficult to get back in the run, in the mood, in the pace, but fortunately there are only 10km left, and most of the elevation is done since it was in the first 11km.

Shortly after St. Gallen, I cross the gorge of the Sitter river, on one of the 14 bridges, more or less high, that cross this river in the west and north of the city. I run on a 210m long viaduct made up of 5 arches 65m high, and which in addition to supporting my less and less light stride, sees passing trains… 

Then it’s the Gübsensee lake, surrounded by picnic areas, but as I don’t have any picnic, I continue, then I arrive in the canton of Appenzell Outer Rhodes.

And I realize that I am already in the outskirts of the small town of Herisau which is my destination, and the capital of the canton (and if you want to know more, and what Outer Rhodes means, it’s at the end of the article). 

One last climb, and I approach the city center where probably a nuclear accident took place in addition to the pandemic. There is absolutely no one. It’s true that it’s Sunday, and in the middle of Switzerland, but it’s still a city with more than 15'000 inhabitants… So it’s quite a strange feeling.

I am very surprised by the change of architecture. The city is not at all like the other medieval cities, made of big stones. Here the houses are made of wood, and give to the whole a little Nordic atmosphere. I walk around in the hope to find something to eat and drink, before going to the hotel.

The hotel is also deserted (Stephen King if you read…). I have a code to enter, and I settle in a large and very nice room under the roofs.

Shower, laundry, sorting of pictures, then I decide to go and enjoy a terrace in this ghost town… I walk for about 20 minutes, meeting exactly 3 people, and I start to think that my dinner will be at the train station vending machine (if there is one…).

But I finally find an open terrace at the back of a hotel that looks closed… and they even agree to make me eat a little later… but no great choice. The waitress with too big and too white eyes, her bun on her head, and a traditional costume (well, only the top, lace, flowers and all, but with a black jeans, not the long skirt) explains me that they don’t have much (if Stephen King comes here on a Sunday in November we have a best-seller I promise you). They don’t even have sausages (I wanted rösti and sausage, am I not in the heart of German Switzerland?…), so it will be chicken, French fries, salad, beer… always a professional preparation…

(NB:*To know more about the project itself, the list and the story/gallery of the stages) / *To know what material I’m taking)

Accommodation : Hôtel Säntis, Herisau

Previous day 0/12             Next day 2/12

To look at the planned route (zoom-in) for this stage, on the national swiss map, click here or on the map

Top of the page