Explore The Bernese Region of Switzerland
The mountains and farm-covered countryside of northern Switzerland are prime biking territory. The scene is classically Swiss - green, natural, with gentle clanging from Alpine cow bells sounding across the hills and valleys. On our e-bikes, we ride past lavender fields and classic flower- covered farm chalets, racing down hills and effortlessly climbing to the tops of others. Always in the distance are the serene white peaks of Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau.
"You must move like a princess or a ballerina," insists Andre, our cycling tour guide. As a pretty sturdy guy, and a keen cyclist, I have to admit I've never really never thought of Kate Middleton or Anna Pavlova as training inspiration before. I'm a little non-plussed. But there's a first time for everything, and this is all part of my lesson on how to ride an electronic bike in the Bernese region of Switzerland. Andre explains that less effort actually gets the bike to do more work, making cycling and even climbing hills easy and sweat-free. Everyone else in my group seems pretty content with the added assistance the electricity provides, but I'm a big fan of cycling the old-fashioned way. I can't help thinking: "If it ain't broke, why fix it?"
After a few hours free-wheeling, we park our bikes close to a grumbling line-up of bulky cattle at the Emmental Show Dairy. Here we witness a traditional cheese-maker stirring milk from the Alps' most important residents in a copper vat over a fire - the curd of this white gold will soon become a round of the region's famous holey Emmental. We taste the cheese at all stages of its evolution, from the creamy young varieties through to its deeper and nuttier incarnation that's been aged for 18 months.
In the afternoon, we ride on through the countryside to Lutzelfluh, where a toothless Swiss man named Rudold teaches us how to play platzgen, a traditional Bernese game that involves throwing a heavy piece of metal - a star-shaped discus - at a pole stuck into several tonnes of clay. It's front of the thrower. There's speculation as to whether his absent teeth had something to do with him being a victim of this, so we take heed of his advice.
Platzgen is a simple game, a bit like amped-up boules. Rudolf keeps taking me aside and explaining in detail, with lots of pointing, exactly where I'm going wrong. For all I know he could be telling me: "I see a great platzgen champion in you." My German's a little rusty. Our group heads over to our home for the night in Bern, the Swiss capital, walking through Old Town's cobbled streets. We eat at Altes Tramdepot, a big, loud, lively hall where hearty food is served, before getting stuck into its deliciously crisp local brews. Plenty more bars in the town centre turn out to be buzzing too, so we push on through to the early hours.
There are worse ways to shake a hangover than climbing ladders, dangling from ropes and hooks, and zip-lining through the treetops, so first thing the next day we drive south to Gantrisch Rope Park in the pine forests on the mountainside. I take on a long and testing climb up a ladder up the side of a tree, from where a series of bridges, high-wires, hoops and other obstacles stretch out ahead. Maybe it's the rope moving beneath my feet or the alcohol still in my blood, but when I see the ground 36m below, the fear factor is suddenly intense.
In the afternoon, we arrive in Interlaken, which is known as the 'adventure capital' of Switzerland. It's popular with hikers, bikers Kayakers and, as I find, Segway-ers, riders of those two-wheeled vehicles that can hit 20kmh with a gentle lean. We chug around interlaken on these, visiting the sparkling lakes of Thun and Brienz, which are set against the backdrop of snow-capped mountains. The ride is gentle but the scenery is heart-stopping.
Finally, in Interlaken, I ride a train and then a gondola slowly up to the top of Jungfrau mountain to the First Flyer, an 800m zip-line, high above the ground. It's a huge adrenaline rush as I'm launched in the harness out into the sky. But, despite the speed reaching up to 84kmh, the ride is extremely smooth, so much so that as I fly through the fragrant forests, it crosses my mind that now would be the perfect time for another one of those tasty cold beers.