Q: SO, HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY?
KARL: I suppose it all stems back to my epic cycling trip in 1986, when I clocked up 3,000 miles as I pedalled around Western Europe. I’d never travelled before, and it gave me a real buzz. I was fascinated by the history of different places, and I knew then that I wanted to see a lot more of the world. I seriously considered a career in the Foreign Office or the British Council, which would both have enabled me to do that, but in the end I realised that the travel industry was more for me.
Q: THAT’S A LOT OF MILES! WHICH COUNTRIES DID YOU VISIT?
KARL: That first trip took me to Switzerland, West Germany – it was before the Berlin Wall came down – Austria and France.
Q: WE’RE SPOTTING A MOUNTAIN THEME HERE…
KARL: Yes, that’s right! A couple of years later I set out on another cycling trip specifically to see the highest peaks in France, Switzerland and Austria. It didn’t all go to plan, though. By the time I reached St Moritz it was snowing. And cold. I came to a junction where, quite literally, I could turn right to carry on my mountain tour, or left to head into Italy. I chose left. It was warm and sunny on the other side of the border and I ended up cycling around the Italian lakes and then heading on to Venice.
Q: YOU’VE TRAVELLED EXTENSIVELY, THEN, IN EUROPE, AND SOUTH AMERICA, TOO. WHERE’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE?
KARL: It has to be Switzerland – the sheer majesty of it all. There’s something very special about the atmosphere of a Swiss valley on a sunny summer morning. The fresh scent of the forest. The cowbells. On top of all that, I love their way of life and their attitude to life. And there’s the cheese too, of course!
Q: IS THERE A SPECIFIC PART OF SWITZERLAND THAT YOU LIKE MOST?
KARL: The Bernese Oberland, especially Grindelwald. Grindelwald was the first place I pitched up on my 1986 cycling trip where there were ‘proper’ mountains. It was raining when I arrived, but the clouds lifted later on, and I remember gawping at the north face of the Eiger in front of me.
Q: WOULD WE BE RIGHT IN ASSUMING THAT YOUR FAVOURITE INNTRAVEL HOLIDAY IS A SWISS ONE TOO?
KARL: Actually, no! I chose to do the Danish Riviera cycling holiday last year and loved it. I’d never been to Denmark before then, and I found that it had so much more than I’d imagined. There’s lots of history – especially regal history – and very varied architecture – grand palaces, villages of thatched-roof cottages, and huge seaside villas, each one different, with quirky little details. Copenhagen is buzzing, lively, youthful, and the whole country is so well set up for cyclists... Am I allowed to give a second one, though? Because my holiday to the Ylläshumina Hotel in Finland was also fantastic. In Ylläs you can enjoy everything that snow has to offer: snowshoeing, snowmobiling, skiing, husky safaris… Although it was dark (I was there over Christmas) it felt cosy somehow – if that makes sense. There’s something about sauna that adds to the snow experience. The cold and then the heat.
Q: WHAT’S YOUR BEST MEMORY FROM YOUR TRAVELS WITH INNTRAVEL?
KARL: My stay at the Hotel Montegrande in the Apennines. The welcome from Bruno Bartolomei was so effusive, and Piera’s food was delicious… I ate so much that I felt I’d never eat again!!
Q: LAST YEAR YOU TOOK PART IN A CHARITY BIKE RIDE IN THE YORKSHIRE WOLDS FOR RYEDALE SPECIAL FAMILIES. DO YOU HAVE ANY SIMILAR PLANS THIS SUMMER?
KARL: Inntravel will be sponsoring the event again, but, although I had a great time, I won’t be taking part this year. With the Tour de France coming to Yorkshire this summer, I fancy doing something related to that. I haven’t made any firm plans yet, but it would be fantastic to follow the route of Le Grand Départ. It’s a very exciting time to be in Yorkshire.