From leaving the harrowing Auschwitz and Birkenau, we hit country no. 21 1/2 (thanks Republika Sprska for that one!) and the Czech Republic. Rain, rain and more rain meant fairly miserable riding and a trip to a bike shop for emergency new boot purchasement, the old ones being consigned to bio-hazard and the fact that toes were peeping through in a rather unsatisfactory manner.
A low point, after all that rain, was a clamp on the bike in Cesky Krumlov (rhyming slang somewhere surely) and muchos handing over of hard earned wodges of notes to the local coppers - darn that local BMW rider who said it was OK to leave the bike there >sulk, sulk<
Had our last "mad local" incident outside the Spar, and only a few breakfast beers had been had I'm sure, so much arm waving and attempts at a Czech/German conversation to gain an insight into the local colour.
Into Germany and the fantastic roads through the Bavarian Alps and the many passes therein into Austria, including the Hochtannberg Pass at 1676 m and the billion Harley riders we saw (a memorable moment, pulling up behind a couple of hogs and yes, the dudes had snakeskin boots and were playing "Born to be Wild" on their stereo - absolute class).
For riders out there at the mo, take the 198 to Lake Constance - gorgeous, smooth roads and the best bends....
More passes through Switzerland and Liechtenstein (just to get that sticker!), and of course we did the Albula pass (2315m) and the Stelvio Pass, at 2757m, the highest in Europe (apparently) and so many bikes racing on the haripins and the novel sight of seeing a load of Lotus Elise's being stuck behind a large camper van (arf arf).
The better pass in that area had to be the Gavia Pass, slightly lower at 2621m but far more rufty tufty, with only the more hard core bikers on enduro/dirt bikes grooving around the hairpins on the weeny twisty roads with no other vehicles on it, less chrome and moustaches = better roads, surely?!
Over the Alps (again) into Italy for the wedding of the year just south of Florence, so saw sunrises over the lakes, with amazing roads (again) but way too many tunnels (over 4km in one stretch - ugh).
Our last official night before getting to the villa rented by the happy couple (Ben and Jane) was spent free camping in a church ground with the blessing of the church caretaker, after an unsuccessful few hours trying to find a spot near Bologna.. the light was going, all spare ground had "private" signs, and the one spot that we did manage to source in our growing desperation, was then visited by some ladies of the night, so we thought it prudent to move on. A wise move we felt! We asked at a farm whether we could pitch up, and they told us to try the church, which then gave us water and toilet facilities, plus a table to cook up on, result!
Arrived at the beautiful villa in Impruneta, smelling like bikers that have, well, been on the road and camping for 6 months, so we disrobed and flung ourselves into the pool..... bliss....
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