My excitement was growing as – finally – the day of my departure came nearer. After a relatively (…too…??) relaxed preparation time until about two weeks ago, things got a little bit hectic as I tried to make certain domestic arrangements. This involved among others a sort of wrestling match with (yes…”with”, not “on”) a monstrous mattress that decided to make things difficult for everybody (but that is a very different story).
I had intended to leave on Wednesday, May 10 and therefore went on a little practice tour with the fully loaded BMW on the weekend before. I was still smiling then.
“The weekend before” – everything is okay
On Wednesday, with the GPS set to lead me to the Czech Republic, I left my place. Some friends were waiting at my local motorcycle hangout to escort me out of town. At that point I was probably too pre-occupied and/or excited, and thus was unconcentrated at the second traffic light about 1 km from my home. The car in front of started, began to accelerate and then, for whatever reason, slowed down and came to sudden stop. I must have been thinking about adventures to come when I was rudely brought back into reality. I failed to react and hit the back the car in front of me. Of course I “dismounted” in a very un-elegant way. Because of my protective gear and the slow speed (<15km/h) I was completed unharmed. Damage to the car seemed minimal (broken stop light) and the same applied to my BMW.
No apparent damage at first glance
That initial impression was immediately corrected as I tried to manoeuvre the motorcycle away from the accident site: the GS was impossible to steer. The handlebar was difficult to move. It was then that I realized that, in all probability, this was – for the time being – the very unglamorous end of my trip around Europe. A mere 10 minutes after closing my apartment door. This must be some kind of record...
Damage to front fork and telelever
The complexities of the damage are not very apparent from the picture. Front fork and telelever (plus parts) will have to be replaced. But there were some good things, too: The owner of the car I hit was moderately relaxed about the event and since we both happen to have the same insurance, there is very little administration involved. I also had a chance to meet my “farewell party”: instead of an escort out of Frankfurt, they quickly arranged for transport of my luggage back into my apartment and the BMW was brought to the repair shop. For this my particular thanks to Klaus Schrader of Zubehoer-Shop-Frankfurt.de (once again...) and Dietger Pudenz.
For the time being, the future of my trip lies in the hands to Tiberius (“Tibi”) Erdelyi, of TIBIZA repairs located in Offenbach, near Frankfurt. Tibi is an expert offroad rider
and motorcycle mechanic
and now and then performs as “impresario” of enduro trips which he arranges for friends. Above pictures were take during a one-week offroad extravaganza in Romania last year.
With any luck and relying on Tibi’s skills, I should be able to make a second start in the not to distant future. I hope to be back on the road early next week (May 20 or 21). In the meantime, I will try to deal with the bruises suffered by my ego……(just kidding – or am I?).
More to follow soon….
I finally left Frankfurt on May 19th heading for the Czech Republic. I found the accommodation and general arrangements to be perfect with a great value for money ratio. Cities are very scenic for instance Marianske Lazne, Karlovy Vary and Prague. I also had an interesting encounter with the police (they are strict when it comes to parking offences) and pickpockets (although I did luck out, as I did with the police).
From Prague I went on to Vienna while making a little side trip to Telc, a very nice 18th century town that is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Vienna meant a civilized weekend with friends, filled with wine tasting in the Wachau region and some time in the same dungeon that had already been occupied by Richard Lionheart.
I have since entered Slovakia and am exploring the mountains in the northern part of the country from a “base camp” near the city of Martin. I’ll probably stay here for a couple of days.
Well - seems that I made it. For the time being the gods seem to be with me. Tiberius Ederlyi of TIBIZA repairs in Offenbach did a superb job of fixing the fork and telelever within two days. I even had a chance of testing the bike on a 300km outing with friends - just to make sure that everything was okay for the trip.
Back on the road again…..testing
So…Monday, May 19th came and I started for the second time. I am happy to report that nothing happened on the way to the Frankfurt city limits. - The experiment had really begun.
For the first day I had intended to ride close to the German/Czech border but to stay on the German side. As it happened, I was not received to warmly at Waldsassen a small border town. I had asked for a room at a small boarding house, but I was given the once over by the owner (probably has some funny ideas about motorcycles and the riders in his mind) and told that there was not vacancy.
I took this as sign to move on and I decided to try my luck in the Czech Republic. I hoped to find some accommodation on the way to Marianske Lazne (“Marienbad”). It was getting late and some dark rain clouds were chasing me.
While I was passing through a small village (“Drmoul”), I saw a sign for a small restaurant/hostel. Despite my rugged appearance I was given a room and the owners even opened up the restaurant kitchen (I was the only guest). They also cleared the family garage for the BMW. - I was then that I decided to stay for three days.
I spent the next couple of days to check out the area in and around Marienbad /Carlsbad (“Karlovy Vary”) - both to well-known spas with great late 19th/early 20th century architecture. Very orderly and “clean”. Well, but this has a flipside: parking is allowed only in dedicated areas (for a price) and there are no exceptions for motorcycles. I had hardly put down the sidestand (on a very wide sidewalk, where even the large BMW would not have been a bother to anybody) when a police patrol care stopped and sent me on…..
Great architecture in Marienbad
.....and Carlsbad police´s favorite activity
On the cultural side: Following the recommendation of my friends Inge and Reiner, I spent some time at the Tepla monastry. It roots back to 1200 and its changing history included being used as military quarters during Czech socialist history in the more recent past.
Tepla monastery survived use as military quarters
And for those friends in Frankfurt who like motorcycle touring: there are great one-lane roads, not very smooth paved surface - ideal for those of us who like GS. Not quite “off-road” but just enough of “rough” surface to feel the enduro character of the bike without an overdue risk of being stranded in the countryside with a 260kg beast of a motorcycle.
Great country lanes for relaxed GS touring
After three days in the area, I used the motorway to get to Prague. The city offers a great scenery (plus may tourists). Special thanks go to the lady at the tourist information. I had made a reservation at small hostel outside of the city centre. The tourist information showed me the hostel’s location on the city map and, using my trusty GPS for guidance, I arrived at the place in no time.
I spent two days in Prague, joining the international tourist crowds for visits to the old castle and cathedral. A great place - a must for all Prague visitors. However, beware of pickpockets. Only by luck and/or intuition avoided being robbed of small bag that I left beside my on a bench on Wenzel’s square. Normally this bag would have contained only minor things like a small tripod for the camera. But this time I had the GPS system in there. Well… I guess the gods must be with me again, after my initial mishap in Frankfurt.
At this point I would like to say thank you to my former colleague Jochen Schlachter for recommending (even “insisting”) to go to the Czech Republic. The people very very friendly, the facilities were perfect and the value for money you get is fantastic. And that does not even include bonus points for the excellent Czech beer…
On Saturday, May 24th I went on to Vienna, Austria. On the way there I left the main road to visit the small town of Telc. It has a very nicely renovated centre and is the perfect example of some 18th century architecture. This has been recognized when in 1992, when Telc was in cluded in the World Heritage List of the UNESCO.
Picturesque Telc market place
Originally, I did not included Vienna (also, I am told, included in the UNESCO World Heritage List) in may travel plans. But when some friends heard about my little tour, they almost insisted that I spent some time with them (thanks again, Katharina and Robert). So I had a very “civilized” weekend in Vienna and the Wachau wine region. This included a wine tasting at a traditional “Heurigen” wine place and an ascent to the Duernstein castle (or what’s left of it). Here, they say, Richard Lionheart what kept hostage on his way back from the crusades. Pictured below is the “original cell” he stayd in (just joking):
Richard Lionheart had been here
On Monday, May 26th I packed my belongings onto the BMW, left civilized Vienna and proceeded on to Slovakia, where I am currently staying (near the town of “Martin” in the mountainous northern part of the country). First impressions were somewhat overshadowed by an empty countryside that was only matched by an even more “empty” facial expression of the landlord of a small hotel……
More to follow soon.
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