Tracy is from the US and Ari is Dutch. Arianne speaks English and German fluently and Tracy speaks Japanese and of course English, but no German, so he was a little confused in the BMW enduro school...
We are back from a motorcycle (1996 r1100gs and r1100r) trip to Germany about 75 km NW of Munich and 75 km SW of Nuremberg at the BMW Enduro Park. We left on Friday morning from home around 7 am and arrived in Oettingen i. Bay around 3 pm. We weren't hurrying and the weather again was not wet... which on a motorcycle is the same as "great" any other time. We saw some beautiful countryside. Imagine October in the heart of Germany with the trees ablaze with color, pumpkins in the fields, and the smoky smell of wood-burning stoves in the villages we passed through.
After locating our hotel, which turned out to be real strange, it seemed as if we were the only guests for the first night there, we walked around the city. Ten minutes later we were back at the hotel and had a buttery tasting dinner of pork and more pork with some interesting balls about the size of golf balls made of something and bread. Ari thought they were the previous nights leftovers held together by bread that they had squeezed into balls... we dissected them and left them.
The next morning was the start of the Off Road Riding Course. Twenty-one other participants, among them one other girl. We split up into three groups, each led by an instructor: beginners, intermediate, and advanced. Ari and I went into the beginning group and I think for the most part were happy we did. We learned techniques of balancing, turning, and understanding that where we looked is exactly where we ended up! We rode through good-sized water puddles with both knees up on the seat and learned how to ride using only one hand on the handlebars.
A great group of teachers and motivators, the instructors at the BMW course.
From the moment we got on the bikes to the moment we got off everything we did was done standing up on the pegs as this gave us more control. We also practiced high-speed braking with only rear brakes, then only front brakes, and then both brakes (disengaging the ABS that comes on the F650). At the end of the first day, we went off the BMW training grounds and onto the German Army Panzer training grounds for some serious mud-splattering riding.
Clean F650's and 1150GS'es
The second day we awoke to rain. We have some good riding gear which is real water proof so that wasn't a worry, it was more like what is it going to be like riding in all that mud and gravel?
It turned out to be not at all bad, we were concentrating hard enough on staying on the bikes that I doubt many of us really noticed the weather. We learned stopping techniques if you don't make it all the way up a hill. We learned how to accelerate up a hill and stop. Coming down the hill we learned how to use the engine's gearing to keep the speed under control.
We rode all over the place and everyone had a chance to show their grace at being dismounted by the bike...(Ari a bit more than most and she has all the black and blue/green bruises to go with them). The two girls gave each other encouragement and they were both real happy to have another girl around. The day ended a bit too early for me, but by the looks of most everyone else, as the instructor said, "they had all had it." And it was not a joke.
Standing up all day, muscling the bikes around, picking them up out of the mud and dirt and constantly concentrating (and for me and a NYer all in an incomprehensible language) was draining and each time we took a break I peeled off another layer of sweat soaked t-shirt or liner out of my jacket.
So at 4 pm on Sunday we all said good-bye and most headed back to their homes in Germany while one other guy went back to Holland and the NYer headed home for the US. We, on the other hand, picked up the map and looked over the route to Prague.
It was a good five-hour drive but I really wanted to see what the former Soviet-block looked like and Prague seemed to have a lot of history AND one of my favorite movies used it as a setting, so we were off. Ari had been to Prague with her art school 10 years ago and she too wanted to see how it had changed. The weather was still not nice as we headed out Monday morning for Nuremberg and points East but we made it to the Czechoslovakian boarder on E50 via the old Carolina Checkpoint. The boarder guards were asking the cars ahead of us for their passports, but when we made it up to them and they looked at us, and then our NL plates they waved us through.
The highway leading up to Plzen, the first major city on the way to Prague, was like something out of an alien landscape, one long runway. No billboards, few exits, and nothing but plains and gently rolling hills on either side. And very few other cars. While we were not sitting still at about 160 k/hour, a few Mercedes and a Porsche Carerra passed us like we were moving backwards. After we made it to Plzen, many more cars made an appearance and upon entering Prague it was like any other city of 1.2 million people, lots of roadwork.
A beautiful city, Praha (Prague)
We made our way through the city streets following the signs for the Centrum (I love this about European cities, the way to the heart of the city is usually easy to find). We found our way to a prosperous looking area and pulled our bikes up in front of the hotel. The bellman said we couldn't park there but he would watch the bikes while we checked in for the night. In the time it takes to check in, the police were out and after a few words were exchanged between Ari and "the little punk cop who wanted to throw his weight around", we were off to the underground parking garage.
After a bit of a walk around we went back had a nap and then headed to the restaurant downstairs that had the only Japanese Teppanyaki in Prague. Yes, there were Japanese tourists all over the place. And while not the ANA or Serina, it wasn't bad teppanyaki, not counting the atsukan served in ocha cups and realizing that this guy behind the grill (the most authentic thing about the dinner) had never been to Japan.
So I should get off my high horse about how it's not like in Tokyo (but then my god, where else is?) and enjoy the fine Argentinean beef. After dinner, we walked around the old quarter and over to the Charles Bridge. From mid-afternoon on this day, the weather had turned glorious and the evening was as nice with all the old building and the Castle illuminated real nice.
The bridge was actually known as the Prague Bridge for most of its life until late last century when it was renamed the Charles Bridge after King Charles IV.
Prague struck me as a bit like Macau and a bit like Paris: casinos and the wild, outlaw-ish rawness of might makes right mentality (with the young women on the arm of the old gangster) together with the history and beautiful buildings of an older European city.
Ari decided to take an extra day off so we started out after a nice breakfast to visit the Castle. It was nice and the cathedral attached to it was nicely restored with one room full of frescos and mosaic tiles that were in the original condition that I'm glad we had the chance to see. They had a changing of the guard for the crowds of tourists that snapped pictures like it was Buckingham Palace while the gum chomping Sgt. of Arms smirked together with his comrade.
The House of the family Rott. The legend is about the three Rott sisters, one after the other, were all courted and fell in love with the same man (without each others knowledge). This man murdered all three of the sisters and ended up with all the family's money.
Prague is very touristy, with the puppet and decorative glass shops together with all kinds of musicals and concerts going on every evening of the week it seems. From the sounds of the English I heard on the street among the tourists, it sounded like a lot of Irish and British tourists were hitting the city together with the already mentioned Japanese.
The Astronomical Clock on the wall of the old Town Hall in the old Town of Praha. detail: every hour wooden apostle statues move betweeen the two doors above the clock.
Around mid-day we started out of the city back towards Germany along a road that as Ari said, "made you feel as if it was a movie." It was a small road leading toward Dresden and as we made our way closer to the boarder, fog closed in on us and became so thick that we couldn't see twenty feet in front of us, which meant Ari couldn't see the dump truck blocking the road working with the road construction crews...no flashing lights in front or anything... all of a sudden BAM out of the fog appears a truck in our path. I find ABS on motorcycles a great option that should be on all of them... that we drive at least. We did manage to stop in front of the truck and continued on with our hazard lights flashing on up to the boarder crossing where they asked to see our passports and didn't ask us to take off our helmets.
Then as we continued along the road in Germany there were girls along the side of the road dancing and waving to entice us to stop. The truckers seemed to know this stretch of road pretty well and there were a few of these IMBISS that had small rooms with windows just like we have here in Amsterdam with the girlies in the windows dancing and showing themselves off. It seemed to work as an 18-wheeler did a U-turn right in front of us with the girl running along side toward the cab. David Lynch and Nick Cage would have felt right at home...
We drove on until dusk. After one night of riding through Eastern France (different trip) on a highway with nothing but forests or open fields on both sides and thinking about how difficult it would be to stop if say a deer decided to jump out in front of the bike, I've made every effort not to be on the bike at night or dusk. So we knew by what time we wanted to stop and it happened to be 80 km outside of Dortmond near an Opal and BMW plant and a nice Courtyard Marriott appeared as we were starting to really scratch our heads.
After a nice sauna and meal, we passed out and were back out on the road in rain again by 7:30 am the next morning arriving back at home about
1:30 pm. It's great to not have a timetable that you have to meet. The trip back from Prague was not great weather but it was a comfortable pace, six hours each day, and it is probably the first time for me not to be consumed with getting back for one reason or another. But it won't be the last.
A great trip, good fun at the Off-Road Riding School and a side-trip that was worth the extra time and energy to see. I still want to get to Norway, but maybe too late for this year... if not, Spain or Italy as next destinations. Both bikes love to tour and having the same engine makes it that much smoother. I have to say that over the whole trip I don't think we saw more than 3 or 4 other bikes that looked like they were touring, whereas a month ago the roads were filled with motorcyclists.
I hope you like the travelogue, it was fun recalling it for you. The Dutch say "keep enjoying your trip when you return home." We are.
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