This isn't going to be about what all we saw, rather more about touring on bike in Italy. If you'd like a synopsis of what we saw try the entry on Italy Tour in A Nutshell.
We wanted to travel through Italy, France and Spain. It was in Italy, Firenze, where we met. Arianne's birthday was coming up, some friends were interested in getting together for an extravegant weekend of Italian wine and a cooking course so we planned on going the last week in April to be in Firenze on the 26th to meet up.
Recently on the Horizons site I read where someone wrote that the bike you ride has to inspire you on the road. That is a good way to sum up our attitude towards the bikes we ride. I have a GS 1100. It's a great bike, simple. I'm trying to learn more about motors but have a long way to go before I'm comfortable with what all is going on down there and I like the confidence I have in the bike of it being mechanically sound. Ari had a Florida Moto Guzzi that didn't survive a trip last year to Switzerland and upon getting the bike shipped back home she found a 1996 R 1100 R, same year as my bike, at the dealer. They did a deal and now we have virtually the same engine, same solid mechanics, and a good time touring through Europe.
So before leaving home, we had both bikes checked over, new Metzler rear tire for me having had a new Bridgestone put up front less than 4,000 km before. The BMW dealer we take the bikes to has no problem with us being present to see what all is getting checked and how it's done. That adds to the confidence we have in the bikes and helps us learn about and appreciate our engines.
About a month before we left, we were riding in the area where I bought my bike and decided to drop in and say hi and to let them know the bike is running well. Started talking with Dan about how I'm still looking for aluminium panniers and he brings out a set of used Touratech 35L/41L with a Hepco&Becker top case he took off an African Twin. His price was good for the three of them and he said they would fit on the GS so I ordered the pannier racks from Touratech and went back about a week later to pick up the panniers. Within about ten seconds it was obvious that the positioning of the mounts on the panniers are different for an African Twin than for the GS. Well, what to do? After some hemming and hawing and with the fact that our departure date is two days hence at the top of my mind, we decide to cut off the back portion of the passenger's peg, the part that nestles up against the stock BMW panniers to give them support. With that done and a 90 degree twist of the rear mount all was set.
So that was the pre-departure prep of the bikes. It felt great leaving knowing the bikes were in top shape. And so we put it to good use, leaving Amsterdam at 4 am and arriving at our campsite in Salzburg, Austria at 3:30 pm. It was an awesome day of head down cruising.
From Salzburg we went on further east to Wien. We only spent a day and a half but it was a beautiful city, one we look forward to visiting again, and the campground Wien West was 15 minutes from the Center.
From Wien, we started south for Venezia. Crossing into Italy, one of the first things you can't help but notice was how fast they drive on the autostrada. Say, 170 km/h is the average speed of those in the outside lane?
Venezia was great. The campground was close to the bridge you drive across to catch a water taxi into the city. Again, not a lot of time to spend here, only half a day after driving in from Wien and then we left the following day around lunch to get to Firenze to meet up with friends. The weather was around 30 C...comfortable. On the way down to Firenze we realized we were ahead of schedule so we dropped off the autostrada to get on the secondary roads. From Bologna we took the route down to Firenze that starts out around Pianoro and goes through the Futa Pass. On the day we made the trip, part of the road was closed and a beautiful scenic drive turned into a magical journey through the Italian landscape. Throughout the trip, we stayed on the secondary roads as much as possible and always enjoyed the ride.
The weekend in Firenze we spent catching up with friends and going back to the restaurant, Il Latini, where Ari and I met in October 1999. For her birthday present, Ari (and the rest of us) had a one-day cooking course at Coltibuono (tel: 0577 74481), a winery in the Gaiole in Chianti region.
It was well done, we contacted them 3 weeks before we left and they arranged a course for the four of us. And since we've been back, we have made the meal we learned to prepare that day of Flat Bread with Rosemary, Spinachi Gnocchi with Butter and Parmesan, Chicken Rolled in Pancetta, Potatoes with Bay Leaves and Strawberries with Zabaion Sauce with great success here at home. What Chef Paolo Pancotti stressed was the importance of using fresh ingrediants and to enjoy the simplicity of Italian dishes, when eating or preparing them.
After leaving Firenze, we were faced with the decision of where to go? The weekend with friends who flew in from London had been fairly well planned out but now that was over and we hadn't planned anything from here on out. Decision was made to head for the Republic of San Marino.
Touristy and nice to see, we then visited Rimini and Ravenna on the Adriatic coast. One of the things I remember most driving along this stretch was the delicious seafood pasta we ate at a restaurant where the fishing boats docked directly outside the back door. If you were limited in time, between Rimini and Ravenna, I'd go with Ravenna.
From Ravenna, we realized we wanted to be heading south so we set our sights on Perugia. We camped by Lago Trasimeno and from here explored Perugia, Siena, and Assisi. Fantastic!
After a couple of days in this region, we headed further south to Pescara and then on to the Gargano Penninsula, the "spur" of Italy. Early May, there are NO vacationing Italians on the Adriatic coast and we had the place all to ourselves.
I don't know what it would be like in late July thru September, but in early May, all I can say is you'd like it.
On down to Bari, we made it on the feast day of St. Nicola, the patron saint of Bari. A spectacular parade of floats re-enacting the miracle of St. Nicola in front of the duomo was well worth the trip into downtown on our bikes and then having to find parking for them. Actually a policeman, who was also a motorcycle rider, told us to park here and then after confiring with another officer decided it was a bit too risky where he told us to park (he was worried we would end up walking home to Holland) and walked us across the street to park in the ferry parking area where the bikes would be under supervision.
He didn't have to do that and this was an example of most of our interaction with the police while in Italy. In Palermo, as we were having the oil and oil filters changed we got to talking with two guys at the BMW dealership. They turned out to be undercover homicide cops and they took us around the block for a cafe to kill some time. They made sure we had their number in case we were going back downtown as they would see to it that we were able to park in the area they parked their own bikes. The only "run-in" we had with the police was in Milano trying to find a parking place. Walked out of one horrible hotel in the morning to move about 200 meters down the street to a small hotel (that had been full the night before) I'd stayed in previously but we really couldn't leave our bikes where we had locked them to each other in front of an office building so we had to find a new parking place for the bikes. We were in our ready-to-roam-the-city wear and didn't expect to be going for a ride around the city but there were so many bikes parked in all the legal places and none of the garages would accept motorcycles we ended up riding around for 5-10 minutes looking for a place to park. The place we found to park was ambigious, other bikes were parked there. But as we put the front locks on the bikes, undercover police pulled up and started quite a fuss about us riding without helmets. They made me walk back to the hotel to get our helmets while Ari stayed put and they did a thorough check on the bikes' papers, before they gave us each a ticket for 32 euro for riding without a helmet. We tried to explain the situation but to no avail. And right at the end, two motorcycle cops and a van full of other cops pulled up to sneer at us?! I didn't get that part and it was enough to make us go back to the hotel we'd just checked into and say we were checking out, to leave the city of frustration behind. In the end, we found a place to park and had a great time in Milano with a relaxing haircut to start things off. The cops may have even been trying to do us a favor with a 32 euro fine, as we told the people at the styling salon about our morning, the stylist told us he had his license suspended for something like what he understood happened to us...lots of ifs in there as it was all in Italian and we don't speak that much....but I digress.
It was also in Bari we first experienced the southern Italians' driving style. Have you ever had a cab ride in Bejing after dark? That is the only other vehicular experience where I said, "No, I'm not ever going to do that again because the way they drive here is insane." That is about what I told Ari after we arrived initially in the Center of Bari, driving through some of the worst "no-rules" traffic (remember, this was on the first of three Feast Days when basically the whole city was in party mode) I've experienced. We then had to drive out again to get to our campsite 20 km outside of town. After setting up camp, Ari wanted to go see what the Feast Day was like. After telling her I didn't plan on driving in that vipers nest of vehicles, she did what she could to convince me and...it worked.
Up until Bari, we could have been in any of the other European countries we've visited...sure they come up behind you on the autostrada and get within inches of your rear tire when you are moving along at 150 km/h and they are going over 200. I try to keep a good look-out via the mirrors for this but even if you are doing this every 10-20 seconds, they can come up so fast without you realizing it, it's as if they were teleported from the local race circuit to your rear tire. But this is nothing new having been through Germany. And while the speed element is missing here in Holland, the same riding on your rear with a clearence of millimeters is not uncommon. But passing on the secondary roads? Forget anything you've ever learned about solid, dotted, or right-to-pass lines! Best to get BEHIND the dinged up jalopey riding your rear, the one that looks like with one more addition of tape it will be a contender in Guiness's largest ball of tape category, right, let him OVERTAKE you and then follow him as he creates a third lane over the center lines.
Riding into the center of any of the cities in the South was also an experience. Everybody would tell us not to drive into the city because of the probability of getting our bikes stolen or vandalized. What we couldn't figure out though was why do half a million other people in whatever city we were in feel comfortable about riding their own two wheeled chariots if theft was such an issue? We actually did take a bus on our first day into Palermo. Nothing really bad about the experience only that when you are used to freedom to go here, there, wherever you want to go, when you want to go AND the warnings about theft seem to be fairly overblown, buses are out. The other thing we noticed during the day was that Palermo has more GS'es and GS-type bikes then anywhere we've been. In Switzerland and Germany, we've had days where we'd estimate that one out of every three bikes we saw was a GS, impressive. Well, Palermo was in another league all together. They had all models of GS, in good condition with relatively high kms on the dial, everywhere. If it wasn't a GS (and why would it not be after the last 10 bikes we saw were one kind of GS or another) it was an Aprila, Tenere, or African Twin.
Traffic, once in the cities, could best be described as akin to that first turn pile up on the local dirt MX circuit, lots of bumping and shoving, some go down but you want to be one of those already out front, away from the pack. The mentality is about the same too. You don't timidly go out on an MX course, you go out ready to do battle. The same holds true for city riding in the south of Italy. In Paris, a city unfairly infamous for it's drivers (after experiencing Napoli), I feel as though it's expected of a motorcyclist in the heart of the city to ride as though he were a NYC bicycle messanger. Simply put, it's fun riding in Paris. The difference with the southern cities of Italy is in the VOLUME of other two wheeled riders that want to be in exactly the same place at exactly the same time as you do. Not for the timid or faint of heart but thrilling for those who aren't.
From Bari we traveled toward Reggio through Alberobello and the Trulli communities. We made the trip in a day but ran into trouble as it was starting to get dark and we couldn't find a campground that was open. After plodding about around 100 km outside of Reggio in a vain attempt to find a campground open, we decided to head for Reggio and take a break in a hotel. The next day found us on the ferry for Sicily.
We enjoyed Sicily a lot and will probably go back sometime in the future. After spending a week in Sicily we made our way up the west coast to Salerno, stopping to see the ancient site of Paestum just south of there. On to Pompei, where the campground is convienently located adjacent to the main entrance. We used this as base for exploring the cities of the Almalfi coast, Napoli and Caserta.
On up to Rome, where Camping Tiber (www.campingtiber.com), to the north of the city was rated by us and by everyone else we met there as the best campground in Europe. A German couple on bikes that set up camp near us in Pompei told us about the great accomodations, a great bar, open pool all for only 13 euro! So we were on the lookout as we took the autostrada to the north of Rome. Once we found Camping Tiber, we were dismayed to find it was 25 euro to camp??! That was easily the most we'd paid, too much as far as we were concerned so we told them no thanks and went looking for a cheaper patch of ground to pitch our tent...however the two other campgrounds at the same exit were even higher in price??!
So we went back to Camping Tiber, paid the 25 euro, dried out our tent by hanging it on the fence, set it up, made friends with a Dutch couple setting up their tent next to ours, Ari went for a swim, I ambled up to the bar to see what is what, found the internet point and thanked Adam and Becky from England who had seen our trouble with getting the tent pegs into the ground and had brought over a mallet for us to use. They explained how they had been here for a couple of days in their converted bus and liked the place and motioned to a flier on the bar that had all the rates. We got to talking about the price and he said the cabins were real resonable at 13 euro a nite per person!! That sounded familiar...and it turns out that our tent which is 4.50 plus two times 8.20 for the number of people and two times 2.5 for our bikes minus the discount for the automobile association here turns out to be almost the same price as one of their bungalows for the two of us! I almost left Adam and Becky in mid sentence to go back to the check-in to see if we could change our booking...no problem at all! We went from paying for the tent, both of us and the bikes to one charge of 13 euro per person per night. Ok, they have different levels of bungalows and ours was the basic cot to sleep on but still....! And the last night we were there it rained harder and longer than any other time on the trip, hard enough to make the ground soft enough under my bike to cause it to fall over, but we were warm and dry with no tents to dry out the next day! If you are planning to visit Rome and don't want to be in the city, Camping Tiber is your place to stay. It was a bit more like a resort atmosphere and if there are kids involved I'm sure they'd like the pool and the break from touring the city.
From Rome, we headed for Milano.
After almost five weeks in Italy, much longer than we intended to stay in Italy after all we had intended to go to the south of France and Spain too, we were getting a bit tired of our vacation and decided that a break at home to recharge was needed. On the way from Rome to Milano, we drove in the outside lane and made great time. At some point during the trip my riding jacket and pants had ceased to be waterproof and windproof? I don't know if that was it or I was not taking care to drink enough during the day but after we checked into a bad hotel and went out for a late dinner I went right to bed. The next day, after our run-in with the cops in the morning, as we were starting to walk around the city I noticed I had NO energy and my body felt like it was badly sunburned everywhere. Dehydation from not drinking enough liquid the previous day and the fast riding with the wind wicking the sweat away before it could cool my body? I think that was it, but whatever it was after barely making it back to the hotel we stayed at (and highly recommend, Antica Locanda dei Mercanti, telephone 02-805-4080 small, boutique hotel with 10 rooms and a great price @130 euro) I collapsed in bed for the rest of the day getting up only for water and to eat some fruits. The next day I awoke feeling great so we rode the last 1100 kms home via Switzerland and Germany in under 10 hours. It was a German holiday and there were thousands of bike groups riding South as we made our way home....hope they had as much fun as we did.
As we pulled into home, we were at 10,050 km for the trip.
Some other observations and lists about the trip:
Campgrounds in Europe are plentiful and usually very clean, just make sure they are open for the season you intend to be there. We had no books or list of campgrounds. We found them on the fly or talked to fellow campers to get their recommendations.
Icebreaker Merino Wool clothing (long underwear, sweaters, pull-overs, jackets) are essential travel gear. Both Ari and myself bought the long underwear top and bottom and I had a sweater also. I carried my North Face fleece which is very bulky along for the whole trip as I didn't know how the Icebreaker stuff would be if it got really cold riding in Austria or Switzerland or anywhere else we might encounter cold weather...I never once used the fleece except for a pilow...will leave at home next time. The Icebreaker clothing was also cool when it was hot out and did not stink after wearing for a couple of days in a row and on the road that is a big plus. A bit pricey but well worth the investment.
The BMW dealership in Rome (Sa.Mo.Car. SpA) put new tires on Ari's bike and forgot to tighten the screws on the the front brake, leaving it for us to find out in the middle of traffic.
What we carried:
Three man tent, ground sheet, sleeping bags, air mattresses, a large, self made first aid kit, small Campingaz cannister with collapsable, click-in, click-out burner on top (butane-propane mixture),camping cook set with two stainless mugs, wooden spoon for cooking, couple of kitchen towels, a ball of string for hanging laundry, swiss army knife, two head lights, tools, duct tape and electrical tape, digital camera and SRL camera, maps, Frommer's '99 Italy guide book, tennis shoes and flipflops for in the showers or at the beach, Haynes manual for bikes, camping towels, toiletries and clothing: one pair of suede riding pants lasted me the entire trip (same with Ari), just the right thickness for the mainly 30 plus temperatures when we didn't need the waterproof riding pants, BMW Savanna riding boots (excellent) and the riding jacket and pants are from a Dutch company, MQP.( I took the stuff in and got new pants and a jacket free of charge as I had bought them less than a year earlier and they were leaking badly. ) 3 change of underwear, 3 change of socks, swimsuit, long underwear top and bottom, sweater, one cotton t-shirt, a fleece, one baseball cap and one fisherman cap.
Posted by Tracy Wondergem at 07:49 AM
Italy Tour in A Nutshell
This goes together with the Motorcycling Italy entry. Contains more what to see and do rather than riding info.
We've become accustomed to sleeping in our beds again instead of the sleeping bags. A hard adjustment but where there is a will...!
Italy was fabulous, Milano great food, great shopping, nice little boutique hotel in the heart of the city for only 130 euro a night (six nights of camping!).
Palermo in Sicily was one of our favorite places. The area around Perugia where we camped for three nights on the shores of Lake Trasimeno was also very nice...good sights (Siena, Perugia, Assisi), food, and people. The East Coast was also nice but I think at the height of the tourist season it would be a bit too crowded. We made our way down from Perugia through Spoleto, Terni, Rieti over to Pescara where we started on the East Coast. We met a foursome from England as we were hesitating on the restaurant we had stopped at for lunch and they said they had eaten here yesterday and were back for more so we sat down and had a great lunch. They said that Pescara was as far south as Ryan Air flies for 30 pounds a head so they all came down for a week. Nice beaches and no one around until late July....!
Further south, we rode along the spur of Italy, the Gargano Penninsula and what a breath-taking ride of color. It was like riding through someone's flower bed and orchard...all the flowers seem to be blooming and the olive tress and fruit trees were all heavy with fruit, the sea was beautiful and deserted, we would be driving along see a beach stop for a swim have a bite to eat sun ourselves dry then continue...horrible!
Bari was not as bad as it could have been but it was our first stop in the South and it took us a bit by suprise how different things were. Haven't been to S. America or Mexico but felt like we were there with the shops all closed between 1 and 4 or 5 pm, the craziest drivers, and the polluted environment. We did have a great time at the opening ceremony for the Feast of St. Nicola, the patron saint of Bari.
From Bari, we stopped to see the Trulli community at Alberobello, touristy but nice to see, and then all the way down to Reggio to catch the ferry across to Sicily. We did visit Taormina, THE PLACE TO BE, when vacationing in Sicily, perched high atop a rocky mountain that over-looks the Ionian Sea to one side and Mt. Etna to the other. We then made our way down close to Augusta and camped there for a few days and saw ruins in the area and Syracuse. The Greek and Roman ruins of Sicily are supposed to be the best in the world. We saw many and of them all we liked the Villa Romana near Piazza Armerina and the ruins at Agrigento. We saw more but would say if you see these, together with the ruins of Paestum south of Solerno, Pompei and Hadrian's Villa Adriana outside of Rome, you get the full impression of what has been left of Greek and Roman architecture.
Napoli was another place, like Palermo, where we could have easily stayed longer and look forward to returning to again. The city is alive and bustling and the cities of the Almalfi Coast (Positano, Ravello, Sorrento) are all within easy driving distance. The one place we visited we give a huge thumbs down to is Capri. Touristy, touristy, touristy doesn't begin to describe this day trip. We left fairly quickly.
In Rome, we awoke early and rode into all the parts of the city that are full of tourists most of the day and enjoyed the early morning stillness of the Trevi Fountain, the Piazza Nouvara, the Pantheon, and the ruins near Palantine Hill.
That is the tour in a nutshell...without any mention of the fabulous cathedrals with their mosaics and relics, a quaint Capuchin abbey, Gibilmanna, with a wonderful museum and 8 monks, and the great variety of local wines we enjoyed.
Posted by Tracy Wondergem at 08:01 AM
BMW Enduro School and Prague
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.
Posted by Tracy Wondergem at 12:01 AM