“Well that’s that then” I muttered quietly….staring at the bike with Barry outside the motorbike showroom. I’d just signed MISTRESS MABLE II over to the motorbike shop, she was no longer mine. By tomorrow it will be sparkling clean, sterile even. It will be stripped of my character my smell and looking for a new owner. It’s the end of motorbikes for me…for now. Some of you might think it’s a bit sudden and unexpected, but the plan was whichever Honda Gold Wing I had was going to be my last. The three consecutive Honda Goldwings have suited my needs for the past 8 yrs. I’d owned a previous three Honda Goldwings amongst the dozen or so other bikes over the previous 20 yrs. Will I miss it? Well yes I probably will I suppose. I’ve been on motorbikes for the past 38 years. However since owning my Land Rover, I’ve discovered another exciting world and I love it!! Father time is gripping my bones especially my wrists and thumbs, the wanderlust for new adventures makes me hungry; the green hills of faraway lands beckon both me and my red truck. Meanwhile let me tell you about our very last motorbike adventure into Germany back in July
…Tom and Michelle arrived about lunchtime on Friday in great sunshine and high spirits, Julie put the kettle on we sat out on the lawn and talked over the last few things and cleared up last minute questions to each other about body and bike. Drinking tea and pondering my yellow route on the map we double checked the route and distance for tomorrow’s first full days rid on the continent. I was getting excited at the thought again in spite of the many trips Id done, leaving the ferry first thing in the morning onto foreign soil always make me nervous with excitement! A copy of all the hotel bookings was stashed in Michelle’s bag. We decided to make a move, it was mid afternoon and we were getting itchy to be off. Pooka was despatched to the garden and our property was secured.
Hull lay east and was less than 50 miles away it was in easy reach, in fact we reached it within the hour, the M62 was fairly empty so a steady 70 mph was the speed we chose. Id got a great deal with in independent travel firm in Beverley, who knocked about £70 per couple of the price quoted by P+O, it’s amazing the difference in price one gets quoted when shopping around!
Waiting on top of the P+O building ready to board
Remember everyone that you can make the smaller photographs larger by placing your curser on the photograph and double left clicking!
We did the passport thing and exchanged paperwork riding up on the roof of the P+O building and waited for the ship’s crew to make the boat ready. We would cross into the side of the boat via a metal bridge measuring about 60 feet by 10. As usual there was a line of motorbikes and we pulled in behind them, most were Germans returning after their touring holidays here in England. They had been on a huge charity run for some disabled child back home in the fatherland. The radio crackled into life and the dock side chap waved us forward to the boat. Loading for bikes and a large amount of the cars on this boat is not achieved via the front or rear but by a square mouse-hole halfway up the boat at deck 7, as I’ve mentioned to get to it one had to negotiate a long narrow metal road bridge that was fixed at one end to the roof of the P+O building, spanning across about 60 feet of empty space across to the flexible mount at the mouse-hole at deck 7.
Once inside the orange figures pointed every bike to a precise spot in the bike paddock, this was a fenced off area in the middle of the boat, the whole deck is lined so one theoretically stays in the same lane from check in to parking up inside the ferry , our paddock had two lines of bikes packed in with just a foot or two between them. Plenty of lashing down straps are available, the new ones had a thick piece of rubber attached and fit over the bike seat. Signs encouraged bikers to strap their own bikes down, something I’ve always done over the years, though I’ve often seen crew double check some straps but it looks like the responsibility was now being passed to the bikers themselves. Anyone not quite sure what to do on their first trip in a ferry is soon offered help by other bikers. Some put enough straps on the secure King Kong! Personally I use just three straps, one over the seat, one from front crash bar to rear ground hook and one from rear bar to front ground hook, I leave the bike in gear and always on the side stand, it’s never fallen over in twenty or more years so I guess it works!
We marched up to deck 10 deposited our overnight bags in the room and went to the Irish Bar at the back..sorry the stern I mean! It was on several levels with the stage right down there on the 1st landing the bars and the banisters curved round to let everyone get a good eye and earful of the evenings concert. Whilst they are not fantastic they are well put together by a hard working troop of youg entertainers and worthy of applause.
In the Irish Bar on the ferry
Most of the audience are thinking about journeys and double checking in their minds that they have everything or heading homeward and reflecting of a great time, or just plain old drunk as they head for their stag or hen night. Tom met one such familiar drunk, a fellow scooter boy en-route to a stag party in Holland. The guy never gave Tom the time of day previously as he was a Leeds Utd supporter and Tom follows Man U! But the drink washed away such barriers and they chatted a while, an hour or so later matey boy was spotted deep in slumber completely wasted and he hadn’t even reached bloody Holland yet! We planned our evening a bit more carefully and retired around midnight, we lost an hour as we hit the continent.
The day was warm and dry as we poured out from the black bowels of the ferry onto Dutch soil, it was about 9.00hrs when we were all waved through by the courteous customs official and policeman after a very quick glance at our passports. We cleared the dock area and drove onto the motorway just half a mile away. To our left was the sprawling Rotterdam Euro-port and to our right was the wide estuary of the River Maas. It took about 20 minutes to pass the sprawling Euro-port complex. Our speed was about 70mph as we moved along with the heavy traffic of lorries vans and trucks pulling their huge white containers, holiday makers, locals and English caravans. All the bikers had bolted far ahead, we on the other hand had took a while longer to leave the tide of incoming holiday makers behind. We only had an easy 250 miles to our first overnight stop which was about half way to Dresden the first of three cities we would be exploring.
Outside the first hotel…just an overnight stay
About 80 miles past the Ruhr region we stopped at our hotel in the village of Breuna. The hotel was small and quiet but had a bar and did food, it was only an overnight stop and would do nicely. The lady running the bar and food was from Spain and spoke very little German! Now the only Spanish I know is “Two beers if you please thank you” But we managed as usual and had a good night, ate well and drank mucho beerio!
I awoke early and went down to take the covers off both bikes. I put my key in to turn the engine over…it just went “click” I stood and stared at it in disbelief I was fully awake now! I tried again but still it wouldn’t turn over. Click click fooking click!! No lights no horn, nada! Last night Id left the key in and in park mode for a while whilst buggering about contacting the owner to come and open the hotel then booking in and gettingt sorted out in the room. I just didn’t realize how long Id left the key in. I knocked on his door and woke Tom; quickly he got dressed and followed me downstairs. Luckily the road ran down a hill so we pushed it a couple of yards to gather speed and I tapped the bike into second gear, we did this twice but not a murmur from the engine, she was truly flat, flat as a fart! I parked up and we looked around. We looked across the road at the open double garage doors, and saw a car a motorbike and tyres hung on the wall and various tools, it looked so organized this guy surly must have a set of jump leads! Tom knocked on the door, it was answered by a mature old German guy with a biker T shirt on, Tom could speak some German I spoke less but saying “ Ja mien Auto ist Kaput” We made the motions of jump leads, he smiled saying “ Ja come come “and led us into his garage and handed us some jump leads. Oh god bless the uber efficient Germans! I got my tools out as Tom brought his bike from the hotel fifty yards away, we soon had his battery out of its cradle and hooked up to my flat one and she coughed into life just as Herr Biker boy brought over some coffee’s from his kitchen! I let the bike run whilst packing up thanking the man very much for his help and the cups of thick black coffee. I left the bike running for as Julie packed the overnight bag; lastly we had our first continental breakfast of bread jam and cold meats or cheese in the Spanish kitchen of the German hotel. Thirty minutes later we rejoined the Autobahn heading east towards Dresden. It was a silly mistake on my part but these things do happen and makes up the adventure. However for the rest of the tour Tom, Michelle and Julie kept asking me if I had my keys!
Tom “photobombs” this shot, taken at our fuel stop.
Dresden is in the former East Germany and lies about 200 miles south of Berlin. It’s a place I’ve wanted to visit for a long time in fact some biker friends had been there recently and said how beautiful it was. Riding along on the Autobahn we saw huge man made mountains of soil that got my attention as they looked like old pit slag heaps that used to dot around mining villages. Pretty soon we passed close by them and that’s exactly what they were. A single tree was growing out of the very top of one of them. In England the old coal spoil heaps had been stepped and graded as a safety precaution after the Aberfan disaster in 1966 when over 40.000 cubic metres of spoil swept into the Welsh village destroying several farms and houses and the little primary school where 114 little children were killed along with 28 adults. You can read more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abervan
I remember as a child the spoil heap seen from the front door of our house 50 years ago. It used to frighten the life out of me. A huge snake like metal structure ran up the spine of the mountain it had a big head with two shining eyes, it carried the mechanized buckets to the top by wire pulleys before tipping the waste out and returning back to the pit for another bucketful, this went on for years. I guess it can be best described to folk of today as a monstrous grey armoured ski lift. The snake was extended out further as the spoil reached a certain level. The beast was lit up at night and I remember being very frightened of it! I was about 3 of 4 years old at the time. Seeing these abandoned Spoil Mountains and the old rusted metal snakes brought the childhood memories back to me. I don’t suppose health and safety issues or public fears were of any concern to the Communist state at the time.
We pulled over for fuel just the once today as it was only another 250 mile journey, the stop was just a few miles from Dresden so was handy to have a look again as to where exactly we needed to be. Dresden was a big city and would be busy and a bit chaotic to any stranger. We came off the slip road after a few miles and slowed down to let Mistress Garmin take charge, slowing down is the key in cities when letting your Sat Nav guide you, go fast and you will have missed your turn! It’s quite funny listening to “Mistress Garmin” as she struggles with the non English place names. We had to content with tram lines and large cobbled sections of road, I didn’t know which was the lesser of the two evil to be honest. Our two large heavy bikes were brilliant on the autobahns but could be a handful on cobbles or tramlines, extreme care was required! I found the German motorists quite tolerable towards us on motorbikes as we carefully pick our way through the busy places, perhaps this is partly because of their attitude towards pedal cyclist. Cycling is a huge thing here in Germany. Even at T junctions when it’s your right of way cyclists still have the right of way over you so one needs to be constantly on the look-out for cyclists, so going quite slow in the first city was very important as we got ourselves in the same mindset of those around us. As usual Mistress Garmin led us right to the front door of the hotel.
The hotel was a really old two story building set back from the road, the parking was around the back amongst the old out building, it was quiet and safe. The hotel was full of horsey stuff even one of the bar stools was a real leather saddle that had been fixed to the stools frame black and white photos adorned the walls they were of a race track and all manner of horse racing around the 1900’s. The owners of the hotel still own quite a few horses so that was the connection with the décor to the family. We got our rooms sorted then joined Tom and Michelle out in the large beer garden and the waiting beers. It had been a good transit day in hot weather, the Autobahn wasn’t too populated which was pleasant considering all our previous tours south through Germany to the Alps were usually full of traffic. Diane gave us some English menus and helped with the food order in between fetching round after round of beer!
Our Dresden Hotel
“Oh my, you English, you drink sooo quickly!” Well it had been a hot day, the glasses were smaller and it tasted really nice. That was the last we saw of little Diane, she went on holiday for the remainder of our stay. Tom and Michelle suffered a failure of their headsets on the ride into Dresden and couldn’t hear their Garmin, the wires are so very fine and Tom forgot his tools so a repair he decided not to do, it was an inconvenience for him but not a huge drama as I still had mine. To cap it all the following day his Garmin ran out of steam and wouldn’t come on at all. He’d left it turned on and so it had run the internal battery flat overnight in its case (Flat Battery incident No2)
A copied photo showing the still bombed out ruin that was the Church of Our Lady, all the rubble has finally been cleared away but nothing had been rebuilt. The caption said this was from the 1970’s.
This is the Church of our Lady today… in the restored Old Quarter
Let me tell you a little about Dresden before we go any further…Dresden is the capital city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany and has a population of around half a million people It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe near the Czech border. Dresden has a long history as the capital and royal residence for the Kings of Saxony who for centuries furnished the city with cultural and artistic splendour. The city was a Jewel Box, because of its baroque and rococo city center. However during WWII intense Allied aerial bombing over two nights started an intense firestorm, the bombing the following night stoked the fires and a huge area of the city was eradicated by the firestorm. By the end of that one bombing raid 25,000 civilians had been killed and the firestorm destroyed the entire city center. The impact of the bombing and 40 years of urban development during the East German communist era have considerably changed the face of the city. Some restoration work has helped to reconstruct parts of the historic inner city. Since German reunification (Dresden was in East Germany) In 1990 Dresden had regained importance as one of the cultural, educational, political and economic centers of Germany and Europe. Dresden is twinned with Coventry here in England which suffered from equal destruction from Nazi bombing in 1940. Getting bombed must have been devastating enough but the intense firestorms that swept through the likes of Coventry Dresden Hamburg Tokyo still haunts people today. The Dresden firestorm was of such ferocity and magnitude that 25.000 people perished in the flames over the two nights of bombing.
The old Quarter of Dresden
Fantastic views from the top of The Church of Our Lady
We found our way to the tram stop a couple of streets away and took a ride into the middle of the old part of Dresden. The trams were modern, very clean and manned just by one person, the driver. one could either pre pay for a rover style ticket at the hotel or buy one from the automatic machine on the tram, it was so very simple. It must have been because we had it sorted by the end of the first day! They had tram routes painted on the vehicles similar to the ones on our London underground with coloured routes, in each carriage an LED sign lit up stating what stop we were at and an automatic voice announced it too. For the main terminus in the city centre that particular announcement was also in English. Hey you’ve just got to give these guys top marks for the whole set up!
With the events of WWII and then falling under the cold iron grip of Communism for the following 50 years I wasn’t prepared for the huge beautiful rebuilt buildings in and around the old quarter, the centre is dominated by a huge concrete domed structure not unlike our St Pauls Cathedral, It’s called The Dresden Frauenkirch which means in English “Church of our Lady” It was originally Roman Catholic, but then the Protestants got hold of it and now it’s a Lutheran Church! It’s certainly the centre piece of Dresden. For many years this was just a huge pile of rubble but they began to rebuild it, in fact the rebuild was only completed in 2005. We just stood and stared at it and the surrounding buildings. We jumped at the chance of walking up to the very top of the dome to take in the views of the city and the River Elbe, to see it twist and wind its way into the hazy distance. I tried for the pensioner rate of entry but he laughed and said “Nein! In Germany pension age is at 65, unt u are not 65…full price pleeze”! I smiled and paid up. The girls went down after a while as Tom and I stared on in wonderment at the buildings below, trying to decide which was original and which was new. It was a difficult thing to do, Tom used to be a stone mason but even he couldn’t decide for sure until we went up close then he could see the techniques used this opened up the buildings approx age. But to the ordinary person it looked original though a bit cleaner!
The painting was directly onto the wall, it has ben re-created recently…in fact everything in the Old Quarter has.
Most of the morning was spent looking up!
The trams had the right of way… ALWAYS!
It was an excellent backdrop for a photo in every direction.
The rest of the morning was spent looking up at the beautiful majestic looking buildings. We decided to take a bus tour of the city; our headphone played an English description whilst in the old parts. The tour was extensive and lasted three hours, I thought it was well worth the £10 or so each, we crossed the River Elbe several times visiting different districts.
I had to keep reminding myself that these buildng have all been rebuilt.
One of the many enclosed courtyards.
Julie and Michelle relaxing by the fountain.
It blew a cool breeze on ones back!
The concert Hall…..one of many in Dresden.
It was clear that since German reunification in 1990 Dresden has regained importance as one of the cultural, educational, political and economic centres of Germany and Europe. It was late afternoon when we took the other tram back to our hotel thirty minutes out of town. We flopped down in the hotel beer garden to energize our legs take in some refreshment and plot our second day! We all agreed to Tom’s idea to take a boat ride on one of the world famous steam boats and had got tickets on the way home. This would take us down river we would see the sumptuous properties along the high banking and vineyards of the west bank. We would also see the city buildings on the east bank.
After another good night exploring different German beers and sampling excellent cuisine at the hotel we…no…I.. wondered off to bed in the wee small hours. We met in the breakfast hall and fine tuned our day. The effect of the German beer was extraordinary, no fuzziness and no hangover whatsoever! Tom explained about the extra chemicals that is poured into our own stuff to make it exactly like the perfect water in Burton-on-Trent, thought to be the best in England for brewing beers, its these extra chemicals that make us feel the way we do the morning after. Tom is a mind of information an ex stone mason as well as being a scooter boy he is a brewer with Timothy Taylors in Keighley so knows what he is talking about with a large degree of expertise. My phone died during the evening as I sent a text to friends declaring the bar open in Dresden. (Flat Battery No 3) Breakfast on the continent is mainly buffet style and comprises of cold meats, cheese, fruit, cereals and different breads. I like in particular their dark bread. Also available was toast, cold sausages, fish and as much coffee and tea as you wanted if you looked you would find a small basket with a towel covering, this was the boiled eggs. Very occasionally you will find a poor excuse for bacon, but to be honest its best left alone. It’s not at all what we English are used to. The first bacon sarni on the ferry back home tastes oh so very nice! An old German frau in a hotel in Berchtesgaden said to me once at breakfast “You English, you make the most vunderful bacon compared to this stuff” No its best left well alone, it’s just too upsetting! Tomorrow we would take the bikes to Schloss Colditz which lay about an hour away and a definite tick box in my “Things to do before I depart” dossier! We tucked into breakfast at the buffet trying the various foods on offer.
The motorbikes came to life after a couple of days rest, we set Mistress Garmin in motion and she pointed us into the morning traffic taking us west out of the city amongst the dodgy cobbles and tram lines, for sure these are the two most disliked road surfaces in my world… the third being loose grey shale. Tom took the lead. I can still remember that near fatal accident leaving the old Sea Link ferry on a dark and wet start to a solo adventure onto French soil. I got lost in an unfamiliar dockyard area in the dark and in the middle of a down pour on my fully loaded red and black Moto Guzzi California 1100cc; it must have been around 1990. I skidded first on the cobbles then got stuck in the bloody tram lines, I nearly went down under the wheels of an oncoming dockside goods engine, I soon woke up on that occasion I can tell you!
This was too good to miss, we pulled in behind this fat Herman in his scuttle helmet for a giggle, Julie managed this excellent photo, when rode past him I glanced acrocc he was really huge and had a big bushy ‘tash He ass nearly covered all the little scooter! Oh how I wish we could have photographed him fromthe side and front as well!
We took a short run on the Autobahn westwards then turned off onto side roads for the next twenty miles, traffic was light the sun was up, the sky was a lovely blue. What a nice day to ride along the country lanes of north east Germany! We hit a diversion sign and had to feel our way around the narrow lanes in roughly the direction we thought we ought to be going. Its instances like these when Garmin is not very helpful, all it tries to do is take you back to the deviation point until a few miles has passed then it re-calculates, eventually putting you back on the route, the problem was we didn’t know how far the road was shut for and we kept arriving at another closed section of the road we wanted to be on. After about ten miles we saw the sign for Colditz. It’s actually a small town though quite possibly the most famous small town for a generation of people, it’s just another small town so the signs for it could only be seen just a few miles from it, so some adventuring had to be done and small roads explored, just one U turn was required. Today we were right on the nail and found Colditz exactly in front of us.
We rode in and pointed the bikes towards the schloss sign, the word schloss means castle in German…and a letter U on a yellow plate mean another bleeding deviation Gott in Himmel! We parked up and stripped off our heavy bike kit turning into four colourful English tourists in shorts shirts flip flops and trainers. The castle sits high up above the village on a massive outcrop of rock; we walked round the outside looking for the main gate and the reception. The ladies told us there would be a guide tour in an hour and that we could go down into the village square for some lunch, the tour would last about 3 hours!
A light lunch!!
From the leaflet I quote….Colditz Castle was built as a fortress in the 11th century and was used in many different ways by the ruling family until 1787. In 1800 it was decided to establish a place for vagabonds and was then converted into a mental hospital until the 1930’s. In 1939 Colditz Castle became a special camp for Allied Officers and the legendary story of Colditz Castle as a prisoner of war camp began…unquote.
A cardboard cut out of an English officer with a half dummy this guy took the place of people escaping many times at roll call.
Our guide pointing to the enclosed garden exercise area and talking about more exploits!
I saw this old photo recently whilst researching fo the write up. If Julie had panned right she would have been looking at the exact spot where the guards are parading on the black and white photo….And if Fritz had kept on walking he would have tripped over Michelle’s foot!!
Role reversal.. This time its me sat in a prison cell!! This is an actual prison cell of a top ranking English officer POW.
Our guide told us where the best place was to get a good view of the castle, we went one beter and rode up onto the pavement on the bridge then Tom and I knelt on the roadand took a couple of photos.
US troops entered Colditz town after a two-day fight and captured it and the castle. Butn May 1945 at the end of the war Germany had been carved up between the East and West and so it fell under Communist rule. The Soviets turned Colditz Castle into a prison camp for local burglars and non-communists. Later, the castle was a home for the aged and a nursing home as well as a hospital and psychiatric clinic. For many years after the war, forgotten hiding places and tunnels were found by repairmen, including a radio room set up by the British POWs, which was then “lost” again only to be re-discovered some ten years later. During 2006–07, the castle underwent a significant amount of refurbishment and restoration; the castle walls were repainted to reflect the look of the castle pre World War II. With renovations largely completed, the castle now includes both a museum and guided tours showing some of the escape tunnels built by Allied prisoners. The buildings on the outer forecourt have been converted into a youth hostel and so one can stay for the night in Colditz Castle!
Our guide was brilliant she spoke great English and recounted dozens of stories both sad and funny, she was a very bubbly girl and quite funny to listen to, our group was about eight in total and listened intently to everything she said. The escape attempts were fantastic to listen to, most failures seemed to be down to bad luck, for example one French Officer dressed as a woman had actually managed to convince the guards and walked through the gate but dropped his/her purse, an English gentleman prisoner of war motioned to the fallen purse. An equally gentlemanly German guard picked up the purse and ran after the “Madam” calling out to her. The French Officer turned around thinking he had been rumbled and took off his wig and put his hands up! All attempts had been documented and photographed and distributed to other camps for security and here I was now looking at actual escape equipment and the documents. The black and white photographs were amazing. We spent a good hour in the museum before the tour began. Over the years some ex prisoners have re-visited to the delight of the people running the museum. One such gentleman apparently told them to pull some bricks out from a particular wall behind it and they “discovered” a home built radio. As a former prison officer I was fascinated by all this stuff. Originally the ratio was 1 guard to 5 POW’s but as the escape attempts increased the ratio was increased to practically 5 guards to 5 POW’s! During its time as a “super-dooper” secure POW camp hundreds of escape attempts were made with over thirty being successful mainly French Dutch and personnel. The English prisoners completed some notable “home runs” but found it more difficult to make their way across Europe on the longer routes back to England. We left that afternoon amazed at mans capabilities against all odds. We retraced our route back to Dresden in the late afternoon and had dinner in the beer garden in the evening sunshine. It had been another great day. I’ll be watching one of the Colditz movies again when I get home no doubt!
After breakfast we took the morning tram ride to the old centre agin then made our way down to the River Elbe to board a boat known as The Sächsische Dampfschiffahrt of Dresden.
It is the oldest and biggest paddle steamer fleet in the world. It consists of nine wheel steamers two saloon ships and two motor ships it was formerly known as the White Fleet. These river trips are extremely popular with visitors and I’m very glad we had pre booked the day before because the quayside was very busy, when our boat opened its doors to the gangplank all the older Germans surged forward! Much as they seemed to have things sorted in their world they just don’t have a clue about forming an orderly line, everyone had a ticket therefore everyone was going to get on right? Yet still the stupid old people elbowed and pushed their way forward, even the older infirm folk tried to push their way past. What the fuck is wrong with these idiots? Did they think the Russians were coming again or something? How I kept my gob shut I don’t know. “The Superior Race” my fooking ass I smirked to myself! Julie and I smirked at each other thinking the same thing! Tom and Michelle played them at their own game and blocked their progress sticking their elbows out. I could see them smiling as the old gits shuffled around behind them muttering. We slowed down and annoyed one or two and watched in amazement as the late arrivals pushed in from the side. They even left the old dear in the wheel chair until the end. Maybe this is the remnants of the superior race showing through the older bstards? I guess a leopard never changes its spots eh?
Everyone got settled and got a seat much to the surprise of the old guard back there! Our boat pushed of and set off North up the Elbe towards the vineyards. We were on the SS Dresden she was an oil fired paddle steamer, she was 94 years old so started off as coal fired, the engine was huge and mainly copper and brass in colour, two huge monster pistons slowly thrust back and forth, it was so very smooth and not as noisy as you’d expect, I’ve never seen an engine so clean except perhaps the engine room on the Royal Yacht Britannia which is now an amazing floating museum up there in Leith, Edinburgh. The old Dresden paddled her way up the river showing us some wonderful sights, every time we came to a bridge the funnel folded back on hinges and the steam whistle sounded, a shrill howl and a huge gout of steam making several people jump, it was only a couple of feet above us on top of the wheelhouse,
we passed under many bridges and a bridge of note was the “The Blue Wonder” folklore says that it was painted green and after a few days it turned blue due to the sun’s effect on the paint pigment! However a recent report states the bridge was in fact painted blue all along! Oh well it’s a nice story to hear as one passes underneath bracing for the mechanical howl and laughed at Fritz as he jumped out of his skin again!
I am actualy waving at kids on the riverbank honest!
The bridges connected the city to two of the more affluent parts of Dresden, looking up at the big beautiful houses and several small castles amongst the vineyards certainly had the wow! factor, unfortunately the lush green trees and foliage prevented me from taking any decent photos. The boat ride lasted several hours and took care of the day nicely.
Back on dry land after the boat ride.
Heading back to the Old Quarter for some dinner.
We enjoyed dinner in the sunshine the large piazza under the shadow of the beautiful Frauenkirch then spent a while people watching, one of my favourite pastimes. The weather had been great every day so far, cloudless blue skies everyday with a temperature in the late twenty’s. Not uncomfortable at all.
The idea is for six people to sit and drink whilst peddling, its geared to be peddled such a way. The seventh sits in line with the bike and steers
We made our way back to the hotel on the tram in the early evening and finished off another great day in the beer garden. Tomorrow we would move on to our next city, we were going to Potsdam which is a very historic and affluent quarter of Berlin.
The morning was nice and warm, blue skies and warm sunshine greeted us again as we loaded the bikes, our journey today was just under 200 miles, we planned to go on the little roads all the way north exploring the villages. We would be making slow progress today riding in the rural countryside joining the dots from the villages between Dresden and Potsdam. Riding out of Dresden along the half cobbled and half tarmac roads was slow and methodical, crossing the tram lines as near to a right angle as possible! We made our way to Meissen then turned north to Grossenhain onto the 101 north. The land was rural and had lots of forests, it took us on one occasion about twenty minutes at 40 mph to pass through one, that’s one hell of a forest I can tell you!
A good place to have a photograph taken!
The roads were old but in good condition, the population was light around these parts and the traffic infrequent, most choose to travel on the two Autobahns that were miles away to our left and right. A large rain cloud appeared to our front as Mistress Garmin took us on one of her infrequent side tours and we missed the heavy shower just a field or two away. I didn’t know Garmin had a rain avoidance facility!?? We actually figured out on this occasion why she did this, the side road actually brought us into the market square of Jutborg, I had tapped it in as a waypoint and was planning for us to stop here for lunch. The other road we were on would have took us into the rain!
Doing the rabbit!!
Jutborg is a small town with a couple of medieval towers and some remnants of the old defence wall stood here and there. I’d spotted a pub on the way in that did lunch so we walked back to it. Finding a spot in the corner we dumped all our bike gear in another corner. The bar tender greeted us warmly, we all opted for the goulash. The weather had turned a bit damp and colder but we were confidant it would clear up soon. Deer skulls and antlers hung on every bit of space of the wooden walls, a couple of shields and old weapons hung on big nails too. The goulash and potatoes when it came was very tasty, we noticed how different this popular dish was in the various regions, In Southern Germany for example the goulash was very different to today’s bowl here in the Brandenburg region that it could have been given a completely different name. We would probably call it a beef broth.
The Russian War Cemetary
We saw a Russian war cemetery here in the village too, it held about 60 souls, the light grey headstones all had red stars, we couldn’t read or even guess what they said because Russian is impossible to read, only the dates made sense and they were mainly 1945 to 46.
We paused on a regular basis to do whatever…….
Julie thought the signs funny, we think this sign said if you went more than 80 then you would hit a tree??
We rode out of the small village missing the rain squall nicely, and carried on northwards towards Potsdam. We stopped for petrol a few miles down the road then took a couple of extra deviations through quiet one horse towns. It struck me how few cars there were and the ones we did see were quiet old. After another hour we followed more deviation signs onto a section of Autobahn after our road was closed. This was OK as it led us to the main road going into Potsdam. We dropped onto it after just one junction. Our hotel was zeroed in with Mistress Garmin and she took us straight to it. Unfortunately Id taken a left turn just a few metres before the one we actually should have and we ended up down a country lane that came out at the rear of the hotel complex! We were here but we couldn’t get to the foyer just fifty yards away due to the little fence and the pedestrian way. We turned around back to the main road and took the other right turn! This brought us to the foyer. Id turned off too early and came out at the tram station attached to the rear of the hotel complex.
The Kongresshotel in Potsdam is situated on the shores of Lake Templiner in Potsdam and is built on the site of the old zeppelin (airships) hangers. There are several buildings that make up the hotel complex and have been designed to represent zeppelin airships. It was difficult to photograph from ground level, so the two photos shown are from one of the hotel PR sights. It mainly deals with business folk with conferences all day and every day and weddings and functions at the weekends.
Free Parking for Honda Goldwings.
I thought I managed to get a good deal of £194 per room for 4 nights, breakfast was extra and a bit expensive but we managed to off-set that with free parking we were allowed to park right outside the main foyer, thanks to the very understanding young lady on the desk, she saved us about £28 per bike. This we put towards our nightly bar bill! The hotel had its own trolley bus and tram terminus. We knew exactly where it was because we rode through it on our arrival by mistake! We were at the very end of the line from Potsdam central where we had to change for the S or U Bahn (underground and over ground trains) into Berlin city centre. The whole journey takes about 90 minutes and is very cheap.
So with our new information about trolley and train times we strode to the terminal a minute away just behind the hotel.
Michelle at the hotel bar and reflecting on another great day
We were making our way first to Schloss Sanssouci. It was on Julies “bucket list” She had been wanting to come to Berlin for quite a while but working with the Appy Wanderers tour almost every year since 2006 had taken up a lot of my time and most of our holidays.
Julie leads the way along Sanssouci Park.Tom and Michelle follow
A Japanese Pagoda in a Prussian Park.
Schloss Sanssouci has a walk of a nearly a mile and a half through the centre of the park starting from the immense and immaculate Neues Palais. I’ve never seen such a beautiful building and more was to come! It was a long but pleasant stroll down the long wide shale path with statues partly hidden by the fauna, fountains punctuated the pathway and great flower filled gardens lined the route. Trees hundreds of years old made some fine features practically all along our left side were green terraces and small wine developments built on the slopes. The whole garden was started around the early 1700’s by Frederick II. Sanssouci Palace was right at the end of the walk and sat on the left side high up atop a beautifully crafted terrace of vines and flowers.
Where to next Julie?
The palace took just two years to build in1744; it was built in a style known as rococo. It was very delicate looking and quite spectacular to look at, Frederick II was the King of Prussia in 1740 and also known as Frederick the Great…or Alter Fritz! (Old Fritz) He was the man who developed Prussia as a great European power, who also introduced potatoes to the nation! We spent half a day here and Julie put a big tick in her box list. I wasnt able to take photographs at all of the Palace, there were guards…I mean staff in every room watching likes hawks the people like me who had camera’s!
In the afternoon we found the bus to take us into Potsdam central and the U- Bahn station; from here we got the train into central Berlin. I figured we should get off at the Brandenburg Gate as it was central and I knew what was to see in the area. It was very much like the underground system in London, the maps are made to the same pattern so was easy to follow, also like London the rail lines ran through the outskirts ran on the surface before going underground. It was just 7 Euro each for a day rover ticket.
Tom and Michelle mingle with the crowd over Julie’s right shoulder
We are not tourists we are adventureres!!
We came up the steps to the surface to see the famous Brandenburg Gate framed against the blue sky. There were plenty of people around, a concert was about to start with a French military band on the stage. Lots of people were milling about with stalls and people dressed in animal costumes entertaining the kids it was a happy carnival atmosphere. We walked under the gate and up towards the Victory Angel. I walked acroos the road to the central reservation and took the same picture Id taken years ago when the Berlin wall was built. We made our way to the Reichstag building through the woods over to the left, this used to be the seat of government but now they have built a replacement, a magnificent modern glass and steel structure just across the parkland. The River Spree runs just behind the old building and we walked round to it, the area was dedicated to pedestrians now with wide steps walkways and seating areas. Just across the river modern glass buildings had been built and repalced the old wall abandoned ground and guard towers. On the river banking were several crosses marking where people had been shot dead whilst trying to flee from the east. The length of the river and our side of the banking was technically theirs. The crosses are set in granite now; I remember them being just little wooden white crosses years ago, similar to what we have for Remembrance Sunday. How it looks very different now. Feeling hungry we decided to look for somewhere. We walk past the British Embassy to find something to eat. We came across a line of cafe’s and settled into lunch. An hour later we were ambling around looking up at the buildings again. It was getting late in the day so we decided finding a station to go back to the hotel for dinner was a good idea. The tourist maps were pretty good but sometimes finding the road name was quite difficult and a bit of guesswork had to be done. We just had to keep our eyes peeled for the U sign for the station, eventually we spotted one and heading for the stairs we went underground then plotted our way back first to Potsdam central, we had to wait for the bus or tram to the hotel, a journey of about 90 minutes in total. Though our first attempt took nearly two hours!
On the train…..but is it the right train??
The last time I was here these were just small wooden crosses on the grassy bank of the river, East Berliners had been shot and killed by the border guards as they climbed then then grassy bank. The new buildings over the river have replaced the round topped Berlin wall watchtowers and desolate dead ground.
At the bar later that night back at our hotel we decided that in the morning we would take an open topped bus tour of the city, it’s the best way to see everything and you could get on and off as you pleased and would go back to the same exit at Brandenburg gate in the morning.
The old seat of Government was called The Riechtag
The Victory Angel is about a mile down the long straight road. You can climb to the top of it up the inner the spiral staircase, I did during my first visit with Mum and Dad.
This is a looking from the East into the West, Checkpoint Charlie is the little hut inthe middle of the road behind the photo of the U.S soldier
From the open top bus we saw new and old buildings, so far most of the new buildings are all in the western part of the city.
The bus tour tickets were about 20 Euro each for about 2 hrs with commentary in German and English. It was well worth the price as we really did see everything of interest. A lot was in the western part of the city whilst in the east they are still building and renovating. AlexanderPlatz is a huge square I remembered from a Christmas visit in the 1990’s. I spotted some modern looking glassed railway archways amongst them stood the very same pub our party had a great night! We stayed on board though as we had lots more to see. We planned to go to Potsdammerplatz after the tour because Tom wanted some more money and I wanted some batteries for the little camera…you’ve guessed it, more flat batteries! We got off the bus at the gate and walked up to Potsdammerplatz first to replenish the wallets look for some lunch then to visit an art gallery
Whilst researching what to do in Berlin Tom said that he’d like to visit the exhibition by Salvador Dali, it just so happened it was just off PotsdammerPlatz! I had seen his work as a teenager when I visited the Tate in London. Today though I just don’t think I was in the right frame of mind to take in what I was looking at, Id totally forgotten his style of modern art and depth of surrealism it just blew me away! One could just sit and stare at the amazing line drawings all day and conclude….nothing! Some were simple yet intricate fine doodles.
A Dali Doodle
Inside his head must have been a very interesting colourful but disjointed place! I don’t know how to describe it so here are a couple of copied prints. I think I came out of the gallery somewhat disjointed too.
I bought a copy of this Salvador painting many years ago from a visit to the Tate when I was first interested in Art
Here I was, 3 days of looking at Berlin with its violent war torn past, visualizing the old black and white photos of destroyed buildings; even now one can see battle scars and in between it all I go visit a Salvador Dali exhibition and got completely bowled over! I must visit an exhibition again in the future but next time, clear my mind to give it a chance! Tom on the other hand loved it so it was worth it. Outside we restarted our search for the last bit of the Berlin Wall. Tom had read and saw on a previous map that it was somewhere to the right of“Checkpoint Charlie”
Looking at “Checkpoint Charlie” This time from the west
Standing on an original piece of Berlin Wall
It proved difficult to find as the road names were hard to see then I realized we had walked to the old checkpoint from the east. It’s no wonder I lost my bearings! The original buildings had long since gone, (I was last here in the 80’s) A mock up of the checkpoint stood in the middle of the road and a couple of Germans were dressed as American soldiers, people paid to have their photos taken with them. Let me expand, Checkpoint Charlie (or “Checkpoint C”) was the name given by the Western Allies to the most famous Berlin Wall crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War.
History lesson again folks!….GDR leader Walter Ulbricht agitated and maneuvered to get the Soviet Union’s permission for the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 to stop Eastern Bloc emigration westward through the Soviet border system, preventing escape from East to West. “Checkpoint Charlie” became a symbol of the Cold War representing the separation of east and west so it’s quite a famous place to come and see. There is a museum dedicated to the escapes and the attempted escapes with photos and actual equipment, it was amazing just how tiny a space a human could squeeze into. One example of note is the little car with its springs and stuffing of the base of the driver’s seat removed, Someone curled up inside the base of the seat then the driver sat on top of them!
An section of Berlin Wall makes up the exhibition. Black and white photos show how ordinary Germans suffered at the hands of the Nazis, the exhibition is built on the site of the former Nazi Gestapo HQ.
Nearby we found the fifty metre section of actual Berlin Wall, it was very battered but very original. It formed the front wall to a small museum on the site of the old Gestapo HQ that showed how the people of Germany suffered at the hands of the Nazi’s. What happened to the Jews throughout Europe was very bad I agree but they weren’t the only people to suffer under the jackboot of the Nazi’s. We forget or don’t know, that thousand of ordinary Germans were murdered too. This was their equally awful story.
Opposite the wall in stark contrast was “Trabbi World” The Trabant car was produced by an East German car firm. It was the most common vehicle in East Germany. It had a very poor performance its outdated and inefficient two-stroke engine returned very poor fuel economy for the car’s size and was as smoky as hell. This made it the butt of many jokes in the west It produced 9 times the exhaust emissions than a comparable car from west and production shortages meant production would cease. Due to the long waiting period between ordering a Trabant and actually taking delivery (in some cases years passed because scarce materials) People who finally received one treated the car gently and were meticulous in maintaining and repairing it. The lifespan of an average Trabant was 28 years. Used Trabants would often fetch a higher price than new ones, Trabbi production reached a staggering 3.7 MILLION vehicles in 1991. A Bavarian company has recently bought the rights so watch this space! A pal owns one and one Sunday he took two lady friends around The Dales in it. It was interesting but bloody cramped said my wife! I on the other hand rode in the back of my mates Light weight military Land Rover taking photos.
Even the ruins where made to look cool in Berlin!
I know you do Julie….
From here we made our way back to Potsdammerplatz and took a ride in Europe’s fastest lift to the top of the Panoramapunkt. It was an experiance, the lift appeared not have moved there was no customary jolt, bump or anything one noramlly feels when ridng an elevator. The doors shut then opened again twenty seconds later only now we were over a hundred metres up! The views were fantastic we were able to pick out several monuments that we had walked by. The prices in the roof top café were pretty much sky high too! so we just had a swift half before returning back to Earth we found our train and made our way back to the hotel, it had been another great day.
I kept seeing this poster on the trains and thought it funny, I dont know much German but I think it may be about Cancer. Any ideas people??
It was Sunday and our last day here so we decided to spend the day in Potsdam itself, we took the bus tour around the area. Potsdam to Berlin was the equivalent to what Mayfair was London in its day the huge houses looked amazing but are just too big and quite a few are empty these days. There used to be a large military presence in Potsdam as late as the 1920’s but these building too are mostly empty, the council try to utilize the buildings, some are converted into living quarters for the not so well off but they seem to be struggling to put them all to use, this was our guides thoughts. We stopped at a famous bridge; if you are into spy thrillers and films about the cold war period then The Glienicker Brucke (bridge) is something special to see. It’s the place where captured spies were exchanged. There is just a faded white painted line across the middle of the bridge now.
It could be somewhere in Stratford-Upon-Avon but its not Its the famous Schloss Cecilienhof in Potsdam Berlin!
We got off the open topped bus nearby and walked into the grounds of Schloss Cecilienhof. Cecilienhof is famous for having been the location of the Potsdam Conference in 1945, in which the leaders of the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States took important decisions affecting the shape of post World War II Europe at the wars end. Cecilienhof is part of the Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990. It was a fascinating place to visit, but the most fascinating thing was the small road that ran down the side of it. It is now a leafy little road with the usual large houses down one side and a large wall down the other, the guide told us that the Russian KGB actually occupied most of the houses all down the lane until the white paint on the wall stopped! The world leaders gathered just over the wall to decide Germany’s fate and the sneakiest most deadly Russian agency sat just a stone’s throw away! How surreal is that?!
We spent most of the morning here before going back outside to wait briefly for one of the tour buses to come by then carried on our Potsdam city tour.
Studying the menu in the Dutch Quarter
Returning to the square and the end of the tour Tom thought we should find the Dutch quarter and have lunch, so with map in hand we four tourists set off in search of it. The Prussians (the Germans around these parts were actually known as Prussians back in those days) The Prussians were having trouble draining the area, it was quite waterlogged some of the land was very boggy but they really wanted to build their fine houses right here! So they built an area that resembled Amsterdam to try and coax Dutch engineers to come live here and use their expert knowledge to drain the land and oversea the building work. Even now they are investing and redeveloping at least one of the old canals. We found the Dutch quarter and a nice Dutch pub so we found an empty table sitting outside to have lunch, much of Potsdam has been developed now with pedestrians in mind and most of the traffic is directed around the edges. We made our way back to the tram terminus by the river and rode the few miles back to the hotel. We spent the rest of the afternoon packing the bags and sorting the motorbikes out ready for our move in the morning up to the Northern edge of Germany to the Baltic Coast and the seaport of Stralsund. This is a place I’ve wanted to visit for years and was really looking forward to it.
Another motorbike joined ours in the foyer entrance for the last night.
It was early the smartly dressed girls in the huge dining area fussed around the tables clearing and re setting the tables, it was Monday morning and we were the last of the weekend tourists, for the rest of the week it would be business meeting and the like until the following weekend. The 12 Euro each for breakfast per day was by far the most expensive, but it was more than just breads, jams, and cold meats. It had everything you could think of…even the rubbish see through bacon! I thought it was on reflection money well spent. There wasn’t anywhere else nearby to get breakfast and we did get free parking right under the camera and floodlights so we clawed 6 Euro per bike per day back. We settled our bill after breakfast and thanked the girls again for letting us park in the foyer area. “Keys?” said Tom “fook off” I laughingly replied and looked in my pockets for them! I started the bike up and let her tick over whilst packing the last bag and wiped both windscreens clean of bugs. It’s about the only thing that needed cleaning we had enjoyed bright sunshine and dry roads practically every day.
We set off just after the rush hour, I thought we would take the ring road around both Potsdam and Berlin, then dropping off it to take the smaller northern pointing roads to explore the countryside. We had only 200 miles to cover and all day to do it in.
It was another warm day with sunshine and cloud, perfect riding weather for riding the bike to be honest; there is nothing worse than riding in hot sunshine especially when wearing half a cow! We rode up the road heading for Neubrandenburg. We began to see more and more trees again in fact on one stretch we rode for about 30 minutes in dense forest at around 50mph. Now that was some forest! The next village was Ravensbruck, the name rang a bell, it was another of those infamous German village names that’s remembered as a concentration camp. We decided we’d have a wonder down the road towards it so signalling right we turned off the forest road and followed the signs down the small road.
Toms stands next to the Joseph Stalin tank
A few minutes down the way we saw a Russian war memorial; it was an unusual concrete monument of a woman holding a baby, behind it an old rusting Joseph Stalin Tank sat. Tom wondered why they hadn’t removed it he thought perhaps they would should have removed it in light of what they have done to them. I didn’t know quite what to think about it.
Framed within the outline of the tank
On one hand the Russians were the liberators of many Nazi concentration camps in the eastern part of Germany But on the other hand had also pulled the veil of the Iron Curtain over half of Germany and kept the people in darkness and deprived them of freedom, well that’s what the history books tell us. But seeing this and similar Red Army memorials it kind of questions that thought to be honest.
Ravensbruck or what was left of it in the forest was a memorial building and nothing much more. No camp or any of the buildings. It was a female and children’s concentration camp, 25% were Polish and surprisingly 19% of the females were German. Approx 100,000 women died there as did ALL THE CHILDREN. After visiting Dachau several years ago Julie and I didn’t really fancy going inside one of these places again. Both Tom and Michelle decided they didn’t wanted to go inside after all so we just sat and looked from the bikes at the area and the monuments. I couldn’t help but wonder how people could live around here knowing what happened here 70 yrs ago, Yet along the small road were plenty of large nice looking homes along the road to the camp it really did seem an odd place to live.
We rode back to the road north and carried on our journey through the thick forest.
Bikes at rest
We had lunch in the quant village of Friedland, parking in the cobbled square outside the café; the locals were interested in the bikes and the lady in the café very welcoming and helpful with the menu. I don’t suppose they get many foreign tourists here? We stayed a while drinking and eating in the midday sunshine. Tom and I took a look around the village square and took a few photos before returning to the bikes.
Two bikes soon turned into three!
We didn’t have too far to go so didn’t rush lunch. We had in fact turned away from our planned route and took in more of the countryside; it was very rural and quiet. We head towards Anklam and onto the coast road to Stralsund, it was around here that we saw two Honda Goldwings, the first passed us at one of our fuel stops, it was a horrible limey green colour and came from Germany the guys tooted and waved as they passed by. The second bike we saw an hour or so later and was a darker green it had Polish plates on, we saw these guy at a junction and nodded and smiled but they hardly made an effort to smile..That’s Poland struck of my Christmas card list then! Presently we came upon the coast road and pushed along to Stralsund passing many trucks coming east from Poland towards the coastal towns of Stralsund Rostock and Lubeck about a hundred or so miles further on in the west.
This road was well worn and pitted, just a few miles adjacent of us inland ran the spanking new Autobahn so new in fact that it hadn’t opened fully yet. Stralsund came into view after twenty miles, the huge road bridge that took the traffic from the mainland to the island of Rugen came into view first, Rugen is just about the most northerly tip of Germany and extremely popular with the Germans as a holiday destination as we would find out over the coming days. I now switched on Mistress Garmin for directions with the last few miles into and through the city and to take us directly to the hotel. She is an excellent help when finding our final destinations even if she did try and take us into the back end of the last hotel via the pedestrian route!
Tropicana or Stralsund?
Our hotel in Stralsund was down a leafy avenue five minutes from the city walls. We pulled into the small parking area and went inside to check in. The time was about four in the afternoon, we had been on the road today for seven hours. The hotel was a very homely large house rather than a standard type hotel. The rooms were not as plush as in the last few hotels but still superior to most English rooms of a similar standing. The bar was not a bar as such, but they could provide drinks at the lounge area ofthe foyer up until 22.00hrs that’s when the person on the desk locked up and went home. OK so that was no problem in spite of what you guys reading this might think! The walled town was only a fifteen minute walk away so that was what we would do, have a few before we went out and carry on after nice saunter into town. First I wanted a shower and a lie down for half an hour, it hadn’t been a long mileage day but long in time due to us stopping frequently and I for one felt like being still for a few minutes.
We stepped out into the early evening after a few drinks in the foyer and made our way to the town, the receptionist gave us directions saying we wouldn’t need a map as the old part of town wasn’t that huge and everything of interest was within the old walls, we just had to walk to the huge gateway about a mile in front of us, making sure one kept the sea to our left going into town and to the right coming out of town is all we needed to remember on the first night! She was quite right in her description too, after walking through the huge gateway the first square was lined with tables and chairs from at least half a dozen restaurants. We chose the nearest and sat down, the waiter brought a couple of menu’s and we got stuck into it, looking at what others were eating, asking the staff the usual tourist questions “What’s this? What’s that? How big is it?” etc etc. It wasn’t long before we chose something. The drinks we found easier to deal with and simply opted for the local brew. During our stay in Stralsund I chose variations of Herring meals, I’d seen lots of it on the tables and it looked really appetizing and of course it was fished locally. The local lager/beer was very smooth, the glass was even smoother. “Stortbecker” was the name and the logo showed a sailing ship with huge canvas sails blowing in the wind, I think the shape of the glass was meant to copy this? I would have loved to have brought one home but I never actually got around to it. I guess it will have to wait until we are in that area again!
Tuesday morning was nice with warm sunshine and no cloud and had been so for practically all the tour. The temperature today was about 23 degrees. We had looked at the map and decided to have a tour of Rugen Island. Tom wanted to take the lead this morning so we switched the Sat Nav’s on and set off….the wrong way! I could see the big bridge behind us as we rode up on the Autobahn. I motioned to Tom and I came off at the next exit just a mile or so down the road.
The problem was that Tom couldn’t hear his Sat Nav as his head set it had fallen silent just a few days into the trip, so, as well as getting used to driving on the wrong side of the road and learning how to use his newly acquired but silent Sat Nav he was having to look closely at the screen against the suns reflection and it was making his day as leader pretty difficult. We turned around and Tom set off in the right direction, I sat back giving him a lot more distance than usual between us. I didn’t want Tom worrying about me right behind him. Going the wrong way is no big deal really it just means we are going a different way. Unfortunately it wasn’t working out for them, I could see Michelle pointed to other roads, she was looking at the road signs and could see were we should be going but Tom was trying to read his Sat Nav screen against the suns glare. Tom also wore dark glasses against the suns glare so missed some road signs whilst he was squinting into the Sat Nav screen. We pulled over to top up with fuel and had a chat about how it was going, we decided I’d go in front. Tom was determined to do his share of leading but it really didn’t matter to me besides, an accident would spell the end of the adventure and that DID matter to me. The risk of an accident was compounded by the fact that practically everyone on the roads here were tourists too and unsure of the roads!
Germany has only a small part of its territory with beaches and things we as an island race take for granted, nearly all of it was locked behind the iron curtain until the late 1980’s Home grown tourism as we know it had passed Eastern Germany by. No B+B’s no landlady’s no slot machines no donkey rides, no walks on the prom no fun on the pier, no long walks on open beaches with the dog and the kids. It’s hard to imagine not having these things isn’t it? I guess to equate it would be to say that we in England only had the coast from Whitby down to Bridlington if we wanted to visit the seaside. Germany has a population of 80 million people, thousands fly to beach resorts, thousands more drive in their big cars towing caravans the couple of hundred of mile to Spain and the South of France, but now, MILLIONS can access reach their bit of coastline.
We were at the back end of the season but it was still prety much full. The closer we got to the beach areas the more packed it became, all the dusty car parks were overflowing, people parked in the clearings in the sandy forests and all along the roadside, for several miles the beach was less than twenty metres away and it was pretty slow going, our destination was the most northern tip, known as Kap Arcona.
Tom and I flank a very old BMW sidecar combo outfit
We could see the lighthouse from the village and the area where we were told to park, from here we would have to walk or catch the fun train, a tractor pulling passenger trailers all made to look like a train like they used to do at Butlins we I was a kid. The peninsular was dotted with huge dunes you could walk for miles amongst them on wild life routes, there was lots of coastline in the hands of controlled wildlife conserves, like our National Trust and such like. They are very nature orientated in Germany. It was nice to see no over exploitation of the beauty spots, the old lighthouse wasn’t in use anymore but everybody and their dog went up including Tom and Michelle. Julie was a bit poorly and spent some time around the toilets emptying the contents of her stomach. The culprit appeared to be the orange juice at breakfast.
There were a few military bunkers here too and had been renovated for public viewing with some in particular that was constructed in the 1970’s and used by the GDR in the old Iron curtain period. The bunkers were used by the small coastal force but when Germany became one again the complex closed completely. I read that round 800.000 people visit the area every year, so yes it gets full!
We returned by the funny train to the bikes to see about half a dozen Swedish Harleys had turned up and parked with us. they were probably somewhere at the lighthouse. We decided to follow the coast road around the other side back to the mainland, the breeze was lovely the crops in the fields swished to and fro the whole island was extremely rural but wherever the beach showed itself people and cars generated towards it making transit through them a bit slow, It reminded me of the quieter parts of Cornwall but the roads here were a lot better. A ferry was up ahead so we stopped to check the map I hadn’t seen anything about a ferry!? It was right of course,
Julie on the ferry feeling “iffy”
Rugen’s coastline is a series of bays and inlets, this was quite a large one and so a small ferry was in use. It was a couple of euro’s the alternative was to turn around and go back the way we came. We sat on the bikes as the ferry raised its ramp and we crabbed our way against the current to the other side about half a mile away.
Nice shot of a passing Yacht.
Small motor craft and a few yachts passed in front and behind us and would have made some nice photographs so I gotthe camera out of the top box and started clicking away.
A black soft top Porsche pulled over to let us pass as we got off the ferry, a hundred metres down thr road we ran into a hailstorm of golden straw! Obviously the car driver had already seen this. We could see a chomping combined harvester running parallel to the road and the wind blew millions of bits into us. I dropped my visor and tucked my head down and accelerated through it, hopefully the others did the same, it was so thick that you could hardly see the way ahead for a few seconds. I spent the rest of the day pulling bits of straw from the bike whenever I stopped in fact I waggled the bike and left a small deposit on the road but still had bits of it in the speaker housing when I handed the motorbike over to a puzzled Barry a couple of weeks later!
We came upon the busy crossroads with a railway line going across it, we sat there for ages waiting for the goods train and the lights to allow us progress. We pulled away depositing more straw on the road! We were now heading up and over the bridge and ready to turn off at the first junction to ride into Stralsund. The old part of town was easily recognizable with the big red stone wall and the huge white schooner anchored by the quayside, we could see from the bridge where we needed to be, the small lake over to the left was our waypoint our hotel sat just beyond it. Earlier Tom negotiated with the owner about putting our bikes by the foyer, leaving more room for the cars. It had only eight bays so the rest had to park on the road side, We arrived back just in time to watch the latest arrivals making a right pigs ear of parking, we waited patiently as his wife’s embarrassment grew. She looked at us but we motioned that it was OK and not to hurry whilst secretly cursing the silly old Fritz in his huge black car, a bit left a bit right and into the cherry tree he went..then a a bit more left then a bit more until he boxed himself in and couldn’t open his bloody door!! He was chuntering now, he just couldn’t park the thing! His poor wife was not helping either as she twirled her finger to the left and right obviously she wasn’t a car driver! The pantomime started all over again but not before we motioned him we were moving by him, we rode quickly through the gap to park up on the concrete space by the lawn.
The evening was pretty much the same as before with fine food and drink to be had this time in a different restaurant in the square. Julie was by now feeling much better and tucked into her dinner. We sat and watched the kids playing in the fountain on the cobbles, the wind wasn’t howling across the square tonight in fact it was quite still. Julie and I fancied an early night and left Tom and Michelle to discover the night time attractions around the quayside.
After breakfast I got the Sat-Nav dialled in for a little place 30 miles away along the coast called Peenemunde, Id had a good night’s sleep and was ready to explore again. I had been looking along the north coast for this place in the planning stage a few months earlier and found it wasn’t far away, Its where rocket technology really took off…pardon the pun! Let me explain a bit more about the place. It was here that the Germans developed the V2 weapon. The V2 was a short range ballistic missile it was unseen unheard and unstoppable until it exploded on London with an even bigger destructive force than the V1 .Thankfully miss-information… that’s to say, false reports were leaked to Germany by us that many mysterious huge explosions were occurring 20 miles north of London, thus fooling the Germans into recalibrating the rockets which then fell short of the capitol and in less populated areas. The advancing Allied armies overran the place shortly before the war ended in May 1945.
It was a small place on the map so I was going to use the Sat- Nav. We left the hotel fuelled up at the first garage and were soon on the coastal road heading east towards Poland. I didn’t turn Sat-Nav on until we left the coast road and started along the squiggly tiny rural roads, I was glancing at the Sat-Nav and it was, well a bit confusing to say the least as it was north facing and I knew the place was north of the coast road but the roads were so small as soon as I zoomed out more than 100 metres it disappeared! Suddenly she said turn left onto a brick road that went into the woods, Hmmm.. Ok maybe it’s just down here I thought as we turned into the forest, we passed a forester having his lunch in his truck then the brick road ended! Follow the yellow brick road my arse. This was not the road we should be on! We checked the map and saw that we were heading north towards Peenemunde OK but we couldn’t see a road at all and the Baltic Sea looked to be in front of us. The coast line here was made up of bays and huge inlets. Peenemunde was just the other side of one of these bays. I could see we needed to go back a bit and turn north until we hit the coastline again then come back east. I turned the Sat-Nav off until we got a few miles down the road and it recalibrated onto the right road. I have no idea what she was doing earlier but it made us laugh and showed again how human ingenuity dominates over the machine!!
As we got closer to the village we began to see dozens of cars parked up in clearings in the forest and along the road side telling us that the beach was nearby. We rode slowly by as excited kids darted around with blow up toys for the beach and huge beach balls, in fact the whole village was buzzing with people all with beach on the mind. It was a popular place!
We followed an old railway track through the forest on the little road until we got to a clearing; there through the wire fence we saw the black and white rocket, a real life V1 rocket! I saw a big Russian truck with about a dozen mopeds chained up behind it and parked the bike next to them, Tom and Michelle followed in at the side of us. Slipping out of the bike gear and into shorts and sandals was something we did with practiced ease and were ready to explore in a few minutes.
The entrance to the complex was via the old reinforced rocket control bunker, the walls were filled with controls and dials and viewing slits with old greenish glass that looked about four inches thick. A V1 rocket stood on its launcher in its experimental black and white colours, this allowed scientific staff to observe exactly what the rocket did in the early stages of flight. The most dominant feature was the gigantic brick built power station that overshadowed everything. I keep calling it a complex but it’s actually called the Historical Technical Museum GmbH.
This was the coal feeder to the power station the railway trucks came along where Michelle is stood then the crane ran up and down emptying the coal onto the convayor which took the coal into the furnaces inside the station. its 70 yrs old.
In the grounds sat some old exhibits of the research facility, bits of rocket engines, even a severely bent nose cone!
The remains of a bent V2 rocket
Tom stood underneath a V1 Flying Bomb, the V2 is behind him.
Inside the great cavernous halls have been converted to show exhibits to do with rockets and the history. There is huge mention of the thousands of lives lost in the building and development of the site, slave labourers from all over Europe worked and died here.
The power station and old crane
On the waterfront is a small maritime museum hosted by a guided missile corvette used in the 1970s by the then navy of East Germany as part of its Baltic fleet. Further down was another museum complex that hosted a Russian submarine from the late 1960’s It cost just a couple of Euro’s to climb aboard, Julie and Michelle declined but you couldn’t stop Tom and I!
A Russian Juliet Class submarine, the empty raised tubes at the rear carried the 4 nuclear missiles
Permission to squeeze aboard Comrade Captain!
It had surprisingly good headroom in some compartments
The stars are painted on the six conventional torpedo tubes…I have no idea what anything else is!!
Did we need a dummy to show how a submarine’s toilet worked??
Glad to be out. Im not sure I believed all I saw inside that old rust bucket!!
It was very basic I have to say and the Russian sailors were very brave, the sub was so basic it was frightening, I’ve never seen so many brass valves and handles in fact it looked like it was from a Jules Verne novel and not an actual fighting vessel that carried 4 nuclear capable missiles. It was a most fascinating visit climbing through the compartments I’ve read a few novels and seen the film “Hunt for Red October” but I wasn’t prepared for this hulk! It was hard work for the both of us to move through the compartments unlike the English subs of the time, the hatch with watertight door between the compartments was more oblong and just a few inches from the floor compared to the Russian hatches with were about the diameter of a damn torpedo and a lot further up the bulkhead….(wall, to me and you) It was like doing the 100 metre hurdles through a piggin drainage pipe!
It was a late run back to Stralsund but we still managed to wash and change, have a couple in the hotel foyer then went for a wonder up into town again only this time we decided to eat by the water front tonight. It had been an unusual day strolling around Nazi rockets, power stations and crawling around an old Russian sub, not something one does every day! Also it had been a great day with the weather, a light breeze with a cloudless sky and warm sunshine, and this was on the Baltic Coast! Last thing before bed was to put the camera battery on charge…again… because my spare one has turned out to be a dud.
No bike today the girls have decided to have a shopping day in Stralsund as pay back for me dragging then around Peenemunde yesterday. Fairs fair I guess, it’s their holiday as well. So after a late breakfast we ambled up into town. Today was getting quite hot so perhaps a good day not to be wearing cow hide! Shopping outside of England can be quite fun especially when looking in the tabac shops, these places are like the old tobacconists shops of old, except they sell all kinds of knives and weaponry from humble cigar knives to great big murderous things that are used for hunting and some non hunting weapons. The chocolate shops are highly inventive too with some realistic looking tool kits that were made simply from chocolate.
Old Stralsund from the highest point in town
I’d like to have been able to bring some home but it would only melt. Once I brought a huge bar home for my boss at work from the deep south of Germany but it melted into the shape of the bottom of my top box on the bike, she thought it looked odd but liked my intentions and munched through it anyway. The girls had the need for something sweet as Tom and I decided to climb the highest building in town. I thought the view would be just of the roofs around the old part but I was wrong.
We could see for miles once we climbed through the trap door onto the very top platform. The climb up was interesting too, it was stone for the first part then old wood, and finally near the top it was all new wood, they had still used wooden dowels and joints to fix it all together.
At the very top part of the bell tower and the stairs were very steep
We had seen and heard a family of Kestrels’ from down in the square a couple of evenings on the trot, well now we were looking down at them from the bell tower, we were about thirty feet above them. It was brilliant to see them from above as they played on the thermals and hopped to and from various landing perches, to photograph them proved difficult though so we had to satisfy ourselves with the memory.
On the waterfront having a beer
Seamans waterfront building
Enjoying a mug of cider at the medievil fair
The day was hotting up and drinks were required so we explored the quayside at lunchtime and had a couple of drinks before returning to our favourite square to see the medieval fair which had arrived in town, we chatted with the guys who dressed the part and served us some “original” cider we joined the fun though we could see the aluminium barrels under the wooden bar! A last fish dinner was consumed in the early evening before we returned to the hotel to pack ready for tomorrow and to turn in for an early night.
We had our last breakfast at the hotel and the usual never ending coffee and breads, jams, meats cheese and fish. Julie left the orange juice well alone today! It was going to be a long day in the saddle today with a 300+ mile journey down to Osnabruck which is situated near the Dutch German border and a place familiar with the lads and lasses of the British army of the Rhine. The Autobahn from Stralsund going south was very quiet and empty for the first part except for the trucks running between Poland and the ports of Hamburg and Lubeck, It began to get busy as we skirted around Hamburg. I wasn’t used to the German Autobahns being so quiet; down south they are very fast and busy. Mistress Garmin hadn’t got much to do until we neared the town of Osnabruck, I went wrong once on a new section I was looking at the screen and missed the sign though Julie saw it, I elected wrongly to follow Garmin but had to turned around at the next junction five minutes up the road to get back on the road that skirted around Bremen rather than go through it. My back was beginning to ache a bit and I was getting tired as we left the Autobahn and entered the town. This is generally where our Sat Nav excels but only if you slow right down and let it speak to you before the relevant turning. After a few miles we turned into the small courtyard and switched off, Way Hay! we had arrived, get the bar open Herr Barman!
It was a small family run hotel and perfect for our needs it had off road parking, out of site out of mind, with a great traditional dark wooden hunters type bar and fantastic food. The bedroom was again of a high standard and so put the UK to shameagain. The first beer was had and the rest just followed, dinner was quite superb but by then I was ready for bed my aching bones and my lower back certainly was telling me so. Tom and Michelle went for a wonder and found a bar further on, it was owned and run by an American and had an interesting evening, but by then I was in deep sleep.
Breakfast here was the best of the tour which is a shame as it was just a quick overnight stop Herr Hotel boss was proud of his cooking skills and certainly deserved a slice of our plastic credit card. It’s a place I would visit again they say Osnabruck is a lovely little town, maybe next time we might come here first? After breakfast we paid up and got the bikes ready for the last leg of our tour. We had all day to do about the last 200 miles, the ferry wasn’t due to sail until about tea time so I thought we would detour and visit the famous town of Arnhem, we could have lunch by the river.
Having lunch in Arnhem after driving the wrong way down a pedestian walkway.
I had been here a couple of times in the past so knew roughly where to go. Id clicked the Sat Nav onto the famous Frost Bridge. It’s the one made famous in history. British airborne forces had tried to captureit in the infamous battle in 1944. It was also made famous in the Hollywood movie “A Bridge too Far” the signs and one way system had changed a lot as had Arnhem since my last visit here in the 1990’s I tried to keep my bearings and turned onto the river road which was now mostly a pedestrian precinct and had no entry signs. Unperturbed I rode slowly along it with Tom behind, I nodded and smiled at the few people out walking, an Arabian restaurant owner sat outside seized the moment and gestured us to park and have lunch he assured us he would look after the bikes and said there would be no problem. Good man! OK everyone let’s stop here and have lunch shall we?
I’m not too sure what we had but it was very tasty and we all enjoyed it, the young girl spoke good English and repeated her bosses promise that we could leave the bikes and they would look after them while we had a slow walk around the area. The famous bridge was a short walk along the river’s edge, we could climb the old stone steps to the old blockhouse, the original houses had been destroyed along with most of the town during the battle, even so we were walking in the footsteps of heroes.
The town of Arnhem is pretty ordinary to be honest, it doesn’t have attractions like botanical or ornamental gardens, it doesn’t have huge stately homes or anything that would make it a tourist attraction so isn’t really geared up for tourism at all. People are drawn here by what happened in September of 1944, you see, Arnhem is famous for a battle, a big big battle. Many were killed in this spectacular failure.
“Operation Market Garden” was an attempt by the Allies to invade Germany from the north looping through the top of Holland exploiting gaps in the German defences at the time to beat the Germans into submission and end the war in Europe. The plan was to capture several important river bridges through Holland using US and British Airborne troops. Whilst at the same time a huge Allied ground army known as XXX Corps would punch through the lines and link up with the airborne forces one bridge after another. But the great advance proved extremely slow, the great army battered through the opposition but the German Army threw in huge reinforcements and the advance was stopped just short of the last objective at Arnhem Bridge. The Airborne troops were to hold on for 3 days, instead they were forced to hold their ground for 9 days after which they ran out of ammunition food and water. The survivors were ordered to evacuate. Just 3,000 out of 10,000 British and Polish airborne troops managed to get out of the infamous devils cauldron. It’s with this background that people go and visit Arnhem and see where our grandfathers fought and died.
The bridge itself is not the original, its the third one to have stood here! The first was destroyed by the Dutch themselves to deter the German invasion in 1940. The second one (the one in the battle) was destroyed by the US Air Force a month or so after the failed attempt to capture it, it was destroyed to prevent the Germans using it. The third and final one was built in 1946 to 48 and is the current one standing. In the 70’s film “A Bridge too Far” they used different bridge in a different town completely because Arnhem town and surroundings looked so different to what it did in 1944 and wouldn’t have worked for the film makers.
A very sad place but strangly makes one feel proud to be who I am.
A fallen soldier airman or sailor who is awarded a Victoria Cross has his grave stone marked as such and are dotted amongst the ordinary heroes.
We rode to the British and Commonwealth cemetery and the site of the last stand for a couple of hours before riding slowly towards the coast less than an hour away. The weather was turning a bit grey this afternoon; in fact it rained for a short time too. The Autobahn took us all the way to the P+O dock where our late afternoon ferry was sat waiting, ignoring the other ferry signs en-route can be a bit challenging to someone not quite sure where the correct dock was. I’d done this route practically every year for the past ten so was quite sure of our direction. The boats funnels and the familiar logo was son spotted in the distance and the turn off was just ahead. It was a quick check in and we were directed up and into the darkness of the ferry
We had sorted the bikes and straps, found our rooms and were sat in the bar waiting for Tom and Michelle, for once I had actually beaten him to the bar! That evening Julie and I went to the cinema at watched the new Star Trek movie leaving the bar to those two. I was pretty much drained now. I always felt like this on the return run home on the ferry, it’s a kind of anti climax and all I wanted to do was get home.
Dawn back in England and we awoke to a brief announcement which was loud enough to wake the dead! I guess they needed to make sure everyone was awake. We dressed and made our way to the breakfast buffet, we caught sight of a thin stain of brown of to our right. Land! It was Spurn Point to be exact and we were now sailing up the Humber Estuary. From past experience I knew we had about an hour now to eat breakfast then get ready to disembark. An hour later we were stood by the watertight doors checking my watch, it should unlock soon then we could get to the bikes.
The Orangemen were busy tending the vehicles and making sure the decks were clear of obstacles stowing the straps and fastenings back in their place making sure everything was clean and shipshape ready for loading again later that afternoon. The klaxon and the spinning orange light came on, daylaight leaked in as the huge door began to open, light flooded in now and all the bikers began to put helmets on and climbed aboard the bikes, it’s always a tight fit for us in the bike area and the first time travellers took longer to get unstrapped bumping into panniers knocking their heads on handlebars and scraping against the rails as they fumbled about with unfamiliar straps. People who really struggled were helped after all we were once “first time travellers” too! Removable tank bags were strapped back onto the fuel tanks; these are small tough zip bags that hold enough clothes for two for the overnight crossing. We had the ultimate cruiser bike with lock away stowage and an extra rack on top of the top box, the box that pillion passengers rest their backs against. Im not being high and mighty I started exactly the same as everybody else and struggled with space too in my early days.
Let me expand on this a little for you non bikers out there. Firstly it’s amazing just how much clothes you don’t actually need, especially if you think along the lines of washing smalls and not taking clothes for if it rains! If you have a racer type of bike then a tank bag is ideal coz you can actually rest your stomach on the bag and take the weight off your arms over great distances. If your on your own then a bag can be strapped over the back seat, if you have a passenger then the bag is strapped to the back of her! Cruisers and retro style bikes have them fitted to the tanks too; space on a motorbike for bags is small especially if there are two on the bike, often the rig is like this. A tank bag on the tank, throw over pannier bags that fit over the rear seat and sit either side of the back wheel. These are similar to the old wild west horse saddle bags? Then another tough zip bag strapped onto the back rack maybe another on top of that and the passenger will sometime have a back pack on themselves. People are quite ingenious as to what can be fitted to their bike. When I had the cruiser bikes (easy rider style) I had my sleeping back double wrapped in black plastic bags then strapped across the front mudguard, my tent was strapped across the handlebars, a tank bag in the fuel tank, this rested in my groin area and had my map in the see through plastic top a set of throw over saddle bags over the back seat, I often fashioned a larger back rack and secured my camping chairs and table and maybe another bag on top of that. That was how the Wild star was dressed when traveling to Espanola for three weeks with Julie. When travelling on my own, normally in England to the English MAG rallies Julies space is taken up by packs of beer so the bike was never any lighter really. So just by looking how folk had their bikes fitted out you could tell a lot about them and what they did.
The Orangemen waved the first line of vehicles off and we soon got the nod to move forward, it’s a nervous time as we paddle around the deck on the overloaded bikes looking at the steel deck for the anchor point and looking at the closely packed cars too and trying to comply with the Orangemen as they direct everybody and all this in the dim artificial light. I have never seen anyone fall off such is their skill and concentration. The sunlight hits you as soon as you exit the boat and slowly we file off up and down ramps usually all the bikes move together usually getting to the front early and usually getting away from the dock area first too. Today they had decided to stop and check everyone. This unusual procedure has been on the increase here at The King George Dock. It’s usually just a longer passport check and a few more questions and if your really unlucky you’ll get pulled by the Customs folk. Everyone was now sat waiting in rows on top of the P+O building, the yellow shirt let us down the ramp one row at a time. Everyone was impatient at this. A girl in front commented to her man the absurdity of this after all we had roamed free across the borders of Europe for the past few weeks! More than a few agreed. The yellow shirt was being ask constantly how long we would be held for. If it had been raining I think many would have ridden by him regardless straight upto passport control just to get off the roof. After twenty minutes we began to move, halfway down the ramp I saw two custom officials trying to set a mobile gazebo type structure with sensors of some kind attached, the long line of bikes now began to snake all over the place, some were held on the downward ramp they were not happy at all, to make things worse the two custom girls didn’t seem to have any idea and were giggling to each other. They then tried to make bikers turn around and go through this. I have no idea what they were scanning for, but they seemed to have little idea about traffic management. I have in the past had to force my point to the occasional imbecilic traffic handler as to what I can and cannot do on a motorbike.
Finally I got to the passport booth the official smiled saying “Hello how are you today?” I replied I was fine until I came across this bloody shambles”….”Erm we have to check all the passports sir” I turned away swearing at the inept proceeding and especially at the two giggling females fucking about with the mobile scanner and asking bikers to do impossible manoeuvre’s
A week after the trip we sold the bike. It was a decision I had been thinking about for a few years. I had decided the last Honda Goldwing was going to be our last and we were going to downsize to something more manageable as my body was beginning to object! We were both going to try a lighter touring bike, I had the BMW’s in mind. Meanwhile the purchase of the Land Rover as a log carrier and general truck back in January has quite by accident opened up a whole new world of adventures for me and I was reading more magazines about what they did, like…. TOURING!! Or as they call it, “Overlanding” The more I read the more I warmed to my new tin box. I decided against a different bike instead I would try my hand with the Land Rover, I’ve had a few weekends away already and completed a solo trip up to Scotland befriended a few likeminded characters and began to beef up my truck. I never thought driving would be so much fun. All my bike riding friends are surprised at this U turn but let me tell you I’m the most surprised off all!
So I can tell you that in 2014 we are driving to Corsica for a couple of weeks, then later in the year I am off to Morocco for a boys own adventure. How true the old saying “One door closes and another one opens”…..