and New Friends
-- Story by Erin --
Here I sit on the sundeck of a very large ferry on our way
to Norway. It's about 9:30 p.m. and there is still about 45 minutes until
sunset. The sky is crystal clear and turning a wonderful color of pink on the
horizon. We haven't updated the website in over 2 weeks so now Chris is bugging me
to write about our last journeys through Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. So
here I sit, alternating between gazing at the view and writing my thoughts.
We arrived in Augsburg, Germany on Thursday, June 24 after a
full day of riding through the Alps (Passo Stelvio) and the Dolomites and a lovely little
town called Garmisch. This little town happens to be the home of the parents of our
good friend Martina, whose wedding we will be attending in a few weeks. The town is
perfectly situated at the base of the mountains and is among the most picturesque I've
In Augsburg we
stayed with a wonderful couple who are good friends of Chris' family and are Hungarian (it
was good for Chris to practice his Hungarian before we get to Budapest!) They were
the perfect hosts, feeding us gigantic and delicious meals and showing us around this
historic city. Their neighbors, Poldi (who also showed us around town) and Marcus (a
local policeman) were each gracious and invited us for drinks and a barbecue at their
respective homes. We could not have met nicer people!
After Enduro Park we stayed in Augsburg another few days to
recover and rest our aching muscles. When we couldn't eat anymore food, we decided
it was time to press on and go further North to Koln.
On Wednesday, June 30 we got on the road again and this time
we wanted to make it to Niedereschach where the new showroom and headquarters of Touratech
are. For those of you not familiar with this company, they make everything you need
for enduro/off-road touring. We found them by entering their coordinates off their
catalogue onto our GPS---very handy! We found them with no problem and were greeted
by Herbert, one of the owners. Herbert was terrific and helped us with our questions
and spent the better part of 2 hours listening to our tales. If you are interested
in accessories for off-road touring, you can visit them via our Links page.
Herbert recommended a route, and we spent the night in a
beautiful campground nestled in a narrow valley between two mountains. We had plush
grass under the tent, a peaceful stream near by to lull us to sleep and the gentle sound
of sheep bells in the morning to wake us. We didn't want to leave and dallied until
about noon. Then we were on the road again and heading toward Koln to meet our new
friend Christian. (If all of our new friends were named Christian, it would be so
Christian lives in a beautiful apartment just outside of
Koln that is part of an old farm that was converted to several apartments, and they all
face a central courtyard and a big old tree. Christian is a wealth of information on
all topics relating to the history of Koln, the neighboring part of Belgium where he is
from, and on topics relating to battles of W.W.II. On that first night in Koln, Christian invited some other motorcycle friends over for dinner. The
couple, Stephan and Magdalena were delightful and we traded travelling and off-road riding
stories with them. (Magdalena had just returned from riding her BMW R100GS at an
enduro park in Belgium. She surpassed us in the collection of mud on her
bike!) They cooked us a delicious vegetarian Indian meal.
The next day he showed us
all around Koln and we saw the Dom (a big, old cathedral and the only building left
standing after the war), the restored old train station (one of the busiest in all of
Europe), the location of the old marketplace, and of course an authentic bar where the
local brew, Kolsh bier is made and served! He also treated us to wonderful Turkish
food (there is a strong Turkish population here.) Koln was nearly demolished on
Christmas day (sorry I can't recall which year) during W.W. II and was completely
rebuilt. It is remarkable how much care was taken by the local people to ensure that
things were rebuilt as they appeared before the war and to keep the original culture and
feel of the city in tact.
That Saturday Christian invited us to attend his motorcycle
club's rally which was near the Belgian border (and near Bitburg, Germany where my parents
used to live) in a small, quaint town. We jumped at the chance to go to a European
rally and meet the club members. As we expected, the people were friendly and made
us feel totally welcome. We ate well, shared stories and information and overall
enjoyed it very much! Of course the riding was great as well in this region,
which is known as the Eiffel area (rolling hills and farmland).
The next day, July 4th, Chris emerged from the tent without
a hangover -- No small feat considering the hospitality the club members offered the
previous evening. Christian accompanied us across the Belgian border and got us on
our way to our next stop----Gent, Belgium, but not before promising to meet us in
India. (Christian, we will keep you to your promise!) In Gent, we met Rudi and
Martine, also friends we met on the internet and invited us to come for a visit.
Rudi is a BMW motorcycle mechanic at a dealership in Gent and Martine is a nurse in a
university hospital. When we arrived in the afternoon, Martine had already prepared
tapas (Spanish style snacks of sardines, chorizo sausage, cheese and olives) and we
enjoyed them in her beautiful garden with their friends Frank and Caty, all BMW riders!
We talked about Frank and Caty's upcoming trip to South Africa and Rudi and
Martine's trip to Southern Africa in December (for 3 months!).
(Did I mention that Martine was a good cook? Besides
the tapas she prepared upon our arrival she also made a wonderful dinner of ostrich steaks
The next day, Chris and Rudi went to
Rudi's shop to work on the bikes and Martine and I ran errands. In the afternoon,
they took us on a ride through the countryside where we saw lots of lovely small towns,
the farms in between, and canals with lots of boats. They also took us to a
fascinating place, a "motorcycle-only" hotel. It had an artsy style all
its own. It is a great idea, bringing like-minded people together in their
travels. As we sat in the cafe enjoying a drink, Chris and I mused about ways we
could make a business for ourselves out of this idea in the States.
Tuesday morning, Martine delivered us to the train station
and we went to the famous city of Brugge for the day. Brugge is one of the most
well-preserved medieval city in all of Europe (according to my guidebook.) We took a
walking tour of the city and visited some beautiful churches, did a little shopping, and
finished with a tour of old windmills. There are canals that run through the city
and many small bridges to walk across. (My guidebook says its the Venice of northern
Europe but I think that description better fits Amsterdam.) Although the city is one
of the most visited by tourists in the summer, we thought it was a very manageable place
to visit and stroll through without feeling overwhelmed by the masses of people.