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Author Topic: Let me take you through Europe - the story of EU14  (Read 8630 times)

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Offline King Louis

Let me take you through Europe - the story of EU14
« on: January 24, 2015, 02:41:56 pm »
We started thinking about a round trip in Europe since I started riding in 2004. No particular plan regarding the route, but the general idea was to start in Bremerhaven (North Germany) - Istanbul - Gibraltar - Bremerhaven. A trip of a lifetime, and that is exactly what it was.

How is such a trip possible? Time wise and financially? With a fair bit of planning it is. Thanks to a very understanding business partner, to whom I will forever be grateful for this, the time question was solved without many problems. It was not as simple as it sounds and there were times when doubt came up but in hindsight we are glad that we pulled it through. Life is too short and I just don't want to look back in a couple of years time and say, I wish we had............

Financially it was only possible because we used some of our retirement funds which we had put aside for a long time. Mixing that and going camping makes it do-able, but Europe is not cheap.

Before we start riding, a little history about the bike. We had planned, to ship our adventure over to Germany, do the trip and ship it back. That proved to be a bigger problem than anticipated. The bike is still financed and I approached the financing co. to obtain a cross border letter, same we used when we travelled neighboring countries a year previously. To my surprise, this was denied. They would have no control over the bike when I take her overseas. What utter nonsense. After various e-mails and three meetings where I raised a verbal shitstorm, they graciously gave me permission, to take the bike overseas. Subject to insurance cover, which I understand. So I just had to organize insurance cover. What a problem. No SA company gives you cover overseas. Overseas companies which I approached, don't accept cover without you having permanent residence. My permanent residence is SA! Eventually I found an American insurance co., which would give me cover for the trip. R 12000 for three months?! Plus the fact that I now missed the time frame to ship the bike, I would have to air freight it now, as the flight tickets were already organized. That would set me back another R 33.000, ie. it would cost me already R 45,000 to get the bike to Europe and back and have her insured, before we started riding! Stupid, really. So I went onto the German GS-forum and bought a second hand Adventure. BMW bikes are more expensive than here, can you believe it? I bought a 2011 30 years anniversary model with 30,000km on the clock, for just under R 200,000. Renting is not an option, it is just too expensive for such a long time. So we bought her and hoped, we could sell her again afterwards at a decent rate, so the damage would be acceptable. It worked out well.

The first of May arrived and we found ourselves at ORTIA, staring at the huge airbus A380-800. Fantastic. Our seat reservations were ignored and we ended up in the middle section. That aircraft is not made for tall people, the flight was crap but anyhow, the destination and the fact that we would cruise through Europe for three months made up for that shortcoming. Not long after making the connecting flight from FRA to Bremen, we were picked up by our mate Frank, who helped us a lot for this trip. Due to the fact that I have no residency in Germany, I can not register the bike in my name, neither would I qualify for insurance cover. Frank did that for us and it worked like a charm.  He also managed to get us a personalized number plate, picture to follow. EU14 was born. We had the dealer put on a set of Heidi's K60, went to the bank to organize a European credit card and were ready to go. With Frank and another old mate we rode through to Hamburg and surroundings, I wanted to get used to right hand side traffic as I had not driven a car/bike for about 30 years now. It proved to be easier than expected. A quick family meeting and we packed everything into the panniers and the 89l Ortlieb luggage roll. That was all we needed and all we wanted, including tent, sleeping bags, mattresses, clothing, electronic equipment, tools and first aid kit. Minimax. Three t-shirts, three underpants, one pair of long trousers, one pair of shorts and our rain gear, all of which proved to be enough for that period!




Monday morning arrived and eventually the trip was on. We went from Bremerhaven to Berlin, so far still highway. I had to get used to that again - we cruised between 120 and 140 kmh and the cars and trucks (!) were flying past us like we stood still. We used the Zumo660 and bought the European maps for the trip. The plan was to cover around 300km per day or so, depending on how we felt and what we would see. Basically we always had  the GPS set to avoid highways and toll roads, which worked well in general. We saw areas, which we would not have found had we followed main roads. Aside from the GPS I had a Europe map in the tankbag display, just to maintain a general idea of the route we followed. In Berlin we stayed with goods biker friends we had met in SA and who stayed with us here and another couple which we met whilst touring Mocambique a year earlier. They looked after us very well to show us Berlin and food/drinks were excellent and plenty. One evening, we had to travel back in the dark, it was raining and we were riding over slippery cobble stones on new Heidi's.  I took it easy and managed to ride through two red robots since I did not want to brake too hard. Nothing came of it, we were lucky. That can get expensive in Europe......! Very expensive.

Our host Rene served us a huge breakfast the next morning and the time to say good bye arrived. He left for work and we just had to leave and close the door. He lives on the fourth floor of an apartment building and we had to carry the panniers, luggage roll, tank bag, helmets and gloves downstairs, the bikes were parked in the backyard of the building. I stepped out of the apartment and my left foot was placed on the door mat, which slipped out from underneath me. I tried to balance my body and my left arm went up in the air, just to make sure, that the Zumo flew out of the helmet, in which I had put it, disappeared over the balustrade and fell down 4 floors to hammer with a loud bang on to the concrete floor. Shitfuck, big one!!! I thought the Zumo was history and raced downstairs (as if that helps now???). It was cracked a fair bit, but the screen was still intact and I could switch it on. Wow, I was impressed and relieved at the same time. I mean we have a bit of air in our budget, but for that kind of money I would rather buy wine. Furthermore, how would you find the Garmin shop in Berlin without your Garmin? :patch:

We carried on through Berlin direction southern Germany towards a castle (Koenigstein) which was recommended to us by Rene. The Zumo starting doing it's own thing, left out roads, some others disappeared, so it was not working properly. I stopped at the side of the road to check it out. When I removed the battery, I noticed that the micro sd card had come lose and after pushing it in, it worked again. Was I relieved again. I mean I get lost in places with the GPS, never mind where I end up when I use it! Without it I usually find very interesting places in very interesting areas, trust me. :ricky:

We took the road south with the general direction of Prague in our minds. One of the few highways I took was not appreciated by SWAMBO and our intercom got into action. It banged on my helmet, a general sign to stop. Knocking is just kind of saying something, so we slow down. Banging is the more serious sign and means to stop.  ;) After a short, convincing discussion, we followed the navigator's advice, to take a different road. It worked out well, though, what can I say? We found the hotel, which was recommended to us via the GS-Forum. Unfortunately it was full, but another one, which we spotted on the same road, still had a room available for two. We were warned about Prague in terms of theft, for personal items as much as the bike(!!!) and were glad, to use the facilities. The rumors must have been kind of justified, as the owner of the hotel insisted we park the bike not just in the locked back yard, but in the extra locked garage! No problem, nice gesture. We took the tram into the city and did the touristy thing. Prague is beautiful but although we did not go in high season, the city was packed with tourists. In general, I prefer being away from big  cities and lots of people. For this trip the cities I wanted to see were Prague, Istanbul, Venice, Madrid and we were not disappointed!

Prague is stunning with all it's attractions, beautiful buildings, ornaments, bridges, restaurants, artists and has a great flair. We watched a pocket thief in action, you could clearly tell he was one by watching how he mingled with the people etc., pity that we could not catch him in the area, where we watched him. We had lots of Czech specialities to eat and drink and from all the walking we were rather tired by the time we got back to the Hotel. Carmen managed to put vitamin e-crème onto her toothbrush instead of toothpaste.... must have been good for the brush as she had no further problems during our trip! :biggrin:

To get out of Prague was torture, the traffic was bad. The bike got nice and hot, but eventually we managed to get on to emptier side streets and worked our way down to Austria in the general direction of Linz. Once we arrived in Austria, the scenery changed noticeably and the east block heaviness fell off, if you know what I mean. Austria is beautiful and we found a little B&B with fantastic views of the surrounding mountains. The local food and beers were again lekker and we had a good evening.

The next day we met up with a fellow rider from the GS-Forum who offered to show us around. What a great choice, he knew all the roads inside out, the mountain passes that were open (one we could not do yet as there was still too much snow) and we criss-crossed the whole day without a single dull moment. What I liked was the fact that our friend, whom we had never met before, was super friendly and nice and accepted, that we wanted to cruise, rather than pushing hard through these stunning mountainous areas in Austria. So we could enjoy the views, the nature and all. We do hope, that he will manage to come and visit us some time so we can show him some of SA's nice spots.

The night was spent with a good friend who lives in Villach, a southern Austrian village. Again we were treated like kings and got lots of food and beer, so that by 10:00h that night my eyes just closed on their own and I went to bed for a well deserved rest. Only to be woken up at 4:00h in the morning by one neighbor, who had to play very loud oompa music. I was ready to kill. :dousing: Austrians, a funny lot.

We were advised to continue along the Soca river towards the Mediterranean coast. What a great tip. The only downside was that it started raining in Italy and carried on the whole way to the coast. It would have been nicer in sunshine, but we could not pick. Once on the road, you have to decide to stay or to ride, never knowing exactly what will come, where you end up and under what conditions. We were also looking for camping spots, but found that often it was easier to stay in a small hotel or B&B, combined with being tired and not wanting to pitch tent any more, rather enjoying a quick shower and going for a nice drink and nice food after a day in the saddle. We caught plenty of rain, which was the worst in 100 years in the Balkans. Of course during our trip..... :ricky:

 

Offline woody1

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Re: Let me take you through Europe - the story of EU14
« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2015, 03:39:15 pm »
Wow.. What a lekker trip.   :ricky:

I WOULD RATHER BE AN HONEST ASSHOLE .... THAN A FLIPPEN LIAR !   


Ducati 100cc Mountaineer, Honda 550 K3, Suzuki Gs1000E, Suzuki Gs1000G, Suzuki 1100 Katana, BMW R1100RT, BMW R1150RT,,,,,All gone. Only 2014 ST in the garage at the moment... And Honda XL 600
 

Offline Offshore

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Re: Let me take you through Europe - the story of EU14
« Reply #2 on: January 24, 2015, 06:50:21 pm »
Ist das alles?
 

Online DirtRebell

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Re: Let me take you through Europe - the story of EU14
« Reply #3 on: January 24, 2015, 07:05:02 pm »
Subscribed...
Epic RR in the making here.
 

Offline woody1

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Re: Let me take you through Europe - the story of EU14
« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2015, 07:21:01 pm »
But we NEED to see the pictures... lots and lots of pictures.  :imaposer:

I WOULD RATHER BE AN HONEST ASSHOLE .... THAN A FLIPPEN LIAR !   


Ducati 100cc Mountaineer, Honda 550 K3, Suzuki Gs1000E, Suzuki Gs1000G, Suzuki 1100 Katana, BMW R1100RT, BMW R1150RT,,,,,All gone. Only 2014 ST in the garage at the moment... And Honda XL 600
 

Offline subie

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Re: Let me take you through Europe - the story of EU14
« Reply #5 on: January 24, 2015, 07:36:38 pm »
But we NEED to see the pictures... lots and lots of pictures.  :imaposer:

Yes!! pics  :thumleft:
As time washes by, our footprints are all for naught
 

Offline Dorsland

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Re:
« Reply #6 on: January 25, 2015, 07:00:29 am »
I'd love to do a trip like this. Going to enjoy reading this...
Geleerdheid in die kop van 'n dwaas is soos 'n lemmetjie in die hand van 'n aap.

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Offline I&horse

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Re: Let me take you through Europe - the story of EU14
« Reply #7 on: January 25, 2015, 07:26:49 am »
Tic tock
Silence is golden...... Duct tape is silver

Everything works with smoke, if the smoke escapes, it stops working.
 

Offline Steekvlieg

Re: Let me take you through Europe - the story of EU14
« Reply #8 on: January 25, 2015, 09:58:24 am »
Sub
 

Offline DCR

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Re: Let me take you through Europe - the story of EU14
« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2015, 11:59:16 am »
Wow. Looking forward to the pictures. A motorcycle tour of Europe is on my bucket list.
 

Offline King Louis

Re: Let me take you through Europe - the story of EU14
« Reply #10 on: January 26, 2015, 09:14:45 am »
busy with pics...
« Last Edit: January 26, 2015, 09:31:35 am by King Louis »
 

Offline Pistol

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Re: Let me take you through Europe - the story of EU14
« Reply #11 on: January 26, 2015, 09:31:10 am »
Lekker Rainer been waiting for this one :thumleft:
 

Offline dirtyXT

Re: Let me take you through Europe - the story of EU14
« Reply #12 on: January 26, 2015, 10:09:15 am »
 :sip: :thumleft: :ricky:
Bike history:
Ital jet 50 - sold, DT 50 - scrapped - AR80 - sold DT185 - confiscated  KDX250 - sold ZZR400 - sold KX500 - XT660R Swapped for R1 YZF R1 - sold - XT660Z - current

 

Offline King Louis

Re: Let me take you through Europe - the story of EU14
« Reply #13 on: January 26, 2015, 03:03:52 pm »
Struggling to drag pics into the text via photobucket.......aaaah, fifth time it works.... :imaposer:

Our plate:

« Last Edit: January 26, 2015, 03:22:44 pm by King Louis »
 

Offline Takashi

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Re: Let me take you through Europe - the story of EU14
« Reply #14 on: January 26, 2015, 03:32:13 pm »
Finally, I was wondering when this ride report was going to start appearing.

Waiting in anticipation Sir...
 

Offline King Louis

Re: Let me take you through Europe - the story of EU14
« Reply #15 on: January 26, 2015, 03:34:19 pm »
Ready to go:



What we took with for three month, before packing:



After packing into panniers, luggage roll and tank bag:



Previous owner was funny....



GPS check on the side of the road in Berlin...



Fully packed GSA for two up / three months, not too bad!



Prague speciality:



After Prague speciality:



Karlsbridge in Prague:



Arriving in Austria:



Transformer one:



Fresh....



Transformer two:



The banana along the Soca River



First morning in Croatia (Opatija) after a rainy previous day. Fun!

 

Offline woody1

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Re: Let me take you through Europe - the story of EU14
« Reply #16 on: January 26, 2015, 03:49:49 pm »
I like that WOODEN bike.

Nice... we like it not even better.. :imaposer:

I WOULD RATHER BE AN HONEST ASSHOLE .... THAN A FLIPPEN LIAR !   


Ducati 100cc Mountaineer, Honda 550 K3, Suzuki Gs1000E, Suzuki Gs1000G, Suzuki 1100 Katana, BMW R1100RT, BMW R1150RT,,,,,All gone. Only 2014 ST in the garage at the moment... And Honda XL 600
 

Offline King Louis

Re: Let me take you through Europe - the story of EU14
« Reply #17 on: January 26, 2015, 04:25:28 pm »
The hotel was a pensioner's paradise, but at least the breakfast was super and with that weather we cruised along the coast down to Split, were we camped for the first time. I forgot to pack in a wine bottle opener, can you believe it? But hey, all campsites are under German Motor Homes control, the latest and largest one's you can imagine. Boy are they equipped. When they park their gigantic mobile homes, they take out the remote to adjust the antenna for the cable tv. Unreal. And the look you get when you ask for a corkscrew. :imaposer:

Then the dialogue starts why and where you come from etc, and at least they noticed our African flag parade on the panniers. Ooooh, you are from South Africa? And you speak German? Yes and yes!

Our first self cooked meal and self prepared bed, it felt good, fantastic view over the bay, camping right next to the beach.



The road along the coast...





The next stop was one of the few planned one's, at Zaton, just before Dubrovnik. Carmen's best femal friend from Germany and her Hubby were there for 5 days on holiday. So we surprised him, as he was not aware that we were passing through. We could get a room at the same B&B and spent a great evening together. The next morning was dark and cloudy and it started raining again. And it rained some more, so we had a rather long breakfast and coffee. It did not clear up, so we had more coffee. By 11h it was raining steadily and we just donned the raingear again and went on our way down the coast.

The border crossings were easy peasy, so far nothing to worry about. Montenegro must be beautiful, it impressed us even in the rain and I would love to spend more time there on the back roads into the mountains. Looks inviting for some gravel touring:



Well, not in this weather. We decided to ride further down south until we see the sun again and went into Albania, were we finally stopped in Skoder at a pretty new hotel. The normal houses are run down and/or in poor condition with Albania being one of the poorest countries down there. We took some side roads, where potholes were more than the tar section.





Once again - even with the GPS - we lost our way various times. Also mainly because signage is not always there or misleading, you can not necessarily tell which is the main road you intend to follow. So we saw places, which not many Albanian's have been to, either. The whole day was spent with banana on, banana off, on and off, on and off......until we reached Shkoder and found the hotel at 40 EUR for the night. We ordered some Montenegro red wine and it was delicious. You will have the odd comment about the drinks and food we had, simply because for us it is a part of enjoying the travels and taste local meals and drinks.

Albania has got lots of houses, which seem to be unfinished, well actually they are unfinished. From what we understand, the owners don't have any tax to pay as long as a house is under construction, so you see a lot of houses under construction. For many years.....! According to Swambo, Albania is a country of coffee drinking, talking men. Not much else seems to happen there. She broke off one tooth and a decision was made, to have it fixed in Turkey rather than in Albania....

The next day was time to get into Greece. Carmen need the toilet urgently, but did not use the one at the border post. We found an acceptable one further down the road in Greece, which has fantastic roads compared to the previous countries we went through.

A clean one:



We needed to decide if we wanted to carry on to one of the Greek islands, or Istanbul. Due to the weather being rather inconsistent, we decided for Istanbul and carried on to Ionnanina. The hotel as per GPS proved to be a restaurant only, so we carried on to the city center where we found a small hotel. In fact everything was small. The hotel, the room, the bathroom, the inner city had small roads, small coffee shops, small restaurants. We found a little pleasant takeaway and scoffed down some lekker giros with chips and bread and rounded it off with hot chocolate and Metaxa, the Greek brandy. We had no problems sleeping well.

The following day lead us towards Kavala, the first coastal town on the Greek part. We took the highway and were surprised by tunnels. Many tunnels. I stopped counting at 40 (!!!) and we learnt afterwards, that this tunnel project is the largest in the world. Not being a fan of highways in the first place, I was glad we took this one.

Just before reaching Kavala.

 

Offline Draadwerk

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Re: Let me take you through Europe - the story of EU14
« Reply #18 on: January 26, 2015, 08:16:17 pm »
I am soooooo jealous. Looks fantastic. Keep em coming please 😄
 

Offline Would I?

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Re: Let me take you through Europe - the story of EU14
« Reply #19 on: January 26, 2015, 09:11:23 pm »
Great so far. Keep it coming!!!!!
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