Bårlin ….., what can I say – have been there may times now visiting my older bro, same this time and it was just great! Not only does he know and share much of the history of the place, he and his partner also make a plentiful breakfast – indulgence and energy for the entire day!
I got there via a ride from Vilnius through Poland und ultimately Berlin.
Poland was almost as I remembered. But this previous trip now must been some 35 years back. Rode on pushbikes from Gdynia, Zopot, Danzig down south through the Masurian sees to Warszawa. This was just the time when Solidarnosc came into being remember the bloke form the Danzig ship building, Lech Wałęsa. Later he became President, perhaps a little too high reach for his capabilities.
During this time one had still to queue each day to get the basics like brad, milk, butter. I remember being in Zopot when a queue went around the entire block, because they had butter. We stayed with people in Gdynia and they took turns each morning, on the way to work, to keep a place in the queue for bread…! Cycling through the country I still vividly remember the tree-lined street, the many storks and the rural 17th century feel it gave.
I looked out for it and much of Poland is still rural, however things certainly have changed. The houses in the villages are well kept, in sometime bright colours. The farm machinery is as up-to-date as you would see in most European countryside, but the green, the tree lined streets are all there. And of course I could see many, many storks. They impressed me as they did these many years ago. Standing completely still in their nests. Some times more than one – I saw three in one nest. First I thought they were man-made displays to rue a long-gone area, but slowing down and looking a tad longer made me realise all were indeed real! The I also saw them stalking (or should that be ‘storking’??) in the small meadows beside the road. Regrettable none of them carried a bay in a nappy en route to the expecting family …. ‘Puff!” goes another (Disney( dream …
As have been trying to avoid free-ways, motorways and Autobahns. This approach adds to the distance, but for me is a much more pleasant ride. I literally can breathe-in the countryside. I stopped for a break at what must have been a Mill in the old days. Now a restaurant, with tables in the back garden edging onto a little quiet lake. Very tranquil and the staff were nice and spoke English as my Polish is down to about 5 words L .
I was approached by Wiktor S, he saw my Adventure Riders sticker on the panniers and confessed to be ‘a lurker’ there as well. I learnt that Wiktor’s dream is to do a similar long journey, perhaps even in the next few years. Wiktor’s family may have some say in it, however he would like to travel from Japan, via Vladivostok back to Poland. Wiktor, if you read this, Do IT! as soon as your posting is over!
I stayed overnight in Grietzwald once again close to the road for an early getaway to Berlin and a pre-rush-hour arrival – which I didn’t manage.
Well, and then there was Berlin!
But one more thing, another observation to share: In Australia the media tells us of the migrants problem in Western Europe. Well, it may well be down south (haven’t been there yet) but ‘Hello!?’ there is literally nobody home at the border between Poland and Germany. Neither was there anybody at the previous border crossings. So the experience is the opposite to the one in Russia, Mongolia, Korea etc etc No wait, not even a glimpse of anybody in uniform! You almost miss feeling a little excited to cross another border. The signs change, especially when entering Germany I was able to read and understand each sign – what a relieving difference. Didn’t know, wasn’t aware that I had missed that so much – put a smile on my dial.
The changes in landscape become less perceptible. Germany is yet another tad more ‘aufgeraeumt’ meaning in English perhaps something like ‘in ordered fashion’ or orderly. Not certain how exactly to describe it, perhaps it’s just my subconscious, especially the German bit of it pushed into the background for a few decades. Can’t put my finger on it, but it felt more aufgeraeumt.
Maps.me led me through some wonderful side-roads. All roads of course, but certainly not major, sometimes even going through areas where people lived a normal life, you know housing areas. Well, I am not complaining, other than saying if you use maps.me bring along time so you can take-in the sights.
The stay at my Brother’s partner’s – Gaby – flat was perfectly comfortable. I even got the use of the main bedroom! Somewhat embarrassing, but since I like comfort I only protested (the Australian way: Are you sure? really?? ) for a little while.
Breakfast, as said, was ‘Vielfalt’ a favourite word of mine!
I was able to get some errands done. We explored berlin a little only, as I do know it reasonably well.
One opportunity I didn’t want to miss, was making contact with the local BMW Motorrad club in Berlin. No surprise, it resides in Spandau, and actually emerged form a Werks-Klub, meaning a club formed by workers of the BMW Motorenwerke in Spandau. They informed me that every Sunday, at the Spinnerbruecke above the Avus (the former road-racing circus in Berlin) is a huge meeting of many Motorradfahrer und Motorradfahrerinnen, let’s be gender-balanced here. 😉
I stuck the details in my maps.me and after 30 mins had arrived. Indeed hundreds of bikes and their riders congregating at some open-air café-cum-park and had a breakfast or just a drink, but all with plenty of chat. I wondered how would I recognise who is the BM-club there, but fortunately when pulling up I parked ride behind an F800. A woman had just stepped off this machine and I ask her about the Spandau BM club. “Come with me! You met the right person!: she responded in perfect English and, let me ask you dear reader. wouldn’t you have followed her as well.
Soon I had a seat on a large table, everybody very friendly, more or less my age group and we shared BMW Motorrad club life matters. Like in my Victorian-based club, they equally find it hard to attract younger members. Their membership is around the 40 mark and most of them have more than one bike. As I said: like my Victorian club. I left some of our stickers and I am sure they found a suitable place in their clubrooms, which by the way they had rented for the past 45 years or so.
The other days were spent mainly with my bro. We’ve made the most out of it, as we see each other less than a blue moon appears. Had walk together, shopped a little, annoyed/ amused strangers we met on the road, ate out in a Bavarian restaurant, met up with Rudi’s daughter Carola. She indeed has a nice flat and seems in good spirits – Hi Carola! was great to see you!
Rudi and I even inspected the not-yet-ready flat he occupies. Finally we managed to show off the bike (and myself) to his friends and all in great spirits and a sincere appreciation that we had yet another change to spend time together.
So god stuff all-round, as it always has been between us! Happy man I was.
I left Berlin for another catching-up indulgence in Bavaria (should I eat there in a Berlin restaurant??) Last year I went into BMW Southbank to arrange a crate for my bike to be shipped. the Southbank people have been most helpful for my sometimes ‘odd’ requests, they must be used to them, so in this instance they were much helpful again – thank you Southbank. Your logo is on my windscreen seeing the world!
Walking in, I couldn’t help noticing a dusty and battered R1100 parked in front. Moreover, it sported a German number-plate. Interesting! Inside, my mandatory trip to the coffee machine led me past a dusty-clad bearded biker. No doubt the rider of this German bike. Happy to embrace any opportunity to talk in my mother-tongue I involved thus fellow, Hubert in a conversation. Promptly I learnt the he had been on the road for the past 18 months!! He had come from Bavaria over-land through 23 countries (or more) to Darwin and ultimately to Melbourne, Australia’s navel! Hubert and I got acquainted quickly, so I offered hi a place to stay in Melbourne at our house. Hubert eventually took me up on this offer and later I was able to assist him in shipping his bike back to Hamburg, as the bike-part of his journey had ended here. He went on via Peking and the TransSib express to Moscow and Berlin, completing his journey in 22 months. More info here: Huberts Reise
Now, I was ready for a return visit in Bayern (Bavaria). Actually it is in Mittel-Franken (middle Frankonia) to be precise. The small village of Stopfenheim, close to Weissenburg (a bigger town/Kreisstadt) would become my home-away-from-home as Hubert looked after me like a long-lost brother. I was immediately accepted into his larger family, his daughter, brothers and one sister, his parents and friends, It is indeed a special thing if you
walk/drive through a town and almost every second person knows you, waves, stops for a chat. Well, that was the case for Hubert, and I was the ex-German migrated to Australia visiting in Stopfenheim. Words cannot describe how pleasant this experience was, sincere and open hospitality by everybody I met there.
Additionally we figured out that a sound emerging from the front was the clicking of the now defunct headstem-bearing – thank you Mongolian pistes. The BMW-Motorrad shop in Weissenburg wanted 85 Euros for s replacement, which had to be ordered in. Hubert found locally a non-OEM replacement for half the price AND it was available over the counter. We replaced the bearing, using his brother’s mechanical workshop and a proper press. All done within one morning and now I can ride again without any niggling thoughts if my front-end fails on me.
I also went on a milk-run, a real one!, with Hubert. Whilst in Vor-Ruhestand (a rather great German approach to early retirement whilst still obtaining the bulk of your ‘usual’ income without losing any pension entitlements – Australian Government listed up!), Hubert still does some jobs here & there ensuring he doesn’t exceed his 450 Euro/month limit, otherwise his entitlements would shrink. One o these is a milk-run, driving a large DAF semi-trailer collecting farmers milk from as far as close to the Czech border. So for one ‘run’ almost 700 kms I became the co-driver. But that’s a wrong title, rather I was the non-silent observer and making-sure-I-am-not-in-the-way.
This was another interesting experience, one I hadn’t done before, at lest not in such a super-large truck. Great skill, especially judgement about the length, width and height of your vehicle and how to steer it through impossibly tight lanes and corners – impressive! Whilst Hubert was un-coupling empty milk tanks and collecting full ones, I had a squiz with the farmer at a spot where we stood for longer. Here we had a milk farmer. He had about 120 cows that never saw the outside of their large, computer-sized shed. Every one of them wore a bracelet around its neck, capturing absolutely all data: the time when this cow fed herself, when she was due for milking, how much milk she gave, when she went voluntarily into the automatic cow-washing lane etc etc. You name it, this farmer could call it up via his computer. The milking was done fully automatic with laser-guided suction cups memorising the position of each tits, and cleaning each prior to applying itself.
The entire feeding cycle was computerised, even the dishing-out of feed was done by a robot. This farmer still needed to work, however his worked certainly had changed. I wished my Badminton mate, Mick could have seen this farm and spoken to this farmer. Him, his wife and one of his elder sons were working full-time on this farm and he also grew potatoes. However his maximum holiday one a year never exceeded two weeks – a farmers’ life. Remember that German employees usually get around 5-6 weeks, fully paid per annum. Well, I guess that is progress in farming.
Later I watched another farming machine active of the harvested fields. This one collected all the hay, strewn on the ground, pressed it, baled it with a wire wrap-around and literally shat it out as it progressed over the field, about one large rectangular bail in less than a minute. Effective!! no doubt.
Hubert and I did a pushbike tour to some nearby lake through forest crossing the ‘Limes’ a Roman-built defence system, kind-of like the Chinese wall just somewhat smaller and more basic to keep the Teutonic warriors at bay.
A round-trip of almost 30 kms worked up a good hunger to be satisfied at Hubert’s brother Alfred’s place. We spotted some wild sows as well, fortunately behind a fence of a former ammunition factory.
Another highlight was the BBQ Alfred organised at his home. His wife, son and daughter together with their partners were present and I enjoyed tasty Frankonian food. Fortunately I was able to secure the last pre-packed batch of Kangaroo eat in the local supermarket. This was a surprise even to Hubert. BBQ-ing it and cutting it in stripes made it last so everybody could have a sample. All commented positively, and whilst that may have been done of courtesy, I am sure that the men might want to try this type of meat again.
To round up reporting and reflecting on this experience was a special visit to a real Schloss in Ellingen, a small town located a few klicks away from Stopfenheim. Since 1216 this Schloss belonged to the Deutschen Orden but since 1815 had been the home of Feldmarshall Carl Philipp Fuerst von Wrede.
Hubert knew Helmut, the manager and Helmut agreed to give us a tour. And let me assure you – it was a super-special one! First I was able to touch the walls of the cellar. I learnt that I just touched walls erected in ???? the only part of this entire building which originates form the first water-castle build here. Subsequent fires and a 30-year long lasting war eventually produced the third Schloss on the same site in 1708, right where it stands now and where I touched the walls.
Other highlights were a duel with an invisible enemy using an original age-old double-hander sword.
Fortunately nobody was harmed in this bout.
I stepped into the private rooms of Fuerst von Wrede, even saw his private bathroom. Upstairs I climbed, to stand on the balcony of the music and reception room. The musicians sat in this hidden balcony, right under the ceiling on each side of this room and practiced their trade. The rounded ceiling echoed their play down into the room. I could see the clothed-hooks in the wall where they would have hung their coats.
Then I peeped into the private chapel, now used for wedding ceremonies, again from the private balcony only the Wrede family was able to access directly from their private rooms.
This was all super-interesting and impressive. The top of this however was a climb into the roof of middle tower (one of the three). There, squeezing my way through huge wooden roof constructs, past the employees’ quarters, windowless for the lower echelons, I finally reached the trapdoor leading into the roof ‘balcony’ affording a stunning view over the entire area.
“Thank you, Helmut!” Unfortunately we missed to admire your Classic Small Car Museum, so there must be another time!
If you ever are close to Weissenburg, don’t miss to see this Schloss in Ellingen. Its rooms are fitted out with precious silk wall-paper, hand-printed.
Furniture and room fittings are among the very best you can see in Bavaria in the style of Klassizismus.
Be told that exactly vis-à-vis is the Ellingen Schloss-brewery crafting another refreshing Bavarian/Frankonian beer and traditional food. Cakes can also be had (just for the Prez).
Judging by the above you can imagine that I easily could have stayed another week. It was hard to dis-engage form this environment, its people and the super-welcoming vibe. Alas, a Chinese proverb states that “guest are like fish – after three days they start to smell” so, heavily smelling I decided to move on making my way further south through Czech, Austria and Hungary towards Romania.