Into South-East Europe

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Well, I could have remained in Stopfenheim for at least another week or three!
Not necessarily that there were so many things to see, rather the homely feeling Hubert and his family & friends created for me. I certainly reminded me that I do miss home. Travelling now for 103 days and finding myself almost every day in new surroundings is indeed interesting and satisfies curiosity. The flip-side of this coin is that I do miss my known and trusted family and friends, as well as predictable surroundings and things. Perhaps this is ever-so-gently growing each day.
I’d better keep the lid on it, as it could risk getting into the way keeping my eyes and mind open and remaining able to take in all these new places and people.
Enough soul searching for now.

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Where was I??

Leaving Stopfenheim gen south-east Europe.
Hubert gave me a ‘Geleit”, I’d say in English we would say: “rode with me for a while”. We travelled on back-back roads probably not even in maps.me, affording splendid views over hills and little villages. A final stop for coffee in yet another picturesque Bavarian village and we said out good-byes – for now.
Then I am on my own again. Willie Nelson’s song comes to mind ….. (On the road again …)

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I continue through the Bavarian mountains towards the Czech border having set my target to a small village, Cerenice, just southeast of Prague. I won’t go to Prague itself, have been there before, so rather aim for new places.

Most times of this trip I have been reasonable lucky and avoiding the rain. The same applies today, the skies are dark and threatening, but I’m able, or better the roads maps.me selects all skirt around the rain. I can see it coming down in the distance to my left.
But then my luck changes: only 30kms before arrival I get hit. The full Monty! Bugger!! Whilst “it is only water”, my usual mantra, this time it is bucket loads of it. My jacket soon gives in and I am wet literally through to the bone.

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Like a sopping wet dog I arrive at my small village. Luckily the pension is rather pleasant, it is homely, has a very nice hostess family and a superb breakfast. Immediately I extent my stay for another night. I will need at least a full day to dry out.

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Drying out gives me some time to collect some stats:

  • To-date – 11.August –I‘ve covered 12.964 kms on the bike since strating in South Korea
  • I have been on the road for 104 days
  • From these I had 72 riding days and 32 non-riding days
  • I’ve done an average of 301,4 kms/riding day – that’s almost spot-on my estimated 300km mark.

As I am dry again, I continue to see Sternberg Castle. I am not sure why the name rings a bell, perhaps some connection with WW2 or so? Help me out here, dear reader.

Then I ride on to Kutna Hora to see the Sedlec Ossuary, an underground church or chapel full with bones. Killing fields of Cambodia-like, however not the gruesome context – but a little spooky to say the least.

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the Family Coat of Arms … represented in bones

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… and the angles blow …

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the underground vault

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far out …..

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apparently the name of its ‘Artist’

Of course there is a story behind this …. see here for more

 

With some spooky thoughts I ride on to Budweis (Czech). En rote, another milestone happens: I roll over my speedo to 100.000kms! Kind of cool.

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This happens one 1km after here:

  • N 49 22 712 / E 014 43 617 (as this is the 99.999km mark) and I stopped to take a photo
  • on August 12, 2016
  • with my travel speedo on 13.115kms
  • on my 74th riding day
  • having left home 105 days ago
  • in the afternoon at 15.15
  • with 17 degrees Celcius (a rather cool day).

I herewith apply for my 100.000-on-one club trophy. Guys, can you post it to me? … just kidding.

 

Budweis is a friendly little town. Lots of the old city is still intact, restored and is surrounded by a small canal.

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Yes, I definitely sampled its beer! More than once.

I also take a day-trip to Krumlov, another small, very picture-book town a little south of Budweis. Despite being full of tourists, just like myself – I reckon the locals were outnumbered 1 : 100 – the place has a good vibe.

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lucky ducks float past

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Krumlov

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it’s major tower

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No, decided NOt to go in for a treatment …

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A Rothenburg ob der Tauber like village, apparently surviving all armed conflicts – lucky ducks. And some of them I saw swimming or floating in the fast-flowing river, which almost fully envelops this old small town.
Fully flowing also was my ride to and fro Krumlov! I was still staying in Budweis and was pleased to make this day-trip with no luggage. Initially I behaved as a good citizen or visitor on the road. But watching the local bikers who disregard all signage and ride hell for leather ….. well, I couldn’t help myself and soon followed suit:  – a nice change, pleased that I still can keep up with it, arriving with a broad grin at my Hostel in Budweis.

The one-and-only darkening stain on the day is an increasing earache, I got myself a ‘tropical ear’ as a result from riding in the heavy rain a few days earlier. To my dismay I find that no doctor, neither any pharmacy is open on a Saturday. So I revert to what every dinky-dei Aussie would do in this situation: I dribbled some tee-tree oil into my left ear and hoped for remedy.

 

Leaving Budweis heading for Budapest had me cross through Austria,specifically Niederoestreich (Lower Austria) . I could ridden to Budapest in one stretch approx. 500kms, but it would have been arduous especially avoiding Autobahns. Besides, currently I don’t do ‘arduous’…
So, instead I tootled along D-roads through nice, cool forest, breathing in deeply the smell and super-fresh air. Passing through small villages and gently rolling hills – a pleasure! To add spice to the day I had decided not to pre-book any accommodation (me = Captain Risky 😉 rather I had this phantasy in my mind of finding a nice looking Pension, in the heart of a small town, red flowers greeting me from the balcony, entering a rustic but clean room – and all that for a small handful of Euros.
Well, well I was in la-la-land. No such thing in the villages I traversed, not even close! Either they had no accommodation whatsoever, or what was there was closed for summer holidays. When I finally found a place by asking some locals – all rooms were booked out!! Niederoestreich pick up your act!
So I travelled on, a little tired, and finally I ended up in Mistelbach, a larger town.  Even there I was lucky to get a room in a semi-functioning Hotel: its kitchen was closed, the Sauna currently renovated, and the WiFi was shite as well. Walking outside to find food, the next two restaurants were closed as well. Mistelbach’s Harlekin Café became my refuge: food & drink and being able to sit outside as it was a balmy summer’s night. Here I celebrated my wedding anniversary with an extra dollop of Schlagobers on my ice-cream indulgence. One must male the most out of one’s circumstances 🙂

Mistelbach to Budapest had now become a shortish trip. Crossing through Slovakia another memorable incident happened:

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a look across the river into Hungary

…. for the first time, since having completed almost 13.500 kms I was stopped by a Police control! Travelling happily on a lowly ranking road, not even being aware of my speed, I could see a man stepping out waving me in. First I thought it was the motorcyclist who had passed me 20mins earlier. So I pulled over to stop, recognising at the same time it wasn’t this rider, no it was a Policeman, one of two. The other one presented his speed camera, showing that I had travelled at 113kmh. Alright, I nodded (helmet already off), quite probable – didn’t watch the speedo for a while. Then I confessed not even knowing what the ‘correct’ max speed was on roads like this one. “90kmh” was the response. Ohoh! shrugging my shoulders, what now? I heard the word ‘fine’ but tried to over-hear it. Meanwhile the speedcamera-cop got interested in my bike. Of corse was I much obliged to tell him my story! Any distraction from the word ‘fine’ would be good. I showed him from where and through what countries I had travelled. We almost had an amicable conversation about my trip. And when he asked about any technical difficulties, I could humbly brag (is that possible??) about my technical skills. I reported in detail the things I had to repair. Now the ice was broken, the word ‘fine’ never mentioned again. I also confessed that this was the very first time, here & now, that I was stopped by Police. The very first time, Officer!! The camera-cop, the more senior ranked of the two, had a Slovakian word with the other one and all was good.
I almost asked for a photo, but resisted, not wanting to stretch the just established rapport. After 20 mins I was free to go and with their wishes for a good trip. My lucky day!!

 

IMG_5415Budapest, a place I hadn’t been before despite its relative closeness to my previous home, Frankfurt/M in Germany. I had from a very reliable source – thanks Louise F. – to seek accommodation in Pest, the northern, flat part of town. Advise from this specific source is best to follow to remain somewhat securely in ‘the good books’ – many of you will know exactly what I mean. For my non-English speaking readers in essence it means to take your partners’ suggestions seriously …
Hmmh, not quite sure if I nailed this translation? Clarifications and better expressions warmly invited & welcomed from all readers!

Accommodation in Budapest was pre-booked but don’t believe everything you read about a place when using Bookings.com. Don’t get me wrong: this is a very convenient site when you wanna be sure you’ve got a bed for the night. I propose to still check each ‘booked’ detail out before you un-pack. My ‘apartment’ was to have a TV – I wanted to get a little Rio 2016 dose, hadn’t seen any of it. Well, there was a TV, but this TV had no reception. WTF! ?! Travelling for so long, I had reached a status that I couldn’t take even small beer shite any longer,  so I requested an alternative. I ended up a few streets elsewhere, in a smaller room – no apartment rather a ‘normal’ house with many private people living there. One flat rearranged to accommodate guests. It was in a rather nicer area, a little place just outside with coffee, bar and restaurants. Moreover this arrangement had breakfast included, as was the use of a washing machine. To its credit this place also extended my stay for one more day when I was sick as a dog with a powerful have-no-idea-where-it-came-form, 24-hour stomach bug. I would have been dead on the road otherwise.

Budapest is a nice town, ‘the old city Pest’ feels compact – not really ‘old’ for European standards, as most was completely washed away by a huge Danube-flood 300 years or so ago. Rebuilding was done trying to restore the old street layout, but most buildings stem from a similar period, nevertheless Pest is rather appealing.
Of course I had to book the Segway tour! Our guide Mercedes (her real name I was assured 😉 was more an ‘Esmeralda”.

FullSizeRender-7With her  arm outstretched and an open palm she commanded all traffic to a hold, so our small group crossed the street safely, following her like a gaggle of geese. Segway riding/driving is great fun. I want one!! If only Aussie authorities would have their heads together …

This brings together a recent fb comment I read that Melbourne is the worlds ‘most liveable city’! Then I look at the next placegetters and almost all of them are ‘newer’ cities. Why is there never an ‘older’ European city among this list?? Bloody hell, I’d better not getting started about this crap!

Back to Budapest being quite charming, almost a smaller Prague (sorry for this inept comparison).

For me it lacks the elegance of a Moscow or the vibrancy of a Paris. … and almost everybody is smoking! It is soo obvious when coming from Melbourne, I immediately smell it and have to suppress some annoyance and also wonder about the prevailing ignorance of the local populous.
Well, that’s really only my view, trying to make sense

 

From Budapest I rode into Romania and stopped in Sibiu, aka Hermannstadt. Sibiu is a small medieval-looking town almost in the centre of Romania. It was to be my starting position to ride the Transfăgărășan Highway, one of the ‘most desirable’ motorcycle roads in Europe on position 1 – see here

I decided to stay an extra day exploring this town, which almost celebrates its German historical connection. The former major of the town, now the President of Romania is of this German heritage.


I was extra-lucky as the ‘Sibiu Ralley Challenge’ was in full swing. An annual Classic Car Ralley actually having the Transfăgărășan closed for their exclusive use on this Saturday, 20 August. Had I not stayed this extra day I would have rolled up at the T and be bitterly disappointed, instead I explored-walked Hermannstadt. Here a few impressions.

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On my gentle walk, now counting as ‘practice’ for my sojourn with Louise, this town grew on me. Sibiu or Hermannstadt also still actively supports the Wandergesellen by providing a house for their accommodation and coordinating employment. What a great tradition this is!

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Sibiu felt friendly, looking after its appearance, almost dual-cultural. Additionally I couldn’t help feeling an Italian influence. The Romanian language sounds smooth compared to its northern neighbours, almost like Italian. Particularly the melody of the language sounded so close to Italian. Add to this me sitting in an Italian Ice-café at the main square with an Italian menu …. I was ‘sold’!

So I climbed up the clock tower – all 144 narrow steps – and enjoyed the view

One unhappy thing occurred again!?!!
When buying my ticket for the Brukenthal, Museum, named after the chief-benefactor and ruler for this town and area in past centuries, probably really a well-meant person considering the then circumstances (Aufklaerung). When I declared that I was a ‘pensioner person’ (so it was expressed on the displayed price list) guess what happened?!!  The old guy behind the ticket window didn’t even hesitate to ‘grant’ me that reduced price!!
Bloody hell!
What a shock for the second time in this part of Europe! I think I’ll need a facelift!
On second though I might try to befriend myself with reality …

are the Peter-Pan-days over for good?

How can one be a fool, even in older age – and not taken seriously??

Thoughts to ponder on the next long ride day.

However the Brukenthal Museum had some interesting stuff.

The grave of Graf Dracula …..?

 

A modern Art exhibition:

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almost a little Picasso like ….

And I walked along the former, partially standing wall, surrounding and protecting the city:

I also experienced the art of begging, or even “accosted begging” by – presumably – gypsies, but I am just giving in to my prejudices. The young girl and even younger boy were pretty persistent, almost aggressive, seeking out tourist-looking people.  And they were many of them about.

Later that afternoon I had taken a ‘strategic position’ to see the Classic Ralley Cars return from their final leg: the Transfăgărășan. They were expected to arrive around 17.00 at the big place and at 21.00 a large, public presentation would take place here as well. By that time all cars would be locked-up in the ‘parc ferme’.


Hmmmh, interesting to see, as long as I could get my other ‘homework’ (blog) done. Turns out that many cars in this Ralley are ‘classics’ in the Czech automobile industry: Dacias and Skodas sprinkled with a few Mercedes, Ford Escorts, a Porsche of course, Volvos, even two Ferraris, and a Morris Roadster– quite nice to look at! I noticed that all were registered in Romania, so a local Ralley this is.

So to conclude my stay in Sibiu, the next day i rod this recommended – un-spellable named – road across the Carpartian mountains, the Transfaragarsan

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Taking a turn to see another castle brought me onto the west-side of a large lake. A few kms in it turned a little muddy ….

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It took me two exhausting hours to paddle through the mud which got worse, but fortunately without laying down ze bike …. exhausted I was, but heading on to the Donau (Danube) delta …

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