I am the original 'Uneasy Rider' .. not especially blessed with much natural motorcycling talent, nor am I a particularly courageous motorcycle rider.
Nevertheless I went 'Right Way Round' New Zealand (at least twice) followed by a wonderful ride around Australia.

Then it was up to southeast Asia, around Indo-China, across southern Central Asia to the Middle East, Asia Minor .. and finally into Europe.

Right Way Round - all the way home .. from New Zealand to England, 2-up on a Honda Transalp.

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PROGRESS SO FAR - Distance covered across Western Europe: 6,411 km [3,984 miles] - as at Thursday, October-22nd, 2015

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Four Hamburgers

Friday, 25th September

A two-hour ride -  128km [80 mi] - after leaving the Polish city of Wroclaw brought us to a seamless Schengen border crossing .. and in the time it takes to blink, we were into the Czech Repuplic and heading for the capital of Prague - or 'Praha' if you want to respect the local language.   

On the way to Prague, we dog-legged slightly south for a brief excursion into the historic township of Kutná Hora, especially to visit what appears to be, at first view at least, a quite unremarkable Roman Catholic chapel, called Kostnice Ossuary - better known as the Sedlec Ossuary.

You just wouldn't believe the interior architecture and adornments. What a paradox?!

In 1511 a chapel was constructed to house the mortal remains from abolished graves and contains the bones of about 40,000 people, arranged by František Rint in 1870.

The beginning of the Chapel's story dates back to 1278, when Henry, the abbot of Sedlec was sent to the Holy Land. On returning, he brought soil from Golgotha and sprinkled it on the ground here. As a consequence, the burial ground was considered holy and became extremely popular.

František Rint's work also includes an enormous chandelier incorporating every bone in the body.


A cherub with a discerning look on his face ..no wonder.

For better or worse I expected an emotional reaction, instead all I felt was curiosity and a fascination, which was easily distracted by the photographic opportunities of such an unusual grizzly space.

But it was worth pausing, just for a moment or two, to remind myself that I was actually gawking at the remnants of once real living people.

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90 minutes after leaving Kutná Hora - 75 km [47 mi] - we were pulling-up outside our pre-booked lodgings right in the centre of Prague. 

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Finding the Prague tramway system quite unfathomable, we hailed a cab .. and headed for the Castle, the largest ancient castle in the world.

.. and it was busy

.. bustling with excited tourists from all over the world ..



.. Camborne excepted!


 Delicious-looking al fresco fare on offer outside the castle walls ..

.. and local wines and ciders.

Buskers galore ..creating a great atmosphere.



Click on the forward play arrow for a brief (14 sec) sample.

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We then walked, yes walked to the still slightly contentious ..

.. John Lennon Wall.

Filled with John Lennon-inspired graffiti and extracts of Beatles' song lyrics.

I felt quite at ease leaning against the Wall. John Lennon .. The Beatles. That was My Time.

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Sunday-27th & Mondy-28th

Next stopover on the itinerary was Hamburg, Germany's second city.

A ride of 650 km [403 mi] - from Prague to Hamburg - was always going to be just outside our comfort zone; we simply weren't ready (yet) to take-on that sort of distance in one go.

A stopover was in order, near the city of Leibzig - the home of BMW and Porsche manufacturing.

Why Hamburg?

Well, specifically to be re-united with friends, Sascha and Kerstin, who we first met in June 2012, in the city of Tangerang, west of Jakarta, on the Indonesian island of Java. We have kept in touch ever since.

It was good to see them again.

So much common ground. They were riding a Honda XRV750 Africa Twin - the slightly larger cousin of the Transalp (my bike) across the Indonesian archipelago west ~~> east to Australia; we of course were heading in the opposite direction. Our paths crossed in Tangerang.

You can review their travels by visiting Sascha's blog at this URL: http://www.rtwbybike.com/

Sascha came along with us to the docklands area of Hamburg. Worth a visit. Awesome tonnage carrying container cargo 100 km up the Elbe River from its North Sea mouth at Cuxhaven.

The picture of Sascha (above) kind of reminds me of a certain Hollywood character:

"I need your clothes, your boots and your motorcycle." - And it all fits!

 "Hasta la vista" .. Sascha (und Kerstin.)

There are recreational sandy beaches along the banks of Elbe around Hamburg.

Fountain near the Town Hall, Hamburg, reminded me of the Jet d'Eau in Geneva. I'll be able to compare the two within the next few days, as a brief visit to Geneva is on this trip's itinerary.

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Tuesday-29th

465 km [288 mi] westwards and by late afternoon we were pulling-up outside our pre-booked lodgings - The Motel One - in Amsterdam; a city that I've always wanted to visit.

Wednesday-30th

A canal cruise .. and why not?





All on a perfect Autumn day.

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Thursday, 1st October

On to Brussels, Belgium.


And another afternoon of city exploration. Here (above), walking down to the Grand Place-Grote Markt.


The Grand Place is surely one of the world’s most beautiful squares.

A short walk from the Grand Place is a small bronze statue of a boy taking a p!ss, called the Manneken Pis, and thought to represent the "irreverent spirit" of Brussels. Revered by locals.Very odd [?]

Apart from seeing Brussels for what it is - a mixed-up city, an archetypal "melting pot" - the real reason for stopping by was to meet-up with an old friend who I haven't see for more than 10 years; Pieter Huizinga who works for the Flemish Government as an IT consultant.

Pieter has been described as one of only a handful of Dutchmen that has a crackingly-good sense of humour. Moreover, take it from me, he is also a real gent .. and we enjoyed his company and hospitality very much indeed.
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Friday-2nd

Before escaping Brussels' really quite severe traffic congestion, I felt a disturbing urge to take a look at the glass space of the Berlaymont building - the Gotham City of the European Commission.

This is where so much of our money [we Europeans] is currently being wasted - into a brutal glass monstrosity .. complete with a row of limp EU flags.

Have you noticed the skies in the various photos above? Fact is, apart from some fluffy cumulus - you know, the non rain-bearing type - over the course of last weekend and Monday 28th & Tuesday-29th of this week, a huge high-pressure anticyclone sat over north-western Europe has maintained virtually cloudless skies overhead.

Perfect riding conditions, calm and warm['ish], more than we could possibly have hoped for, especially at this time of year. Sadly, however, .. it's probably not going to last
 


Looking ahead for the next 2-3 days we appear to be heading into unsettled conditions as we head south, down through eastern France to Lake Geneva, Switzerland.

We might stay dry, but it will be touch and go - look at the cloud symbol above Bern (right.)

There is one certainty, which is as we head south towards the Franco-Spanish border, the ambient temperature is almost bound to increase.

Once we hit Catalonia (Barcelona) and the Costas further south .. who knows? it could be time to step into my swimmers and flash the ol' man-boobs once again. Bet ya can't wait, eh?! 

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This trip is starting to turn into a motorway dash from one European city to another.

Is that a bad thing?

I mean, is there anything, apart from receiving an unexpected cheque in the post, to beat finding yourself at large in a foreign city on a fair autumnal evening, loafing along unfamiliar streets in the long shadows of a silver sunset, pausing to gaze in shop windows or at some church or lovely square, hesitating at street corners to decide whether that cheerful and homely restaurant will be the one you remember fondly for years .. is it likely to lie down this street or that one?

I think I could spend my life arriving each evening in a new city.

The last 10 days, therefore, have been just the ticket. And it all happened during a totally delightful European Indian Summer.

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Saturday-3rd

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg - one of the smallest sovereign states in Europe, yet one of the top three richest countries in the world.

It was a relatively short ride from Brussels to Luxembourg, just 2½ hours - 225km [140 mi]; we therefore spent Friday night (Oct-2nd) in Luxembourg City .. and why not?

Just outside the city, a little south of the airport is the American Cemetery and Memorial.

The cemetery contains the remains of 5,076 American servicemen. Most of the interred died during the Battle of the Bulge, which was fought around the area during the winter of 1944-45.

 God Bless 'Merica.

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No more than a 30 km [18 mi] ride through gently rolling uplands and broad shallow valleys, brought us to ..

.. the tiny wine-making village of Schengen, which is located on the tripoint where the borders of Luxembourg, Germany and France meet.

The significance of this village is huge; not just for the excellent wine produced here, but perhaps more importantly because it was here that the Schengen Treaty Agreements were signed, which effectively abolished border controls for the member states that signed-up to it. 

And here (below) is the signed Treaty .. [erm] or at least a copy of it.


Fascinating, eh?

.. or am I just a sad b@stard for finding all this stuff so bloody intriguing?

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From Ellen's journal: click on this link →  The Last Leg

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Today, Saturday-3rd, we travelled due south through eastern France for around 400 km [250 mi].

It's good to be back in France, where the toilet facilities are generally still free, e.g. at motorway service stations etc. Unlike Germany where a quick whizz will cost you €0.70; similarly in Holland it'll cost €0.50. I never attempted a leak in a public place anywhere in Belgium or Luxembourg; just holding-on for dear life instead and simply endured the pressure.

Vive la France .. where you can still piss for free!

The weather still holds fair - just about. Tomorrow (Sun-4th), we'll sneak into Switzerland for the day, before heading down through southern France to the Spanish border .. and the warm Iberian sunshine beyond - one hopes!



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From Ellen's journal: click on this link → The Last Leg

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