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Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Schwer, Jun 3, 2012.
Very well put, great spin on it - !
Great report my man! Dont stop posting I'm really enjoying it. It is a dream of mine to ride around Europe some day! But being 20... and just barely half way through school. It probably wont happen for awhile...bummer!
What do you do for work back at home to be so gifted to afford such a sweet trip?
Great read. Your reporting is very humerous, I hope you complete the journey and the reporting.
I'm an IT Consultant - it's not that I exactly earn heaps, I just don't spend much at home and I try not to spend much here... Norway totalled my budget though, fucking car ferries . This has been one of those "one day I'll ride around europe" things for a while, but the positive thing is that I was saving for it the whole time I was procrastinating.
In most places in Europe it's not too hard to live on a budget - just live in hostels, cook in the hostel kitchen where you can, try not to drink too much (this is the hard one, because you just go out for a drink then it sorta spirals ).
Alright, finally Germany. Lets see if I can do this without mentioning the war. Deep breath, aaand
Riding out of the Netherlands and into Germany was like rubbing my eyes and seeing clearly again suddenly the road signs seemed to make so much more sense. Back in high school I learned German, you see I was rubbish at it then and 8 years of not practicing it hasnt improved it much, but I still know far more German than I do French or Dutch. As such I was looking forward to no longer having to apologetically ask if someone spoke English
. instead annoying them with my broken, grammatically corrupt German. Wunderbar!
Vier, bitte. No more holding up my fingers when buying petrol! Geil!
During my stay in Germany I managed to get a bunch of stuff done in German mainly buying things like tickets and even a new mobile phone (hence getting a start on fixing all the various things that Id broken at this point). What completely ruined me was trying to go to McDonalds first. Buying a phone is fairly easy in comparison you find the one you want and buy it. But at McDonalds one doesnt simply ask for what they want instead theyre asked if they want to buy a bunch of stuff they dont want. Weird stuff, in German, that I dont understand.
I was forced to capitulate. Entshuldigung, sprechen sie Englisch?. Damnit
you win this round Germany.
All the tourists are old people on coach trips... ahh the peace!
First stop was Bremen. Im still not entirely sure why I went to Bremen
it was in between Amsterdam and Denmark, but Hamburg was only an hour further. After Amsterdam I think I just wanted to go somewhere quiet, that wasnt full of drunken backpackers. Bremen fit the description pretty well it seems to be a popular destination for older Germans and Americans (I think people come back to trace their ancestors because many came through Bremerhaven on their way to the New World), and little else. Bremen has a long and diverse history but somehow the tourism industry is all focused on one thing the rather small statue of four animals thats in the middle of the city. Theres a Grimm Brothers story where four ageing animals a rooster, a cat, a dog and a donkey escape their owners and start making their way to Bremen to try their luck as musicians (as was the fashion then, I guess). They come across a house and stand on each others shoulders in order to peer inside, intending to take shelter and find it occupied by robbers. The robbers, upon encountering a stack of shrieking assorted animals, flee the house and the animals stay there and live happily ever after.
Yeah... it's okay... I guess
To be honest the statue, like all statues that are the symbols of cities (the peeing baby in Brussels or the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen come to mind) isnt all that exciting. Whats more amusing is the amount of Stadtmusikanten (that means town musicians I think
either that or its a canteen for statiticians) stuff that you can buy.
Now *this* is what they should have in the town square
One of the first things I did was go to the Kunsthalle (that means art gallery
how good am I?), which was a total bargain at 3 euros, and I managed to buy a ticket without using any English. The art gallery has a few interpretations of the Stadtmusikanten, as well as a bunch of pretty cool contemporary art. Its funny how every city has something cool in it, even if its off the main tourist track.
On the other hand, I guess if they put the stuffed ones in the square this would happen
The other cool thing about Bremen is that it has a cellar full of mummies. In Germany! Sick! Perhaps its some English-speaking-world prejudice, but I find having a cellar full of visible, two-hundred-year-old corpses right beneath a church to be a bit weird. Its one of those funny things about German culture that they dont seem to find the slightest thing wrong with it
theres an old man down there in the cellar with the mummies who sells tickets and he didnt seem to care in the slightest. Theres a soldier whos died mid-scream and everything. Totally metal.
The German people are a funny lot the culture is obviously familiar, but there seems to be this tendency to take things to extreme conclusions.
Freeways? why not have no speed limit at all?! If youre in the left lane on an autobahn, cars will tailgate 10 centimetres away from you at 150km/h
then when you get back in the right lane theyll fly past and youll realise its not some boy racer its a whole family complete with baby on board sticker.
Beer? Well drink it out of one litre glasses and have a massive festival with a billion people in tents.
Reparations? Well, instead well build all these tanks and
nearly mentioned the war there didnt I
time for a new subject.
I really enjoyed Hamburg. I had a bit of a poor start
broke a pannier key inside the lock, then realised that all my spare keys were in that pannier. Clever. Fortunately I was the hostel I was at (have a shoutout, Arena Hostel Hamburg) was pretty good (they even make your bed for you!) and the guys working there helped me get it out and referred me to a locksmith to make a new key. Hamburg seems to be a popular tourist city, but it does suffer a bit for big sights to see. Theres a whole square called Beatlesplatz complete with a statue of the band
based on the fact that they lived and performed there
before they were famous. Great.
This is the most photographed thing in Hamburg. It's an office building that looks a bit like a ship. You can see why they'd want to invade France... oops
While its not much to look at (although the lake is nice) Hamburg does have a buzz about it, and an interesting culture. Its a bit like Germanys Amsterdam in a lot of ways, and as I was there on the weekend, there were bucks and hens parties *everywhere*. Literally every 100m or so youd pass a bunch of guys dressed as nuns, or a guy wearing a pig mask who was being forced to sort bottle caps with toothbrush, or a group of gtoomsmen inviting girls to whack a arseless-trousers-clad groom-to-be with a riding crop (and in another demonstration of German extreme-ness, he was bleeding as a result). The Reeperbahn (which is nothing to do with The Grim Reaper and everything to do with rope, disappointly) on a saturday night is a crazy sort of tiny German Las Vegas, with bright neon lights flashing and people trying to pull you into strip clubs (and worse). It also has a bar where you pay 99c to get in and 99c for every drink, which is amusing
the music is so loud you cant even shout in someones ear there, because if you talk to people you might drink slower.
I actually took this on Sunday night so it was a bit quiet, but you get the idea
The other interesting thing about Hamburg is that the whole culture revolves around the sea. When a walking tour guide said this I was a bit skeptical it sounds like one of those nice things tour guides say that isnt really true in practice. However, at the time I was in town so were the ocean liners Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary 2, which both left the third night I was there. And as they departed, there was a *massive* crowd to see them off, complete with fireworks and everything.
Heaving, as Uncle Keith might say
By far the best thing in Hamburg though (and possibly the whole world) is Miniatur Wunderland, the worlds biggest model railway. To be honest Im the kind of person whos sold at model railway, but its so much more. When I was a kid I used to love Stephen Biesty books the big picture books that would have a cross section of, for instance, a ship, with detailed drawings of where everything went and all the people on board and if you looked really carefully youd see funny things happening in various places. Miniatur Wunderland is like that basically you see these giant scenes of various places (like Hamburg or Switzerland or an Airport) complete with cars and trains (and even planes!) buzzing about, but then you look very closely and find all kinds of random things happening with the little model people.
Smelly backpacker included for scale
Unfortunately a lot of close-ups didnt come out too well (damn you phone camera) but heres a few that did:
Cows drinking beer out of straws in Bavaria
A guy getting chased by raptors
Some Franciscan monks copping a perve
A guy riding a kangaroo becoming an arriere du peleton
Given how fun the whole place is for kids, there were a rather disturbing number of model public sex acts too (another one of those quirks of German culture I guess). By far the most impressive thing is the airport this became massive when a video of it hit the internet, and its actually even more impressive in real life. They didnt skimp on a single detail it would be enough to have a single plane just land and take off, but they modelled everything. Planes land, taxi to the terminal, offload passengers, taxi to a hangar, the hangar door opens, the plane enters, the hangar door closes. The cargo doors on front-loading cargo planes swing upwards, fuel trucks buzz around to parked planes it even has a departure board on a TV screen that matches the departures of the planes in the airport. It is beyond incredible.
It is so realistic that it actually conjures up the same feelings I get in real airports - that is to say it reminds me of waking up at 5am and flying to Canberra. Thanks IBM!
After 3 nights in Hamburg, it was time to go to Denmark. But then as I checked the address I was supposed to head to in Arhus, I suddenly had a sinking feeling. The date on the screen in front of me wasnt todays date
it was tomorrows date. Id accidentally scheduled a gap. Oops :-/.
Ganesh, a guy I met on the tour and ended up spending 3 hours with in Miniatur Wunderland (its supposed to take like 2, tops, but we shared a certain nerdy enthusiasm) had mentioned that there was a Volkswagen theme park in Wolfsburg, 2 hours south. Well, why not? So I loaded up and streaked down the autobahn.
It's looks sort of like one of those Star Trek episodes where they land on a perfect planet only to find that something sinister is afoot
So I found myself at Autostadt. Its kind of like a Worlds Fair for car brands in the VW group. Basically every brand has a pavilion to present itself, which sounds cool until you find that most of the pavilions are dull as a piece of biege cardboard. For instance, the Lamborghini one involves you being ushered into a darkened room with a Murcielago on the wall, then theres some bright lights and car noises through a speaker. Then the bit of the wall with the car on it spins around a couple of times. I suspect they were stuck with ideas on how to have a Lambo pavilion without letting any of the great unwashed near an actual Lambo, then one of them saw their son playing with a matchbox car, a shoebox and a torch and thought ehh thatll do.
The Audi Pavilion has you pick up this sphere which glows red and makes things turn on when you hold in near certain places. Which is cool, but all it turns on is Audi advertising.
I suspect the best thing about Autostadt is the factory tour, which I somehow didnt know about (there werent signs anywhere ) and missed. Ah well, the museum there had some pretty cool cars. The other fun thing about Wolfsburg is that the majority of the population works for VW, and hence *every* car is either a VW or a member of the VW group like Audi. You drive into the city and get the feeling that somethings not quite right
then gradually it hits you every car is the same!
Having gone out of my way only to be a bit disappointed, I spent a night in the worst hostel Ive ever been at, loaded up and with my bank balance shuddering in anticipation headed up the same autobahn Id come down
to Denmark. Finally I was entering Scandinavia, and it was still summer too!
Great RR Keep up the awesome postings! Glad you were able to overcome being injured by those treacherous Scots.....
There is definitely something about age-old Europe and mummies/bones. Some years ago riding through Austria I visited a cathedral that featured the skeletons of their former leaders reposing in glass cases along the walls....fully dressed in churchly regalia. Then you have that church in eastern Europe where the chandeliers are made of human bones and there are piles of skulls all over. There's probably a PhD in it for anyone who cared to delve into this sort of skeleton cult that seems to have existed.
Bruges: great town.....thankfully the river that made it a seaport silted up hundreds of years ago, and subsequent attempts at economic revival failed, so the place sort of slipped under the radar of all of the armies that have blasted the region over the course of the last 200 years! When I was there a local told me that it's the metropolitan area around the old town where the modern businesses are and a lot of the people live.
Hamburg: not surprised there's not much to see there compared to other places.....we Allies pretty much bombed the place flat and burned it with a firestorm back in......well, I don't want to spoil your record of not talking about the w...a...r....so let's just say "the major unpleasantness of the mid-20th century". Some sources have the Beatles with a sort of "house band" gig in Hamburg for about 3 1/2 months and have them returning for at least one long gig after that, so they seem to have some history there, as they lived there during these periods.
Autobahns: haven't ridden one, but the last I heard some sections actually have speed limits now, mostly due to congestion. I don't know if it's in the German psyche to drive fast, but I am willing to bet they do because they can and they can because those autobahns are supremely well-constructed. As I recall, the road base, pavement thickness, etc are way above anything here Stateside.
That model train layout looks awesome! I have put it on my list for another trip! Thanks again for a great RR!
This ride report is a rough diamond. Your writing style is both interesting and amusing, which is usually mutually exclusive. Your observations about german culture and their affinity (or maybe indifference) towards themes that are considered sensitive in the anglosphere are fun to read, since it's pretty much the same here in Switzerland. Nice to see Europe through your Aussie eyes.
Are you still planning to go to the Balkans or Eastern Europe? Maybe we meet on the road.
Weiter so, es macht Spass deinen Bericht zu lesen!
Thanks :). Reading your RR where you went through Karelia was actually a big inspiration for the scandinavian part of my trip - couldn't quite be bothered with the Russian visa though :). I'm actually in Tallinn now - definitely doing Eastern Europe, not sure about the Balkans - depends on how far I get.
I Need A Hygge
As you roar north from Hamburg along the autobahn, the border to Denmark isnt that obvious like most EU borders its just a bunch of signs with EU flags on them and not much else. What you do notice, however, is that
A: Theres a limit for freeways (or motorvejs, as the Danish very cutely call them), and
B: people actually stick to them.
Its this odd thing that as soon as you roll over this imaginary line on the map, the D numberplates gain a K at the end, and the drivers gain an iron-clad respect for the rules.
This is me doing 35km/h under the speed limit on the freeway. Wtf came over me!?!
Whenever I tell people in hostels who are taking trains or buses that Im riding around Europe, often theyll say oh wow, you mustve loved the autobahns. Not really somehow its hard to explain to people whove only ever driven a car that going in a boring-ass straight line for hours while putting up with 150km/h wind chill is actually pretty lame. In Denmark its even worse because not only do freeways have speed limits, but somehow you feel compelled, like everyone else, to follow them. In cities its hard to find a person even jaywalking, if people see that youre lost theyll gladly come and help you out without even being asked, theres low crime, and students are paid to study as well as getting their uni paid for. The big Danish companies Maersk, Carlsberg, Lego will gladly just give things to the country. The late owner of Maersk built a state-of-the-art opera house for Copenhagen, Lego built it an *international airport*. Danish culture is oddly cooperative as an Australian, it blows my mind. The last thing Rupert Murdoch did for us was renounce his Australian citizenship to avoid getting taxed.
Carlsberg built this amazing fountain in Copenhagen just because they thought it'd be cool. Meanwhile, Fosters contributes to Australia by convincing the world that our beer is rubbish.
The Danish call this hygge (pronounced hoo-geh, which actually looks a bit like hug
how nice :)), which directly translates to cosy but actually describes this idea of everyone cooperating together. Its all actually really inspiring, but being the pessimist I am I find it ever-so-slightly sinister its all a bit Stepford Wives. The weirdest thing is that you feel it start to work on you my second day in Copenhagen I saw someone struggling to open an iron door with their bicycle and rushed to help her. The first thought in my head wasnt even hey better help this lady, shes struggling
my train of thought was more like hygge hygge hygge hygge. Is there something in the water there? Scary.
I think all this cosiness sends the Danes a bit crazy sometimes. I walked over a bridge in Copenhagen to find two of them sitting in the middle of a canal, on a forklift pallet, paddling with two halves of a boom gate. The hell?!
Suppose Id better talk about what I actually did in Denmark. First stop was Arhus (imagine the A has a circle above it and itll be spelled correctly) Denmarks second city. I couldnt find a single decent hostel to stay at there, so I finally took the plunge and tried CouchSurfing for the first time
and conveniently I was accepted by the very first person I asked. Who knows what kind of psychopath she could be? Was I going to wake up in a bathtub full of ice with a scar where my kidney used to be? Or maybe a scar where my *head* used to be?
Well, no - unfortunately the meanest person in this photo is on the right. Although I do find something about this photo strangely unsettling
Of course, I was in Denmark, so my host Amanda turned out to be not just not-a-psychopath, but also the nicest person you could ever really hope to stay with anonymously over the internet. I tried to hide my disappointment losing a kidney wouldve been a great story for the blog. Oh well. On a more serious note, Im beyond grateful to Amanda for taking me into her cosy little student apartment and telling me all about Denmark. Usually when Im in a city I stay in hostels, which gives you a very good view of every culture *except* that of the country youre in. Staying with someone from the country connects you with it so much more Im guilty of making fun of people who couchsurf, but it really is a great concept and I hope I get to do it again.
Arhus is also a great little town like a lot of second cities, it retains the same national culture as the capital but its so much more relaxed far more my pace than Copenhagen (which we havent actually got to yet this post is getting very Naked Lunch). Walking around suburban Copenhagen with Amanda was such a break after the chaos of Hamburg. I hadnt really stopped in the suburbs of any city since I was in London, and Arhus has some really nice Danish houses. I even got to sleep without earplugs and shower without thongs (flip flops, for those of you who cant parlez Australien). It was quite a relief.
Do *not* take the brown acid
The coolest thing about Arhus is its art gallery every city in Europe seems to have a pretty good art gallery, but Arhus went above and beyond by having this nuts exhibition in the basement where bits of faces are projected onto ragdolls. Its really hard to explain in words, and even the photos I took dont do it justice entering a darkened room where theres a dozen giant eyes all blinking at you, or turning a corner to find a giant projection of David Bowie shouting nonsense while his face randomly changes colour was ridiculously trippy.
This was also pretty cool - basically a room with mirrors on all sides so you just see a million reflections of yourself going forever. I really liked it, but then again I am ridiculously ridiculously good looking.
After two awesome days in Arhus I hit the road again, up to Skagen, the northest point of Denmark, whose landscape inspired a whole school of artists. Before this Id mainly just seen the sides of motorvejs, but here I really began to see the landscape of Denmark, and it is spectacular. Skagen is great fun basically you pull up to the carpark, walk over a sand dune and see a sandbar sticking out into the sea with a massive crowd of people on it. Its pretty amusing this otherwise unremarkable bit of sand that just happens to be the most northern point of the country, and hence is a massive tourist attraction.
When a big wave comes in, it's chaos as everyone tries to keep their feet dry. Amusing.
As I was riding up to Skagen I passed a campsite with hundreds of various kinds of motorbikes in it. While in the carpark, a guy on a bike came up and said I should come along to some kind of festival they were having. I declined I still wonder whether I shouldve gone along, it mightve been one of those awesome stories you pick up while travelling when something random happens to you and you have a great time. But Id already booked a hostel in Copenhagen, and to be honest I mainly just wanted to ride
Id been covering so little ground lately and it was getting really frustrating. Who knows.
Also found that you're allowed to ride on the beach in Denmark. Another thing they have over Australia.
The ride to the ferry to Zeeland and from where the ferry disembarks to Copenhagen was actually great not so much because it was twisty or fun to ride, but just because of the landscape of Denmark. Theres something different about the sun in Scandinavia in the evening it hangs in the sky, casting long shadows in the fields and giving you the impression that youre riding through some kind of endless impressionist painting. Its a beautiful place.
It's like a painting, mile after mile
well, I cant say I had a lot of fun there. Theres nothing really wrong with the city itself its another busy capital, it has a lot of interesting history and a really awesome walking tour. I think mostly the problem was that after the laid-back atmosphere of Arhus and the comfort of staying with Amanda I wasnt really ready to be back on the backpacker circuit again, dealing with a meat-market hostel and the crowd that it attracted. This was compounded by doing a day trip to Roskilde to go to the viking ship museum where you can go out and row a longboat around the fjord to find that the wind was too strong and I couldnt row a longboat around the fjord. Damnit!
If it was any bridge other than the biggest in the world, I couldn't take a photo of it with my crappy zoom-less phone camera
Things were about to take a turn for the better though I loaded up, headed over the longest bridge in the world, and I was in Sweden a country that really earned a special place in my heart. But thats a story for the next post :).
A Brief Viking Raid Into Sweden
My route through Europe was a bit weird (read: stupid) to start with, and its only got worse as Ive gone along it. Hence I came to Sweden with plans to go up the western side, then Id come back to Stockholm later. Hence this post deals with my first visit to Sweden, before I went to Norway. So its not gonna be a big one.
It wasn't until much later that I realised how stupid this plan was, but by then I was committed to it
If I had to pick a country to live in Europe (and Im typing this from the Czech Republic, so Ive been to a few now) it would probably be Sweden. Having been in tight-packed countries for so long, suddenly there was space everywhere! And not the edge-of-the-earth feeling you get from the Scottish highlands it actually felt a lot like home.
The Belgians would've put a 5000-person city here
First stop was Gothenburg, a city whose existence I was only aware of because of the Gothenburg melodic death metal scene so many of my favourite bands came from here that I knew it was going to be some kind of extreme, ultimate, metal-as kinda place. I was expecting molten lava to be running through the streets, traffic to consist of skeleton-pulled chariots, a permanent lightning storm overhead
Not. Brutal. At All.
perhaps unsurprisingly, it didnt turn out to be like that. Fortunately what it did turn out to be was a beautiful, laid-back, lovely city. When people ask me my favourite places that Ive visited, I generally throw out Edinburgh (obviously), Delft (it made an impression) and Gothenburg. Im not sure why I like Gothenburg so much its not like I really met many of the people or went out there much (damn those Swedish prices) I just really like the vibe of the place. Its big enough to still have all the vibrancy of a major city, but small enough to still feel laid back. Its one of the places Id been that I wouldnt mind living
at least in summer.
Shame you're not allowed to park on the footpath though.
Theres not a million things to see in Gothenburg, but it does have an aircraft museum that sits in a former cold-war bunker. Its actually quite a cool place to visit the entrance reminds me a lot of the base from Stargate just a hole in the side of a hill that leads deep underground. Those who know me can tell you that while Ive grown into an adult physically, I havent really mentally matured very far past the age of 9, and this can cause me problems in places like the aircraft museum. Its full of planes and helicopters that youre allowed to climb into and put on a flight helmet and fiddle with the joysticks and the switches. When kids do this its cute and their parents take photos and its all very fun when I, a 23 year old manchild did it, the fun was dampened somewhat by the disapproving glares I got from parents waiting in line
and further dampened when I found that no matter how many buttons I pressed I couldnt find one that shot rockets at them.
Firing Fox Three!
The complex that the museum is set in is massive, and it was interesting to see the amount of stuff just lying around. A less-visited hangar had a bunch of random bits of aircraft including most of a Chinook (big transport helicopter) and a record of how the museum staff won a Red Bull birdman competition. Taking a walk outside, there was half a jet fighter sitting on some forklift pallets its crazy how these used to cost millions and were the only thing standing between Sweden and annihilation, but now theyre not even worth throwing a plastic sheet over.
How the mighty have fallen...
Riding north from Gothenburg, I was lucky enough to have someone to stay with Joseph, a Swede who Id met while I was immobilised in Edinburgh. He was staying at his in-laws house in Saffle (imagine theres two dots above the a), which is a little town next to the biggest lake in Sweden. This is a lake roughly the size of the island that Copenhagen is on, so big that you cant actually see the other side of it its just water all the way out to the horizon, as if you were on the coast.
The sea is hundreds of kilometres away from this picture. Cool eh?
Im so incredibly grateful to Joseph just being able to sleep in a quiet room by myself was amazing, but Joseph also cooked me dinner, drove me around and chatted about Sweden and other things into the early morning, even though he had to work the next day. Ever since Ive been in Sweden Ive always thought of the Swedes as being some of the nicest people in Europe although Im sure they deserve the reputation in their own right, I think a lot of this belief stems directly from the hospitality Joseph showed me that night. A lot of the time while Im travelling Im distracted by silliness like pub crawls and free tours and museums but its experiences like the one in Saffle that I travelled to Europe to enjoy.
Sweden had made a great impression on me, and Id return in time but adventure beckoned. It was time to make a pilgrimage to motorcycling tourings mecca Nordkapp, Norway.
Really digging this ride report! I'm definitely along for the whole ride! Keep posting!!
Loving the report! No chick pics tho.
I really wish I could be there Look across the river, it remained me a bit of "her"
when I am a bit drunk, it looks just like the realthingz
More Like Snoreway (Not Really!)
Im not sure I ever really appreciated just how much there is to Norway. Looking at it on the map its just a thin sliver of non-EU land off the border of Sweden kinda like the strip of fat on the edge of a piece of bacon. Although Id seen pictures and heard how good it was, I didnt really appreciate how different this skinny little countrys landscape (and prices) would be to its nearest neighbour, let alone how much it could change in the roughly 2000km I rode from the bottom to the top.
Or how much the weather could change in 2000km either
Having left Joseph in Saffle, I rode over some pretty nice Swedish roads over the border, and a few not so nice Norwegian roads (some of the few in the whole country) brought me to Oslo. A problem Ive repeatedly had in countries that get a lot of snow is that during summer they rush to get all their roadworks done tearing up half the town in the process. This is a real problem if youve got a GPS that thinks a town looks one way, and a government thats decided to make it look another. Finding my hostel in Oslo was such a frustrating process that I was tempted to turn around and go back to Sweden.
I guess it's a good thing that I didn't
Oddly, Oslo reminded me quite a bit of home back in Sydney. It helped that the weather was 30 degrees (celcius) and sunny, but mainly in the vibe of the city and the way that it was nestled around the harbour. They even have an Opera house with funny architecture with cheap last-minute tickets every night. As I was hanging around at 7pm, curiosity got the better of me and I was treated to this odd puppet-show-cum-ballet focussed around a heinously stereotypical old asian man teaching ping pong
mainly the show just consisted of puppet sex though. Horrible horrible puppet sex. Guess I shouldve checked the reviews first :-/. Oslo also taught me the value of putting the cover on my bike every time I park it overnight. Because I was in an underground carpark under my hostel I thought it was unnecessary, but returned to it the next day to find that someone had decided to steal the micro-USB cable that charges my phone via the cigarette lighter socket, in the process cutting up all the cable ties holding my ghetto-GPS-setup together and breaking the cigarette-lighter-to-usb-socket adapter. All for a cable that I bought in Australia for less than a beer costs in Norway. Sigh.
This was what I felt like... except imagine that the babies are Norway
No matter for some reason I had spares for everything broken or stolen, so it was on the road to Bergen soon enough. Didnt take long for my anti-Norway fervour to wear off, as I got my first taste of what makes Norway such an amazing country to ride. I swept along fjords, up mountains, through tunnels, past snow banks. It was amazing just how much you can see in less than a day of riding here. The weathers crazy you can go into a tunnel squinting because its so sunny, then emerge to find yourself being drenched with rain.
Water in Norway really only has two modes - impossibly glassy or impossibly glittery
Bergen was a whole world away from Oslo much more of a country town feel. Once again assisted by some sunny days, the town actually reminded me a lot of San Francisco (at least what Ive seen from pictures)
steep streets and neighbourhoods built on nearly vertical hillsides. As far as I can see Bergen gets a bit of traffic from the cruise lines that go along the Norwegian fjords, resulting in a town that has crowds of tourists but is lacking a bit for things to see
this is really the only explanation I have for how a town comes to have a leprosy museum.
Seriously. Did you know that there's two different types of leprosy caused by the same sort of bacteria? I do now.
The other interesting bit about Bergen was that I booked into the cheapest hostel in town, and something about the whole atmosphere seemed a bit odd. Later I realised that it was actually the Christian hostel, but they didnt really mention anything about it on the hostel booking websites. Id never stayed in one before I think theyre not so much about worshiping, more to provide a place free from the debauchery that normally goes on in backpacker hostels. No wonder I overheard someone complaining about a bunch of us drinking some of the cheap(er) scotch Id been carrying around since Denmark the previous night. Sorry for party rocking :-/.
I don't know what this waterfall is called, nor even really where it is. Norway is just the sort of place where you pass a waterfall like this when you weren't even trying to find it.
Next day I retraced some of my steps to do the hike up to Trolltunga. Trolltunga (or Trolls Tongue, in the much more boring English translation) is basically a big rock overhanging a fjord that takes 5 hours of hiking to reach and 5 hours to get back from
with the first (and hence last) kilometre being nonstop steep hill. You can either climb a loose dirt trail for this kilometer, or cheat and go on the the furnicular railway tracks (I cheated both ways). For some reason I thought itd be cool to camp at the top of the hike, and although it was admittedly pretty cool it also meant that I had to carry my tent, sleeping bag, stove etc all the way up and all the way down, resulting in unbelievable pain whenever I went down stairs for weeks afterwards.
Imagine this, all the way to where the water is in the background.
It is a spectacular hike though getting to the end late in the day and finding barely anyone around with just me and this beautiful view was completely amazing. Too bad my proper camera hadnt worked since France, but I made do with my phone one.
That's my tent!
When I got back to the bike the next day I found a makeshift parking ticket warning me that my number plate had been recorded because I hadnt paid for parking apparently it costs 200 norwegian kronor (27 euros) to park overnight at the base of the hike
which goes to maintainance. Im not sure whether it goes to maintaining the trail, which is a rough mudbath that disappears in sections, or the furnicular railway that doesnt run, but while I was packing up an employee of the tourist centre came and found me. Fine then, Ill pay. Stupid Norway.
Well, I *guess* it was worth it
Touring in Norway is no cheap business although the fjords were beautiful, I began to dread seeing one up ahead because that could mean only one thing
another frickin ferry ride! One day I had 5 ferry crossings in a day, each costing me 50 NOK and making me anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour later than I was planning. I guess given that fjords are generally pretty deep so its not exactly simple to just build a bridge across one? Either way, at one point I wouldnt bother stopping to eat because I figured it was easier to just wait until the inevitable ferry crossing and buy a hot dog on board. It is stupid to go to Norway and complain about the prices though in a lot of ways its just premium Europe
sure its expensive, but youre hard pressed to find a country more beautiful. Plus no matter how remote the location, everyone seems to speak English I think its actually easier for an English speaker than Scotland.
The fog in Norway doesn't just sit there, it rolls across the horizon as you watch. Pretty.
At this point the journey really started to feel like an adventure every day Id wake up, hit the road until it got dark or I got too tired, stop, sleep and repeat the process the next day. The further north I went the longer the days lasted too in Oslo it got dark at about 11pm, by the time I was at the Arctic Circle it just didnt get dark at all. I actually really enjoyed it too the loneliness of London seemed a mile away as I barely spoke a word but never felt anything but bliss. Theres something ethereal about riding in Norway
you never run out of curvy road, you never run out of daylight, its like being in some kind of motorcycle heaven. As I carved my way through the countryside I couldnt help but think that maybe when I do shuffle off this mortal coil, Ill walk towards the light at the end of the tunnel to find myself with Os beneath me once again, threading our way alongside the fjords, forever.
Something like this...
Along the way up I made a bit of a detour to check out the Atlantic Road, which looked amazing I even used it as the background of my blog. Having ridden over it, I was confused as to whether Id even found the right road. To be honest its like 3 sort-of interesting bridges, one of which has a curve in it and looks sort-of cool. If youve ever ridden from the north of Sydney into the city avoiding the harbour bridge, its pretty much the same experience. This was contrasted with the rest of Norway, in which nearly every single road is completely fanastic. I was a tad disappointed.
Looks good in photos though. Deceptively so.
About halfway up I stopped for a day in Trondheim in order to get an oil change and give myself a bit of a rest. Shamefully I just turned up at the local bike dealership and got the mechanic to change the oil and filter its embarassing but I didnt want to deal with obtaining the filters, figuring out an oil pan, figuring out where to take the old oil, getting a filter changing tool (which I cunningly didnt bring) etc. Trondheim is a student city which at the time had no students, leaving it feeling a tad empty. What was awesome about this situation, however, was that the student federations building was being used as a massive backpacker hostel. Trondheim has this giant student union (unaffiliated with the actual university) which dates back god-knows-how-long, and at one point a very long time ago (think pre-World-War-1) they decided to get themselves a building. Which isnt to say they rented out a house
rather they got the student architects to design them a giant round red building that has over 40 levels on the inside, despite only being 4 or 5 storeys tall. No one knows exactly how many rooms there are, attempts to model the building on computers have all failed and the guy who gave me a tour reckoned that he still occasionally got lost. Its incredible.
Apparently the Nazis thought it looked like a circus, so they put a circus in it. With elephants. Why the hell not?
Having got my shameful dose of 10W-40 SAE, I continued north, going through the Arctic Circle
It was colder here in summer than in an Australian winter
getting the ferry over to the Lofoten Islands and up towards Nordkapp. Where the Atlantic Road failed to live up to its hype, Lofoten more than delivered. It is a beautiful place indeed. The funny thing about Norway though, is that its all so beautiful that by the time you get to Lofoten a sort of wow-fatigue sets in. At the start you see a fjord and think WOW, THATS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING IVE *EVER SEEN*. A week later youre still thinking thats the most beautiful thing Ive ever seen, but youre painfully aware that the last time you thought that was only about 10 minutes ago. First world problems, huh?
There are a lot of these boats left floating in lakes around Lofoten. They look very nice but I can't help but wonder how the hell one actually gets to it. Swimming?
Once Id got to Lofoten I was damn close I was wearing full rain gear, my bike gear and a jumper just to keep warm while I rode, and the idea of stopping when it got dark was getting pretty silly because it just didnt get dark anymore. Nordkapp had to be getting close.
Not hard to pick the right road up here
Nordkapp isnt actually being the northernmost part of Europe you have to go on a hike to go there and my calves were still completely non-functional after Trolltunga. That isnt really the point though I mean, obviously the point is to get a sticker to put on your panniers, but besides that its just one of those places that makes you feel
something? As someone who deals with computers at work and motorcycles on holiday its all a bit beyond my comprehension, but it is palpable. The Lonely Planet says that it was a spiritual place for the indigenous Sami people, so I guess its not just me. You definitely feel an idea that you want to take something away from this place thats affected you so
which I guess is why the Norwegians decided to build a gift shop there.
In fairness, it is clever
Once you get near to it the whole landscape changes theres no trees, no mountains just rolling hills covered with grass. Its an oddly alien landscape and you really are acutely aware that youve reached the end of the world. When I looked out at the sea to the north, I knew in my head that somewhere out there was the North Pole, and Canada beyond that, but it wouldnt have taken much effort to convince me that the world was actually flat and that the sea in front of me was infinite.
I mean, if the north pole's out there where the hell are the polar bears?!
Most importantly though, Id made it. The biggest goal Id had while sitting around in Edinburgh with ice on my knee was to heap up and make it to Nordkapp, and here I was with my pilgrimage for the motorcycle gods complete. Oh yeah!
The other guys in the globe were kind enough to take my photo for me, so now they get to guest star in this post
So now what? Time to go south I guess. Next stop Finland
then Sweden again
then Finland again. It was to be a confused journey south, but I think this postss got long enough for now :).
Great stuff mate, that guy you met that runs a hostel in Derry. I stayed in his hostel in February... small world hey, and I sat in the front room with him while he explained how he made money on the races to this other girl that was staying there.
The great adventure will only get better once you head into Eastern Europe... you will save heaps of money down there and there is awesome riding in Romania/Bulgaria. Be sure to check out RTWDougs motocamp - google motosapiens bulgaria. When you are there, ask him about the spaceship monument, called Bazludja, or something, it's the coolest thing I have seen in all of Europe. Shipka pass and the Transfagarasan roads are must do's IMO.
Really enjoy your writing style.
One of the unique things about your report is how you bring culture and people into it; I enjoy flogging a motorcycle just as much as the next guy, but part of traveling on a bike is/are the smells, the feel, and finally creating a more accurate worldview (which includes learning people). "The most dangerous worldview is the worldview of people, who have not viewed the world." -(Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), German naturalist and explorer)
Btw, you may have a crappy camera situation now, but your pictures are still great because you have good composition IMO. The eye and framing of a picture will often do more than a 2500 euro DSLR..
Looking forward to Europe and your homeland by motorcycle myself, and keep it coming!
I was actually going to turn around in Romania (time's ticking away ) but I might give Bulgaria a go if the roads are good - been doing too much touring and not enough riding lately as I'm in Budapest, which is right next to Vienna, which is right next to Prague etc. Apparently rtwdoug is in America riding around at the moment though . The spaceship thing is pretty cool...
So time or money is your biggest constraint??
We will be in Spain until end of October, picking grapes on a vineyard and generally chilling out, then making our way back up the west of France into Belgium before heading back to London. Maybe we will cross paths? Anyway, just saw you there on FB so added you.
Roads in Bulgaria can be good, Transalpina/Transfagarasan are both great in Romania if you can get a chance. Those roads are great too because they are free... when you get to Switzerland and Austria then you have to start paying... 22 Euros it cost to ride up to Grossglockner in Austria... worth it though.
Time - although if time wasn't a constraint I guess money would be. Gotta be back at work on October 26. To be honest I'm sorta glad to be going home... while I've had an amazing time the whole idea of just riding around until time runs out wears on me a bit. Next time I think I'll go with a definite start and end destination so it feels a it more like a proper journey :).
Just saw your post in the other thread by the way - I totally didn't realise who you are. I remember when I was planning (dreaming) this you were just starting, and here I am nearly at the end of my trip (although the RR is only about halfway through) and you've seemingly covered most of Europe and you're getting tweeted by BMW. Fun how time flies :).