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Monthly Archives: July 2019

Nordkapp, the Top of Europe

We arrived at the ferry port in Tallin, Estonia, midday, having reluctantly left our beautiful campsite on the sea. With the help of a couple people we found the ticket booth for the ferry, which was leaving in about two hours. We queued up in a line for motorcycles, which ended up with about 50 motorcycles awaiting to board the ferry.

There had been a car show for American cars in town for the weekend. In the queues around us were several great looking cars from the 60’s and 70’s, all headed back home to Finland.

Great looking cars

With our bike lashed securely on board, we went up on the deck for the quick two hour crossing.

Ferry to Helsinki

Many of the bikes on board were biker clubs out for the weekend. Getting off the boat and riding out of town was quite chaotic. Seems all the bikes and hotrods needed to be the first out of town.
We were headed west out of Helsinki toward the small town of Porvoo. We found a campground south of town and camped all by ourselves, except for the several woman walking around in just towels after their showers.
Heading to the downtown area to find something to eat along the waterfront proved futile. Everything was closed Sunday evening. We had seen a McDonald’s on the way into town, so of we went to get a cheeseburger, and a cheeseburger without cheese for Melanie.
In the town of Porvoo is a small 13th century Lutheran cathedral that was made of wood, before the stone walls were added in the 1400’s. In Finland, 85% of the population is Lutheran. We talked to a tour guide that was very interested in our trip, then let us listen in on the history of the church.

As we were leaving, a couple came over to talk with us. They were from Helsinki and were in town for the day and had seen or bike. After talking a while, they invited us down to the old town square for a coffee and snack. Of course, we accepted.

New friends, Jussi and Riikka

Jussi and Riikka are both fantastic people and we hit it off immediately. We stayed and talked for a couple hours. It was wonderful. I hope we will make it back to Helsinki some day to see them again, or meet somewhere in the world.

For the next 5 days we would be riding north thru Finland. There are two very distinct areas of Finland. Finland and Lapland. As we got to the north the terrain changed and we started seeing Reindeer.

The south and western side of Finland is the Lakes area. There were many cabins along the 100’s of lakes in this large area. We were told that about 20% of Fins own a holiday cabin on a lake in this area. Campgrounds were plentiful and the weather was cool and windy. It made us wonder what was awaiting us, 1600 kms to the north, at Nordkapp.
As we entered Lapland the trees had started to thin. We were headed to the Arctic circle and to just north of the city of Rovaniemi. This is the European home of Santa Claus, which was located on the Arctic circle.

Crossing the Arctic Circle

After seeing the touristy area and letting Santa know to send a letter to our granddaughter, Lucy, we left.

Making friends

The Main Man

Our grandson, Caleb, had received a letter from Santa after our ride to Alaska a couple years ago. Pointing the front tire toward Nordkapp the route was flat and fairly treeless. Nordkapp is the northern most place in Europe you can drive to, over 700 kms (420 miles) north of the Arctic circle.
The traffic was light, so we pushed forward with a couple longer days of riding. The nights were just getting dim as the sun was not setting the further north we rode.

Early Morning

2AM Full Moon

Crossing into Sweden briefly we soon crossed into Norway and found a campsite south of Alta.

Huts along the river in Sweden

The campsite was inexpensive, but had a surprise waiting for us.
There was a large tipi/tent set-up in the campground. Inside was a center fire pit. Surrounding the fire pit were benches with Reindeer skins on top of them. At 8pm, the 80 year old owner of the campground started a fire inside. Hanging near the opening in the top of the tipi was a chain reaching down to just above the fire. The fire starter proceeded to fill an old fire-blackened kettle with water and just the correct amount of ground coffee.

He’s 80 years old and enjoys doing this every night.

Hooking the kettle on the chain above the blazing fire he made coffee for his guests. One by one the campers showed up, alcohol in one hand and an empty coffee cup in the other. Travelers from many different countries and cultures all sat in a circle surrounding the fire talking and enjoying each other’s company. Two hours with these world ambassadors passed way to quickly. It was another fantastic evening.

World Ambassadors

As we rode toward the coast the next morning, the scenery changed again.

Alta

Alta

Alta

The mountains and fjords became the norm for our ride toward Nordkapp. Amazingly, there are signs reminding drivers to pay attention to the roads as the fantastic scenery had the tendency to distract even the most attentive of drivers.
Finding a nice campground just south of Nordkapp, on the edge of a fjord, we set-up camp.

Great campsite

The day was perfect. The skies were a perfect cloudless blue.

View of coast from Nordkapp

I wanted to get a picture of the midday sun and return at night for the much sought after photo of the Midnight Sun glowing through the globe.

Melanie making friends

Melanie at the Top of Europe

At midnight the place was packed with no less than 14 buses in the parking area.

First to find our sticker gets a beer.

Finding the perfect place for my photo, I snapped the most amazing photo of the Midnight Sun from Nordkapp.

Midnight Sun at Nordkapp

Bucket list item, check.

Cheers,

2WANDRRs

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Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel | 2 Comments

North through the Baltics

We rode into a town that evening looking for a place to stay. The place we had looked at on booking.com was full. There wasn’t much more in the area, so we decided to head to the mountains. The skies were darkening as we left town and on the edge of town it started to rain, hard. We turned around and headed back to town, but still could not find a place to stay. We decided to head out of town again, in the rain. A couple miles out of town we found a small hostel. The price was right, the owner was nice and it had a kitchen and free Wi-Fi.

Wood carving in a park.

The next day we set off for the Bicaz Gorge. The road follows the river, twisting and turning on its path. As you ride, walls of rock start to soar above on either side you revealing incredible gorge.

Stopping briefly at the bottom of the gorge to get some photos, we met several motorcyclists from Hungary. We talked for a bit about each other’s trips, took some photos and then took off.

Hungarian bikers

We were looking for a hotel and decided to stop and check our GPS. A friend of ours would be stopping at a hotel near us, so we set out for the hotel. The mileage to the hotel wasn’t bad, but the roads were in terrible condition, or just dirt. Our friend. Doug Wothke, was towards the end of an incredible ride. He and four other friends had shipped their World War II vintage Harley Davidsons across to the UK. From there they invaded Omaha Beach for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion in France. The ride was across the top of France, Belgium, Germany and ended several weeks later at MotoCamp Bulgaria.
Doug pulling to the hotel with one other guy still in tow. We had a fun night eating and drinking (I was drinking) and telling tales of the road before parting ways the next morning.

Special dinner for us.

The next morning we headed out toward Hungary. Finding a small road that bordered the Ukraine, we followed it. The road ended up being a small, one lane pass road with perfect tarmac and wind is way through the forests to some in incredible views.

A couple days later we crossed from Hungary into Slovakia and rode toward the northern ski area at Strbske Pleso. The Carpanthian mountains rise dramatically here. We pulled in and looked for a place to park. As always, we looked where other motorcycles were parked. Finding several on a grassy area, we parked beside them and went to find something to eat. A couple minutes later the local Barney, (Police), pulled up to tell us we had to leave, it was not a parking space. OK, no problem. They checked my passport only, no one else. We rode down the road and found another spot of the resort area where bikes had been parked when we came to town. We pulled in. Within two minutes the cops were back. They told us all to leave, seven bikes plus us, and hassled me, the biker from America. They kept yelling at me in a language I didn’t understand, and rubbing their fingers together. Understanding the sign language of corrupt police officers, I asked them if they wanted a bribe. They then took out a book and indicated they needed €20 for the “ticket”, and handed me two pre-printed stamps, that were meaningless. Everyone else rode off while I was being hassled. We left right after for Poland. Corrupt officials somewhere, everywhere.

Corrupt Police

The next few days we rode toward Tallin, Estonia. This is where we would catch the ferry to Helsinki.
We stopped in Lublin, Poland to walk the old town and see the castle. We had found a place to stay on AirBnB which turned out to be very special. This was a 2-story apartment that was called the “Music Room”. Downstairs was an office, a well appointed kitchen and a nice bathroom. The whole upstairs was the bedroom. The space was decorated with musical instruments and vinyl records, 33 1/3 and 45’s. They also had a wonderful set-up, including the turntable. Needless to say, we played old American music from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

Record room

The rate also included a breakfast. Our host would arrive in the morning and ring a little hand bell, indicating he had arrived with our wonderful breakfast. We told him we were taking the bus to old town and he even went out and bought us bus tickets.

Wonderful breakfast in kitchen area

Lublin was formed around the 13th century. It was a Nazi camp for Jews that were segregated into an area called the Lublin Ghetto. In one month in 1942, 26,000 Jews were sent to extermination camps. The city suffered significant damage during WW2, but has since been restored. The castle steep is original and had been used in the past to house political prisoners.

Lublin Gate

Finding the correct bus to get back served to be another issue, complicated. Solved after a beer.

First, a beer

Next, figure this shit out.

Crossing the border to Lithuania we stopped at Grūto Parkas.
Grūto Park (unofficially known as Stalin’s World) is a sculpture garden of Dinner-era statues and an exposition of other Soviet ideological relics from the times of the Lithuanian SSR. It was founded in 2001 by mushroom magnate Viliumas Malinauskas. It is quite controversial, so we didn’t pay the entry fee to go in.

Our next stop was to see the Trakai Island Castle on Lake Galve. The castle is the only island castle in Eastern Europe, constructed in the 14th century.

Goofing around

Before crossing into Latvia we visited the Hill of Crosses, near our hotel. This was started after the unsuccessful 1831 Uprising against the Russian authorities. It was destroyed several times by the Russians, but always rebuilt. It is estimated over 100,000 crosses are now there.

We spent a couple nights along the coast in Latvia, on the Baltic Sea.

Ferry crossing to a dirt track. I think we’re lost.

Who’s driving this ferry??

It was a beautiful campground on a bluff overlooking the sea. They let us stay for free. Camped near us was an older rider on an older African Twin. He was from Austria. He came over to chat as we were setting up camp. He invited us over to his camp later that evening for a fire, and took off on his bike. Later that evening we discovered that he had gone to the store to get snacks, beer, ciders and wine for the evening fire. What a fun night we had. A reminder, too much beer means too many times up to pee at night.

Ahhh…

Austrian rider

What a view!

Sunset

A couple days later we
crossed by ferry into Scandinavia.

Cheers
2WANDRRs

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel | Leave a comment

Bulgaria and Friends

We were up at 3 a.m. to catch our flight to Sofia. Like any big city, London never sleeps.
Our flight into Sophia on EuroJet was great, except for the lack of food and alcohol.

Good friends

All of our motorcycle kit made it and Dimitar was there to collect us. After a quick bite to eat, I paid Yellow Donkey a visit. Dimitar had put new shoes on her and after a couple tweaks, she was ready to go.

That night we decided to go out for a quick bite in the park. The quick bite turned into quite a few beers after some friends arrived.

Around midnight we left the party. Melanie helps guide my stumbling self to the subway station. I went directly to the ATM machine to buy my subway tickets. Melanie directed me to the proper machine and we made it to our fifth stop. As usual, we had a great night in Sophia.

The next morning we wanted to head to MotoCamp Bulgaria. While nursing a hangover, I retrieved the bike and we worked at getting the bike all packed to head out. After a quick lunch the thunderstorms rolled in. After waiting a couple hours we saw a quick break in the storms. Riding in a light rain we left Sophia. changing directions, sunshine became our companion for the final three-hour ride to MotoCamp Bulgaria.

As you turn off the main road onto a small tarmac road you pass fields of sunflowers and a small pond. Turning right at the village of Idelivo, MotoCamp will soon be on the left, you can’t miss the old motorcycle out in front. Opening the front gate is like coming home, with Polly and Ivo greeting us. While you always make new friends at MotoCamp (Steve, Ulla and Bernd) and we had several old friends Dave, Dan) that were also there, and a couple coming in the next day (Nigel, Dimitar and Kostadine). We were surprised by a visit from Sofia and Joe, who have bought a house in the village, and Graham Fields, who has called this place home for four years. Great surprise from all. Thanks. What a great couple days we had filled with good craic and beer.

Thanks Dimitar

Sofie Jacobs and Joe Dustworld

On the last day we were invited over to Graham Fields’ house for coffee. He has a beautiful place high on a hill, overlooking the entire valley. If you need a house and cat sitter sometime…

Graham Fields

Dimitar then lead several of us on a spirited ride to the flying saucer, Buzludzha, dedicated to Communism. It has even become more run down since our last visit there. The inside used to have amazing mosaics all made out of tile. There are now guards stationed there keeping people out. The dangers are great since the ceiling is now falling in.

We finally had to leave. Saying, “See you later”, is always tough. So difficult that we returned 6 hours later to retrieve my phone that I had left on the table. Ha, more drinking.

Oh oh, what broke, Sir Nigel?

The following day we headed to the Black Sea and found a great campsite right on a bluff overlooking the beach. The campground was on a small cove surrounded by bluffs with a small slope in the area down to a great beach. After a nice swim, we had a good meal and a couple beers overlooking the blue ocean while the sun set behind us, casting shadows and colors on the cliffs.

Black Sea is a beautiful blue.

The next day we crossed into Romania. As the temperature soared to near triple digits, we pushed west. With the sky a cloudless deep blue we rode through fields of bright yellow sunflowers and purple lavender. Staying hydrated, the day was a boring but good ride.

Cheers
2WANDRRs

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel | Leave a comment

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