Europe

Denmark to the Netherlands

We arrived at the ferry port the time we were told to be there and were first in line. That’s OK. Get something to drink and pull out the ukulele to entertain the masses.

This was an overnight ferry that seemed more like a cruise ship. It was a beautiful ship and very nice. We pulled on board at the designated time and secured the bike to the deck, along with about 50 other bikers. Finding the stairs to the upper decks we found our room, stowed our gear and headed to the open decks on top. We had a couple drinks and sat with a couple other riders about their upcoming journeys. While on board this Danish vessel I went to the ATM to get some new currency, not knowing it was going to give me Norwegian Krones. If anyone is traveling to Norway next year, I’ll trade you for Pounds, Euros or Dollars.

We arrived at the port in Hitshals, Denmark in the morning. The skies were threatening with the promise of a couple days of bad weather. The hightailed it east, away from the storm front to a small, isolated AirBnB near the coast. This was a nice one room hut in a farmer’s back yard, about 100 meters from the house. We had heat, nice full-sized bed, and a small kitchen with refrigerator. Perfect! We quickly unloaded and ran into town to get some groceries for the next couple of days. We almost made it, catching the rain just before we got back to our hut.

After relaxing and catching up on electronic communication (FREE, good Wi-Fi), we headed to a small-town south of Copenhagen to see a friend and do some motorcycle maintenance on the bike. He was a US citizen back at the Hobbit house that he had grown up in. He was taking care of his elderly mother and had invited us to stay for a while. While I can’t disclose who he was, we had a fantastic time with them, made some lifelong friends and can’t wait to see them again. We toured Copenhagen with them and were fascinated at the number of bicycles we saw. They were parked everywhere. On boats in the canals, on streets and in multi-story bicycle parking garages. The rush hour traffic consisted of bicycles with men in suits, women in dresses and everything else you could imagine.

After a few days of having fun with the best host and hostess ever, it was time to move on. It was threatening rain again, so we put on our yellow rain suits. It had the desired effect, it never rained. Our destination was a campground on the levee in Germany, just north of the border of the Netherlands. We stopped in Hamburg to visit Miniatur Wunderland, an enormous model railway system based on famous global sights. Each of the different section highlighted an area with light town and cities, moving vehicles on roads and, of course, trains. It just defied description. We followed that with a Big Red Bus tour of the city and then left for the coast.

Staying on small roads as close to the coast as possible, we made slow progress but had a wonderful ride. The campground was across the road from the levee that towered maybe 100 feet about the campground. It was a beautiful setting with good wind block and green grass all around us. There was a small restaurant at the campground, and I had to try the Seafood Pizza. It had shrimp, mussels, calamari, and fish on a dough pizza with a red sauce. Fantastic! The next day we rode toward Amsterdam.

We would be here for a couple of nights. The following morning, we would catch the train into downtown Amsterdam and look around. Again, the public transportation was easy and inexpensive. We decided to do the on/off bus tour, which also included a boat tour of the canals. We enjoy these as we also get a narration of what we are seeing. Stopping in the downtown area we had to visit the Original Dampkring Coffeeshop of Amsterdam. It has a most captivating menu of smokables and edibles. We followed that with a visit to Vleminckx Sausmeesters, serving homemade fries since 1887. The original munchies joint, I would think. Of course, no visit to Amsterdam is complete without a beer at Delirium Café.

The next morning, we packed up camp and headed south to the beach. Our ferry for the UK would not be leaving for a few hours so we had some time to waste. There wasn’t much to see, or so we thought. Stopping at a seafood kiosk to look at the water, the owner of the business came out to say hello. We ended up talking for a while and he invited us to eat some seafood, desert and a coffee. While talking he told us of a motorcycle track just on the other side of the berm, which we couldn’t see from the road. We rode around the corner and right up to the track to watch some open track day for people in the area.

Off to the UK, and The Overland Event.

Cheers,

2WANDRRs

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel, 2WANDRRs, adventure travel, Denmark, Europe, Horizons Unlimited, motocamping, motorcycle travel, Netherlands, Suzuki VStrom1000, VStrom | Leave a comment

Norway to Denmark

The next morning was again beautiful with clear blue skies. I hiked from the campground to the Storfossen waterfall just as the sun was cresting the mountain. The sunrise made for some amazing pictures. The water was cascading down the steps of the falls with the sun sparkling off the foaming water.

After breakfast we continued up the mountain on Route 63, toward another fantastic, not-to-miss pass. With great pavement and sweeping curves we climbed toward two large waterfalls, the Kvanndalsfossen and the Forfriskendefossen. We stopped briefly to look at both falls and headed to the top of the pass where the road turns left and winds steeply to the top of the Dalsnibba Mountain Plateau at a height of 1500 meters (4291 feet). The views are incredible in all directions. Feeling like we on top of the world we just stared out in amazement.

Continuing on, the road runs along the crest of the mountain providing incredible views before heading downhill to another small fjord, the Innvikfjorden. There is an arm of the Jostedalsbreen glacier that feeds a river to two glacier lakes on the way to the fjord. I saw several camping areas on the lakes, one being next to a small bridge, crossing the river connecting the two lakes. They had a great spot for us right on the lake looking skyward to a small glacier just across the river. Canoe rentals were available, and the price was, FREE! We hopped in one and canoed the length of the second lake to see the large glacier from the water. It was spectacular!

The next morning, we rode toward the glacier, and the end of the road. We decided not to hike up as we didn’t want to leave our gear in the parking lot, so we continued. We have an Austrian friend, Anita, that was near us and we had decided the tonight would be the best day to meet and camp together.

There are a couple stave churches on the way to Flam. One of them is a UNESCO Romanesque church, the Urnes Stave Church. It is listed as the oldest stave church and was built around 1130. There is a ferry crossing to get to the church, so we passed and went to the other one. The other one, the Borgund stavkyrkje (stave church), was built around 1190 on stone foundations, is exceptionally well preserved and is the most distinctive stave church in Norway. The church has beautiful, lavishly carved portals, five carved crosses and dragons on the roof. The area surrounding the church is rich in cultural heritage. The Vindhellavegen, part of the King’s Road across Filfejell is designated one of Norway’s most beautiful roads.

We backtracked a few miles to a crossroad of old and new. The new Lærdalstunnelen is the longest road tunnel in the world. The tunnel is a 24.51-kilometre-long (15.23 mi) long road with blue-lit rest areas and speed averaging, so be careful, speeding tickets are expensive in Norway. The old road FV243 climbs over the mountain offering spectacular views and a picnic/hiking area at the top. We had lunch fixings with us, so we took a break and enjoyed the sunshine and the views.

Anita is part of a team of female riders, the Grizzly Race Team. The team set a woman’s world record in 2018 for riding around the world. She was riding to Nordkapp with her friend, Yvonne. They were moving quickly, as would be expected, and made time in their travels to camp with us for the night. They arrived later in the afternoon. After setting up their camp at Flam Camping og Vandrarheim we headed into town for some chow and a few beers. We had a wonderful evening with good friends and in the morning, parted paths.

We were catching the ferry out of Bergen in a couple days, so we found a campground on the outskirts of the city. The first night we set up camp but the next morning we checked to see if there was a cabin available. Since we had to catch the ferry first thing in the morning, we decided a cabin would be easier. Yes, there was a nice small cabin available so we could move over immediately. We tossed everything in the room and grabbed the bus into Bergen.

Public transportation is so easy over here once you understand it. Getting to town was easy as the bus stop was right across from the campground. We bought our ticket ay the gas station out front and went and stood at the bus stop. I followed our route on map.me and when we got close to downtown, we jumped off. Getting back was a different story. We got on the wrong bus at got off at the next stop. We thought we then knew where we were going. Nope, wrong again. I had to convince Melanie I finally got it figured out. We only had to walk one mile, in the rain, to get back to where we had gotten off the bus coming into town. Great! Only 45 minutes until the bus gets here. Time for lunch, a beer and chips.

But, back to Bergen. The downtown area was very scenic. There was a large four-sided memorial in the square dedicated to the sea farers throughout history. The wharf area has an expensive fish market just as you arrive. The prices were outrageous, and the market was full of cruise tourists. We didn’t eat there as it was definitely out of our budget, hence the gas station beer and chips for lunch. On the far side of the wharf was an area referred to as Bryggen. It was the old medieval wharf in the historic harbour district known for its colorful, wooden-clad boat houses. Standing on the other side of the harbour we were able to get some wonderfully scenic tour guide photos.

The next morning, we packed up the bike and headed to the ferry port, destination Denmark.

Cheers,

2WANDRRs

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel, 2WANDRRs, adventure travel, Europe, Horizons Unlimited, motocamping, motorcycle travel, Norway, Suzuki VStrom1000, VStrom

Central Norway

Just south of our BnB was the fourth largest city in Norway, Trondheim. The settlement was founded in 997 as a trading post, and it served as the capital of Norway during the Viking Age until 1217.IMG_20190730_113219881_BURST000_COVER

Riding into the old town is relatively easy, considering all the one-way streets. The Nidaros Cathedral is visible protruding high into the skyline as we weave our way closer and closer.
Parking in front of Nidoros Cathedral, we walk toward the imposing structure. The cathedral is part of the Church of Norway and was built over the burial site of King Olav II (c. 995-1030, reigned 1015-1028), who became the patron saint of the nation. Initial construction lasted 230 years (1070-1300), and continued 7 centuries, until 2001. It was Catholic until the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century and it became Evangelical Lutheran. Nidaros is the northernmost medieval cathedral in the world.
The city was still busy as Olav Days had just finished, celebrating King Olav II. The West Front consists of a rose window above the crucifixion and 57 statues.IMG_20190730_113604556
As we were leaving the cathedral and walking toward the old bridge we walked near the bike. A parking enforcement officer was standing behind Yellow Donkey. I stood at a distance so as not to have to interact with him. I learned that lesson in Czechia. After he finally left, I walked over to the bike. He had cleaned my dirty tag and, seemingly becoming confused, left. The old gate and bridge are around the corner so we walked over, got a picture, and rode out of town before the attendant returned with backup.IMG_20190730_114608628

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Old Gate to the Walled City

There are a couple of travelers that were coming from the south. Lisa Morris and Jason Spafford rode motorcycles for 4 years around the Americas, south to north. They are now in a tricked out, 4-wheel rig and driving from the UK to Nordkapp, Iceland and down to South Cape, the “Cape to Cape”. They are good friends and since we were near each other, thought we could camp together on the epic Atlantic Road.

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The Atlantic Road

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Hello Friends

We rode in from the north not knowing where they were. Just as we crossed the high bridge, there they were. Such a treat! After we had a coffee, Jason found the perfect spot to camp, or so we thought.IMG_20190730_222626250
With the ‘psst’ of the opening of beer cans, we toasted our trips and the good fortune of being able to do this on the road. Lisa fixed a fantastic meal and we all feasted like royalty. Nighttime came way to quickly and after a brilliant sunset, we headed to our tents.

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Great Meal, Lisa

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The photographer at work.

In the morning we were none to anxious to leave, so we sat around sipping on our piping hot coffee. We noticed a man pulling up in his truck. He walked our way and demanded money, since we had camped on his property. We protested, and he pointed out the well hidden signs. Welcome to progress and capitalism in central Norway. North of here, camp anywhere for free. From here south it gets very busy, so beware. Jason and I were really grumpy after this encounter, but more coffee and time eased the pain.
Leaving is the difficult part of traveling. Since both our lives are basically nomadic, you never know when you may see each other again.
We headed south and they north.
The Trollstigen pass was our next road on the map. Stopping first at Trollstigen Campground to get a picture of the trolls and a couple stickers, off we rode up the pass.IMG_20190731_144321116 IMG_20190731_144848522The pass starts to climb right away. Just as you near the top the road contorts itself into hairpin turns. Twisting back and forth you reach the viewing area nestled between the Trollveggan and other surrounding peaks. The Troll walkway guides your way to an overlook of Stigfossen and the incredible road below. As you stand there surrounded by such beautiful vistas you cannot help but be thankful that you are lucky enough to travel this way.

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Our road up.

IMG_20190731_180017839IMG_20190731_152313094You never feel as if you spent enough time in places like this, but it’s time to start looking for a camp for tonight. The Trollstigen ends at the Storfjorgan fjord, where a ferry takes you to the other side. We want to spend the night at the top of am arm of the Storfjorgan in Geivanger. We see there is a campsite right on the water. Perfect!

Just before reaching Geivanger the road has a hairpin turn at a veiwpoint some 1500 feet above the fjord. You can see the Seven Sisters waterfall from there and the cruise ships look like small Monopoly pieces. IMG_20190731_175337394_HDRIMG_20190731_175408649IMG_20190731_175652147IMG_20190731_180124889The road down from there consists of eleven, very tight hairpin turns on a very narrow road. Buses are not allowed on the road but two, traveling opposite directions, have become stuck and unable to pass. This has backed up traffic from the middle of the way down, both directions. The road is so tight and traffic so congested that even motorcycles are having a difficult time maneuvering past. The temperature has climbed as high as the emotions and we are glad to weave our way through to the camp at the bottom.

IMG_20190731_182524109The cruise ships and many cars in town should have been an indication got is to keep moving, but we stayed packed like sandines onto a patch of grass between other irritated campers. From today forward the crowds become overwhelming and I get a case of fjord/tourist-itis. It is getting time to leave Norway so we book our ferry out of Bergen to Denmark for a few days from now.

Cheers,

2WANDRRs

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel, 2WANDRRs, adventure travel, Europe, motocamping, motorcycle travel, Norway, Suzuki VStrom1000, Trollstigen, VStrom | Leave a comment

Athens

We have learned a trick when riding in big cities. Park the bike securely and do public transportation. The first thing we look for is the Hop On/Hop Off Sightseeing Bus Tours ( https://www.hop-on-hop-off-bus.com ). These buses hit most of the tourist areas of the city and narrate, in your language, what you are seeing. And if you want to explore more on your own, just get back on the bus at another stop. Easy.

In the morning we walked to the pickup location for the bus and rode a big loop to see the sights before deciding which place we wanted to see first. From many areas in the city all you have to do is look up and on a an enormous flat rock 490 feet above and overlooking the city is the Acropolis of Athens. This ancient citadel was built in the 5th century BC. The area contains several ancient buildings of great architectural and historic significance, the most famous being the Parthenon. The Parthenon was dedicated to the goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered their patron. The Acropolis is undergoing extensive renovations at the present time.


Theatre of Dionysus

Parthenon

Parthenon

Erechtheion,
honoring Athena & Poseidon, this famous, ancient Greek temple features a porch with 6 caryatids

Back on the bus and to the market. We wandered around looking at the people selling all kinds of things, even food. Finding a little cafe we ordered a great homemade pizza and a beer and chatted with a couple out enjoying the day with their new baby. On the way back to the bus we came across a car show of old Fiat 500’s. Cute little buggies.

The next day we decided to buy our ferry tickets before hopping back on the bus for more exploration. Getting off at a couple locations to look around we finally headed to the Old Market to wander around some. On the way we passed the Presidential Palace. The Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was about to take place. We hopped of the bus and were treated to the wonderful ceremony. From the side the three guards entered the square, two officers and the guard. as they approached the spectators parted down the center of the viewing area as the soldiers high stepped through the people to the guarded area. One of the officers narrated what was about to happen and the two guards high stepped toward each other preforming the Changing of the Guard ceremony. It was very impressive.

Our next stop was the old town market and lunch. Finding a cafe with an outdoor seating area we ordered a couple fresh Greek pies with meat fillings and feta cheese. Excellent choice. Sitting on the street the market area filled our senses. All around the sounds of people bargaining with the shop owners for the best price, couples chatting, scooters buzzing, horns honking gave us a sense of excitement.

Ever visit must include the Olympic Panathenaic Stadium. The stadium was built on the site of the original Panathenaic games in 300 BC. The current stadium was built in 144 AD, had seating for 50,000 spectators and is built entirely of marble. For many centuries it sat abandoned until being refurbished and used again for the opening and closing ceremonies in 1896 for the first modern Olympic games. It is also the last venue in Greece from where the Olympic flame handover ceremony to the host nation takes place.

We walked on the field and sat in the chairs of past rulers and just felt the history. We walked through the entryway that the contestants had entered the field through and walked the length of what looked like a long cave carved into the marble leading to the main halls and an exhibition area. Truly spectacular.

The next day we arrived at the ferry port to make our way toward Turkey. We had to cross first to a small Greek Island, Chios, just 30 minutes from the Turkish coast. The ferry took several hours and we arrived to Chios at about 0400 am. There were a couple cafes open so we sat, had coffee and a Greek pastry, hooked up to WiFi and looked for a place to spend that night as the ferry to Turkey didn’t leave until the next morning.

It finally got light and we went looking for the place I had booked on booking.com. It was described as on the hill overlooking the beach and ocean with a pool and a hot tub. After negotiating a terrible broken road down to it we found what was a deserted hotel. Nobody was around and the pool and hot tub looked as if they hadn’t been used in years. I had already paid for it through booking.com Grrrr. They did reimburse my money.

Headed back to town we found a great place place right on the water on the other side of the island. First up, go explore the island. The island was beautiful and ended up being one of favorites, it seemed almost deserted.

On the backside of the island we came across a road that looked like it went down to a beach area. Coming around the first corner we were startled by a group of tanks with soldiers standing near them. We waved and they waved back as we passed and soon we became aware we were on a proving ground and the signage encouraged us to turn back. We took the advice, there is always another beach. The soldiers waved at us again as we passed probably laughing amongst themselves.

Riding back across the mountains to the other side we saw a sign for the Nea Moni of Chios. This was an 11th century monastery that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to tradition, three monks founded this monastery here when they miraculously found an icon of the Virgin Mary, hanging from a branch of myrtle. Constantine was exiled on nearby Lesbos. The monks visited him and told him he would become emperor. He promised them he would build them a monastery if that became true. Indeed, when he became emperor, he built them the monastery. Over time the monastery became the riches monastery in the Aegean with nearly 800 monks. It was well known for it’s mosaics, which are one of the finest examples in all of Greece.

As it got toward the end of the day we found our hotel, a wonderful studio with cooking facilities. The owner couldn’t have been friendlier. He showed us around and took our picture with Yellow Donkey to put on his wall to remember us. There was a market just on the street facing the water. A wonderful man helped up with vegetables and pasta for our meal for the night. Such wonderful people.

The next morning we set out in the dark to get to the ferry port. Our host was at our side wishing us a safe journey and to return to see him again some day.

Cheers,

2WANDRRs

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel, 2WANDRRs, Acropolis, adventure travel, Athens, chios, Europe, Greece, Horizons Unlimited, Monastery, motocamping, motorcycle travel, Suzuki VStrom1000, VStrom | 3 Comments

The Greek Isles, Santorini

Santorini.

So much has been written about this island. It appears as the number one island to visit of the Greek islands in the South Aegean Sea. But with that comes a fee. Increased costs for everything and people in the annoying form of tourists off a cruise ship. The worst ones.

Santorini is the largest island of a small, circular archipelago, which bears the same name and is the remnant of a volcanic caldera. The island was the site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history: the Minoan eruption (sometimes called the Thera eruption), which occurred about 3,600 years ago at the height of the Minoan civilization. The eruption left a large caldera surrounded by volcanic ash deposits hundreds of metres deep. It may have led indirectly to the collapse of the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete, 110 km (68 mi) to the south, through a gigantic tsunami. Another popular theory holds that the Thera eruption is the source of the legend of Atlantis. (wikipedia)

As the ferry pulls into crescent bay you can see why it is so popular. It’s just beautiful! The ferry docks at the base of a sheer cliff, which makes up the inside of the caldera. Riding off the ferry we wait for a couple large trucks to clear the tight serpentine road leading to the top of the cliff. The AirBnB we booked is on the east side of the island with contrasting beaches to the cliffs. This is the original side of the island before the eruption formed the caldera to the west.

We pulled into a small beach village of Kamari and up a side road to our place for the next few nights, the Villa Dioni. The restaurant attached to the villa is Alexanders, named for Alexander the Great, a Macedonian. We are greeted by the owner of Alexanders as we dismount, trying to figure out where to park the bike. He tells us in perfect English that it will be fine right in front of his restaurant. The owner of the villa, his daughter, is out at the moment and to please come in and be his guests for a cup of Greek coffee. We had a wonderful visit with him while waiting for his daughter to return. He invited us to return in the evening to his restaurant to eat, drink and enjoy the Greek music of which he would be part of. Of course we will return in the evening.

Dinner at Alexanders with my Love

The next morning we took off to explore the island. We rode along the top of the caldera along towns with white washed building clinging precariously to the side of the cliff. On the northern most tip of the island is the town of Oia. This is what Santorini is known for. The side of the mountain from the top and spilling down towards the water are whitewashed and blue building. It is an amazing sight with the deep blue of the water in stark contrast to the white. Cruise ships and three and four-masted sailing vessels drift in the water below. Across the water is the other side of the caldera and the rest of the now inactive volcano. There are no roads in this town other than at the top. The inclines are steep and when too steep, stairs. All the way to the bottom. Overweight tourists grumble as they all have to walk to their overpriced accommodations somewhere is the maze of white buildings. Porters carry enormous suitcases stuffed with way too many pairs of shoes and coordinated finery. The problems of the rich.

Panorama looking southwest

We sit and look at the beauty and the watch the tourists complain. On the way back to the beach we pass a brewery, the Santorini Brewing Company. We chat with other Americans there that can’t believe we would actually ride a motorcycle over here. The owners and brewers are also American and the beer is actually very good. On tap are Red Donkey, Crazy Donkey, and Yellow Donkey. We thought this would be a good name for our poor, overburdened V-Strom, so it is duly christened at this point.

Deciding we have seen enough we head back to the hotel and spend another fantastic night at Alexanders eating amazing food and listening to our host and his small band play traditional Greek music. What a night.

The next day we catch the ferry back to Athens for a few day of more exploration before heading to Turkey.

Cheers,

2WANDRRs

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel, 2WANDRRs, adventure travel, Europe, Greece, motocamping, motorcycle travel, Suzuki VStrom1000, VStrom | Leave a comment

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