Germany, Austria and One World Cup Partitour 2010
Saturday 12th June had arrived and it was the start of my holiday with my mobile phone switched off and instructions to Rachel my secretary in London to tell all of the union members to go away for two weeks. I was ready to leave but more importantly the 2010 World Cup had started in South Africa.
So it was off to Folkestone to catch the 6.50 am shuttle, not a very long ride for a change and my train travelling companions were to be a bunch of off duty coppers heading to the South of France (better not say too much I might get nicked). Arriving in France and biding a fine farewell to Mr Plod it was off up the Autoroute to Belgium After about 5 hours and riding through 3 countries I had arrived at our first hotel in Tecklenburg where I was to be greeted by our Hostess who was trying to hold a conversation with me in German. But my mate Ian Brown said you can all speak English I protested! It was no good she carried on yakking away and thankfully showed me to my room.
England 1 USA 1
We assembled in a local restaurant for a group meal, no starters for me just some beer and a main. I then hurried to the bar to watch the start of the match. After 4 minutes England scored YESSSSSSSS this is going to be easy I thought. Our waitress informed me that my food was now being served (or eaten by somebody else if I did not hurry up) so I sat at the table and tried to explain my passion for the beautiful game to some of the members of our group.
A very smug looking waitress informed us that the USA had equalised and that Rob Green (of West Ham), the English keeper, had made a mistake of calamitous proportions. "Don't worry, we always have a slow start" said Colin Tomlinson as we stumbled back to our hotel. As we assembled in the car park the next morning and prepared to leave for the East, Pete Mays' bike would not start and as the youngest male I was nominated as chief pusher with Allen and Malcolm as my assistants. After a quick sprint down the car park, Pete was away. A group had assembled around Colin's bike which had developed a worrying fuel leak. After a quick early morning call to Dave Audin for advice we had to leave Colin who was waiting for a local mechanic to arrive. After riding to our next stop over in Quedinburg with Pete Brindle and through some very boring countryside we met up with the rest of our group at our next hotel. We assembled in the bar and prepared to celebrate John Atkinson's birthday. Colin's bike had been bodged (sorry fixed) and he was now back thankfully on two wheels.
Over a very nice breakfast Allen said "How do you fancy coming to Colditz with us?" I didn't need to be asked again. I did not realise how big the castle was and it was painted white not grey as in the film and the 1970's TV programme. Whilst Allen and I opted for a short tour which include a visit to the museum all for 8 Euros each, Wendy decided to soak up the sun and drink some fruit tea. Our lady guide – I think her name was Maria - was very informative and knowledgeable. I was astonished to hear of all of the various ways that the prisoners had tried to escape, even more amazing was the homemade tools that were made to aid the attempts. I informed our guide that if I had been a POW I would have just sat around in the sun and drank coffee whilst my fellow captives did all the work which she found very funny.
If you do visit Eastern Germany I can fully recommend a visit to Colditz and I am sure that you will be not disappointed. After stopping overnight in the towns of Weimar, Goessweinstein and Passau it was time to move into Austria. Allen, Wendy and I were now joined by Graham and Sue Russell who knew of a salt mine on the other side of the beautiful city of Saltzburg. Riding through this stunning city I was blown away by its architecture and its equally stunning well dressed women who were out and about on the streets. After paying our fee to enter the mine we were made to wear two-piece white overalls which made us look like extras from the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Entry to the mine is via a small train and among our group, maintaining the film theme, we had an American family who resembled the Griswold's from the film National Lampoons European Vacation.
The highlight of this tour is when you have to sit on the two very steep wooden slides to enter chambers below. OK sit on slide legs and feet in the air and whoosh away you go. Shouts of "I don't want to die" and "I want my Mummy " could be heard before you arrive at the bottom, and then to make matters worse they take your photograph just to rub salt (sorry) in your wounds .
After about two hours our trip underground was over, we said goodbye to Graham and Sue who wanted to get to our next stop in Villach whilst Allen Wendy and I decided to ride to the Eagles Nest, Berchtesgarden . Arriving in the village and taking in the views we sat down for coffee and cake. It was then that we discovered that at trip to the Eagles Nest was going to cost 49 Euros each for a 4 hour tour (they hung Mussolini for less I commented), so it was time to leave as Villach was over 100 miles away and the sky was getting black. Riding along the autobahn in the rain is not my idea of fun in fact it was raining so hard I swear I saw some chippies building an ark on one of the mountains. Finally after about 3 hours we arrived at the Hotel Kasino, Villach where we were greeted by the lovely Sophie who would act as Chief Cook and Bottle washer for the next 3 days.
Waking up the next morning the sun was shining brightly and our group was split between those who wanted a day off the bike and the dedicated tourers who went off to ride some of the local passes. I decided to stay off my TDM and explore the town where I bumped into Pete May. After some coffee we decided to walk down to the river, as we passed a beggar who held out his hand expectantly Pete just looked at him and said "we're both skint mate". During the late afternoon I walked back into town to watch the stage finish of the tour of Slovenia cycle race that was ending in the main street. . As I admired the long legged sponsor girls who were dressed in yellow, I hung around the hospitality marquee with my puppy dog eyes waiting to be invited in for a glass of wine. Unfortunately this never happened so I headed back to the hotel for 40 winks as England were playing tonight.
Algeria 0 England 0
I met with Colin Tomlinson in the bar and we walked to a local microbrewery as they had a restaurant but more importantly a 50 inch wide screen telly! We claimed our seats at the front ordered our food and beer and waited for the match to start. By half time we had been joined by Pete, John and Dave who even as non-football fans were disgusted by the lack of effort from the England team.
When the final whistle blew I left the bar and stormed off back to the hotel angry at what we had just witnessed. I stopped off in a very lively local bar and ordered a beer, after about 15 minutes the bar was raided by the Police who were looking for underage drinkers and drugs. This will look good in Tourider I thought, so I left my drink and returned to our hotel thinking to myself, I am now 48 - Will I ever see England win the World Cup?
Waking up the next day the sun was still shining so it was back on the TDM and off alone to do some serious riding in the mountains. On the recommendation of Barry Arthur and Dave Bramwell (private joke) I chose the Malta National Park and pass. It costs 8 Euros to get into the park and the road up to the top has a series of single track tunnels which are controlled by traffic lights, but be warned you can wait for anything up to 20 minutes and there is even a digital display clock which counts down your waiting time At the top of the mountain I met John and Roz Gowers a Brit couple who run a biker friendly Gasthof www.hochaimspitze.com
They told me they had met Barry Arthur at the NEC Show and that the IMTC would be made very welcome at their hotel. Staying with John and Roz were an Australian couple who had shipped their GS1200 over from Brisbane and who were in the middle of a European tour. When I asked our colonial cousins what did they think of the Alps? they replied in Steve Irwin fashion "Strueth and Crikey Mate". I said my goodbyes and rode back to Villach when it started to rain and it rained so hard the idea of building an ark seemed sensible As we prepared to depart on Sunday morning in the now tropical monsoon we noticed that Colin’s bike would not start so it was down to team Soave/White to push him down the road. It would still not start so with one final push of the button it fired up but with a very worrying grinding noise coming from the starter motor. It was time for us to ride to the Italian Dolomites and as we crossed a very wet and cold border we encountered an impatient and suicidal local car driver.
As we rode through a gorge he overtook us on a blind bend, and then realised that a lorry was approaching. He throttled off and forced a gap between our two bikes. When we caught up with him I tapped on his window and gave him the international two fingered salute, he replied by throwing his arms in the air and shrugging his shoulders. Nothing changes then, I thought. The overhead temperature gauges were showing that it was now 7 degrees so we stopped to have a much needed hot drink and to put on some extra layers. Eventually after a 34 mile sat nav misunderstanding we arrived in the ski resort of Ortisei. Our hotel was situated at the top of a hill which made an inter esting but tiring yomp back at night.
Our next stop was to be in Obstieg, Austria and all of our group were disappointed to hear that some of the passes were closed due to the unexpected snowfall that had happened overnight. With my two new friends we left for Austria via the Bremer Pass, Allen had promised Wendy that we would stop for a nice lunch; I don't think she expected a roadside Ibis but this proved to be good value where we were served freshly cooked food at a decent price.
Following my misunderstanding of a simple sat nav command (turn left and not straight ahead) and a detour through the city centre of Innsbruck we arrived at our second Austrian hotel in the village of Obstieg.
When we met up in the bar for the pre-meal drinks it was noted that John Atkinson had not arrived we were all obviously worried but decided to sit down to eat and charge the meal to John's room. About 8pm John arrived and after a quick wash and brush up he sat down with us "Where have you been?" we asked, "Oh just exploring some of the passes" he replied. Now some of us had decided because of the low cloud not to go over the top of the high passes, but fair play to John who has only been riding for 4 years. This was his first trip abroad by bike, so well done John!
To give Wendy and Allen some time on their own I hooked up with Pete B, Dave and Colin for the ride back into Germany. Colin's starter was still playing up and he decided that once we arrived in Dinkelsbuhl he would take it to a local bike shop that Pete B knew. Arriving in Dinkelsbuhl it was out to explore this fine old town and its brightly painted buildings. I walked around trying to avoid the various cake shops that lined its streets but was tempted by yet another ice cream shop. The Club historians told me that towards the end of World War 2 the Allied troops surrounded the Germans who were holding up in the town.
The Allied commanders gave them a choice surrender or we will blow you and the town to kingdom come, thankfully for us they chose to surrender. When breakfast time arrived I noticed that the hotel had provided a single halogen ring and a frying pan for cooking your own eggs. Naturally I decided to do my best impression of the Galloping Gourmet so I proceeded to knock up a ham omelette. This inspired other diners including Dave Bramwell and Linda Griffin. I am pleased to announce that the Hotel and Town did not burn down. They are still standing and are certainly worth a visit.
Following our Eggs Extravaganza I left on my own for Schotten as it was England's last group match at 4pm. Colin, Pete B and Dave went to see how his bike was doing. Would he need a new starter motor? Would he have to call a priest to give it the last rights? Everyone held their breath. I decided to ride along the autobahn to Schotten and I remember overtaking Pete May at about 120mph (yes really), arriving early enough to unpack, shower and claim my seat in the TV room to watch the match. This was England's last chance.
England 1 Slovenia 0
Unable to claim the TV room because a group of teachers were holding a training course in the hotel I retired to my room where I was to be joined by fellow football fan Graham Russell. At half time the teachers had left so we threw their towels off the seats and claimed the TV room where other IMTC members had now joined us. At the final whistle there were no cheers or handshakes, just a feeling of relief because England had just about scraped through. When we assembled in the bar at around 7pm the now present Pete B, after some much needed beers, informed us that Colin's bike had been repaired and that it was the starter motor which had to be replaced. This adventure involved him and Colin riding across Germany to a BMW Dealer and back, which was about a round trip of around 150 miles, and a very hefty repair bill for Colin's flexible friend.
Sitting down in the hotel restaurant for dinner we encountered a mad waitress who insisted that she could not understand English, but 5 minutes later she would be holding a full blown conversation in ENGLISH with you. This lady had a system of asking for your room number when you made your order, so everyone could remember what meal they had ordered (simples). I did try to convince another unnamed male member that his luck was in and that he had pulled, but fortunately for him our lady disappeared into the night to return to her coffin.
A new day and it seemed that the summer had now arrived in Germany and it was time to ride to our final destination Bernkastel in the beautiful Mosel Valley. Reunited with Mr and Mrs White we had a very hot and sticky ride through some of the best scenery so far and after a lunch of soup and frits we arrived in the stunning Mosel wine valley. Dodging the tourist coaches the road wound its way through the valley with the ever present vineyards watching over our progress.
Arriving at our final stop for two nights the Hotel Panorama which seemed strangely situated in a posh housing estate, we unpacked and sat on the balcony drinking Biltburger lager from our mini bars at a very reasonable 1Euro per bottle. On the recommendation of the hotel owner we decided to eat in a local newly refurbished restaurant that was situated in a cul-de-sac of all places. The establishment offered very good food at a good price and some very reasonable locally priced red wine for around 20 Euros per bottle.
Now a story will be told about me and a Dr Strangelove impression and I would just like to say that it was the voices that made me do it, and not the two bottles of wine that Malcolm and I had polished off. Arriving in the breakfast room the next morning most of the male members of our group were stopped in our tracks by our very attractive and scantily clad waitress whose clothing did not leave much to one's imagination, I think that this was the first time in two weeks that I had seen Pete May speechless. After a cold shower it was off into town where Colin, Pete, Dave and I went on one of the many river cruises that were on offer. It was nice to see the summer holiday homes of the rich perched on the hill sides "..and if only my numbers would come up on a Saturday night " I thought. It was now the last night of our holiday we returned to the local eatery where end of tour speeches were made by Pete May and Linda Griffin and then it seemed to be over. Had a fortnight really passed?
Throwing everything into my panniers and after another encounter with our young waitress it was time to leave (Arghhh). Handshakes and hugs were exchanged and it was back to Calais to catch the shuttle home.
England 1 Germany 4
When the 4th goal went in I received a text from Allen White "Do you want the number for the Samaritans" he enquired? My reply was short and to the point. It will be 4 years until the next World Cup and I will be 52 but looking on the bright side it could be a minimum of 4 Partitours.
After 3 years membership of the club this was the first Partitour that I have been able to attend and I would like to thank Pete and Barry for all of their hard work in putting it on, Wendy and Martin for their company and for everyone else for putting up with me and my rants about the state of English football.
Ride Free and Safe
Mark Soave, Sons of Sheppey Region.