July 4/5, 2009, Coming home, but first Cologne, Day 38/39


Plan over the final 24 hours in Europe. London to Wigston to return the bike, jump on a train to Birmingham, fly to Frankfurt, take a 1hr high speed train to Koln (Cologne), drink the night away with Martin, take a high speed train back to Frankfurt and fly home to Canada!

London 12pm. Made the short ride back up to Wigston (2hrs) with out getting lost!
2pm. Returned the bike to Josh and repacked my stuff.

Back safe and sound.

One last look as we jumped in to the car and headed to the train station.

The Simons family whisked me to the station for the 3:14pm train to Birmingham which I jumped on with 30 seconds to spare (next train was in 1 hr). Arrived at the main station in Birmingham where I tried to transfer to the airport and found out the line was block due to a fatality on the track. Shit! Hustled to the bus stop with all my gear (big backpack, computer backpack, and helmet swinging off my shoulder (400 m walk). Caught the completely full 4:30pm to the airport which normally takes 20min, but took 50min due to the added patrons not able to use the train. Oh and I forgot to mention that the rain started coming down 3 minutes before the bus arrived so now I was wet as well as late.

5:10pm, off the bus to the check in for a 6:15pm flight to Frankfurt. Not only did I make the flight, but I also managed to post Mari's mobile and George's keys before jumping on the plane.

Time change 1hr ahead. 8:50pm arrival to Frankfurt Airport (15min by train out of Frankfurt in the direction of Koln). Initially the plan was to stay in Frankfurt at the main hostel, but the price to train to Koln was so good that I decided to spend my last night in a place I liked and not Frankfurt. 24 euros round trip Frankfurt Airport to Frankfurt City plus 20 euros for accommodation or 60 euros round trip Frankfurt Airport to Koln (normally 120 euros). So I went with the second plan, which sounded more fun. I did however spend 10 euros to store my bags for 8 hours at the Frankfurt Airport. Bastards!

Flying back to Germany, shot of Dover from above.

What a bonus to have a "Cheese" sandwich for the short flight.

So, 11:15pm I arrived in Koln with out a phone. I almost didn't find Martin at the station as I wasn't sure where to meet him. I first went out front in to a mass of people and then jumped back to the platform, where he was waiting and I had initially missed him. Oops.

The Koln Dom at night.

Vid of German girl opening a beer like a champ.

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Fun little candy phone.

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Some out of place Korean dude with hilarious glasses. I laugh every time I look at this photo.

Brad, being bad.

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Socialized until 5:30am and walked back to the Koln train station to catch the 6am train to Frankfurt Airport. A little tired, but worth it.

Ah, Koln morning and Dom steps. What a mess.

Fast...199 km/h.
That's a lot of luggage!

I love this shot for its natural contrast. I hope you can see it.

Video update.

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Finally boarded the plane to Calgary with heavy eyes. Well you only live once and who knows when I will get back to Europe. So sad to leave. All and all a very good trip and I don't think I could have fit more in. I would have liked to have explored more roads on the bike, but do to the weather and time available I think I did the best I could.

Baffin Islands from the plane.

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Myself and single serving flight friend Raj Mehta, who taught me in Engineering at U of C. Small world yet again.


Trip summary (some approximations):
38 nights (10 in Thailand, 28 Europe)
$5225 NZ ($1110 Thailand, $4115 Europe) + $3400 NZ flights = $8625 NZ
= $6160 cdn = 4000 euros.

Possible savings: Alcohol = $2000 NZ? Austrian Road Toll fine = 65 euros.
Swiss Schnitzel = $50 NZ. Flash hotel room at Coco Hut = $200 NZ. I'm sure there's more.

Motorcycle mileage = 3984 miles = 6374 km.
15km/litre = 425 litres @ 1.20euro/litre = 510 euros = $1175 NZ in petrol.

Tips and highlights:
Better to buy foreign currency before you get to that country. Not sure why this is the case. Also, exchange fees are much better in Poland, Czech, etc than Germany, England, etc.
Couchsurfing.com
Cocohut (Koh Phanghan)
Thai Scooters, Kick Boxing, and all things involving fire.
German beer and roads. Polish girls and prices. Czech girls, bars and prices. Wien architect. Buda views and Pest bars. Budapest people. Slovenian landscape and roads. Italian mountain towns and girls. Swiss roads, lakes and tunnels. London fashion and girls. Koln convenience shops.
Buy a GPS!

Special thanks to all that made this trip easier for me and to the people that continue to make going to and from NZ easy:
Glen & Lynnda, Gareth & Dorit, Ben D, Dave B, Nairn Flat, Tracy L, Mari, Martin M, Franky & Anja, Sandra, Magda & Maja, Milan & Renata, Sari, Andras, Nora, Rok, Marina, Roman W, George W, Josh & Bex & Libby and my Mom. And to the cops that don't give me tickets! Hope I didn't miss anyone.

See Brad in his next adventure, The Calgary Stampede!

July 2009, London, Day 36-37

Back on to the Island of Great Britain. Found my way to George's via the huge London ring road, M25 (188 km long, 117 miles). Had to deal with a very unforgiving toll booth operator at the tunnel/bridge section who wanted to charge me 1.50 pound for going in the wrong lane. Motorbikes are free, but you have to get the right lane. He was a dick, but I said nothing. Funny that they have a sign above their booths saying "abuse and violence will be prosecuted" or something like that. Possibly one of the worst jobs and his attitude proved it. After that I traveled for what seemed to be forever until I got to the M11 turn off and only got a little lost at this fork in the road.

George was happy to see me.

On the first night I met up with my old buddy Blair from Wellington and his Aussie squeeze Renee who had met on their Travel Europe bus experience and had built up quite a bit of travel experience together in Egypt for a month. Some of it fun and some of it not so fun. Finally we were able to meet up in Green Park and find a pub. Good Guinness, but a bit shit in London after 12am though because the pubs close and the wonderful tube (subway) stops running so you are left to find a night bus home which can take hours, just ask Blair. Oh well it was worth.

Me, Colleen (amateur photographer), Renee and Blair. Good times.

The next day I had a look around the Daytime market 2 minutes from George's in Walthamstow. One of the biggest in England.

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Friday, George and I ventured in to the city for pints with Neil and some other "pals".

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Everyone drinking in front of the pubs.

Looking for the first club where we would meet up with the pub drinkers from earlier.

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Matt, Neil, George, Jack and Ross.

Shots and video from the next club, "The Verve", which I think is in Soho.

Neil and George started a dance circle, which brought about a dozen different people in to the middle to show their moves. These two are incredibly fun. Hell, they made my Whitsunday sailing trip in Aussie where I first met them awesome. Good to see both of you again.

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Managed to convince this cab driver to take us home for only 15 pound, which was a steal and a nice ride too.
Thanks for having me at yours George and I look forward to the next time.

July 2009, Passing through Koln Day 35

Getting back to the UK I stopped in Koln for the night to have a couple of beers with Martin and then make the ferry in Calais, FR for 3pm the next day.

Here's a shot of what a no speed limit sign looks like on the Autobahns. On my last day in German I took the bike up to top speed, but unfortunately I have no idea what that was as the speedo cable was still dead. I am guessing 220km/hr @ 11,500 rpm. I'm sure someone can whip off the calculation and I probably should be able to as well, but for now I will stick with the estimate.

An accident caused a huge line on the Autobahn about 50 km from Koln. It's easy to see how loosing one lane would handicap this great road system. See Vids.

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Made it to Martin's around 7:30pm and we jumped out of the house for a couple of beers and pizza on Canada day. Always go to hang with Martin. Not much note of Canada Day, but regardless the town was very busy considering it was Wednesday. Sunny weather will do that to people.

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This shot below is of a plant that I saw at dusk on the way in to Koln at the beginning of my trip (unfortunately I couldn't get that shot on the first day as there was too much traffic). Try to imagine a thick fog laying around the bottom of the stacks at night with lights everywhere. Oh well, I can't get every shot.

Comfortable?

The beach in Calais about 4 minutes from the ferry. I think this town could be a good stop on the next tour.


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This shot might help us understand how the French continue to move forward in other areas using funds that they don't give the Police. Not often do you see a cop car like this and in this type of condition. If you open the photo you can see the missing trim, etc.

A very easy tie down system on P&O Ferries (23 euros from Calais to Dover).


Back to jolly old England...

June 2009, Hey Roman, Stuttgart, Germany, Day 34

Good bye Switzerland, Halo Deutscheland. Back in to Germany carving around the Black Forest and then into Stuttgart to hang with my mate Roman. About 400 km in total.

On my way up to the German border I got tired of riding on the secondary (no toll) roads due to traffic and went to jump on the motorway. Here's a eye witness account of that. see vid. Also, I forgot to mention that the penalty for no vignette in Switzerland is only 2.5 times the cost of the vignette (40 francs = 25 euros), so it really isn't that risky (Austria 13 times, 5 euro to 65 euro penalty).

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Some road footage just before the outstanding section of rd314. Great sweeps and smooth road. C8,R8,T3,V7. I believe there was a lot more good riding in the Black Forest, but unfortunately time pushed me forward.

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My return to Stuttgart. I had previously stayed here in 2004 for 1 week when I came to visit Roman and Martin after befriending them in Nice, France. Met up with Roman around 7:30 pm and put the bike away. We went down to the Main Beer Garden by the train station and had Schnitzel and Beer, as you do. Tuesday in Stuttgart is quiet.

The next morning we got out of the house after sorting out my ferry and train tickets and went to the King street mall, which is the long in Germany.


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Roman and I enjoying a 7 euro lunch with drink. I would have liked to stay and enjoy the sun more even though the photo doesn't show it (too early, haha).

And finally, I got to try the best beer in Germany according to Roman and Martin. Wulle Bier.

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On to Canada Day in Koln.

June 2009, Mauensee and Luzern, Switzerland Day 33

Left Trento, Italy going north in order to see St. Moritz and zig zag my way to Luzern (Lucerne in English) via multiple mountain passes and tunnels. Great weather and a full day of riding made for one of my favourite days of the trip.

SS38 Italy to CH (Swiss) border = C5/6,R7,T4/5,V6/7. Take a close look at the sign display if you are speeding. I had to go back to get this shot, but worth the chuckle.

I was amazed to see all these houses on the side of hills/mountains. I was informed later that this only happens in the summer and it's more for taking care of farm animals. Wow, some of these places looked year round. How do they get up there? This photo shows an access road of 200 m with an incredible grade, left centre of pic.
SS38 in Switzerland = C8,R8,T3,V7. Rode this section with some hard riding Austrians who guided me to St. Moritz.

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Had lunch in St. Moritz at the Train restaurant by the main road side over looking the lake.


SS40,41 around St. Moritz, CH = C8/9,R6,T2/3,V7

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St. Moritz to Chiavenna, IT = C7,R6/7,T5,V7. Begin the long tunnels. Have a look at the video if you want to ride through a 2 km tunnel.

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Chiavenna through Splurgen pass, CH = C8,R4,T2/3,V8/9. 25 km of hairpins up the side of a mountain that took over an hour plus some stops for video and photos. I was amazed to find people living up here and disappointed that I didn't plan to eat at the top. It was also my understanding from the signage that the pass was not open after 9 pm, which could just mean the border was closed or the fact that the tunnels are only natural light (tough with sunnies on) and shouldn't be driven in the dark.

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At the top, this guy is nutz!!!

Living on top of the pass.

Snow in summer.

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Curves anyone?


Then, Splurgen pass to Bellizona = C9,R9,T3,V8 VERTIGO!!! Unfortunately I didn't get any footage for the best road of the trip as it was like a race track and I didn't pay for it. Basically a huge section of elevated road which is quite smooth and quite disorientating as you weave your way back into the valley before Bellizona. Of course there is a road toll of 40 CH francs / year (no one day passes) for such an amazing set of roadsS I found this out from a cop who told me I could buy a vignette from him and of course I told him I would take the side roads (kind of). Spectacular roads.

Then there are the tunnels. I think at one point on a 60 km section of road I was in tunnels for at least 40 km. Apparently the majority of the tunnels were built by the Italians and then upgraded by the Swiss. Fantastic. As a kid my mother used to get us excited about going through Roger's Pass in BC, Canada. Well mom, I have to say the 6 or 7 tunnels in Roger's pass didn't prepare me for Switzerland.

On my way into Luzern I could go through San Gottardo tunnel = 17 km which I did or take the most amazing pass above with 2 m snow banks tracing the road. Sounds cold! Unfortunately the day was fleeting so I will have to do it next time.

Finally after 600km the hard way from Trento, IT to Sursee /Mausensee (20 km from Luzern) I met up with Marina and her Boyfriend at Pub Alexander. Marina had been a friend I meet in NZ in 2007 and she never thought we would see each other again. That should be a lesson to everyone I meet. You can't get rid of me, haha! Sursee town centre was quaint. Alexandar pub is not the place to get food. What ever you do, never ever order food there!!! Schnitzel in the photo = 35 CH francs = 22 euros = $40 cdn. Yikes!

Marina's boyfriend trained it home and we took the bike to her farm. She was forced to wear my backpack as it was taking up her seat on the bike.

The next day we headed into Luzern on the bike for a look around and fantastic bretzels. Marina guided me on some great back roads to and from the city.


I bet Marina this guy was 100 and she said 80. Still kicking ass at 98.

YUMMMMMMM!

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Back at the farm for a quick lunch and tour of the place. Unfortunately I could stay no longer as I was only days from needing to be in the UK to return the bike and catch a flight.

Marina the Strawberry Entrepreneur --> who sells these lovely strawberries that she had been hand picking the last weeks. Delicious.

Quick lunch vid with my new buddy.

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Stay tuned...Stuttgart, and a day with my good friend Roman.

June 2009, Costa Family Tree in Vidor and Trento, Italy Day 32

From Ljubljana to somewhere in Italy. At the beginning of the day I was planning to go to Milan or Verona, but after finding Vidor (the home of the Costa's) I pushed North West to Trento instead.

Beautiful day to ride. Sunny 28 to 30 C and great roads. Took the side roads to the border to avoid tolls and to ride some curves. Rok gave me great directions and I found myself on the best drive of the trip to date (Ljubljana to Vrhnika to Godovic to Ajdovscina to Nova Gorica). C8/9,R6/7,T3,V6/8.

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Italian Border.

Made it to the border at Gorica. The Italian's were actually checking passports due to the G8 conference being held that week in Italy. From there it was back on to toll roads, which in Italy you get a ticket for and then submit at the end of your journey once you exit the toll road. About 2 euros for 100+ km. Stopped in Treviso 30 km north of Venice for directions to Vidor at this hotel which was the only place open on a Sunday. Even gas stations are closed, except for their automated pay stations.



Battled through the Italian traffic on the secondary roads, motorbikes flying everywhere, and got in to Vidor around 4 pm which sits at the base of the Italian Alps. It was a little bigger than I expected (2000 instead of 300), but I still managed to find the cemetery. I even had to use my broken Italian to find out if I was even in the right place. This very elderly gentleman didn't quite understand me, but took the time to walk with me until we found the first grave. I was taken back by the graves of my distant relatives who had stayed in Italy when my Great Grandfather Luigi had left for Canada in the early 1900s to become a Saskatchewan farmer. The Canadian Costas are only three generations and here I was standing in a place that saw endless generations of Costas. Quite an experience.


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After the Vidor, I was so happy to continue riding in the mountains I forged north towards Trento, instead of going back on to the Motorway to Verona.

A quick stop for a pizza. What no pre-cut slices!

Sad I didn't see Verona, but pleasantly surprised with Trento. I found the HI (Hosteling International) near the centre and parked up for the night around 9:45pm. Very nice hostel (Ostello della Gioventa) with lots of space and good hosts that directed me to a fantastic restaurant with great beer.

Piazza Duomo


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Duomo

Beautiful meal at Pedavena who also make their own beer. Being more of a beer drinker then wine I realized this was definitely the area where my Grandfather and I were from.