Buns and Bier

Bexley, Kent, UK. 24th April 2014.

Gone are the days when you could roll up at a ferry terminal on your bike, five minutes before the ramp went up, knowing you could always get on. You have to be there to ‘check in’ now. I’d waved goodbye to my family half an hour later than I intended to and by the time I’d met up with my mate Kevin and reached Dover I’d missed the boat. Never mind, the great thing about a busy port like Dover is that there’s always another one behind.

Ready to go with the family waving me off. They seem too keen!!

Ready to go with the family waving me off. They seem too keen!!

 

Leaving the family was a huge wrench but so was the one I applied to the handlebars when I pulled out from behind the garages and nearly collided with a car! Let’s hope that’s the worse that happens on this trip as far as collisions are concerned. Don’t worry family, I got better at riding as time went by. 🙂 Thanks Kev for joining on the first leg. It was great to have your company.

England lies somewhere behind me in the mist. Only looking forwards now.

England lies somewhere behind me in the mist. Only looking forwards now.

Now any traveller will tell you that it’s when things go wrong that something nice happens to make up for it. On this occasion I met Gerry, another biker who was heading for France to start his journey to Greece. He’s the same age as me, has also retired early and is riding his Triumph Explorer through France and Italy to a villa on a Greek island. In the same way that I booked my first night’s hotel in Ypres back in October, to make sure I left, he had booked his ferry from Brindisi to Greece several months ago for the same reason. His ride, like mine, will be back roads and easy paced as he wanted to unwind after giving up his stressful job. So we enjoyed breakfast together (a last full English for me) and shared experiences, the way that travellers do.When the ferry docked we went our separate ways. Cheers Gerry, I hope your trip goes well.

Gerry is en route to the sun in Greece.

Gerry is en route to the sun in Greece.

Now if you look at a map, Calais to Poperinge is a simple journey but first you have to get out of Calais. It should be easy, especially with the ‘help’ of GPS, but don’t be fooled, it isn’t. It’s no wonder the hundred years war took so long to fight if all the armies went via that town.
I eventually made it to Poperinge in Belgium and found the Talbot House Museum, a very special place for the soldiers of WW1 and a fascinating piece of history. It was a R&R centre for men of all ranks and was a place of great peace and rest for weary troops. Unusually, all ranks mixed together and took what solace they could before returning to the front. It is a place that exudes the sense of calm that the troops must have enjoyed. I learned that they do B&B, which must be a special experience. Read more about it here. http://www.talbothouse.be/en/museum/home

Front of Talbot House.

Front of Talbot House.

Peaceful, walled garden. Well kept and restful.

Peaceful, walled garden. Well kept and restful.

One of the rooms where soldiers and officers would mix together, reading and writing.

One of the rooms where soldiers and officers would mix together, reading and writing.

One of the signs inside.

One of the signs inside.

Are they joking?

Are they joking?

The music and worship area at the top of the house.

The music and worship area at the top of the house.

Into Ypres and I found my pre-booked hotel, Ambrosia House, which is run by a young couple. He’s a keen biker and she Polish. So I was very quick to ask her to recommend some places to visit there. She was happy to do this for me. Nothing to beat a local’s recommendations. The hotel is small but is very close to the main square and therefore the Menin Gate. I thoroughly recommend this hotel as it is well run and the room price includes bacon and eggs for breakfast. Lovely! The owners are very helpful people. Use them! Here’s their website. http://www.ambrosiahotel.be/

View of the rebuilt square at Ypres.

View of the rebuilt square at Ypres.

The Oyaji Bikers will be pleased to learn that I revisited the Cyper Cafe, had a great meal before going to the Last Post Ceremony, and went back for waffles with chocolate, with hot chocolate along side, afterwards.If you want to know the significance of this, then read all about it here. http://bikerslittleworld.blogspot.co.uk/2008/10/day-1-home-to-ypres.html?view=timeslide
The Last Post Ceremony was very good. It never fails to move me and although I’m not a military person in any sense I find the ceremony spiritually uplifting. The whole area is worth visiting, especially if anyone in your family was involved in the wars. I videoed it this time so find it here on You Tube if you want to see what goes on.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuioHGGLA_0

For more information on the Last Post Ceremony, go here.
http://www.lastpost.be/

View of the Menin Gate, approaching from Ypres main square.

View of the Menin Gate, approaching from Ypres main square.

Rear view of the Menin Gate.

Rear view of the Menin Gate.

One of the 62 panels that list the names of the missing. Listed by regiment and then alphabetically.

One of the 62 panels that list the names of the missing. Listed by regiment and then alphabetically.

Another useful website is that of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. They have the responsibility for looking after all commonwealth war graves around the world and they do an amazing job. Their website is here: http://www.cwgc.org/

Some of the poppy wreaths laid previously.

Some of the poppy wreaths laid previously.

The next day was spent riding across the Belgian/French countryside, avoiding large towns where possible (not always successfully), aiming for a camp site in Luxembourg. Camping Steinfort, a small place with reasonable facilities and free Wi-Fi, surely as essential for today’s traveller as a postcard shop used to be in days gone by. It was on my arrival that I’d left Belgium having failed to eat a single Belgian Bun. Now, I like a bun so that must be regarded as a serious error on my part.
Friday’s aim was a camp site near Baden Baden that I’d found in the camp site guide. Well I never was very good at aiming because I missed this one by about sixty miles! Not a navigation problem but a research one. I’d misinterpreted the book and gone to the wrong place. I’d planned to spend a couple of days looking at Strasbourg and riding some of the local good biking roads, in particular the A500. Reckoned to be a real good ride, I missed it completely. In the event, the camp site was of a very high standard although expensive. It was located in the Black Forest, a place I hadn’t planned to visit but was glad I did. The town was nice although with steep streets a Welshman would have been proud of. The main focus, judging by the hotels, was spa treatments and there seemed to be plenty of old folk looking to beat the ageing process. Walking the streets was nice and made a change from sitting on the bike. I spent a couple of nights there, just relaxing and planning. The camp site had a bar where they served Flammkuchen. This is a cooked in an oven, like a pizza, and is a very thin batter base covered with a creamy cheese and various toppings, just like a pizza in fact. Served on a wooden platter, they also come with sweet toppings and of course I had to try that too.
It had been a great day weather wise, but the night made up for it. It rained all night, with thunder and lightening rolling around the surrounding hills. I knew I was going to have the fun of packing up the tent in the rain next day, and so it proved.
I’d decided to spend the next three nights in Munich and booked a bed in a hostel very close to the city centre. Quite cheap at just under 30 Eu per night for B&B in a shared dorm. The internet makes booking these things so easy, and Sunday’s wet and cold ride to Munich was followed by a welcome shower, with the bike safely tucked up in the underground garage. One thing about Bavaria though is the stunning countryside. Even the motorway went through some great scenery and the roads I rode after leaving the camp site were challenging and great fun. I went over two passes in the hills, getting as high as 1250 metres at one point. I think that counts as a mountain in Britain but it’s just a big hill in this part of the world.
I walked from the hostel for five minutes and came across a restaurant/takeaway serving Uygar food. The quality must have been good because it seemed to be the meeting place for all the ex-pats. Uygar is one of those areas that has been absorbed into greater China. It is close to, and shares some ethnicity with, Kazakhstan.  Munich has an ex-pat community and their judgement about the quality of the food was right – it was delicious. I’ll go there again before I leave.
So a relaxing couple of days in Munich to look forward to, doing the tourist thing. And the bier? We’ll see!

19 thoughts on “Buns and Bier

  1. Jane Arnesen says:

    Great blog Geoff really enjoyed reading about your adventure – I know George will enjoy reading it too – happy riding on your next chapter of your long trip xxx

  2. Good to hear you’ve started well – there’s no getting lost when you don’t have to be somewhere 🙂 Enjoy Munich and we’ll look forward to the next installment x

  3. Bob Keyes says:

    Geoff: glad to hear that you and “Doris” are well underway — from the load that you’re carrying, Doris must be a sturdy lass!! Interesting that you staying at the Ambrosia — it was referred to in a Canadian publication as a place to stay when visiting WW1 sites in the Ypres area. We were doing some research on that possibility a couple of months ago as it is in our plans to visit the area and the Canadian cemeteries and monument at Vimy Ridge. I must ask our German neighbour about Flammkuchen — she regularly has German treats for the neighbours. Ride safe.

    Bob Keyes

  4. Yes that is a coincidence Bob and it would make a perfect base to explore Flanders from. I strongly recommend you take at least one organised tour to see the key sites in the area. I’ve been to Vimy Ridge and it’s an amazing memorial. It overlooks the lower ground with Ypres in the distance. I think the idea was for the fallen to be in sight of their objective even if they never reached it, although I could be wrong about that.
    While I was waiting for the Last Post Ceremony I was chatting to a Canadian teacher, over with a group of her pupils. She’s from Newfoundland and she was telling me that province did not become part of Canada until 1949. I didn’t realise that and it meant that the troops from that area fought as part of the British, rather than Canadian army. The things you learn eh!.
    Talk to your neighbour about the Flammkuchen Bob and ask for a sample. You won’t be disappointed!

  5. Shaun says:

    Flammkuchen is awesome. My German Opa (Dad) makes it in Neustadt. It tastes wonderful and I love the Schwarzwald & Munchen. Keep up the posts. hey are great to read. Good Biking Mate

    Shaun

  6. Dave and Jean Keys says:

    Good to read about your adventures and minor mishaps so far. You are wetting our appetite for some European travel – Not on a Bike! We are off on our minor trip to Barbados in a few hours and look forward to catching up with your blog on our return. Happy travelling.

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