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Part 1: Southeastern Europe!

This would be my first long trip on a bike. When I was a teenager, me and my friends traveled to the south of France and Spain a lot – but always cramped into rather small cars, busy arguing about where to go and what to do next. This time, I wanted to do a trip only with my two neighbors, Akim and B.Rang, and when we discussed where to go, the former Yugoslavia came up. Its not too far away, warm and has a nice Mediterranean flair to it (the parts that where left over by the war, that is).

B.Rangs´s fathers first comment was: Why should anyone want to visit those savages? You´re gonna get shot, hijacked an ripped of you bikes there! Go visit France, morons! But Google-investigations showed more travelers in France get narcotized and robbed than in Croatia or Slovenia so we decided to go there anyway.

Since B.Rang is a scooterist and has never owned wheels that were stable for more that 150 kilometers at a stretch, I borrowed him my XT600 and got myself a Super-Tenere from a friend of mine (who had to be bribed with a box of vodka). Akim had his own Suzi GS450 (with its 3,75 tires soon to be named “blade-wheels”), a proven long-trip bike he had unwind thousands of kilometers on. Akim was on some kind of tournament in Bamberg before, so B.Rang and I startet from Cologne alone. We planned to meet somewhere in the Alps a few days later, coordinating the rendezvous via cellular.

 


My Tenere fully crammed. First, I missed some panniers but felt okay with the backrest after some days. The Tenere sure is a heavy bike compared to the small XT, but there wasn’t any OFF-Road planned. The bike already had over 200K(!) on the speedo, but was purring like a kitten.



B.Rang roofing the XT-panniers with gearbox-sealant. Those are aluminum-boxes made by Siemens for the German army, they were used to store their radios in there. I got them on eBay an thought the would make perfect panniers. They were slightly too large, as we found out later on the trip.


Off we went! Bye rainy Germany!

 


Don’t halloo till you’re out of the wood! The engine on the XT stopped just after 30kms, right on the autobahn.



A called “Yellow Angel” wasn’t much help. They take care of broken down cars all day and dont know anything about bikes. Except for the bike-based ones I guess. Before he arrived, we had checked the spark plug and found nothing. Screwing it back into the still warm cylinder-head, we damaged the winding. But the plug was in place, so we decided not to take it out for the rest of the trip. In the end, it was a real freshmans-mistake: The backpack on the tank blocked the air-valve in the filler neck, creating low-pressure in the tank.

 


We drove to a repair-shop in Bonn. They agreed with not-touching the spark-plug but wouldn’t let us go without new brake-pads and a new chain on the XT, due to the 4000kms of the trip. They were right.

Again, off we went.

 


Passing beautiful Mosel-Valley. A lot of Vineyards here. Germany always produced good white wines, famous riesling for example. But due to global warming they also make more and more pretty good red wines. The winters are milder now, the summers get hotter. South-european winegrowers already have a lot of problems with the amount of alcohol in their wines (more sun = more sugar). I stay with german beer anyway.



We wanted to get out of Germany and to our first overnight-stay in Austria fast. Driving Autobahn on an enduro is never fun. Over here, cars pass you at high speed all the time. And its sooo boring. In the planning, we thought about installing radios, but couldn’t find satisfying mic-solutions to our open helmets. Are there any?

 


After almost 800kms we reached Leogang in Austria, where a good friend of ours works. After some pizza we fall straight to bed.

 


Next morning we wake up right beneath the mountains. We´re in the Alps!



Yesterdays left-overs make for a pretty good breakfast!



We head straight to the Grossglockner High Alpine Road, a toll road. It connects the state of Salzburg with the state of Carinthia. It is named after the Großglockner, 3,798m above sea level, Austria’s highest mountain.

 


When, in 1924, a group of Austrian experts presented a plan for a road over the Hochtor (the high pass), they were ridiculed in a time when in Austria, Germany, and Italy there were only 154,000 private automobiles, 92,000 motorcycles, and 2,000 kilometres (1,200mi) of long-distance asphalt roads. It finally opened in 1935.



The passage costs 18€ but its sure worth the money.



A little posing for the postcard.



German Persian in the snow. Pretty cold up here, right fella?



We descend direction Italy. As soon as its warm enough to open clothes, B.Rang´s gotta do what am man´s gotta do. We decide to have a quick lunch as long as we are still in austria.



Fried chicken (Backhendl) is sold everywhere. Austrians think its something special, but I don’t see why it should. Its chicken, fried. Good nevertheless. Like every chicken.


Since we were to meet Akim not until the day after tomorrow, we decide to call it a day and setup the tents next to a lake right behind the Italian border. The weather is just fine so I only take the mosquito-net. It doesn’t need any bars, you just strap it to a tree or something.

 


One of the disadvantages of the Army-Panniers is that the larger one on the left ist loaded from the side. So B.Rang uses them only for the bigger things like his slepping-bag and tent. The XT has its exhaust on the right side, so even with different sized boxes the balance of the bike was not so bad. The box on the right is also loaded heavier.

 


We had different approaches concerning what to take with us on this trip. I tried not to overload the Tenere, even if it had the stronger engine. B.Rang took a lot of things with him I wouldn’t have even thought of. I.e. that stool over there. Or binoculars. Wire. Or quite a lot of tools. I kept telling him, that unlike one of his scooters an XT didn’t need any tools. But I would soon have to concede to his point.

Tomorrow we would leave Italy … and hence THE WESTERN WORLD!

One Thought on “Part 1: Southeastern Europe!

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