The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze.--Richard Bode

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

On the road to Berlin

It is time to leave Stefan's house in Heidelberg. Everybody is finished working on their motorcycles and finished with their packing (All but Ruth and Terrick from Quebec -- they are doing a major overhaul on their two bikes, getting them ready to ship by plane to Vancouver, and then to ride them down through Utah toward home).

We all left about the same time.  First Kelly headed off toward Spain by way of Italy.

Followed later by David who left for the Frankfurt Airport to catch his long flight back home to Australia.

And then Vinnie and Noel left, all loaded down, to ride toward Prague.

And then me. I plan to motor north and east toward Berlin.  Thanks for taking my picture, Mary.

I like taking the back roads. Even the most narrow lanes are paved in Germany. A lot of my trip will be through the "Walds" or "forests" northeast of Frankfurt and up toward Berlin.

I like camping -- I have not found any public campgrounds in Europe, but there are scads of private camping sites. All you have to do is look for a camping sign (or key camping in as a search into your GPS) and, once there, pull up to reception and sign in.

I had a very, very nice campsite for my first night on the road. There were only four of us there: a lady in a tiny tent who is hiking through Europe; a young man from Oregon who is bicycling through Europe; and a retired couple in an enormous camper (I don't know how they can afford the European gas prices for that big rig).

This campground was right outside Buchenwald, the infamous German concentration camp. Do you remember that "Wald" means "forest"? Well, Buchenwald means "Beech Forest". It was a very popular place in the woods back in the day, and the people who lived in the neighborhood had absolutely no idea what was going on there during the War.  Thousands of prisoners were starved or hanged or tortured to death in Buchenwald, and when they died, their gold teeth were removed and they were cremated in these ovens.

After the American Army liberated Buchenwald, the people from the surrounding communities were rounded up and made to tour the facilities.  They saw piles of dead bodies, the crematoriums, and the places were weird operations and experiments were done on the prisoners. They also saw the camp commandant's mansion built by slave labor, and the private zoo for his children paid for by money extorted from the prisoners. I bet there were very few dry eyes among the general populace on that tour.

Back on the road, I headed for Berlin. Unfortunately, the fog rolled in and so did the rain. The narrow lanes were too dangerous for this old man, and so I rode the autobahn. I didn't much like zipping along at 70 mph in the center lane while passing slow trucks in the right lane and being passed by cars going twice my speed in the left lane.

So, I'm in Berlin. I knew that with the rain there was no camping for me tonight --- but where is a man going to stay in a big, strange city. I stopped at a rest area, texted my wife back home in Illinois on my cell phone, and had her find a place for me on the internet (modern life is amazing). She texted back an address of a place that looked good to her, I put the address into my GPS, and now here I am at the "Backpacker's Hostel".  The place is beautiful. Thanks Patrice. You did good.

At 55 Euros, it is 5.5 times the price of camping, but I have a nice dry room, a hot shower, and a comfortable bed. Life is good.

So I'm off to bed (snore). Gotta get up early tomorrow. There is a lot of exploring to do here in this big, historical city.

More later,