The trip really starts here. Our first milestone stop was a visit to Dieter Zerndt, a friend I had never met, strange as that may sound. Dieter emailed the Horizons Unlimited Vancouver section sometime last year and inquired whether someone was willing to store his motorcycle for about 6 months. He's working on a world trip, but in one month increments. I didn't have the space, but tapped a friend of mine who has a number of BMWs and had space in his garage. Things seemed to click between them and Dieter ended up meeting Ross, in who's garage the bike was stored. Unfortunately, when Dieter was in Vancouver, I could not meet up, but we chatted a number of times on the phone and via Skype. When my trip details came up, I got a swift invitation to stay at his place on the way through. As such, we were very motivated to make it to his place on time, after a wet night in the Black Forest (Schwarzwald) in Germany.
Dieter and his wife Schwandi rolled out the red carpet for us. A great guestroom, the proverbial key to the beer fridge and a grand dinner in St. Gallen. Not only that, but in the morning we were treated to a very elaborate breakfast and were coerced to expand our culinary horizon.
Goat cheese and honey on bread tastes great. It sounds odd, but it does work. There were a few other combinations I did not try out, as I was engrossed in Dieter's recounting of his trips through northern Africa 20 years ago. I can only imagine what it was like back then, as riding across Algeria is now no longer possible. The stories were endless, with descriptions on how to successfully stay upright in all sorts of terrain. 80 kmph and up seems to give the best stability in deep sand. With this came the realization I'd never tackle deep sand. The best story was of a friend of his who dislocated his arm after crashing while dune riding. A Korean sumo wrestler, who was the unlikely doctor at a local hospital, tried but failed to fix him up. They then had to kidnap the man from the hospital, as the authorities did not want him to leave before he was healed up, something that was not possible given his injury and the sanitary circumstances in the hospital.
After much entertainment and laughter, Dieter led the way and showed us the local sights. The first major stop was Appenzell, one of the few towns where voting is still conducted by show of hands in the local square. It's supposedly authentic, with the tourists being the add-on. We expected the town was "dressed up" for the tourists, but Dieter corrected us on that logical conclusion.
The cable carts run right across the rooftops of the main town. For some places higher up, it's the only way to quickly access the town and the rest of the world.
Everything in the town is painstakingly clean and well organized. There are the inevitable tourist shops, right next to the more traditional crafts catering to the local population.
After a short stop, we continued our trip through the countryside. Towns are fairly compact outside of the major regions, with vast tracts of land in between. The scenery is stunning in places. A stop for pictures resulted in Dieter retracing his steps in Formula 1 speed, fearing we paid an unfortunate visit to a fence or shrub in the very twisty and tight roads we were following.
Similar to Paris, the larger cities in mainland Europe are full of 2-wheelers of various ilk and quality. The BMW C1 stands out among its many Japanese copies. Particularly in Paris they are very prevalent.
After Dieter bid us farewell, we went on to look for the Splugenpass, which would bring us to Italy. On the way, we spent a fair bit of time on very twisty mountain roads, with innumerable tunnels. Traffic was light and we had a grand time in the cooler weather. The roads in Switzerland are in decent shape, so we made good time and enjoyed the twisties, even fully loaded.
Arriving in Splugen, we both remarked that this town looked even more authentic than Appenzell. It's remote and located fairly high. Looking up at the mountain, we realized the pass could not have been open for very long this year.
In short order we were gaining elevation. The twisties got more demanding by the minute and after a good half hour, we were sailing through hairpins pretty much full-time. We were way above the tree line at this point. The Splugenpass itself is around 2100 meters.
The Italian border is right at the top and two surprised customs officers gave us the briefest of nods. We rolled into Italy without stopping and started a grueling descent into the lower valley, which leads to lake Como.
Looking back, we could clearly see where we came from. The temperature was suddenly a lot more pleasant, as we were now south of the Alps.
Bike insurance: Yes
Intl. drivers license: No
Entry point: Konstanz
Exit point: Splugen (Splugenpass)