Tales of Yester-Year by David Bevan (1979)

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Tales of Yester-Year by David Bevan (1979)

Post  David Bevan on Sat Jan 19, 2008 11:16 pm

Europe on a Gold Wing

There were curious looks on the faces of the West German border guards as our passports were handed back to us and we headed towards no-man’s land. We traveled through a complexity of barbed wire, tall wire mesh fencing, steel and concrete – towards the East German border. Tall concrete towers with the nozzles of machine guns aimed down at the road, gave one an eerie feeling. From these towers, high-powered binoculars scrutinised each vehicle and its occupants. It was almost like going on a self-imposed exile – wanting to visit a country from where thousands have risked their lives trying to escape.

The previous days of touring flashed through my mind – maybe an escape valve from the claustrophobic atmosphere that prevailed as we traveled through that long, long stretch of no-man’s land that separated West and East Germany.

The sun certainly extended a welcoming hand as our Honda Gold Wing rolled off the ferry in Rotterdam and continued all day as we followed the canals, dykes and windmills as we made our way northwards towards Bremen. Even though the saddle on our Gold Wing was custom-made, ‘saddle-soreness’ had a tendency to set in after about 300 miles. Using this as a rough ‘rule of thumb’ guide, we knew when to stop for the night.

Going north through Hamburg and on up into Denmark, the weather gradually deteriorated, and what was going to be a leisurely tour through Jutland turned out to be a mad dash to Copenhagen. Boots full of water, as well as being soaked through to the skin wasn’t conducive to leisurely sightseeing! Fortunately, such weather was short lived and from then on we never looked back. Copenhagen was as usual, exuberantly charming as no other city seems to be able to copy. The customary visit to the Tivoli gardens was made, and of course each day sampling those mouth-watering pastries and delicacies only found in Denmark. This indeed was a wonderful 4-day sojourn.

Driving north towards Helsingør I saw the flashing blue lights of a police motorcycle in my mirrors. Having been driving reasonably sedately, I was very surprised, to say the least when I was motioned to pull over. Fortunately the police officer, who was so curious at seeing a custom built Gold Wing, just wanted me to stop in order to get a closer look at our motorcycle – and for the next twenty minutes or so we discussed the pros and cons of his BMW and my Gold Wing 1100.

The East German border guards quickly brought one back to reality - the whole area was swarming with armed guards. Every crook and cranny on our bike was searched and re-searched – they looked in places I wouldn’t even have dreamed of hiding things. Satisfied that we weren’t a major security risk, the next hurdle was to obtain the necessary documentation. Considering we had no visa, no actual route plan, or unaware that accommodation had to be booked in advance, one and a half hours I suppose was not too long to wait. Having paid the appropriate amount of money in return for the required documents, we were now at liberty to travel anywhere we wished in East Germany.

The first few miles we covered were on the ‘transit’ road that eventually went through to Berlin. All along this road the hoardings constantly reminded us of ‘America – the aggressors’ or ‘for all time, a close and brotherly union with our Russian friends’. Virtually all vehicles heading along this ‘transit’ route towards Berlin were vehicles belonging to one or more of the Allied Services. The moment we left this main road and started heading cross-country, police appeared from nowhere questioning us on our intended direction, and of course checking our passports and documents. When satisfied that our documents were in order we experienced no further delays.

Our route took us through one hamlet after another – drabness and dreariness, to an overall grayness of the buildings was the hue. The scarcity of consumer goods was so apparent in each little town – even though in each town there would always be the butcher, baker and a clothing shop. However, the people more than compensated for this dreary insipidness – they were all so friendly, they smiled and waved, as we passed through their small areas of domicile. People waved from their windows, people waved from their Trabangs and as we drove through the countryside the people stopped working and waved us on our way. Curious onlookers milled around us whenever we stopped, trying to get a closer look at our Gold Wing. Our hotel in Brandenburg was right in the heart of the city – here the crowd was even larger, pressing and pushing to look at a machine that at that time hadn’t even been introduced to the European markets, let alone East Germany! The crowd grew to over a hundred – this certainly was not a place to leave ones motorcycle unattended. It required delicate diplomacy to have the bike garaged overnight.

It was very hard keeping to the speed limit of 58 mph as we headed southwards to enjoy the cities of Leipzig and Dresden. Apart from the continual presence of police and armed military, there were no restrictions on our movement, and only once did we encounter a complete roadblock. Friendly waves to the soldier manning the machine-guns brought no response. We drove hundreds of miles through wide-open expanses – countryside as far as the eye could see – before finally crossing the Danube. Here in this beautiful country was a race of Germans made by the regime to uphold the principles of Communism – people imprisoned at colossal expense by wire-fences and mines and guns. Leaving East Germany made us feel so buoyant, as the last steel barrier clanged down behind us – we felt like prisoners leaving a monstrous jail!

The beauty of the Bavarian countryside encompassed us as the majestic Austrian Alps loomed ahead. Turn after turn opened up, for us, an undiscovered paradise. We crossed over the Grossglockner – an engineering feat in itself – a road that climbs easily to the 10,000ft summit and then twisting and twisting downwards on the other side. The picturesque little town of Heiligenblut stopped us in mid-tracks. We had to stop here and soak up the ever-present splendour. Full of regalia and gaiety and complete with its own ‘oomh-pah pah’ band, this little town which is surrounded by breathtaking scenery, leaves one very much in love with this area of Austria.

As we rode on through the Italian Tyrol, Switzerland and back into the Black Forest area of Western Germany, we were constantly awed by the magnificence and grandeur of the ever-changing mountain scenery.

The Gold Wing performed flawlessly – 1100cc’s effortlessly propelling the fully loaded weight of over ½ ton through whatever type of terrain that came our way. Crossing the English Channel, we reflected on the 3,500 miles covered. Tiring - yes, sore muscles – yes; but these negatives were minimal when compared with the life long memories that had been acquired.

David Bevan

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Post  Admin on Sun Jan 20, 2008 1:24 pm

David I did not know you were a biker!

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