The Church of Bones (and Prague!)

I woke up in Kunta Hora feeling refreshed and ready for the day. It helped that I had a relatively short riding day to one of the most famous cities in Eastern Europe, and before I got on the road, I would make a stop at the Church of Bones – the main reason I had elected to stay in this little town that night. I felt enthusiastic and eager to start my day.

Lugging luggage across parking lots is never fun, but a necessary evil. In the United States, I always try to park my bike as close to my hotel room as possible, sometimes close enough that I can see it outside my room. Out in East Europe, it’s not uncommon for the parking lot to be a block away from your hotel. I had made the mistake of not loading/unloading close to the hotel entrance, so I was stuck with carrying my stuff out to the hotel parking lot. It wasn’t far and I pack fairly light, but it was hot out and I was sweating profusely by the time I had it all hitched up and was ready to go. I cooled off pretty quickly once I started moving though.

The GPS directed me to the church, which was a few kilometres away. I was afraid that parking might be an issue, so I parked a couple of blocks away outside another church. It was too hot to walk around in my gear, so I took my jacket and pants off, draped them on the bike and ran my steel cable lock through them and my helmet. This done, I crossed the street and walked a few metres to the Sedlec Ossuary.


I had first heard mention of this church in “Long Way Round” – the motorcycling documentary most adventure riders cite as their inspiration. Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman made a stop at this church on their way out of Europe towards Russia. The history of the church details that for myriad reasons, the church was considered sacred enough that a lot of people wanted to be buried in its grounds. They were soon being buried on top of each other after they ran out of space. In time, they started running out of space and one of the monks was charged with doing something with the bones. The end result was the church as it stands today. The tiny chapel is decorated with an elaborate chandelier and decorations all made from human bones. Macabre perhaps, but also a thing of beauty. It had looked spooky enough in the movie that I had made up my mind that someday I too would go visit this church. For some reason, I had imagined that it was in Romania, so imagine my surprise and delight from Christoph had mentioned that it was actually just an hour east of Prague! What a fantastic beginning to my journey!

The minute I walked through the doors of the chapel, I realized that reality was far removed from what I had imagined. Ewan and Charlie must have merited special treatment and the church must have been closed off to visitors while they filmed. Right now it was crammed full with tourists busily taking pictures. I cursed myself for not having stopped there the previous evening when there might have been fewer people.

I had to force myself to ignore the people buzzing all around me, The hushed spookiness and effect of the skulls and bones was entirely gone, but I could still appreciate the workmanship that had created this work of beauty. The chandelier was magnificent, as were the chains made of human bones that stretchec all the way across the ceiling and down the walls. The four corners of the chapel had gated off rooms piled from floor to ceiling with human skulls. I wondered at these humans that had lived and died hundreds of years ago, whose final resting place was this pocket of the world. What might they have thought at being the object of admiration of other humans from such a completely different era?

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After I’d had my fill, I left and walked down the street back towards my bike. I stopped at a couple of stores that sold crystal and picked up a set of beautiful hand-made crystal glasses, which I would later ship to Ljubljana from Prague. It would be a lovely momento of my time in the Czech Republic, and I dearly hoped they made the journey unscathed.
To Prague! 60 short km to this big city that I’ve wanted to see for so long. I entered the city in a deluge of traffic in too narrow roads. I found my hotel – St. Christopher’s Inn at the Mosaic House without too much difficulty. They got me checked in and I had to park my bike a few blocks away in an underground parking lot. I’d rather have just left it parked on the sidewalk, but so many people had warned me about theft in this part of the world that I reluctantly opted on the side of caution.

The Inn itself was probably one of the swankiest places I’ve ever stayed at, not unlike some of the new boutique hotels in the US catered towards younger people. The receptionists were hot, young guys who were Czech but spoke in American accents. The ground floor had a bar area with a gigantic projector screen that was showing the British Superbike race with electronic music playing in the background. Welcome to Prague! I felt like I was in a movie.


I took the elevator to the fifth floor to my room. The corridors were dark with wood panneling and pleasantly perfumed. My room had a single bed with huge, soft, square pillows (I made a mental note to find pillows like these for my apartment back home.) :P The sight of that comfortable bed made me want to spend the entire afternoon indoors, curled up with a book. I was on vacation after all!

I went back downstairs to the restaurant, ordered some goulash and potatoes, which were excellent, and ate while watching the end of Superbike race. We had to come up with something like this for Seattle, I told myself. Our MotoGP nights held at our apartments on our LCD TVs were great, but what I really wanted was to ride to a big pub and watch the races on a movies theatre like screen while drinking good beer.

I fulfilled my resolve to spend the afternoon in bed with a book. I think I liked being on vacation.

Towards the end of the day, I decided to drag myself outside and walk to the main city centre to have a looksee and maybe a bite to eat. It was about a 15 minute walk to there, with numerous cool little shops lining the streets. They were closed now, but it was fun to check out the window displays and thinking about which ones I’d go to the next day.

As I neared the city center, I had the same reaction as I did in Vienna. I froze at the sight of a billion tourists thronging the streets. They didn’t have the smoking ban here either and it felt like everyone smoked. I wandered miserably for about an hour before  giving up and retreating to my hotel. I decided that I would wake up early the next morning and walk back again to the see the city before everyone woke up.

This is precisely what I did end up doing. On day 2, I saw a few of the sights like the astronomical clock, and did a little bit of shopping. I also caught a musical performance at the Municipal House in the evening where a few members of the Prague Symphony performed selected pieces by Mozart and Dvorak. It was delightful to hear Eine Kleine Nachtmusik being performed live in such a beautiful place. That made two musical performances in two gorgeous cities so far! I felt pretty lucky and privileged to have experienced them.

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The next morning I intended to head out early, see the Prague castle, take some pictures and then head north to Berlin.

In hindsight, I think Prague is a city that I would like to come back to with a group of good friends someday. I’d probably want to keep avoiding the more touristy parts of the city and experience more of the nightlife instead.

Update from Kutna Hora…

I was riding up a steep, cobblestone street trying to find the turn my GPS was asking me to take only to find that it didn’t exist. The street I was on looked like it was going to end in gravel. I was tired, sore, hungry and thirsty and just wanted to find a place to rest. Asking for directions was out of the question seeing as my Czech was almost as non-existent as most people’s English out there. And then the GPS froze. In my despair I wondered why on earth was I there and what had possessed me into coming here and thinking I could do this.

Fast forward to a few hours later, after a good meal and rest, and flying through one of the many little backroads leading up north from the Czech border and I knew exactly why.

It’s unfortunate that riding isn’t consistently a euphoric experience where everything is always right, the sun is always warm, but not too warm, it never rains, there is no traffic or construction on the roads you happened to pick, little children on the street smile and wave and blow kisses at you and your Garmin Zumo never freezes. Anyone who has been doing this for a while knows that reality has its way of crawling into your dream motorcycling vacation and turning it into your worst nightmare in the flash of a second. The highs and lows that come with it are not unlike being in a turbulent relationship. At the end of the day, whether you think it was worth it is what determines how much longer you’re going to be in it.

So it was with today. I got out of Vienna as planned. I appear to need very little sleep these days and wake up at 6:30 like clockwork even if I go to bed after midnight. The good Christoph guided me to a couple of spots where I could see some good views of Vienna. Unfortunately there was a hazy fog hanging over the city, and I wished I had taken him up on his offer of seeing it last night instead.

He rode with me to Klosterneuburg where I stopped to get a full tank of gas and then we said goodbye. Words cannot express how grateful I am for everything he helped me with, in spite of being a complete stranger. Of course, I could have made it this far on my own, but to have someone get me through that first intimidating day of riding in a foreign country, putting me up at his place for three nights, taking me out with his friends, helping me fix and troubleshoot stuff with the bike, helping me plan out routes and generally do a hundred little things makes me feel like there still are good people in the world who look out for each other. It took a lot of the pressure off and helped me ease into the ride.

Riding to the border of Austria and Czech Republic was slow and boring. I passed through endless little towns all of which looked so deserted and unnerving that they reminded me of The Village of the Damned. It was really windy too and I always get a little psychotic when it’s windy out. My helmet gets super noisy, I constantly feel like I’m going to get blown off the bike, I have the death grip of doom on the handlebars, and I feel like I’m going to crash and die any minute. I’m not sure if this is some sort of disorder that only manifests in my head, because most other riders appear to be immune to it. :|

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The aforementioned getting lost and tired and frustrated happened in the early afternoon. That’s when I took a deep breath, stopped at a restaurant and decided to go get a good meal, even though my original intention was to just grab something quick from a gas station to save on time.

My heart sank when I saw that the menu was entirely in Czech, but with the help of the super-nice waitress, I managed to order a roasted fish and a salad. I wasn’t expecting much but the fish was probably the tastiest thing I’ve ever eaten – it had to have been doused with its own weight in butter to taste that good, but I tried not to think about that. I was surprised to find that it was really cheap too. Apparently the exchange rate is about 24 Czech koruna per euro, so my meal cost less than 5 euros total. It would probably have been a good $30 meal in Seattle. There was a bit of muddle when it came time to pay and I produced a 50 euro note, and the waitress had only 20 euros. Apparently they prefer to use their local currency to the euro. I asked her to give me my change back in koruna, killing two birds with one stone. It saved me a trip to the ATM to get local money, and she didn’t have to deal with paying me back in euros.

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After my meal, I was considerably tranformed. I had gotten off the main highway and was taking the smaller roads now. They were super narrow which made me a bit nervous, but I got used to it soon. The landscape until then had been very flat, like the American midwest, but there were pleasant little copses of trees and small towns to break up the monotony. The roads also had a lot of elevation changes. The temperture was perfect too. About the only aggravating thing was a couple of times when I got turned around by construction and the Zumo’s detour function didn’t work that well. I wasted a good hour going back and worth between a set of roads around this one town that I thought I’d never leave.

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Leave it I did though because come 5:30 I was fed up, enabled highways/interstates on the GPS and took the fastest route up to Kunta Hora. It wasn’t all that bad either, and that worked out well. I got into town around 7, found a 40 euro room in the downtown area and checked in. The room is clean and comfortable and my bike got gated parking.I

I got dinner and wandered around the deserted town  little bit before returning back to my room.

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Tomorrow I plan to wake up early and go see the Sedlec Ossuary (Church of Bones) before heading west to Praha.

All in all, a good day of riding! So I guess this partcuolar relationship continues.

Bratislava and last evening in Vienna

This morning, I took ferry from vienna to Bratislava in Slovakia across the river Danube. It felt a little bit like being in an Agatha Christie novel. It was a very rainy morning and the view wasn’t very much more than blurry shades of blue and gray as we sailed over the waters of the famous river. Not gray enough to dampen my enthusiasm though. After a scorching hot couple of days, the cool weather was very welcome. I had borrowed an umbrella and raincoat from Stoffl’s mum, so I knew I’d stay dry when we reached land.

After 75 minutes, we reached Bratislava. I didn’t have a map of the city nor did I have to find one because all you had to do was follow your nose. I walked away from the river and within five minutes, reached close to the city center. It was a rather delightful sight, like a real life version of some fairytale town in a Miyazaki movie, with old buildings, a castle off in the distance, and electric trams lazily making their way through cobblestone streets. There were few people out and about due to the earliness of the hour. I spent a good couple of hours walking around the Old Town, checking out the church and tower and other assorted buildings in their art deco styles.

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I had lunch at a little cafe where I got a galette with chicken and spinach. It turned out to be quite a bit larger than I had expected – again with the American portion sizes!

By mid-afternoon, I had explored most of the town and I found a chocolate cafe (Cafe del Doge) to rest in. I got a hazelnut capucchino and a slice of delicious tiramisu to go with it. The rain had quieted down during the day, but it’s started up again, and more people started pouring into the cafe.

I missed the ferry back to Vienna, which turned out to be a good thing, because I ended up taking the bus instead, which cost onlz 6 euros.

Later at night, we caught a performance of Die Fledermaus at the Opera House, which was possibly one of the raunchiest performances of anything I have seen in a long time.


Tomorrow, I ride up north through Ceska Republica to Kutná Hora and the Church of Bones.

Vienna Day2

Posting this one a little bit after the fact. Day 2 in Vienna was the morning after I arrived late the previous evening. I hadn’t got to see much of it then, having just taken a short stroll around the block and a quick drive to get food. I woke up around 10 the next morning, feeling sore in every bone of my body. I finally made it outside by noon.

C. had left excellent directions, so I was able to find the subway without too much trouble. On the way there, I passed through a few streets that allowed me to see what kind of neighborhoods the local people live in. Shockingly enough, not very different from other places – old buildings, rows of cars lining the streets spelling a parking place nightmare, grocery stores and parks with old men sitting on benches…

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I bought a day pass at the subway station and caught the U4 to Karlsplatz. This turned out to be a mistake at this time of the day as I walked straight into an onslaught of tourists in the hot, blazing sun. The lines of stores selling Mozart memorabilia didn’t help either. I took refuge in a McDonald’s after getting a kabab (lol). I walked a little bit more and saw the cathedral and Mozart’s house, after which I fled the area.


I took the subway to the Museums Quartier, which was immediately a lot quieter. Apparently the tourists are content with chintzy tourist shop trinkets rather than real culture. :P It was still hot, but there was more shade here. The courtyard was filled with scores of big pink chais type constructs where people lay and sunned themselves. It was fringed with museums on all sides. I wish I could have seen them all, but I only had a couple of hours and elected to see the modern art museum (MOMKA).


It was a good choice. The museum had a great collection that filled me with glee. The top two floors were dedicated to scientific inventions. Hearing familiar names like Planck, Maxwell, Tesla and Brownian motion made me happy and brought back memories of being hunched over stacks of textbooks back in schooldays. It seemed fitting that was once science was now art. They had models of vacuum tubes and the Tesla coil, an old school camera and an odd contraption that looked like a video camera mounted on a machine gun.

The abstract art was pretty cool too. I’ll write more about this when I have the time.



Later in the evening, C. and I and two of his friends went to old Vienna to get dinner and beers. I got schnitzel, which was tasty but gave me an upset stomach later. After this we went to the Nachtmacht for drinks. The place was surprisingly bustling for that time of a weeknight – a stark contrast to us on the other side of the Atlantic.


Overall, it was a good day with a snapshot view of Vienna. I wish I had more time in the city, but I have a feeling I’m going to be saying this a lot in the days to come.

Ljubljana to Vienna…

On Sunday morning, I woke up 7:00AM, packed up all my gear, loaded up the bike and rode out of Matej’s building to join Christoph and Daniel. We made our way to Zmajski most to get pictures of our bikes in front of the dragon. That done, and after a brief stop for fuel, we made our way out of Ljubljana.

The bike felt good – it felt almost lighter than the SV and the same height. I took the top box off so that I wasn’t carrying any extra weight that I didn’t need. I spent most of the morning trying to get used to riding it. We went through some really pretty roads as we rode out of Slovenia. I made a mental note to leave at least 2-3 days at the end of the month to ride around the country. My jetlag in the beginning had prevented this and it would be a shame to not see more than Ljubljana.


We made a brief stop at the border. Like I’d been told, there was no border control any more, so no chance of getting a stamp on my passport. The world was just going to have to believe that I rode through all these countries. After we crossed, we rode through a stretch of twisties including some really tight hairpin turns, one of which I completely blew – a tight, steep, uphill one. Why don’t we have roads like this in Washington again? When we stopped for lunch after three hours, I realized how slow we had been going (because of me) and felt a little gloomy at how rusty my riding skills were. I had done no conditioning rides this year at all, and the narrow twisty roads here seemed quite technical. I know that I will get into it after a few days of riding though.


We stopped at Klagenfurt for lunch and Daniel realized that his front brake pad had *fallen off* and he had no more front brakes! what rotten luck! He ended up parking his bike and C.’s brother’s place nearby and taking the train back to Vienna.

That left just C. and I. Since we had to get to Vienna by nightfall, we decided to change routes to some slightly faster roads. It was still going to be almost six more hours of riding though – a total of almost 450km all together.

There were sections of the ride that were fantastic – long sweepers, somme tight turns, fantastic valleys and countryside, hot sun, trains rolling by to the right, little deserted towns… and there were a few dull sections, where all you did was go in a straight line. My energy level was fine until the last hour as we neared closer to Wien (Vienna). It was night now and we rode through the darkness on the outskirts of the city. Tired as I was, I love riding at night through city streets. :)

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We finally made it to C.’s street, where we parked the bikes and staggered upstairs with our stuff. We went out after a while to a McDonald’s to get some food. I was pretty braindead by then.

I slept well that night. I also finally bid goodbye to the jetlag.

Day 3 in Ljubljana

Brief update from Ljubljana. Slept in this morning and felt pretty crappy even after I did wake up and get out of bed. Damn jetlag!

Got a spot of breakfast at the pizzeria from my first day here. Breakfast appears to be a rather novel concept here. Most people don’t do it like they do in the US. They didn’t have a breakfast menu and my scrambled eggs and toast turned out to be a fried egg with warm bread. It was tasty though, so no complaints. :)

Then I walked a block away to a tools store to get a Phillips head screwdriver because I forgot to bring mine. Got a set of four for a good price. Also picked up a hex wrench set to get the 2.5 mm one in case my GPS decides to go AWOL on me (the only way to fix a frozen Garmin is to take the battery out, and yes I appear to have misplaced the wrench I brought with me too). Walked about 20 more minutes down Dunajska cesta to find a key place I had looked up to make copies of the bike key (I only got one key) only to find that the place was closed. Meh… guess I should have called before. Took a bus back to Pegamova ulica.

Then went about fixing up the GPS mount and I finally have it working and installed and done. I find that the tank bag the bike comes with holds my camelbak bladder nicely too. I also found an assortment of locks in the tank bag and top case. I get the hint. :P I tried to take the top box off but couldn’t get any of the nuts to budge. I found out later tht Givi topboxes have a button inside to easily take the case on and off the bike. I’ll give that a try tommorrow.

After this I must have slept for about an hour. When I woke up, it was almost 3:00PM (where on earth does the time go?) and bright and sunny outside. Since my body was now synced to 7:00AM Seattle time, I was fresh and alive and ready to go. I changed into a dress and walked out the sunshine and felt like a million dollars. How I had missed the sun!

I took a bus down to the city center, took some better pictures, then walked by the river, which bifurcated to the right. This was far enough from the main tourist hot spot that I managed to find a good pizzeria with cheap food. I got a glass of red wine and horse meat goulash with bread balls. It was delicious, except that the portion size was very American and I could barely eat about half of it.


This done, I walked up north a little towards the Roman Wall – the remnant of a wall that stood in a city that exited there from 10-13AD. It was quiet and peaceful and a really nice walk down the park that was on the inside of the wall. I guess it was far enough away from the main hub that the tourists didn’t venture down there.


Christoph called and we arranged to meet at Preseren trg in front of the McDonalds (lol). :P Him and his friend Daniel were staying the night and we’re going to ride to Vienna tomorrow morning. They turned out to be a blast. We went to a sidewalk cafe and got the local beer. They got food and I got a Slovenian dessert – some kind of cake which I didn’t like too much because it was more bitter than sweet. We talked and talked and got along really well. I think I’m going to enjoy riding with these guys. We might make a slight detour instead of going directly to Vienna if Christoph can get Monday off. It must be the staying within the city for so long, but I am longing to camp. They didn’t bring tents though, so that might not happen for a few days.

Oh well, Vienna, here I come!

Ljubljana by day…

I woke up at 4AM this morning in spite of having gone to bed after midnight. I was still pretty tired, but completely unable to sleep. I lay in bed until Matej woke up to go to work at 6:30AM, then got up, got some breakfast and went to work on the bike a little.

It turns out that the bike does not have a toolkit, or rather the toolkit that was under the seat contained a screwdriver and a couple of wrenches. I thanked my stars that I had thought to bring the toolkit from my old wrecked F650GS. Most of the BMW spec torx wrenches worked on this bike.

I don’t know if the CS uses any tools that the GS didn’t, and if does, I hope I won’t end up needing them. I made some minor adjustments on the bike, like rotating the clutch and break levers higher. This had the unfortunate side effect of moving the mirrors closer to me at an
awkward angle. Try as I might, I could not get the bolts at the base of the mirror to loosen up.

I managed to get it at a somewhat okay angle. That will have to do for now.

Next up I tested that the GPS worked with the 12V adapter on the bike. I had to make a minor change to the mount, which I did at the apartment later. I’ll install it on the bike tomorrow morning.

I took the bike for a short spin around the underground parking lot, a little gingerly at first. It felt fine and should handle well on the road. The only thing I’m debating is the big Givi topbox installed on it. On the one hand it’s lockable, which is nice. On the other, it’s huge and I don’t like having that kind of extra weight so high up on a bike.

After I came back upstairs, I lay down to “rest” and ended up sleeping from 10:00AM to 2:00PM. So much for trying to work within the Slovenian time zone. After I woke up with a shock, still groggy, I forced myself to get up and take the bus to the city center (downtown).

The bus dropped me off at at Dunajska Cesta and Prazakova Ulica. I got a kebab wrap at Donner Kebab (I finally know what everyone was talking about!) and walked over to the PreÅ¡eren Square. I walked a lot and took lots of pictures. There were a lot of tourists in this area, but I managed to wander through several sidestreets and escaped the majority of them. I saw the Zmajski most (Dragon Bridge) of course. In fact, there were quite a few bridges crossing the somewhat dull Ljubljana river. Unfortunately the day was so gray and gloomy that I didn’t get very good photos. Ah well. The high point – literally – was climbing on top of a hill to Ljubljanski grad (Ljubljana castle). I got some fantastic views of the city from up above – a magical little old town dotted with red roofs and cobblestone streets.

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In between the sightseeing, I looked into the little shops and stalls by the river. Since I knew I could buy a few things and not have to carry them with me on the bike, I ended up getting a couple of pairs of really cute socks, a violet glass candle holder, some lightweight, windproof pants that will be perfect for riding in, an inflatable travel pillow and a compass.

Matej met me in the town square at the end of the day and we went to Cafe Romeo for dinner. I got a burrito, which was unlike any burrito I have ever tasted… lol… Mexican food in Slovenia! Matej got the tastiest crepe I have ever tasted with nutella, hazelnuts and almonds with fresh whipped cream.


It was a pretty good evening! As we drove back to his place, I noticed that I had an email from Christoph in Vienna who was in town now. We had tentatively planned on riding to Vienna together, although I wasn’t quite sure I’d be ready to ride on Saturday due to my jetlag. I’ll call him tomorrow morning and see what we can do.

I’ve already packed all my stuff and sorted out what I need to bring with me, so if I decide to go with him, I just need to load up the bike and go. It’s very tempting to start the journey with someone who knows the roads so that I can relax a little. Let’s hope I sleep well tonight and ready to tackle the day. Most of all, fingers crossed that the confounded rain stops!

For the rest of the photos, click here.

Arrival in Ljubljana…

I arrived in Ljubljana at noon on the 29th, completely braindead from having been awake for 24 hours straight. To make things worse, Matej had to work until 3:00, so I would have to wait for almost three more hours before I could even think of sleep. Thankfully, he had booked a shuttle for me and I was greeted in Ljubljana airport lobby with a sign that said my name. The shuttle driver loaded up my bags and off we went. One of the passengers was a friendly Finnish girl who was in Slovenia for a course the university. She helped me call Matej, who talked to the shuttle driver and told him where to drop me off.

The shuttle cost only 8 euros and I got dropped off at a pizzeria close to Matej’s place on Pegamova Ulica. I ordered some pizza with sausage and bacon toppings, and got a vegetarian one instead. *sigh* I needed to eat more vegetables anyway, so I dug in. I played on the Droid when I wasn’t falling asleep in my food. Finally Matej showed up, we hugged and drank tea and talked for a little while. He turned out to be a lovely guy and was very easy to talk to.

We walked back to his apartment and he showed me to my room. I would have gone to bed right way, except that we had work to do. He took me to a local place where I had to sign some paperwork to get roadside assistance (a whopping 58 euros for a year because they had no option to get the service for just a month). After this, we went and got a sim card for my phone. It was practically impossible to get a card that would work for all the European countries, so I ended up getting a $25 prepaid card that would work in Slovenia for 15c a minute, and be in roaming for the rest of Europe. I’ll probably just use this phone for emergencies only. I *might* pick up sim cards in the various countries that I travel through though.

How it all started…

The flight is delayed and sitting on the runway because apparently they have an inadequate supply of water. It’s too early to start worrying about making my connections, so I figure I’ll spend some time writing.

What I really should do is sleep because I’m so sleep starved from getting only five hours of sleep last night – I had to wake up at 4AM to get to the airport at 5AM. But I see that it is 5PM in Slovenia now and I want to try and stay in that time zone as much as possible. I’m really wary of getting the jetlag from hell and losing days when I get there. This probably means that I try and stay awake throughout this flight, and get some sleep from Toronto to Frankfurt.

I have all sorts of good resolutions for this trip. I resolve to write more frequently, blog as often as I can, upload photos as frequently as possible and make at least one video diary recording at the end of the day. We’ll see how well I do once reality intervenes. I will also try and reply to comments as frequently as I can, although I hope that folks understand that this won’t always be possible.

I’ll start with a brief recap on the story so far, in other words, where am I going and why? I am headed to Ljubljana, the capital city of the gorgeous country of Slovenia in Eastern Europe. Why Slovenia? That’s just how it worked out. I would have preferred to have started somewhere more central, like Germany, but an opportunity landed in my lap where I had the chance to rent a motorcycle from a fellow rider in Slovenia.

Given my history with BMW, I’m not particularly excited about riding one of their bikes, but it had the advantage that it’s a bike I’m familiar with, having ridden an F650GS before. None of the standard bike rentals that I found in Europe were made for a person like me. The rates were also quite a bit exhorbitant, most averaging about $100/day. Shipping my own bike over wasn’t much of an option either, as it required a lot of co-ordination and organizing of shipping months in advance.

I had looked into purchasing a bike in Europe, but European countries typically do not allow non-citizens to register vehicles or get insurance, so this was a dead-end too. Also, even if you did find some sort of workaround, European bikes do not conform to US specs, which would further complicate the import of the bike back into the US.

There used to be an option a few years ago for people to purchase a new US spec BMW or Ducati in Europe, ride it around Europe, and drop it back at the factory or dealership who would then ship it to the US for them. Unfortunately BMW appears to have discontinued this, and I’m not sure if Ducati does this anymore either. Not that I really want to own a BMW or Ducati myself anyway. So an F650CS it is!

My plan is to start off in Ljubljana, ride around in the area a little bit, then head north through Austria to Vienna, possibly take a ferry across the Danube to Bratislava and back, the north again towards Berlin. From here, I will ponder which direction to go and how. As of now, I just want to get through the various flights and circumvent the myriad ways in which immigration and visas work.

Seattle to Slovenia

I’m all checked in and waiting at SeaTac arport waiting for my 8AM flight. I fly to Ljubljana, Slovenia with two layovers at Toronto and Frankfurt (My flights are  Air Canada 540 @8AM, Lufthansa 9635 @5:30PM and Lufthansa 2444/Adria Airlines @10:15AM, if you want to follow along and check my progress online). My Ortleib bag and two saddlebags fit perfectly into my two checkin baggages, weighing in at 48lbs and 38lbs each. I’m bringing a carry-all bag and my helmet with me into the plane. Checkin and security was pretty smooth. I got yogurt, granola and berries for breakfast, and a coffee that I didn’t touch. I picked up some souvenirs for my hosts in Ljubljana.

So this is it. There is no turning back now. And yes, there have been times in the past week or so when I have questioned the sanity of what I am about to do.

The past couple of weeks have been emotionally fraught with personal issues, wrapping up at work, running around doing last minute errands and mentally preparing myself for the month ahead. I tried to remind myself that this was going to be a *vacation* and I should be relieved to finally relax and let go, but the truth is that it won’t always be fun times. There’s going to be many, many times when I’m going to wish I was safe back at home, and I know I’ll miss the comfort and familiarity of Seattle and my life here.

In many ways, adventures seem to be the most fun when they are over and you’re home safe, and the worst at the beginning with all the trepedition and fear of what lies ahead and the naggin fear as you wonder whether you finally bit off more than you could chew.

A friend reminded me that this was what I was dreaming of during all those winter nights, longing for warm weather and escapades in far off lands. It puts things into perspective. And he was right, of course. I finally have what I live for through most of the year. And so it begins.

My tentative First Route…

Here is a first look at my tentative route through Europe this summer. Click on the image to go to the actual map in Bing Maps.


Bought some maps!

I just placed an order for the City Navigator Europe NT Maps for my Garmin Zumo. They appear to have pretty good coverage for the countries I will be riding through. Yay, this is suddenly getting more real! I also got a cable for the mount. I was originally going to purchase a mount, but rather than spend $85+ on a new one, I’ll probably take one off of one of my bikes and re-use it.