Arrival in Cologne…

You know what’s really nice? What’s really nice is curling up with your girlfriend in jammies with cups of tea and talking and laughing and giggling without a care in the world. :) I’ve been craving female company for so long that spending a couple of days with Eva in Stockholm and now Silke in Cologne have been exactly what I needed.

Yesterday was another “mindless riding” day on the A7, A2 and A1 autobahns to get from Hamburg to Cologne. The riding itself was fine, and a lot easier now that I’m used to it. There were a few construction zones where the four lane highway narrowed to two lanes and the speed limit went from 130 to 60. It sprinkled a little in the beginning, but nothing too alarming. And then I did something completely stupid. I stopped to refuel at the 200km mark and as I lifted my saddlebag to put the hose in, the gas tank cap *broke off*. WTF!!! After I got over my initial shock, I refueled, moved the bike over to a side and tried to lock the cover back in place. No luck with that though. I had to take the seat off and wrap tape around the cap and the body of the bike to keep it in place. I was worried that it wouldn’t be watertight, but the saddlebags went over it and would cover  the cap until I got to the next city. I got Silke to look up the address for BMW Motorrad in Cologne so I could stop there on the way. They were closed on Sunday though, so that would have to wait until Monday. I wondered gloomily if I was doomed to visit a BMW shop in every city I went to. It seemed like a bit of a cosmic joke.

100 km later, I turned onto the A1 and the skies opened up. All of a sudden I was in a deluge. Visibility reduced to two car lengths in front of me. There was standing water on the freeway and I started getting sprayed with water from cars going past me. I had neglected to put the liners into my pants and I paid for it by getting completely soaked in minutes. There was nothing to do but keep going though. I was so close to Cologne that there was no sense in stopping.

After a very long, wet hour, I rolled into Cologne Zentrum. It was a relief to be on city streets going much slower, although I did completely blow one right turn, felt the bike slipping on some rail road tracks and had to slow down and stop. Luckily there was no traffic behind me so I was able to gingerly ease my way back to the street. I made it to Silke’s street, called her and parked on the sidewalk in front of her building.

We carried my gear up  to her fifth floor flat where I proceeded to get out of my wet things. Ick! I thought fondly of having done laundry the day before and all the clean, bone dry clothes I had packed away.

She took me to a local pub – Unkelbach – where she got me some blood pudding – a Cologne specialty. It was some sort of meat with mashed potatoes mixed with apples and some cabbage on top. It was tasty! We spent a good long time eating and catching up. :) Then we took a train to the city center to go see the Rhine. I was going to see the Rhine! Honest to goodness with my own eyes! :D


It was still pouring down and the Rhine looked gray, but it was still thrilling. :) We walked away from it and towards the Cologne Cathedral. I had been of the mind of “see one church, seen ’em all” but I caught my breath at the beauty of this gothic church. I don’t know if it was the effect of the gray skies, fog and rain, but it was quite simply the most marvelous building I have seen. I couldn’t stop gazing up at it and wanting to take in every single square inch. Water spouted out of the mouths of the gargoyles high up above, adding to the dramatic effect even further.

P1060270   P1060275

P1060280   P1060285

After stopping for coffee at a cafe, we went inside the cathedral. We had to wait for the service to get over before we could wander around. The organ music was lovely and made me want to come back to hear a proper concert within those walls. It was nearing the end of the day and the crypt and the sarcophagi (containing the bodies of the Three Kings, reportedly the magi who visited Jesus after his birth) were cordoned off. I’d just have to come to see it again.

P1060297   P1060301

We got an early night with dinner and watching Season Five of Doctor Who. For some reason, my left knee was very sore and appeared to be bruised and inflamed. I cannot imagine why but I hope it subsides. Some ice and Tylenol will hopefully do the trick.

This morning I called BMW Cologne and talked to Andreas, the service manager, who was fantastic. He said he would special order the part and get it installed for me. I got off the phone feeling relieved and thinking of how much I loved strong, confident men who just Knew What To Do. :P

Today we will wander the city some more, possibly stopping at the Modern Art Museum. They predict more rain until Wednesday, which is depressing. I was hoping to leave tomorrow morning, but that might not happen. It impedes my progress a bit, but there’s just no sense in riding in such miserable weather. For now, I will enjoy this beautiful city with one of my best friends. :)

Blogging from Hamburg…

I woke up at 6AM, got myself ready and the bike loaded up, and was out of Berlin at 7AM. I wanted to get through the freeway slog early in the day and arrive in Hamburg early enough that I still had most of the day to enjoy the city.

I made a brief stop at another section of the Berlin Wall at the east end of the city. This section was not cordoned off like the one from the day before had been. It was painted with all kinds of street art and graffiti which I slowed down to look at. I pulled over at one section and took a picture of the bike with the Wall in the background.


This done, I got onto the freeway to head out of Berlin. It was about 270km to Hamburg. The ride was pretty uneventful. I kept a good 125kph clip, the monotony broken only by the recurring need to pass semis. I stopped for one quick gas stop at the 210km mark.

10 km outside of Hamburg, I saw a motorcyclist pushing his bike on the side of the road and slowed down and pulled over. He was riding a beautiful, old vintage BMW, which had stopped running for some reason. It turned out that one of the cylinders wasn’t firing and the spark plug kept getting fouled for some reason. He was going to need a tow. He looked relieved and happy that I had stopped, although I wasn’t sure that I could really do much to help him. I certainly couldn’t help him fix it, but I know that at times like this, it helps to just have someone with you and not feel like you’re alone. He spoke a little bit of English and expressed his gratitude at my having stopped. I told him that we should try to get off at the next exit where we could decide what to do. He said okay and I told him to get started so that I could follow him. He could ride the bike on one cylinder for a short while and at least go that distance.

He rode in the shoulder while I got back on the freeway. He was going really slow though and I didn’t think it was safe for me to go at that speed, so I picked up the pace and turned off at the next exit (which incidentally was my exit after all). I found a safe place to pull over on the side of the road and I waited. I took my gloves off and drank some water as I waited for him to catch up. About five minutes later, he blew past me waving his arm. Huh… well, I guess he was fine after all. Glad that he didn’t need my help, I too took off on my way. (A few miles down the road, I saw him pulled over again, but it was too late for me to stop. I felt bad, but I wasn’t familiar enough with the area to find my way back around, and I figured he was close enough to help that he would be okay.) That was a really nice bike though. I wish I had taken a picture. I mused to myself that that’s the kind of vintage bike I’d love to race someday.

I rode to BMW Hamburg on Onnakamp, missing the small entrance the first time. BMW occuped the entire set of blocks on that street, but only a small section was for motorycles. Almost the entire store was dedicated to their cars. I went around the block and turned in at the right entrance this time. The service guys pulled my bike over into the garage area and had the lowbeam bulb swapped out in the minutes (like James had said, the rubb covers at the back of the headlamp came off and there was some kind of elaborate clip mechanism that released the bulb). In all honesty, I could probably have figured this out on my own with instructions. but at nowhere the speed at which they did it. The also didn’t charge me, so it was probably a good thing I decided to let them do it.

From here, I called Alex and asked him to meet me downstairs, since my mobile phone minutes were over by now. I found his place without any trouble, pulled in to his garage and parked next to his Honda Shadow. We walked up four flights of stairs to his flat to put away my gear and luggage. Next we went to the train station where I bought tickets to Copenhagen and Stockholm. We had a very tasty lunch at a Turkish restaurant, before heading back to his flat. I was feeling a bit dizzy and needed to lie down for a little bit.

P1060079   P1060080

Later on in the evening, we decided to go out for dinner and a small tour of Hamburg. I was still feeling dizzy and a bit out of it, so I rode on the back of his bike. Chalk that up to be the second time this month that I’ve ridden on the back of a guy’s bike. ;) The control freak in me appears to be taking a bit of a backseat. I have to admit that it is a little nice to not have to worry about riding and just enjoying the ride instead, as long as it’s just a short 30 minute ride.

I soon found out the immense advantage of seeing the city through the eyes of a local. Earlier in the afternoon, Alex took me to a kaffehaus where I got some excellent cappuchino. Now we went to a pizza place where I got some delicious thin crust pizza and a local beer.


After concluding a delicious meal, we went for a ride through the city where he called out the most significant sights that might or might not be on a typical tourist’s map. The most impressive one was the city’s inner harbor and the historical warehouse area.

I was beat by the end of the day and it was all I could do to climb into bed and read a bit of my book before falling asleep. The next day, I’d leave my bike behind and take the train to Copenhagen.