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Linda on BMW: Start of the Trip in Castellar

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Report Belgium an Netherlands

And here ist the Photo-Gallery for this report.

Well, after 3000 kms I am back in Kirchheim( near Stuttgart) and have got no further with the paperwork as the Gib bank stuffed up my money transfer for the carnet and the Iran consulate want an official invitation from a travel agency in Iran so I have to make up an itinery and send that off. This is all taking time so, in the meantime I intend to go to a BMW motorbike rally in Czech Republic and then come back here in the hope it will all be sorted.

The best laid plans of women and wallabys.....

However, I will tell you all about my trip west. From Lichenstein, where I set up the web page with Heiner and Petra, I had quite a long ride across to Aachen where Bernd Tesch (Overland Traveller extradinaire) and his artist wife Patti live in the beautiful Eifel mountains. I spent a couple of days with them during which time I went for a walk in the wald, between thunder storms, and Bernd organised a big bonfire party where we sang mainly country songs as Bernd lent me his guitar and another man had a beautiful Martin guitar and a John Denver song book. I also spent a day with Patti in Maastricht as she was buying  materials for the amazing glass lamps that she makes.

Then it was on to Bremmen in Holland where my friend Johanna took me on a bicycle tour of Bronkhorst, the smallest city in Holland. We had to take a ferry over a canal of course, this is Holland, but I don't remember seeing a windmill....praps it had been dismantled or was hiding..

Johanna's  passion is Tango so I was whisked off to a Tango salon in Deventer. A very exotic experience. No, there are no photos of me with a rose between my teeth, unfortunately tango is not my forte.

The next stop was an Organic farm with my friends Jereon, Simone and little Kiri. They had been saving bottletops and had bought a broom handle so we could make a lagerphone together and we made a great one. I also helped pick spinach and clean windows between bicycle rides and more windmill hunting.

Lots of thatched roofs and cows to admire plus Simone kindly let me play her new violin which was a real treat for my fiddle starved fingers. As she has another fiddle we had a good session together.

The weather was still cold and I also had one but when I recovered I decided to check out the tulip fields and went to Zandvoort, a race track I once rode round about 34 years ago. The flower field are south of there along the coast but I was about a month too late! lots of flower fields but no flowers.

So I rode into Rotterdam and found Daya, Johanna's son who used to live in Castellar but is now in an anti-squat accomodation which means he and two other guys share the top floor of an office building in the centre of town.

Their rooms are huge! whole office floor sized and lots of windows so its a bit surrealistic and great fun. Also near the cubic architecture that is famous in the city. The Suzuki was parked in the ground floor reception area.

We had a day walking round the various areas of Rotterdam, including the old New York hotel which is where all the passengers for the ships going to America used to stay. And there is a Spanish Bridge. At Delf Haven took a great photo of bicycles, canal and windmill all together! Very Dutch.

After bidding Daya good luck with his architecture course,  I continued south along the dykes where it was cold and windy and finally, when the sun did come out I was at Veere, a pretty little village in Zeeland where... guess what? I spy with my little eye something beginning with ... w.

My next destination was Gent in Belgium, although I rendevouzed with Bart and Hilde ( who both own very smart Honda motorcycles) at a village just north of Gent where they were involved with a local modern dance group production so I spent a pleasant afternoon watching the performance staged by dancers from the age of 4 years up.

Gent is a beautiful old city based around the canals and has many attractions which I explored by foot and bicycle. Hilde accompanied me to the Guislain Psychiatric hospital which, built during the 19th century is a magnifencent building and, at that time was the leader of Europe in psychiatric care. Now, apart from a division for patients and students, it houses a museum which not only shows methods of care over the years but also creative work by therapists and patients and other artists. A very interesting and informative morning was spent there. Hilde, who teaches lithographic art, has had some of her work displayed in its exhibitions.

While I was in Gent my musician friend Colin, from Norfolk, and his Belgium partner, Rita, visited on their way through to the Ardennes and Trui and Mikela (WIMA members) also called to give me the benefit of their experiences with their DR650 Suzukis and travels in the East, so it was a very social time in Bart and Hilde's well renovated house by a canal. I also had my first taste of the wonderful trappist beer. Those monks sure knew what they were doing!

In the southern, french speaking part of Belgium, lies Tournais (also named Doornik) which is another ancient city connected by canal and there I was finally able to practise my Spanish again with Elena from Jerez and her Breton boyfrind, Samuel. Out came my tin whistle, Elena's flute and castanets and Samuels accordian.

One night, while Elena had another musical engagement Samuel and I went to a storytelling evening, held in a converted cow shed on a French farm. Apart from Samuel, all the storytellers were women and, though I couldn't understand, it was very entertaining. I had taken my lagerphone along and sang an Australian sheep shearing song which Samuel explained in French and the audience were able to join in with, so that was my contribution to a fun evening.

I needed to do a few laps of the ring road around Eindhoven airport before I could recognise the farm house where Kees and his mother live. I think it was about 7 years since I last went there and the old memory isn't so good, but I found it and Kees told me he had just spent two weeks with wonderful weather in the highlands of Scotland where he and his other BM riding friends did a spot of Munro conquering (Scottish mountains over 3,000 feet) The weather in Scotland had been better than Europe, although it was just getting warmer and we spent a relaxing Sunday walking.

Time to make my way back to Germany and, past Aachen, I followed the old route that myself and my English friends used to take to the Elephant rally back in the sixties when it was held at the Nurburgring. Those cold January rides were taken on icy roads lined with snow covered pines as we shivered our way to the rally site, spurred on by the thought of firey schnapps shared round huge bonfires with our German motorcyle friends. This time the sun was shining while I stopped for a photo of the Suzuki beneath the paddock tower.

I stayed with Floh (ex captain of WIMA Germany) in a charming village just outside Frankfurt. It was still too soon to apply for my Pakistan visa in that city but it was great to see Floh, her husband, Klaus and daughter Sachia, and admire the work that they have done renovating their huge ancient houses. Goodness me, these Germans sure know how to build!

With the weather now heating up I followed the Rhine past Koblenz, now swapping windmill spotting for Schlosses and canal barges for river barges.

I just love to see these waterways used to transport heavy loads of coal and metal. Looks like a relaxing way to travel.

It was great to see Christina and Frank again in my new 'home' in Kircheim. Unfortunately, the paperwork problems mean a delay in my move east, but I have allowed time for them and Kirchheim is a very pleasant place to be, especially with all the help that Frank and Christina give me. Yesterday I walked up the Teck (local hill) and was able to follow the route of the legend of the area in superb surroundings and weather, so I am very lucky.

The Suzuki behaved itself perfectly and, my ever increasing girth hasn´t slowed it down yet and, as I mentioned previously, provides more padding for the seat. Dutch cheese, german sausages and Belgium beer are too tempting and I shall soon be looking for bigger trousers.

My thanks to all my friends who have given their hospitality and help on this part of the trip, it was great to see you again and I will keep in touch.

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