Month: April 2008

Day 6: Helsinki to St. Petersburg

Departure: Helsinki, Finland
Time: 09:30

Arrival: St. Petersburg, Russia
Time: 20/21:00

(in progress)

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4th day out… the trip thus far.

so, finally we have access to a computer.  fantastic.  we are in stockholm, at the crystal palace hotel, which is in the middle of the shopping district.  the hotel is nice, and we had a great room in the tower.  the coolest shower in the world.

the second day, very early, we caught the ferry to trelleborg sweden.  tying in the bikes for the 4 hour ferry ride was a bit scary.  separation anxiety.  but the trip was easy and the bikes were fine.  fog met us in trelleborg, and we skedaddled across to copenhagen, where the weather was beautiful and the skies were blue.  i’m not kidding – we crossed the toll bridge, came out of a tunnel, and the weather had miraculously changed.  a beautiful and easy ride through the city to park near a restaurant recommended by our friend annemette.  we parked and ate at the place across the street.  then on to helsingor, home to hamlet at elsinore.  we found our hotel then took some great rides around the region, which was gorgeous.  lots of other bikers out.  more later.
 

Day Three: Helsingor to Stockholm

Departure: Helsingor, Denmark
Time: 09:ish

Arrival: Stockholm, Sweden
Time: 18:ish

(in progress)

After an adventure of getting our motorcycles out of the very very gravelly parking lot at the Hotel Sleep2Night, we headed with relief to our 2nd ferry of the trip, a short 20-minute jaunt across to Helsinborg, Sweden.  What a very very different experience from yesterday’s ferry!  This time, there was a huge crowd of sports bikes heading onto the ferry with us, and we joined up with them.  They were so casual: the zipped up to the front of the ferry loading, got off their bikes, and walked away.  Nothing to tie up, nothing to worry about!  We were a bit nervous, but managed after a brief discussion to follow suit, and headed upstairs for a quick coffee, which was so hot we barely finished it before we had to run down to get back on our bikes. 

Somehow, we were the first bikes off the ferry, and all the other bikers followed us, which involved me, in the lead, making a full circuit of the first roundabout and driving into a parking lot so that I could hook up my TomTom, which I hadn’t had time for before the ferry landed.  It took the other bikers a few seconds to figure out we were really just parking and didn’t know where we were going, then they drove off.  Ha.

Sweden was COLD.  We drove across to Jankoping, then north.  The drive north was absolutely stunning, on the face of a cliff overlooking the water, but we had to stop to warm up several times, and even with my wonderful electric underjacket I was really cold. 

Later, after we had left the water areas, we set the TomTom to randomly take us to some out of the way village, and had a lovely rambling jaunt through the countryside.  It completely read our minds, and we never even found that village, although we passed signs that pointed to it over and over.  Each time we passed a sign pointing to the town in question, the TomTom instructed us to go the other way, which was weird but worked out to be exactly what we’d wanted in the first place:  we drove on roads where it looked like we MUST be lost, and HAD to be going the wrong way, and then, after an hour or so of this, came out on a main highway not far from Stockholm and right on track.  Amazing.

Stockholm itself was Matt-ville.  He loved it.  He loved the streets, the atmosphere, the buildings, everything.  I think it was his Minnesota-ness coming out.  🙂  We went for a long walk and enjoyed the view from a crazy bridge that extended between a tall hill and a tower.  I saw interesting graffiti – specifically tile graffiti.  Since then, I’ve seen tile graffiti in Amsterdam too, but i think this was the first I saw.

We ate that night in a lovely restaurant near a major theatre, and the waitress had the most beautiful hair.  Thick and blond and wavy, and so stereotypically Swedish hair.  It was the honey-gold blonde with darker streaks naturally running through it.  She was also very sweet, and helped us choose typically Swedish foods that we might never otherwise have thought to try.  They were delicious, but it was another not-so-cheap dinner option for the group of us. 

Crystal Palace Hotel

The tower room.  Wow.  The shower was amazing!!!  more to come about this…

Day Two: Sassnitz to Helsingor

Departure:  Sassnitz, Germany
Time: 07:15

Arrival: Helsingor, Denmark
Time: 16:15

(in progress)

Big event this morning:  my first time taking a motorcycle on a ferry…. the trust issues involved!!!!  i was SO worried.  The ferry from Sassnitz to Trelleborg left at 8am, and arrived at noon.  We spent ages tying the bikes into place against the wall of the ferry.  There was one other motorcycle already there, and we tried to match what he had done.  None of the employees would give us any pointers, and i think we all had a sick feeling about it.  We barely left them in time to get out of the parking area.

Upstairs we found a big boothy section that was free except for a guy sleeping in it, so we moved in.  there weren’t very many comfortable choices, and this was the best we could do.  After about 20 minutes, he left, actually.  I saw him sharing a smaller space with another sleeper later, and we had plenty of space to stretch out in.  Matt sewed on his tank bag, Dick wrote in his journal, and I mostly slept. 


Trelleborg, when we got there, was very misty.  We could barely see the Swedish country side through the fog, but it was flat and spacious, from what I could see.  We headed for the tollbridge into Copenhagen and therefore Denmark, and about halfway across the bridge the weather just simply cleared up.  All of a sudden it was sunny and a beautiful day.  Apparently the sun shines on Denmark.  🙂 

Copenhagen was my first time using my new TomTom Rider v2 in an unfamiliar city, rather than semi-familiar and/or highways.  It was the most amazing thing not to be worried about missing turns or hitting cars while trying to understand the one-way roads marked on a map taped to the gas tank.  I was amazed to discover that not only did i know where and when a turn would come, i could see that i would cross a bridge and a funny pedestrian street before the turn.  wow.  Of course, it helped that the traffic was light on this particular day, and that Danish drivers are pretty relaxed. 

We drove into a neighborhood recommended by our friend Annemette, and parked without paying the parking fee because we couldn’t figure out how to do it.  There were terrace restaurants all over along a river or canal, and we tried to go to one because the place recommended by Annemette was too crowded and noisy for Dick, and had a big fight about who wanted to eat what, but then sat for ages with no service, so we got up again and went to an open-faced sandwich shop across from the recommended place.  It was lovely, service was lovely, food was fine.  Argument over.

After lunch we took the coast road up to Helsingor, which is where Elsinore (Hamlet’s castle) is located.  The coastal road was populated by limos, pleasure-drivers and other bikers.  The houses looked expensive.

After checking into our (awful) hotel, we went joyriding around that part of Denmark.  It was gorgeous, with little windy roads and more relaxed drivers.  Such small roads! 

We saw the castle, and Matt and Dick posed as Hamlet and Yorick’s skull.  Then we spent about an hour as it got colder and colder while Matt tried to fix his malfunctioning tail light.

A little grumpy from too active a day, we parked in the center and looked for food.  Everywhere that looked good was full with a long waiting list, so we ended up in this horrible-looking and empty "Italian" place.  The food was terrible, didn’t match its descriptions very well, and so overpriced that we were actually shocked when we got our bill and did the math.  The waiter/only employee we saw there was a horrible, grumpy old man. 

We noted, while eating, that all the men we saw around town were very effeminate looking in style.  Pink shirts, overly clean and blow-dried hair, ironed jeans, etc.  I had to text Annemette to congratulate her for apparently snagging the last real man in Denmark!  🙂

After dinner, it was back to the hotel and SLEEP – much needed, long awaited.

Hotel Sleep2Night

Day One: Amsterdam to Sassnitz

Departure: Prins Hendrikkade 510, Amsterdam
Time: 09:30

Arrival: Sassnitz, Germany
Time: 19:10

(in progress)

Hard riding today, the autobahn makes a person crazy – we were going between 130 and 160 kph all the way through northern germany. 10 hours on the road today, counting gas breaks. We had hoped to drop in to Hamburg around lunchtime or early afternoon to see Sumi and Frances (Michi’s sister and mom), but we didn’t make good enough time and the traffic jams as we neared Hamburg became insane.

I was loving my new TomTom Rider v2 today – I wanted so badly for someone to call me so that I could answer the phone while riding my motorcycle. Alas, everyone knew that today was the first day of the trip, so left me alone.

We learned some of our riding quirks today. Dick avoided passing any cars when in the lead, worried that he would lose me and Matt. Matt was always riding really close on whoever he was behind. I was in love with passing everyone, and didn’t wait for the boys when I was in the lead. Matt sometimes didn’t look before following, so this was especially dangerous. We will all get better at riding together, but there was a lot of irritation building all day.

At one of the rest stops, a horde of German tourists from a tour bus gathered around us. At first we just ignored them, as they were really only talking amongst themselves even though they were so closely crowded around us that I felt claustrophobic. Eventually they tried to talk to us, but it didn’t go over very smoothly.

we got into sassnitz, found our hotel, and walked through the woods for dinner at a friendly if terrible german version of an italian place. great homemade schnapps, though, and the waitress was extremely gifted at pantomime. We were a little skeptical of the trip through the woods. It wasn’t much of a path, and we shared lots of "jokes" about missing bikers.

everyone we met in sassnitz was tremendously friendly…

Hotel Staphel