It's like a bad dream.
I'm on my own today and for some reason am in a bus driving on the left side of the road. There seems to be red double decker buses everywhere and that tower over there looks remarkably like Big Ben. I'm also really, really tired but I could even swear that the river on my left is the Thames. I try to wake myself up and think of sunny Vancouver but its just not happening.
AARGH, F....K!! I'M IN LONDON!!! What the hell happened?
Gradually it starts coming back to me. I remember the long, emotional goodbye with Michelle in Vancouver airport the previous afternoon and a couple of days before that, taking my bike to the shipping agent in Richmond. Wait a minute, that's it- we're at the end of our Argentina to Alaska adventure and Michelle is flying home to Australia while I'm taking the 'Long Way Home' (...sorry) to Scotland by taking in some of Eastern Europe first. I'm en route to Munich via London to pick up my bike because the direct flight to Munich decided to be fully booked up when I called Air Transat. The flight from Vancouver to London is depressingly full up and they want $80 for extra legroom so I decide to forego it. I'm squeezed in against the window by a large guy and his wife who are pleasant enough to talk to but I know that I won't be getting any sleep tonight. I remind myself that the last time I was on a plane other than the little Cessna over the Nasca Lines, was arriving in Buenos Aires 9 ½ months ago. I'm relieved to find the 9 hour flight passes quickly enough though with some movies, telly and watching the planes progress on the electronic map. The cameras on the nose and under the plane are nice addition too.
I have an incredibly miserable train ride from Gatwick into London, looking around at the normality that I easily recognise but don't want to be a part of again just yet. Next to me there's a very loud, posh woman bleating away about the new bathroom cabinets that the inept joiner has recently fitted to her clearly very bored husband. Once I'm at Victoria Station, it's straight onto a direct bus to Stanstead Airport. I'm pleased it's all going smoothly so far as I couldn't handle any fuck-ups or delays right now. True to form though, the EasyJet check-in queue is the same as they always are, with the useless, miserable sods behind the counters doing their utmost to ensure the checking in process goes as slowly as possible.
With Michelle's words still ringing in my ear that I'd better not get chatting to any attractive women on the plane, Chrisa, a young Greek girl sits down next to me on the London-Munich flight who seems really nice. She's on her own and after chatting for a bit, invites me to meet up with her and her Italian friend, Enrico who lives in Munich so we agree to meet up following day. I'm pleased I've met some people to hang out with so soon. We land in Munich Airport at 3.30pm and I decide to get straight onto getting the bike cleared in Customs and out of the warehouse. The Swiss Cargo office is only one stop away on the airport train and thankfully it turns out to be a doddle. By 5.30pm, the paperwork is done, I've reconnected the battery and fitted the screen and mirrors again and I'm limping up the road to find some fuel as I'd practically run it dry before taking it to the shipping agent in Vancouver. Luckily a garage is nearby and the 22 litre tank takes 22.3 litres. I nearly choke at paying 30Euros to fill it up though.
I ride straight into Munich but find I'm starting to fall asleep so have to try hard to concentrate as cars whizz by all around me at what feels like 100mph. I find the hostel I'd booked and get checked in to a 6 bed dorm. I take a walk to find something to eat but the nice looking place up the road seems a bit expensive for me so opt for the ususal Subway sandwich and an early night. By the time my head hits the pillow, I've been awake for about 30 hours.
Although it would have been nice to hang out with Chrisa and Enrico for another day in Munich, I feel I have to get moving and decide to try and see Dachau the following day then head south to Berchtesgaden where Hitler had his holiday house. I first came to Dachau back in I think 1997 with my friend James when we did a bit of a Euro road trip on my old Suzuki GS1000G. We covered a fair few miles on that trip but I remember it seemed to rain almost every day in Germany so I'm hoping this trip is slightly less soggy. I pull up in the car park and it all seems very familiar, though this time the old parking attendant insists I leave my bike where he can keep an eye on it. The last time I was here, we didn't get a chance to see the museum so I headed for there first. As expected, it all makes for very educational but grim reading. The main sights can be seen fairly quickly if you know where you're going and these include the recreated accommodation blocks and the crematoria though I opt to avoid the huge memorials at the end of the site.
After a couple of hours, I'm back on the road to Berchtesgaden, which is all fairly tedious Euro motorway until I hit the more mountainous areas but typically, the weather is looking fairly crap it has to be said. I am aiming for the campsite but pretty much as soon as I arrive in the Bavarian town, the heavens decide to really tip it down on me so camping is now not on the menu. The hostel I find at first looks like it will cost 16Euro but due to being an old bugger without a membership card, it will actually cost me 26Euro for a shared dorm. I take a quick dash in the now incredibly heavy rain over to a nearby hotel which is full of Bavarian charm/clichés including a proper Heidi manning the desk who informs me I must only use one bed. Its 33Euro but I get my own room. Oh well, there goes the budget again. After a not too bad dinner in the hotel, I'm out like a light by 8pm.
It still doesn't look good the following morning. You can't see the mountains from the window due to the solid cloud and lo and behold, its still raining. It's one of those days best off not being on a bike and Heidi informs me that its cheaper to stay a second night. Tempting but not at your prices, love. Luckily, breakfast is included and I eat enough to nearly make me sick. After grimly getting on the bike and riding out their garage into the pissing rain, I first head up the mountain to the Nazi museum at Dokumentation in Obersalzberg. I didn't know that the Nazis used this place as their second seat of power and by all accounts was a pretty busy place in its day and all the big-wigs had houses here though it basically got obliterated by the Allies. I end up going for one of those electronic English translator doo-dahs and I'm glad I did because all the exhibits were in German. Its actually pretty fascinating though some of the photos on display are pretty graphic. I particularly liked the bit about Hitler being portrayed by the Nazi PR as being this rustic, hard working, selfless man of the people but in actual fact he would normally sleep in till noon, eat a big lunch and then go off on one of his monologues for an hour or two, then it was movie time and after dinner it was on to another monologue that although Hitler himself frequently fell asleep during them, no one ever dared leave.
By the time I was done here, I'd hoped the rain would have disappeared but fat chance of that so I caught the bus up to the Eagles Nest, Hitler's 50th birthday prezzy from the guys. I thought it must be pretty good seeing I'd paid 14.50Euro to get there. You get dropped off up the mountain and walk to a rather nifty brass lined lift, which shoots you up 120m to the Eagles Nest. Apparently, on a clear day you can get the most spectacular views however all I could see was a total white-out. I quickly looked around the building finding only a busy restaurant and then discovered that's actually all it is. Bugger! As there's literally nothing to see, I just headed straight down again.