Soup Run (not FF)
I like soup. It is a great mid-day pick-up; or a restorative after a long day in the saddle. This year I sampled many euro-soups in our 3000 mile loop through 8 countries. I think it may have been a dubious French soup that upset my intestines for a week after the first night. Nevertheless, from Bouillon to BohnenSuppe and Goulash to Slovenian Jota and Spargeln Creme, we relished in our Gruppe Suppe (Phrase courtesy of Tom, this year’s organiser)
The lure of the Ring
First Gruppe destination was the Nuerburgring and the dreaded Nordschleife. Tom had planned a tour around it – tour being the relevant word. Perhaps luckily for us, it was unexpectedly closed the day we arrived: The weekend’s rock concert had resulted in the whole place looking like a land-fill tip. The revellers had also been allowed on the track, so there was the very real danger of BBQ fat on the bends.
Of the Nordschleife, one could say : ‘just a one-way section of public highway with no speed limit’ but what highway do you know gives zero indication of its intentions and specialises in blind crests and deceptive bends? The challenge of this place obviously eats into the minds of those that live and work here. We moved on before we could become infected (beyond what the French soup had already done)
The mists of the Eifel Mountains melted into the heat of southern Germany as we tracked down the Mosel, on to Baden Baden and then the B500 through the Schwarzwald. Sweeping curves through the pine-forests, with a bouillon for lunch, raised spirits prior to the traffic tedium of Friedrichstadt and Lake Konstanz .
The hotel in Fuessen targets the Japanese market and so has to request no fires in the bedrooms. We obeyed. They come to see the fairytale Neuschwanstein castle. We took some photos but did not linger. A quick coffee, with some passion, in Oberammergau, but later we should have lingered longer in Berchtesgaden, as this was to have been the best opportunity to see Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest in clear weather; but after some Bavarian soup, we realised we had left it too late. We could always come back we thought.
John and Ros run a super-friendly Gasthof in the little village of Malta www.hochalmspitze.com which forms a great base for finding out what makes Austrian roads so enjoyable. We were welcomed (coincidentally perhaps) with a full brass band and grill-fest, with John wearing a large Guinness hat. Nothing was too much trouble here – even fixing me with a doctor’s appointment. Soup was good too.
The Austrians specialise in refined mountain scenery, with refined mountain roads – often toll roads, but the preparation and refinement is such that one does not begrudge the toll. Nockalmstrasse and the Grossglockner are great examples of this and if you stay with John and Ros, all the tolls are pre-paid and John will provide physical, written or electronic guidance on the best tours. This, as well as offering the best half-board value-for-money on the whole trip
One outing from Malta takes you to the nearest thing that the area has for rough roads – the Russian Road is the Vrsic pass in Slovenia, built by Russian prisoners in 1915, who got their own back by making all the hairpins with cobbles. Luckily we were going up and it was dry. This tour takes you across to Italy and back to Austria in the day. The Slovenian Jota soup was an extra excitement, but did have a suspicious looking sausage.
We went back to Berchtesgaden to give Adolf’s place a full viewing, but this time the mist was down, so we saw very little. We did investigate the Gross Glockner glacier on the way there, had a bouillon with spaetzle and the rain held off for some of the time.
Evidence that the Austrian passes are ‘refined’ was brought out on our long and winding return trip through Italy, staying at Bormio for 2 nights. The rain had begun to set in now, but we explored Livigno and the Swiss-side up the Stelvio pass. Unfortunately the Swiss were resurfacing the most isolated section of this route and the rain had turned the road into thick brown slurry. At least we were going up the hairpins, but it was very messy going. The workers’ van followed us up and erected a road closed sign! The mist, snow and rain forced us to omit the final top section of the Stelvio – at 2700m another 500m elevation above the Swiss road - so we braved the streaming wet hairpins back to Bormio, The hotel was full of cyclists – all thin and lycra-covered. They did not eat soup.
I have less-than fond memories of Titisee. Great looming black clouds that threaten and then strike with unrelenting torrents of water. The run across Switzerland was pleasant enough, avoiding all Autobahn, as we did not have the Vignettes. The start of the B500 into the Black Forest was a joy with more sweeping curves, but as we approached Titisee the past memories became reality again. After drowning us, the cloud surrounded us and reduced speed to a crawl for miles. However, the Spargeln Creme Suppe later that evening made up for it – and the rain stopped next day – after we left the Forest.
Wot No soup?
The last day is always a dash for the channel and this was no exception. Steve and Tom had to get to Euro-port, whilst I was heading for Calais. We had planned a last Gruppe Suppe around Charleville-Mézières, after which we would split, but in the end it was a rather disorganised hunt for fuel and a sandwich. I did spot a Routiers at the split point, but by then it was too late.
Long-term readers will know that I have stopped taking Voyager on these long Euro-tours as it can disrupt the gruppe-dynamics when the inevitable tinkering (or worse) becomes necessary. Hence BMW F650 (800) GS gets to go. No complaints and 67 mpg over the whole trip. Considering that fast M-way sections (80-90mph) increase the fuel consumption dramatically, thanks to hopeless HF aeros, this engine shows impressive efficiency. A proper FFed version would challenge even Mr Vetter’s figures. It scampers up the passes too, with loads of torque at the right times. Now if it could run on soup.........