Sunday, 14 June 2009

2006 The Long NOT Winding Road - History Lesson (Part 1)

Leaving Germany behind Ian is taking things easy as we enjoy the countryside, crops being harvested and large birds of prey by the side of the motorway and armed police at the French border. The usual everyday occurrences really.
At one time we got involved with a group of eight German registered Porches driving in convoy. I got the feeling that they did not like an old Italian motorcycle breaking up their group and if one overtook then they all had to. This started to get dangerous as the drivers were determined to stay in formation, even if it meant that Ian had to brake suddenly to avoid going into the back of the car that had just overtaken him! These were certainly the worse cases of driving we had seen on the continent in all of our travels.
Arriving at our destination, Verdun, at 14:00, we head straight for our usual hotel, Prunellia. After getting ourselves sorted it was time for a stroll into the town centre. The road towards our destination was typically French with window shutters giving the air of abandonment.

The sign for the local Post Office gave the feeling that maybe there could be life in the area.

The River Meuse runs through the centre of Verdun with the area quayside area known as Quai de Londres in recognition of the funding given by the people of London to help in the rebuilding process after WWI.

As the Meuse flows through, it creates several canals, giving the feeling that we could almost be back in Venice, All the was missing were the gondoliers.

In times past, Verdun was a walled town, much of which is no longer visible, although the Chaussee Tower, built about 1380 still survives. It is the town's main gateway overlooking the largest bridge. It is the lynch pin of Verdun's defensive wall. The gateway with wooden portcullis consists of a classical arcade with pediment which were added in 1690.
From 1754 the gate was used as the royal military prison with access via a drawbridge.

As part of Verdun's defence system, the Litigation Tower was equipped with bombards. These were the forerunner to the cannon. It was also defended with archers. Also in its past the Litigation Tower has been used as a law court, hence its name.
Originally built in about 1380 in the shape of a horseshoe, it was open at the back and could been seen from the far bank of the River Meuse. The meant that any attacking enemy could not entrench itself there. It was not until the 17th century that the tower was completed with the addition of a small door, the Postern of the Puty that opened out onto the Moson canal.

Verdun is synonymous with WWI and the epic battle that took place from February 16th to December 15th 1916, resulting in 250,000 dead and 500,000 wounded, during which time it is estimated that 40 million shells were fired. More information on the battle can be found here.

The Avenue de la Victoire starts at the quayside and goes right up the hill through town with a statue overlooking the area below, aided by two Russian field guns that had been captured by the Germans and then taken from them by the French army, although I'm sure they could be from WWII.

Walking through the town and up the hill, heading towards the cathedral, we stopped so Guzzisue could take this photo. It shouts "Italy" to me and I can imagine being in an Italian village or town descending towards the Mediterranean. Maybe it's the romantic Ted peeping through?

Like all of Verdun the cathedral and the adjoining Bishop's Palace were not spared from the bombardment delivered by the Germans during the siege. The results are plain to see on the following print.

There is still visible damage to the outside wall although this could also have been due to a battle from WWII.
The building is still in the process of being renovated from all damages incurred throughout the troubled times. The pillars inside the crypt give a small indication as to life and events inside the trenches. First we have a field gun ready to fire on the enemy.

The usual tactic was after bombarding the enemies trenches for a period of time, the foot soldiers would then cross through No Man's Land, to be greeted by gun shots.

There is also the comradeship

but some did understandably loose their nerve and this could happen.

Many millions paid with their lives.

Note once again the use of the skull and cross bones on the left hand side, a theme that has been handed down through the centuries as we have already seen in All Saints Church, Kostnice, with the skull sculptures.

More information on the cathedral is located here.

Walking away from the town centre we came across The Guardians Of Verdun.

Across the road from this monument is the local Tourist Information Centre, so in we ventured and booked ourselves onto a coach tour.

Friday, 5 June 2009

2006 The Long NOT Winding Road - Westward Ho!

It is time to bid a sad farewell to Vienna. We could have easily stayed another day but there are more places to visit before the end of our fortnight break. Breakfasted, packed and loaded, the Guzzi taken off her centre stand, sounding like a family of mice had stowed away. The rear suspension is certainly on its way out. Looks like the motorways then. Bummer.
Travelling across Austria we started to meet up with groups of motorcycles. We had caught up with people returning home from the European Bike Week at Faak am See, organised by Harley Davidson and attended by 50,000 people.
There were many motorcyclists stopping at the various service stations along the way. At one we caught up with this Valkyre that appeared to have a personality disorder!

And here is a rose amongst the thorns.

Getting bored of our own company we rode along with a group of BMWs for a while. On the motorway there appeared to be as many trailered Harleys as those being ridden. Making good progress we had an overnight stop at Jettingen - Scheppach. The hotel was situated about half a mile from the village, but there was not much to see. Next morning at breakfast we got talking to a family that had been over to the Bike Week and they were surprised that we had not been there. We tried to explain that we do rallies back home in Britain and that when travelling abroad we enjoy visiting places and seeing different things. Our motorcycle is an enjoyable way of doing these things.
Back on the road and we have less than 200 miles to reach our next destination. Ian remarked that he was going to take it easy. Well he did for a while, tucking in behind a British plated Norton, travelling along at a steady 75-80 mph. Then in his own words "My head went". Due to us being on the autobahn we were able to cruise at 85-95mph on a quarter throttle and average 48mpg! Unheard of before and since. We did have a close call with a bird that must have been slip streaming and every time we changed lanes it did the same.
At 13:00 we reached our destination, Europa Park. A post on our previous visit can be seen here.
We were informed that the park hotels were all fully booked, but they did have one room for that evening. Guzzisue then went to work as we put on our best sad expressions, explaining that we had visited before and that we had returned because we had enjoyed ourselves previously. The receptionist then rechecked her computer screen, disappeared into the back office, came back and having checked that we had indeed visited previously, informed us that we could have a room in the hotel for two nights and then proceeded to apologise that the room was next to the swimming pool. As if we cared, we were in!
As we could not gain admittance to our room for a couple of hours what could we do but head straight to the bar with our books and settle down.
At 15:00, key in hand we relocate all our gear into our room and then discover that the German children were still on their summer holidays and the park is open until 19:00. This gives us plenty of time to look around the park again and go on some of the rides.
Back in our room Guzzisue decided to slip over whilst having a shower, resulting in a bruised elbow and an impression of Australia on her backside! More trouble was to come with Guzzisue's arm as she got bit during the night and despite using antiseptic cream it had swollen a fair amount. This resulted in a couple of trips to the first aid centre. Ian and myself are concerned as we have more riding to do in 24 hours.
In Europa Park some of the rides are designed to run alongside each over, with a walkway made to look like a cavern with miners digging for gems.

These miners have to be wary of the mechanical dragon,

the runaway train

and a log flume.
Whenever Euro Mouse was not on stage helping out jugglers and acrobats

he could be seen meeting up with visitors.

Throughout our visit, we were once again able to go on many of the rides. Guzzisue plucked up the courage to ride the Silver Star roller coaster

and we all managed to get a couple of goes on the new Atlantica water ride in between its teething problems.

Once again we were treated to an entertaining gladiator show in the main arena with a good mixture of comedy,

trick horse riding

and action.

Question. What do you do when there is a man with a pole on one side and the Karate Kid on the other?

Answer. You push the Kid out of the way and stick the boot in on the other.

Here is a film with some highlights of the 30 minute show.

One day we might see some of the theme parks back home giving more choice for visitors instead of the signs displaying "120 minutes to the ride from here".

All too soon we were back on the road again heading for our final destination. Ian is having to redress Guzzisue's arm, although it is still swollen she can just get her leather jacket on with a squeeze.

A final Bon Voyage from Europa Park from these people.