The European Test Run
Got the Ferry at Rosyth with old friend Dean and travelled through Belgium, Holland and Germany into Poland and then up to its border with the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. This was a fairly uneventful run through flat and fairly uninspiring landscapes. Dean didn't much want to camp and so we used less expensive hotels. Luxury for me!
Having been politely turned back at the border ("I don't care what Mr Putin has been saying", said the border guard. We were hoping to blag it) for lack of visas, we found an excellent place in the back of beyond on the shores of the Baltic Sea. Here Dean took a room and I could camp. The Poles drink their vodka in shots straight from the fridge, and they're happy to share.
We then began to make our way south west through Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria and Switzerland to Como in Italy, where Dean would meet his wife Louise and sons Gregor and Ewen off the plane at Bergamo for a week's rest. As we went south the landscape became more much interesting. Firstly through the Carpathians and then the incredible Alps.
I left the Family in peace (and the blanketing heat!) and headed back into the Alps. Liechtenstein is fantastic and I will go back to Malbun. I walked in the Alps for a day at 2800m (9000ft) and then went to see if I could find a friend I hadn't seen (we realised together!) for 25 years. Her address meant finding her was a lot easier than I thought. And Switzerland is much smaller than it appeared on my map. Polly has lived in Switzerland for over 20 years, married and has two quickly-growing daughters. Her excellent ex-motorcycling husband Rolf was able to advise on the best roads to use to get back to Como and then to return to Switzerland to pick up the excess baggage they had kindly allowed me to leave in their garden, in my tent. Leaving this made me very grateful and the bike a lot lighter and more manageable for the crossing of high Alpine passes. Switzerland isn't so expensive, is very clean and has the best roads and scenery I've seen so far.
I found Dean sweltering back in Como and travelled back with him through France to the ferry at Zeebrugge. The bike did excellently well. Struggling a wee bit over the Alps due to lack of oxygen but keeping up well with Dean's Triumph Tiger (the 900 Triple, not the old 650).
23 days, 3888 miles from Kinghorn to Kinghorn. Confidence-inspiring and great fun but now I need new tyres! Next, the Big Trip - back across the flatlands to Lithuania for the fitba' game with Scotland. I need to find a good way of packing my kilt!