We walked across the drawbridge into the courtyard of a castle founded sometime before 1353. Perched on a rock outcropping, the castle gazed out on Czech Paradise as it had for almost 700 years. This was our accommodation for the third stop on our 14-day European Motorcycle Tour and it was spectacular.
There were 5 of us from the States, three brothers Randy, Rick and Rod, our friend Adam and me. We were joined by my very good friend Kuba from Prague. Together the six of us had agreed to take this incredible trip through the marvels of Central Europe. Kuba and I had spent months planning the tour and it was finally happening.
We’d spent the two nights prior in Prague, where Kuba and I showed them some of our old haunts when I’d lived there a decade before. I will always have a place in my heart for the Golden City of Spires. The night before, our first stop on the tour had been Český Krumlov, another incredible Czech city dominated by a castle and a river.
The trip had started just outside Munich, Germany in Erding.
The trip had been planned meticulously for each day to allow for a relaxing breakfast at our hotel followed by some of the best countryside roads Europe has to offer before arriving at our next destination in time for a shower, happy hour drinks, a stroll around town and dinner. Then the next day we got up and did it all again. We had two full rest days off the bikes, but other than that we were riding every day.
After spending the night in the 14th century castle we crossed into Poland to stay at a 17th century chateau. We were the only guests and enjoyed wandering the halls and checking out a billiards room, ballroom, solarium and many other grand spaces. Heading further south we arrived in Krakow. We were all amazed by the town square and vibrancy of this incredible college town.
Moving further south into Slovakia we rode through the Tatra Mountains, staying in an older spa town before visiting the capital Bratislava. Along the way we passed many castles, the most evocative being Orava Castle, a stunning stone bastion balanced on a ridge like an acrobat on a tightrope. I think we all enjoyed the castles, but no one more than Rod. He was blown away by each one.
Riding west from Bratislava we entered our last country of the tour, Austria. I remember the guys were all amazed at how incredible precise the Austrians were. We joked about how they must use levels and plum bobs to stack their firewood. The brothers grew up on a cattle ranch and noted that the cows in Austria had to have been the happiest cows they had ever seen.
As we entered the Alps they were blown away with the dramatic steep fluorescent green hillsides and the seemingly impossibly long tunnels. We had a rest day on the [insert superlative here] Hallstat Lake which was fortunate because it rained almost the entire day, incidentally the only rain of the trip.
After a day off the bikes I had one last surprise for the guys, the Grossglockner. This is the highest pass road in Austria. We started off in a layer of clouds, but miraculously burst through to a sunny alpine wonderland. We ended the day in Kitzbuhel for our last night on the road. Wandering around town and founding a beautiful old church surrounded by a graveyard with brightly painted monuments to the towns former citizens was a lovely last night on the road.
The next morning after filling up Rick’s flat tire, incidentally the only mechanical problem on the entire trip, we had a relatively short day back to Erding to drop off the bikes. We were all relieved to have made it back, but none more than me. I had taken on the responsibility of providing a trip of a lifetime and I had done just that. The trip came off without a hitch and we celebrated that night with more than a few liters of German beer in Munich. It was a trip I know we’ll all remember for the rest of our lives and we’ll never be able to duplicate.