I’m reading a couple of books at the moment.
One of them is ‘Through Dust and Darkness’ (a motorcycle journey of fear and faith in the Middle East), by Jeremy Kroeker.
This post isn’t about that book, as such. Though there may be a post along those lines later.
This post is about thoughts that the book has inspired.
Reading Jeremy Kroeker’s book has rekindled memories of my much less worthy motorbike trip around Spain, a couple of years ago. And those memories, together with Jeremy’s narrative, have refired my imagination.
As I lay in bed, this morning, dozing lightly, I started to stitch my imaginations together.
Where did I want to go? What did I want to see? What experiences did I want to notch up?
I mentally compiled a to do-based travel list, and then ordered the list in to a logical travel plan.
These aren’t ‘legs’ as such.
These aren’t a list of ‘sights’ (many of which would be seen along the way, but aren’t commented on in this list).
These are just the ‘stopping off places’ that I would want to visit as I executed the itinerary.
1. UK to France
Base of operations: Reims
A visit to the historic city of Reims, in the heart of the Champagne district. There’s a lot of history in this city (there’s a lot of history everywhere – except in the USA), but because I can’t be everywhere, Reims is as good a place as any to stop and browse and look and learn.
2. France to Switzerland
Base of operations: Lausanne. Or maybe Geneva
I have hardly spent any time in Switzerland which is very poor of me. Lausanne or Geneva? Hard to tell right now. But the lakes? Definitely. And leaving the area, one would have to try out the San Bernardino Pass (I have heard that despite Top Gear bigging up the road, the Stevio Pass is actually not good because it’s full of 4x4s and people-carriers, driven by middle-aged roadhogs).
3. Switzerland to Italy
Base of operations: Bergamo
A mere 30km from Lake Como, this little Lombardian town is on the southern foothills of the Italian Alps. From its sacking by Atilla the Hun in the C5th, to the district’s post-war history, there’s a lot to see here. Too easily overlooked, Bergamo is a good base of operations from which to spend some time cruising the Italian countryside.
4. Italy to Slovenia
Base of operations: …?
I haven’t figured out the base of operations in Slovenia yet. It’s a really long slog to the capital, Ljublljana, which is very centrally located. And a cross-country tip to Ljublljana would take me out of my way by a significant distance.
5. Slovenia to Croatia
Base of operations: Crikvenica
This beach resort will make a handy place to recharge one’s batteries, and have a look around the area. I don’t know much about the town (or about the region), but that’s why we travel, eh?
Base of operations: Dubrovnik
How could anyone visit Croatia, on a motorbike, and not dream of riding down that stunning-looking Adriatic coastline?
7. Croatia to Montenegro, to Albania
Base of operations: Vlorë
I’m sorry, Montenegro, but there is some kind of a clock (calendar?) ticking away on this trip. So I’m just going to pass right through you and head to Vlorë. The one-time former capital of Albania, and former very important Roman colony, Vlorë is a port and a sea resort. And therefore it would be another good place to rest up and look around.
8. Albania to Greece
Base of operations: Sparti
Who could resist a visit to the ancient home of Sparta? No I’m Spartacus! Well actually he is. Him. Over there. But Sparti just has to be a base of operations.
Base of operations: Thessaloniki
From here I could make little forays in to (FYRO) Macedonia, as well as trips across the north-eastern Greek coastline before heading even further eastwards
10. Greece to Turkey
Base of operations: Tekirdag
A motorbike trip in to Asia? Well of course. Tekirdag is in another rich historical region (you might know it as Thrace, from your history lessons). The Kipoi/Ipsala crossing between Greece and Turkey is busy, and crossing can take some time (and bureaucracy). A stop in the coastal resort of Tekirdag would be a welcome relief.
11. Turkey to Bulgaria
Base of operations: Burgas
Another coastal stop, but this time on the edge of the Black Sea. There’s a lot of mountainous coastline to explore in Bulgaria, and this sparsely populated countryside could be interesting to venture through.
12. Bulgaria to Romania
Base of operations: Tulcea
Tulcea alone is rich in local history. But it should be very worthwhile to spend some quality time in the nearby Rezervatia Biosferei Delta Dunarii.
13. Romania to Ukraine
Base of operations: Odessa
Freddie Forsyth, anyone?
Base of operations: Kiev
15. Ukraine to Belarus
Base of operations: Minsk
16. Belarus to Latvia
Base of operations: Riga
The thing is, having got this far, do I continue north to take in Estonia? Or do I begin to close the circle by heading southwards in to Lithuania? Decisions, decisions.
17. Latvia to Lithuania
Base of operations: Šiauliai (or possibly Kryzkalnis)
The whole reason for this stop is to mentally prepare myself for the next part of the journey.
18. Lithuania to Russia
Base of operations: Kaliningrad
Despite heading southwards from Lithuania (ie, I have been travelling further and further away from Russia), this leg of the journey will take me in to… Russia! I have always wanted to visit this spooky (in both senses of the word) Russian enclave. It’s a country within a country. Kaliningrad is also headquarters of the Russian Baltic Fleet (this being the reason Russia has refused to let go of the territory so far outside of Russia, when Lithuania gained independence).
19. Russia to Poland
Base of operations: Szczecin
By virtue of the out-of-state Russian enclave, I could ride the mind-bending journey from Russia in to Poland *without touching any other country*. I would want to see Gdańsk, home of the Solidarity ship-building union.
20. Poland to Germany
Base of operations: Berlin. Or maybe Magdeburg
There is so much I would want to see in Germany: Dresden, Leipzig, Halle, Weimar, to name just a very few. I would leave Germany via a long stop at Brüggen/Elmpt, to pay respects to the former nuclear strike air force base that was the home of my squadron for so many years. The former RAF Brüggen was handed to the British Army, but has been decommissioned now, and is temporary home to Middle-Eastern refugees.
21. Germany to Netherlands and Belgium
Base of operations: Antwerp
From Antwerp one can easily access much of Belgium and the Netherlands. There’s a lot to see here, and we seldom give our closest neighbours the time and attention that they deserve.
22. Netherlands to UK
The final trip would be back to the UK via Rotterdam to Hull. It’s a longer sea journey than Calais to Dover, but it would bring me closer to home, and a shorter road-journey at that stage, would be very welcome.
23. Summing up
Allowing for deviations from the planned route, and factoring in some mileage for sight-seeing, I estimate the total two-wheeled road trip would be in the region of 6,700 miles.
And that would probably take around 35-40 days of travel time.
But man, what a trip!