Thursday 01.08.2013 - Wacken
We started the first "real" day of the festival with a gig with Mandowar, I can only compare it like a Heavy Metal answer to Swedish crap-musician Eiler Pilarm with the main difference being that Eilert is to dense to comprehend his own monumental sucky-ness while Mandowar at least slaughters the classics with humour and a style.
We followed that up with alternative country music rocker Bob Wayne, it was a real nice gig.
After the last notes of country music had died down we moved straight on to a symphonic metal band called Haggard.
I've never really understood the point of sopranos with a voice so high you need to be a dog to fully be able to appreciate it but at least musically it was pretty good.
Now we just followed the stream of people through the festival area and through the security check into the main stage area where Deep Purple was playing, apart from the buzz of hearing Smoke on the water and Hush live it really wasn't a memorable gig at all.
All the more memorable however was the next gig by Rammstein.
Without comparison the best gig I've seen at Wacken during the three years we've gone.
Pyro accompanying every song, flamethrowers, the works. It was like an extreme circus act with music.
But one of the Germans we talked to said they had to widen the stage they've used for years just to make room for circus Rammstein.
We've had real luck with the weather so, not a single drop of rain at the festival.
Friday 02.08.2013 - Wacken
Scorching sun that makes the skin sizzle and not a cloud in sight makes us realize we need to take measures since I felt the effects already yesterday.
We head straight for the merch-street and get ourselves some hats.
Now it's time for the first gig of the day, Tristania on the True Metal stage.
At this time of day (12.15) most people aren't even awake yet so we we're hanging on the fence right by the stage.
The sound got a bit distorted standing right in front of a bass speaker but at least we got a free full body massage.
After this we had a gap between gigs so we went to the Biergarten to get lunch under a parasol to get out of the sun for a bit and also got to hear Bob Wayne for the second time.
Now we head on to the gigantic tent called Bullhead City Circus to listen to Henry Rollins spoken word.
Henry always has something interesting to talk about but it was a bit of a shame that he reused a lot of the same material as last year.
We stayed in the tent since Mustasch started their gig just ten minutes later at the adjacent stage, I have to admit that Ralph is a real entertainer even though his Metal-creds to a pretty hard turn when he was in the Swedish schlager festival.
Then it's time to join the stream again down to the main stage area and the next Swedish band, Sabaton.
The audience response during the gig was just incredible but the sound mixing was a bit off.
After a short break between gigs it's time for Doro’s 30-year anniversary gig.
It wasn't exactly bad but in my opinion about as close as you get to elevator music in the metal genre.
Ozzy gets away with using the exact same oneliner (I can't hear you) throughout a whole gig because he's Ozzy.
I lost count of how many times Doro said Fantastisch during this gig and it definitely wasn't that fucking Fantastisch.
But the worst disappointment of the day came last, Amorphis.
I'd listened to them a bit beforehand and they where supposed to be a Finnish symphonic metal band.
To my shock and dismay a saxophone starts the gig.
I a schlager-festival lowers the metal credibility a saxophone in a metal band is a crime against humanity.
We suffered through three songs in the hopes that the neckstrap would slide down and strangle the sax-player but when that didn't happen we left to go to the pickup-spot and the ride home.
On the way back the car filled up with completely over the top drunk Norwegians and like in most other companies me being the smallest I get to sit in the back.
That would be bad in itself since Torsten drives it like he's stolen it.
Now I was "entertained" by a Norwegian lush talking about oil-money and how the Norwegians believe they can buy the whole of Sweden piece by piece.
Due to my background I'm not exactly overly nationalistic because if I had gone into that discussion it never would have ended well.
The Norwegians continued a tradition over overconsumption of alcohol because I remember the oil-money guy from last year which in his drunkenness became what Seinfeld refers to as a ”close talker”.
Torsten impressed by keeping his calm because when the lush tried to tell him that he'd drunk Franschhhischhhhiskaner Weischhhhbier it must have been like being hosed down with saliva from a fire hose.
Saturday 03.08.2013 - Wacken
The oil-money guy came up to us at breakfast and apologised for his behaviour yesterday so he obviously realised he'd crossed the line.
Very mature of him but unfortunately it wasn't to last...
Since the prognosis promises rain we gear up with waterproofs and umbrellas.
We start the day with a concert with the pirate rockers Alestorm.
It was a bit early in the day and I was feeling the scorching sun, under other (more drunken) circumstances I might have appreciated this a bit more.
A memorable moment before one of the songs was the leading "Are there any dwarves in the audience? ...(pause for confirmation/denial)... this song is about slaughtering dwarves!"
That might be the least politically correct statement I've heard on a concert ever.
The next gig was with the symphonic metal band Sonata Arctica, one off Bears favourite bands but something I more or less just had to endure and suffer through and it definitely didn't get better when the skies opened up and delivered all the rain that was supposed to come during the whole festival in just half an hour.
After the first year we went to the festival we had something we call a "Kyuss-moment".
Kyuss was a band that played in 2011 which I thought was the best thing ever but which caused so much discomfort in the Bear that it was almost physically painful.
If you add a monsoon to music that I just don't understand the appeal of at all, then you get my "Kyuss moment" this year.
I managed to save my upper body from being drenched with the raincoat but the shoes where gurgling the rest of the day and into the night, we skipped the Anthrax-concert after Sonata Arctica in favour of a large tent called Bullhead City Circus which is the only place where you can get a roof over your head on the whole grounds.
We dried up a bit before moving back to the main stage area where there would be playing bands we wanted to see back to back the rest of the evening.
Danzig was first and did a pretty nice gig but it really suffered from horrible sound quality.
Glenn Danzig summed it up pretty eloquently himself when he stated that "this gear sucks!”.
After that came a dose of Trivium which we only in part listed to from the main area (when they're playing on one of the main stages you can pretty much hear it on the whole grounds) before two of the highlights of the festival, Alice Cooper and Nightwish.
Deep Purple should go to an Alice concert and watch how it should be done because that guy put on a great show even though he's got his youth behind him by now.
Pretty impressive for a 65 year old, it was a great gig from beginning to end, it was like a rock-circus.
...and I almost don't want to admit who great Nightwish was because I've pretty much crapped on the whole band their repertoire on repeated occasions, especially the dog-whistle singer.
But that show was flawless, reluctantly I'll have to say that it was one of the best gigs I've seen ever and a great finish to the festival.
We also could draw the conclusion that Nightwish must be some kind of least common denominator in the widespread metal world.
The whole of the main stage area that normally caters people to three stages was completely filled up for this concert and outside the security checks people sat and stood listening, it was obvious that of the almost 100.000 visitors most of them where listening to this gig.
It's was a sight to behold and obviously made the whole experience all the better for it.
We left the festival and made the ride home at about 0.30AM because we needed to check out early and leave for Hamburg.
Unfortunately we shared the ride with the Norwegian again and that to absolutely no ones surprise he hadn't managed to drink himself either smarter or nicer during the day.
This time it was a little harder holding back but nothing phased this guy anyway as he obviously just needed to hear the sound of his own voice regardless of if anyone was listening to a word he said.
I wash of a layer of mud before going to bed.
Sunday 04.08.2013 60km Total:1121km
We get and get breakfast before checking out and heading for the Autozug terminal in Hamburg.
I made a few minor navigational errors along the way, some of which I blame the GPS but the rest where on me.
With the long days at the festival and lack of sleep my performance level wasn't exactly stellar.
Even though we where early to the check in the open it up just a quarter of an hour after our arrival and soon after we meet a bunch of Swedes who on four brand new KTM 1190:s where going down to the alps.
So we park up and sit down at a café to talk to them.
They obviously liked to joke around with each other because one of them was telling another something about vagabonding currents and that you had to disconnect the battery after riding onto the train.
I though it smelled a bit like bullshit and sure enough he eventually broke down laughing after almost convincing the other guy that he had to do it.
While we drank coffee and stocked up on food the Autozug staff have secured straps to our bikes so that when we ride onto the train (which is a very strange experience) we can just leave the bikes to be strapped down and wait for the sleeper cars.
German ordnung at its finest.
On-board where sharing our cabin with a North-German farmer and his wife, because of the language barrier we couldn't really talk to them but we at least traded the usual pleasantries in Germlish.
Both me and the Bear almost fell asleep where we sat since we where still pretty beat by the days on the festival but we at least managed to get to the restaurant car and got some supper before there was a mutual decision made that it was time for lights out in our cabin.
Unfortunately though, the lady had asthma and it was an absolute demand that the window in the cabin had to be open.
That window was located just a few decimetres from my feet so it pretty much felt like I had my feet out the window but the worst part was undoubtedly when we passed another train, the howling noise was loud as a blitzkrieg.
But with the previous sleep depravation and a good set of earplugs I think I at least got a few hours.
Monday 05.08.2013 380km Total:1501km
The lady in the loudspeakers wakes us up at 6AM and right after the train staff delivers a light breakfast.
The train arrives a bit late in Bolzano right after 8AM (who the hell needs two hours to get ready when you're on a train?).
When we've gotten our bikes off the train we immediately set course for the mythical Stelvio Pass which has so much notoriety that the domestic manufacturer Moto Guzzi named one of their models after it.
The roads and views are just getting more and more spectacular the closer we're getting and we stop and get an early lunch at Hotel Post along the way.
Considering the fee on Grossglockner we both thought it pretty obvious that this would be a toll road, that fact that it isn't was pretty obvious after going through the first dozen hairpins without passing a toll both.
It was of course nice not needing to pay to ride here but the fact that is was free was pretty obvious noting by the traffic density and the state of the road so I wasn't all positive and the RVs I learned to hate in Norway was unfortunately plentiful.
There really was only two kinds of riders, the ones riding very slow (like me) and the ones practicing for the Pikes Peak Hillclimb, a lot of the time I just wanted to close my eyes so I didn't have to see the horrific accident that seemed completely inevitable with some of the overtaking done by our biking brethren.
Going into one of the first hairpins the RV I was trailing behind sought it best to stop right in the middle of the corner which is obviously a pretty easy thing to do if you have four wheels or more.
But on two wheels in a steep hill climb and leaning in a corner it's a matter of horsepower vs gravity.
Loose one and the other wins which is what happens when you have to grab a handful of front brake mid corner.
I fought the law of gravity and the law won.
So there I was lying flat out in the middle of a hairpin on Stelvio but the only thing that had suffered any mentionable damage was my ego.
With the bike actually sloping down, picking it up wasn't going to be easy but fortunately a few lads in an Alfa rose to the challenge when I with hand signals pointed first at the bike, then at them and then made a lifting motion.
The only damage to the bike was a few scrapes on the crash bar and a dent in the pannier.
It's nice knowing that all the crap I've put on the bike isn't just for show so I guess I owe a bit of gratitude towards SW Motech for making gear that actually does the job.
That episode obviously affected my view on the pass overall because in my view it's just the sort of tourist trap I though Trollstigen in Norway was supposed to be.
Stelvio was completely riddled with incompetent drivers, the road standard was pretty poor and at the top there was a whole village with trinkets and souvenirs (I'll admit it, I bought a t-shirt and some stickers so I'm not exactly helping).
It didn't really live up to my high set expectations, after all Jeremy Clarkson at one point called it the best road... in the world.
I had set a route from Bolzano to Milano in Basecamp before we left to try and get as many fun roads as possible during the day as this day would be a pure transport stage anyway and just by pure luck I'd gotten the Mortirolo pass in the route.
It was the highlight of the day and it's judging by it's prise what Stelvio should have been.
Without a doubt one of the most enjoyable rides of my life with a perfect mix of hairpins, long sweeping curves and straightaways in an amazing forest.
Or as Doro would have said: Fantastich!
We went over another pass before heading out onto the Autostrada towards Milano and again we're being punished for lack of preparation because after just 10kms we get to a tool both.
A barrier, a terminal that only "speaks" Italian and no staff in sight.
After trying our best to no avail all of a sudden the barrier rises (I still don't know why) and we make the rash decision to ride through.
Rash because just 30kms later there's another toll where (we know now that) we needed a receipt from the previous one.
This terminal also just wanted to speak Italian so I pushed a button called help and eventually a female voice came through the speaker... in Italian.
Her English was limited to the phrases "Where you from?" and "Take the ticket!", the last phrase was repeated with a gradual increase in volume as if she though a ticket would magically appear if she just managed to hit the right decibel.
Eventually the barrier rose so she either grew tired of the stupid Swede who couldn't create a ticket from thin air or they withdrew a fortune from the Visa-card I put in the machine five times, I guess time will show.
By now some staff has shown up, alas we're saved!
But no... no speaka english.
He still got the Bear through with his Visa-card so we could ride on to Best Western St George in Milano.
We park up on the sidewalk at the hotel and check in, sweaty bikers after a pretty rough day who probably looked like we've been to hell and back was probably not a common occurrence at this establishment but after the initial chock the portiere was more helpful.
We asked about the secure parking that was the main reason that we choose this hotel.
Parking motorbikes in a garage was a completely unheard of phenomenon for this guy so he actually called the garage to make sure it was all right (which of course it was).
He apologized that the pickup-service was just for cars (I wouldn't have let anyone ride my bike anyway and I'm sure the Bear has the same opinion).
But that meant we had to ride to the garage and walk back 1.5kms in full gear in 34°C, I was sweating so bad I almost passed out.
At the garage he tells us that it is illegal for us to lock the bikes, we weren't even allowed to engage the steering lock which felt really uneasy because I don't think I would have gotten a single krona from my insurance company if they knew the bike was unlocked but he assured us that even people who rode Harley Davidsons left them unlocked.
That HD-riders have more money than sense wasn't a debate I was willing to have with the person who would be responsible for my most prised possession for two days so we accepted the circumstances and headed back to the hotel.
It was so warm for the better part of the day that at the end I was almost slipping on the handlebars because I was sweating so bad.
The shower at the hotel felt like one of the most needed in my life.
Afterwards we hit the town in hunt of supper and end up at a place called Mama Rosa.
What we didn't realize when we entered was that this was a pretty posh place with white tablecloths and linen napkins.
A glass of rosé whine appeared from nowhere along with starters we hadn't ordered, more bread than a whole bakery and more staff than guests but the prices where surprisingly acceptable considering that the available options at this time of night where few and far between.
I ate veal á la Milano with tomatoes and a beer.
I know I am supposed to drink whine in Italy but I couldn't bring myself to it just yet.
Both the food and the beer was excellent but considering we hadn't eaten since lunch and it was now about 10PM I guess just some warm food and a cold beer would be heaven on earth.
It had been a very long day so after supper we went straight back to the hotel.