Friday 12.11.2011 203km Total:3354km
The rain starts before we're even set to ride off so we suit up and ride in raingear all day.
But just as we're riding into Antwerp the weather turns into bright sunshine.
The thing about raingear is that they not only stops water getting in, it also stops all moisture (and air) from getting out so it's like an airtight cocoon.
If you put a cork in the form of a helmet on top of that the heat you generate doesn't really have anywhere to go and it doesn't exactly help that I started to feel a bit feverish already at the start of the day.
A pretty expected development really with all the rain we've had on the trip.
The combo of fever, scorching sun and raingear is making me feel pretty woozy.
When we finally are able to ride off the road and into a petrol station to park up and get out of the raingear I have problems standing upright.
I soon recover so after a short break we roll into Antwerps absolutely hysterical city traffic, what we at this point are unaware of is that this is a long weekend for the Belgians so the traffic is worse than it usually is.
I finally get enough of it and ride up on the sidewalk with the bike and park up by a push-bike parking because continuing cruising aimlessly in this traffic is suicide and the myriad of trams with tracks zig-zagging almost every street definitely doesn't make it any better.
We park up and walk to the central station on the hunt for a tourist information which we also find pretty much straight away.
We explain again that we really don't care about the rooms but we need the bikes to be safe, preferably a garage.
Without sounding condescending she says that the hotels with their own garages in Antwerp is more than likely above our budget.
The courtyard where she lives has a shed where we would have been able to park the bikes but then she remembers that no one has the key.
I thank her for the generous gesture and conclude that a space which no one can enter is the safest parking we've ever been offered but I'm not sure she got the joke.
She eventually concludes that Hotel Elzenveld should fit the bill since they have a courtyard where she's sure they'll allow us to park the bikes and where they'd be left alone.
She books us a room there and we get a route that is utterly hopeless to follow, I instead just input the address in the GPS and that is the start of the most ridiculous detour of the trip so far.
It feels like we circled the entire city and the lengthy routes finale is that we ride up on what would be fairly obvious was a pedestrian street.
In Garmin's defence I'll say that this street is probably open to traffic after a certain time in the evening but it wasn't at this point so the stupid Swedes riding on the pedestrian street suddenly find themselves as tourist attractions because turning around wasn't possible and every sidestreet was one-way in the wrong direction.
Sometime during this debacle an older gentleman walks into Bears pannier (we were just riding in walking pace) but since it makes a better story let's just agree here and now that the Bear did a hit and run on an old man on a pedestrian street in Antwerp and then fled the scene.
When we're finally off the pedestrian street and get back out into traffic I've tired of recalculating so I do another sidewalk parking and after short walk conclude that we're actually outside the wall of the hotel.
We find our way in and are greeted by a male receptionist which is absolutely steaming with fury.
After checking our booking he calls up the poor woman at the tourist information and gives her a scolding of a lifetime (at least I think that is what's happening as there are troubling amounts of flem and saliva involved even for Flemmish).
After he's hung up I ask what the problem is, don't they have a room for us?
Sure they do but the woman in the tourist info hade gone into their booking system and booked us a room instead of letting him do it.
I still don't get the problem but we got a room and we got to park the bikes wherever the hell we liked.
After a freshup we walk down to the town square and get supper.
I don't remember what we ate but the dessert was a complete revelation for the Bear.
I as per usual took some kind of coffee liqueur but he had an egg liqueur which in this case was like a pudding served in a cup with a spoon.
He was absolutely ecstatic, I think he almost regretted filling up the pannier with Jägermeister.
After that we go sightseeing eventually ending up in neighbourhoods so shabby I saw our mugging and/or murder as just a matter of time when the Bear puts himself under a vandalised streetlight and unfolds a tourist map which felt like it was the size of the grand canyon.
My reaction was that he might as well paint a couple of targets on our chests.
I had at least a vague bearing towards the city centre so that map disappeared pretty quick until we got back in more civilized neighbourhoods and we get back to the hotel in possession of both our lives and our valuables.
I'll give him that one, after all the pedestrian street where he almost killed that poor old geezer was my fault.
Saturday 13.8.2011 0km
We start off the day with a city walk where we among other things get back to the central station which we previously just did a quick stop in for the tourist info.
The station was built in the 1800:s and was left to its own demise until it was declared cultural heritage and went through a complete restoration in the 90's.
That was a wise decision because this whole building is like a piece of art.
Antwerp is regarded as the diamond capital of the world and more than 80% of all the worlds raw diamonds pass through the Antwerp diamond district with an annual turnover of 54 billion dollars. ?
So a visit to the Antwerp diamond museum felt like a given.
To absolutely no one's surprise there was a pretty rabid photo ban in there so I have no documentation of the event but it was an interesting tour.
After a bit of lunch we head on to the Antwerp Zoo, stated to be on of the oldest in existence in the world.
They seem to like being the best of what they do here.
I demonstrated my total lack of maturity by using a shotgun app on a flock of Albatrosses and was met by the utter nonchalance that I deserved.
Exiting the Zoo the time was already past four o' clock which meant most of the tourist attractions were now closed.
So we just wandered around town pretty aimlessly but Antwerp is a beautiful city so the entertainment value was pretty high on that too.
We took an early evening as we aiming to get through as much of Germany on the ride homeward bound tomorrow.
Sunday 14.8.2011 375km Total:3729km
Since both of us are interested in motorsports we had planned to see a race in the Rallycross European Championship at Eurocircuit in Valkenswaard on our way home.
As it happens it's just 100kms from Antwerp so the day's first leg of the journey was swiftly done.
A really cool experience and very different from our native track Höljes where you pretty much get a view of the whole track regardless of where you're standing.
Here you had to choose your position strategically but regardless of what your seeing the most important part is still the noise, the beautiful, wonderful noise.
As per usual the competitors put on a real show with spectacular crashes, bumber to bumper contact and general mayhem.
The audience favourite Tanner Foust got a black flag for aggressive driving and even though I can't really say it was a wrongful decision it's still a bit like determining who's drooling most in a lunatic asylum.
We don't leave Eurocircut until about 6PM so I think we did a pretty decent job riding 300kms further before calling it a day.
I actually preferred riding on the Autobahn in the dark because there are no lights on the road at all so even the most imbecille driver has to have his lights on which I felt made it easier to determine where the other vehicles where.
They don't drive any slower though so there was a bit of a Tron feel to it.
Bear who had no fascination of this kind of riding at all and was quick to point out that you can't just input another coin to continue when you game over on the Autobahn.
Fair enough, we got as far as Herford which meant we'd ridden about halfway and since we where going on the night ferry from Travemünde we needent press on any further.
It was now close to 10PM so finding a place to eat was looking more and more unlikely by the second.
Even as the thought of it almost made me want to cry we bought the foodiest things we could find (chocolate bars) when we went in and asked about a hotel.
The prospect of eating a snickers bar for dinner made me so depressed I couldn't resist buying a can of Jack Daniels and coke just to drown my sorrows.
We arrive at the Hotel Münchner Hof and ask for a room where after I swiftly add that if there's any way we could get anything to eat we would be extremely grateful. At this point anything would do.
The receptionist excuses himself and runs off, we later realize that he had run out to the parking lot and stopped the kitchen staff from leaving.
We got some sort of meat soup which by then felt like the best meal I've ever had and the tip we left hopefully made up a bit for the unplanned overtime.
Since I have a weak character the home cooked meal didn't stop me from drinking my comforting J&D and Coke anyway and that hit like a punch to the jaw.
I perhaps would have been wiser to read the label before I drank it but before it went in the trash I saw that the alcohol content was 10%.
Well, at least I didn't have any trouble sleeping that night.