...because this means the Kings & Castles Tour is over. Final highlights were the huge basilica in Esztergom and the site of the original Paneuropean Picnic that took place on the Austro-Hungarian borger on August 19, 1989. This is where the iron curtain started to crumble, and of course we had to have a picnic here as well.
Thanks again to everybody for coming on this tour, it was a pleasure riding with you.
Thomas and Mirko
Esztergom basilica, the largest church in Hungary...
... conveniently comes with a nice little café right in front of it.
Picnic right on the border
Flavia says goodbye to Hungary
The group at the monument of the open door which symbolizes the opening of the Iron Curtain that started here
Behind the barbed-wire fence, today part of an interesting open-air museum right here at the site of the Paneuropean Picnic that eventurally tore down the Berlin Wall.
But the rain had cooled the air and also the city of Budapest, from 35°C on Monday to a pleasant 20°C today. One day of sightseeing in a city like this means barely scratching the surface, but we did our best. What an awesome place!
First we went up to the Buda hills to visit Matias Chuch and the statue of St. Stephen, the founding father of the Hungarian nation.
The Fisherman's Bastion holds a café with stunning views, not only of the Parliament Building.
Europe's second largest parliament building is a sight to behold
Trina, John, Mike and Chu
One of the most amazing panoramas in Europe
The Pettersons at the Zero Kilometer Marker. All distances in Hungary are measured from here.
... and Paul liked the monument very much.
The busy tourists in the middle of the famous Chain Bridge: Mike, Gary, Paul, Mirko, Chris and Jo, Thomas and John, and Chu and Trina in front.
Then it was time for lunch and we went to "The Spoon Café", a former cruise ship that is now a very nice restaurant with an unbeatable view.
Mike had the pork tenderloin and especially enjoyed the fresh, juicy dödölle...
With a view like this it is hard to concentrate on the food
Mirko needs to be by himself once in a while...
The Chain Bridge, with Matias Church and the Fisherman's Bastion as a backdrop
Mike found a great souvenir
Paul enjoyed the ride in a "topless" sightseeing bus...
The synagoge in Budapest is the largest one in Europe and number 2 in the world!
We left our hotel in Rajecke Teplice with full raingear on, but it turned out to be a nice day. Until lunch, anyways. Then it started again...
Looking out the window early in the morning. Settling clouds reveal a hint of dryness in the air...
Tour guide Mirko was in good spirits...
Randy and Sharon, wearing colorful raingear...
John on F800GS
Paul on R1200R
Trina on RnineT
Chu on the new GS
And taking up the rear, as usual, Gelson and Flavia.
After a wonderful rest day in Cracow we left Poland behind today and headed for country No. 5, Slovakia. The smallest, least populated and least developed country on our tour welcomed us with the gorgeous scenery of the High Tatras, with good food - and with plenty of rain. In order to reach our hotel we had to dive through three massive thunderstorms! See video below.
Electric carts are a great way to get around town
Lots of information about the city's history and Schindler's famous factory
Flavia, Trina and Chu
The beatiful old town of Cracow
For dinner we went to the old Jewish neighborhood called Kazimierz. The "Hummus & Happiness" was a great choice!
Tour guide Thomas can also recommend the best food...
...and John obviously LOVED his dish!
Mike, Paul, Sharon and Randy did too!
Hard to say goodbye: H & H, we will never forget you!
And the beer was good, too!
Before we left Poland we visited St. Michaels in Debno, a 600-year old wooden church.
Flavia whisperd "Welcome to Slovakia" and the boys loved it!
Lunch in Slovakia: Trina had vegetable soup...
... Flavia had salad with goat cheese, while Frank kept searching for his camera and motorcycle keys...
Enjoying lunch outside
After lunch the clouds became darker...
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Our hotel in Rajecke Teplice was nice enough to heat up a room for us so we could dry our stuff:
Poland, country No. 4 on the list, welcomed the group with plenty of sunshine and temperatures up to 39°C. We visited the infamous former concentration and extermination camp of Auschwiz, where one of the darkest chapters of human history was written. The old town of Cracow, on the other hand, is one of the most beautiful places that humans ever created, and right now everybody is thoroughly enjoying it.
The group in front of the train station in Auschwitz-Birkenau
Cracow's old town square by night
Flavia, chatting with tour guide Thomas
Paul and John enjoying the Polish beer
Randy and Paul, also enjoying the Polish beer.
Once again on the rest day we headed out for a walking tour through the city
The barbican gate
Cracow's castle is called "Wawel"
View of the castle from the river Wiesla
There are some very pretty tour guides in Cracow...
Gelson and Flavia on their Ducati
Today's ride took us back from Germany to the Czech Republic. We had some great lunch and in the afternoon we were able to walk it off again by climbing up to Trosky castle, formerly owned by the famous Wallenstein.
Bread dumplings and fresh chanterelles, lovingly arranged on a plate - irresistable to Trina...
Randy decided to go for the giant pork knuckle, or "Schweinshaxe" as the Germans call it.
The eastern tower of Trosky Castle, built towards the end of the 14th century.
It is a strenous walk up to the castle...
... but the sweeping views from up there are just stunning.
Looking down to the parking lot from the tower. This is how far we came up!
After catching their breaths the group was able to smile again.
Chu, posing in front of the - inaccessable - eastern tower.
This is what Trosky castle looked like during the Middle Ages
Hippie Gary enjoys his boot beer
Unlike Prague Dresden is a city where you can still find some locals, even in downtown. Our walking tour took us to all the major sights and attractions, but for refreshments we opted for some Bavarian beer...
The group, Martin Luther and the Frauenkirche ("Our Lady's Church) in Dresden
One of Dresden's most famous landmarks is the opera house, named "Semperoper" after its architect who built it in 1841.
Gary and Thomas, enjoying the dark, full-bodied Augustiner beer
Chu bacame an instant Augustiner aficionado!
A well-worn Simson Star, leftover of the GDR
It is never easy to leave a city like Prague behind but today there were some wonderful roads to be ridden and some great scenery to be marveled at, so we left the Mother of all Cities and headed towards Germany, country No. 3 on our list. Among the highlights was one of the famous Edelweiss picnics, prepared by Mirko and devoured by everybody.
Sharon and Randy in Melnik, where we parked the bikes for a while to visit the ossuary and have a cup of coffee.
Chief-chef Mirko prepared a great lunch. We couldn't find even the smalles hair in any of his dishes!
Smoked trout, cold cuts and a Bohemian style meat loaf.
There were long lines in front of the buffet...
Flavia and Jo were digging in...
... and Trina liked it so much she tried to kidnap the chef!
After lunch we entered country No. 3: Germany
Flavia jumped with joy...
John and Paul from Australia happily entered the country of the current soccer world champion...
Jo and Chris affectionately greeted the Free State of Saxony
Michael also made it to Germany, here is proof.
Would you guess that Gelson - here with his wife Flavia - is actually a Mercedes fan?
View of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains
Frank and Gary thoroughly enjoyed the panoramic views from the Bastei
Beautiful scenery all around us
Only three days into the tour and already time for a rest day. Prague is a world-class city with enough sights and attractions to keep you busy for a month, but our day here was enough to get an impression. Most of the group joined the guides for a walk from the castle across Charles Bridge to the Old Town.
we shot the first group pic of the day in front of the Royal Bohemian Museum
Michael had his picture taken in front of the castle guards so many times that they had to be exchanged!
Here come the new guards!
The changing of the guards takes place under strict supervision of the general.
St. Vitus cathedral is the most important church in the Czech Republic.
The interior of a large gothic church is always impressive!
Beautiful stained glass window
The group in front of the castle entrance
The former bishop's palace
sightseeing made us thirsty...
Chu and Trina, doing their "homework"
Somebody's living room? No, a cafe in the old town of Prague
Chris is enjoying the day
wonderful downtown scenery like this is abundant in Prague
Jo found out today that she actually has a cocktail bar in Prague!
Frank touched a magic plaque on Charles Bridge, hoping for fame and fortune...
This is where we were today!
Group picture on Charles Bridge
Frank and Michael enjoyed the light and healthy Bohemian cuisine... It was GOOD, though!
On day 2 of our tour through Eastern Europe the group went to Cesky Krumlov, the best preserved medieval town in the Czech Republic. An absolutely amazing place and a great warm-up for the "Mother of all Cities": Prague!
introducing the group, from left to right, top: tour guide Thomas, Paul, Frank, Randall and Sharon, Michael, Chris and Jo, John, Gelson and Flavia; kneeling: tour guide Mirko, Gary, Trina and Chu.
the beautiful castle of Cesky Krumlov is the second largest one in the country!
Chu and Trina on the balcony of the castle
an unusual restaurant
The Edelweiss Kings & Castles motorcycle tour is in full swing: a group of 13 from the US, Australia and Taiwan left Vienna today to travel around six countries in Eastern Europe. It was a beautiful day full of lovely scenery and great roads, even a ferry ride was part of the program. We ended up in Budweis, Czech Republic.
Jo and Chris on the ferry across the Danube
Randall, Sharon and Micheal and the vineyards of the Wachau in the background.
Beautiful view of the Danube from the "Strand Café"
Flavia and Gelson, enjoying a piece of Apfelstrudel
Journalist Trina from Taiwan likes it too!
Edelweiss veteran Gary, high above the Danube