From the Curonian Spit to Riga


In the morning, we did a little walk to the nearby old cathedral of Königsberg (Kaliningrad), a brick-style church from the early 14th century. It was still closed. At one corner of the cathedral, the tomb of one of the greatest thinkers of all times is located: Immanuel Kant.

Immanuel Kant's tomb.

Standing on the shoulders of giants: Immanuel Kant’s tomb.

We returned to the hotel and met a guy from Chemnitz, East Germany who goes around the entire Baltic Sea with his little Simson moped. Chapeau!

Even slower: a Simson in Kaliningrad.

Even slower: a Simson in Kaliningrad.

We started our riding day and with a mixture of good orientation skills and my smartphone we navigated to one of the most bizarre landmarks in Europe: the Curonian Spit. It s a 98 km long, thin, curved sand-dune spit that separates the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea coast. Its southern portion lies within Kaliningrad OblastRussia and its northern within southwestern Lithuania. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site shared by the two countries. Entering the spit, we had to pay a toll and could then ride through the pine forest until we reached the border with Lithuania. The crossing was relatively quick (one hour) and the contrast with the Russian territory was remarkable. John described it as „from black and white to colourful“.

The High Dune in Nida.

The High Dune in Nida.

At the border we saw a German couple with a strange BMW sidecar. We stopped in the next town (Nida) and had a little lunch. The great dune was close, but we didn’t want to lose the time climbing on it so we took a picture from the distance instead.

Nida is a nice, touristic town with lots of traditional fisher houses, partly painted in blue.

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I tried to find the former house of Thomas Mann but gave up quickly; we had a big plan for this day, we wanted to get to Riga. We continued on the spit and reached the ferry that carried us in no time to Klaipeda on the mainland. The weather was sunny now, but a very chilly, strong wind blew from the West. The A-roads were in a good condition and we made good progress. We reached the Latvian border and the XBR claimed its 45th country visit. In Liepaja, we filled up petrol and booked a hotel in Riga for the night. The remaining 220 km were quick – the road was good and the wind pushed from the back.

Latvian countryside: forests and fields.

Latvian countryside: forests and fields.

Finally we reached Riga and found our hotel in the old town. We checked in and went for a long walk through the beautiful historic centre. Partly it’s a bit over the top in touristic terms, but the historic heritage is for real. We had a Latvian degustation menu in a restaurant and discussed our plans for the next days. Tomorrow we plan to head for Vilnius, Lithuania.

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Kaliningrad


This morning we enjoyed a very long and rich breakfast and left only at 9:30. We headed north and soon the heat returned. Our bikes hummed and despite riding on b-roads, we made good progress. At midday, we needed to pull petrol and decided to have a snack in the cool station. Like yesterday, we were surprised by the good state of the Polish roads. Still riding at 110 km/h, we are passing everybody else on B-roads and are passed by everybody else on dual carriageways. When we got closer to the coast, we turned eastwards and passed Malbork. Normally, the old Castle of the Teutonic Order (Marienburg des Deutschen Ordens) is a UNESCO heritage and a must-see as it is the largest castle in the world by surface area. But we needed to get to Kaliningrad today and had the uncertainty of the border crossing. So we continued. For two kilometers, there was a basically four-lane cobblestone road that seemed endless. We were in the polish part now that was known as Ostpreussen. The road to the border was quite empty. We left it to get petrol in the last town (Braniewo), went back to the main road and headed for the border. At the polish side, our papers were studied carefully and our VINs were checked. My damaged plate caused some confusion, but I could convince the female officers, that the important number was the one stamped in the frame. We could move to the Russian border. Not without leaving a big puddle of petrol from some Triumph carburettors. At the Russian control, again some paperwork. We had to notice that for some speculative reason, a lot of handsome female officers worked there. The more tedious process was the customs declaration. We filled in two pages each just to learn that we made a mistake and had to do it again. And another paper. Unfortunately, the big thunderstorm had catched up and it started to rain. One officer did not believe the Triumph’s model year first…“1969???“. Yes. Finally we could leave. We managed to escape the rain, but the huge thunderstorm followed us. We entered Kaliningrad without any map or GPS, because our GPS maps do not cover Russia. The difference to the Polish driving style was remarkable.

Borschtsch and Wodka

Borschtsch and Wodka

We managed to get to the Centre where I used my phone to navigate us to the hotel. It started to rain and when we got to the Hotel Heliopark, we managed to park the bikes and seek shelter just in time before it was pouring down. After a shower, we had dinner in the hotel restaurant and I could not resist to have a real Borschtsch. We decided to have a quick visit to the cathedral the next morning and to head to Lithuania and Latvia via the Curonian Spit. The hotel is quite posh and in contrast to most buildings in the city centre.  You still can see many concrete blocks from the Soviet era. Communication with the waitress was close to zero but we managed, „odno pivo“ always works..

Kaliningrad (Königsberg) centre

Kaliningrad (Königsberg) centre

Discovering slowness


Yesterday the XBR appeared to be fine. Today I left before 7 to meet John near Fulda. It took us more than 1 hour to find us; a road block on the A7 and some deviations were the root cause for this. In the end, we could finally start the trip at half past nine. We headed towards Berlin at a constant 110 km/h (65 mph) and stopped for an enormous lunch break. It was a totally new feeling – no hurry, no pushing, just enjoying the ride, looking around, with plenty of time…discovering slowness…We passed Berlin and filled up before the border. It was quite hot now, some extra stop was quite welcome. We entered Poland and I was quite surprised to see this brilliant new motorway. Still at 110 km/h. After 800 km we reached Poznan, our destination for today. I had made a booking on the fly and we enjoyed the air-co inside the building. Our bikes had to be hidden from the public view in the underground parking. Bike issues: one dropped XBR with a bent brake lever and a Triumph owner desperately looking for his keys. The XBR still runs fine, I’m inclined to believe that it was a combination of an alternator with a dead battery.

Tomorrow we will head for the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.

A beautiful sight. And our bikes.

A beautiful sight. And our bikes.

Found them!

Found them!

Improvise – Adapt – Overcome



Well, this is the situation.

Yesterday on the way to the XBR meeting, my battery died. I bought a new one which was dead by the end of the day as well. At the meeting, Hans and Johannes swapped the alternators of my bike with Hans‘ bike.  Today, my electric system still had a problem. I checked the electric components and in the end everything seems to be ok with a different battery. Did I buy a bad battery? A little trip this afternoon should clarify this.

John’s bike had issues as well which seem to be sorted at the moment. One thing is clear: it’s too late for Moscow now. I cancelled the hotel bookings and came up with a plan F or G: if everything works ok tomorrow, we try to go to Kaliningrad and visit Riga and Vilnius. A shorter program, but still entertaining enough.

TTTT (XBR goes Russia)


After all this rallying, it’s time to go on a short long trip. A long distance ride of a different kind. Not really a real touristic trip, although some hints of tourism might be involved, if there is sufficient time. Actually it is a kind of „shakedown“ ride to test the bike and rider. Well, actually for the bikes and riders. For the first time in 10 years, I will be accompanied on an „exotic“ trip.

My English buddy from the „Black Coontry“, Mr John Young, will join me in this ride that is supposed to be a test for a much bigger adventure in the future: a trip through Russia to Japan. What is particular about that trip: we want to do it with our old clunkers, i.e. my 1985 Honda XBR500 with 362.000 km on the clock, and John’s 1969 Triumph Trident that had also (in contrast to my XBR successfully) participated in the Iron Butt Rally in the USA. This means that also the test ride should be done under similar conditions.

It’s not only a test for the bikes (they have shown their reliability enough in the past), but also a „compatibility test“ for the riders. The planned trips are (very) challenging with time limitations; add some unforeseen problems, bad road and weather conditions and some usual group dynamics and you quickly end up with a potentially critical situation. However, we both are used to a tough riding, rain, wind, weather and what the road throws at us.
Our test starts on Saturday morning at the 25th Honda GB500/XBR500 Meeting in Germany and will lead us to Minsk, Moscow, Riga and Kaliningrad. For the mentioned obvious reasons, this trip is called

TTTT – The Tronda Test Trip

You can follow our journey via my SPOT tracker: https://spotwalla.com/tripViewer.php?id=117cc577d54b2eebd2.

We will be riding most of the time (the trip is supposed to take only 8 days), but I hope I will find the time for short updates. 🙂

TTTT - the plan

TTTT – the plan

Scandinavian Rally 2016 won!


Back home now, after a relaxed 1500 km ride…

It was a nice rally through the South of Sweden, my planning on quick roads made it a fast one as I could use a lot of motorways. But also a lot of back roads. Closed roads. Gravel roads. Winding roads. Roads with rabbits. Roads with hares. Roads with moose (!). I had developed a good plan and just needed to execute it. This worked quite well, but many locations required me in the picture as well…I missed in three of them but managed to re-do two of them. However, I had lost a big point and I knew this could be decisive in the end…I performed my plan in an very efficient manner and at one point I was almost two hours (!) ahead of my plan. This allowed me to extend my plan with two smaller locations that in the end made all the difference (again!). Petri Myntti came third and Daniel Duvskog, – who missed his chance by overlooking a second location close to another one – came second. Phew! Another close shave! Another rally won. A good weekend :-).

Ready for the Scandinavian Rally 2016


After two years, I have decided to run the Scandinavian Rally again. Start and finish is in Södertälje near Stockholm. Everything is prepared, the locations are loaded on the computer and in 30 min we’ll get the rally books in the rider’s meeting. Only then we’ll know the point values of the 102 (!!) bonus point locations. They are located mostly in south Sweden. It looks like this will be a „squirrel“ rally, i.e. jumping from bonus point to the next nearby bonus point and trying to collect as many as possible. Mostly on back roads. Sounds like fun.

If you want to follow my SPOT, here’s the link:

https://spotwalla.com/tripViewer.php?id=112bd576073ca90915

Bonus point location of the Scandinavian Rally 2016

Bonus point location of the Scandinavian Rally 2016