From Holland to the Alps and back


It was with much anticipated excitement that in the middle of summer 2012 I picked up my bike from the Eaglerider shop in Haaksbergen, Netherlands. Jan and Bram were most helpful in introducing me to the bike I would be using for the trip, a Harley FLHX Streetglide equipped with saddlebags and a luggage rack for extra gear. I regret not taking the GPS option in hindsight but in my mind I had a romantic notion of just winging it down any road I chose along the way. There are many, many roads!

My rough itinerary was: Holland – Germany (Hannover) – Czech Republic (Prague) – Austria (Kitzbuhel) – Switzerland (Basel) – France (Nancy) – Belgium (Brussels) – Holland.

As had been said many times before, there is nothing like experiencing new lands and cultures from the saddle of a motorcycle. The subtleties of crossing from one country to another are greatly enhanced when one is breathing, feeling, smelling and seeing (and eating!) one’s way across the country side. A cold beer and some local delicacies in out of the way Gasthofs or Pensions while reflecting on the day’s riding was the great reward each day. You meet some great people when riding a motorcycle. Yes, a Harley in Europe is a great conversation starter! I retired at night watching the 2012 London Olympic TV highlights, each night in a different language!

As I could write a much longer piece (and will) about the trip I will mention just a few points that come to mind. The autobahn / road networks in Europe are great and GPS is recommended. I preferred to go the twisty way most of the time but if you want to get somewhere quickly, a super highway is just a few kilometres away and they are fast AND well maintained. The six speed bike performed excellent while cruising on them, with plenty of power and low end grunt to enable me to coin a phrase, ” … happiness is reaching for another gear and finding it!”.

I have an affinity for the mountains so I had to travel to the Alps and experience the bike travel there. The twisting roads there are a joy! Above the village of Krimml, Austria there are scenes of jaw dropping beauty with scenes of rivers dropping hundreds of meters and verdant fields of neatly cultivated farms on steep mountain sides. I talked to a woman tending to her neat traditional Gasthof and as she smiled at me, I remarked to her how hard it must be to work the land. “It’s what we do!”, she replied. I was pleased to see plentiful motorcyclists astride all makes and types of bikes and trikes, one with a Norwegian family of four with a trailer attached!

The cobblestones of Prague and other older parts of Europe can be sketchy when wet and not at top of mind. Riding on two wheels in the busy, hectic larger cities such as Rome, Paris and London is also jaw dropping but of another sort, and that’s for a later story!

Robert Kwong, Photojournalist, North Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Robert (Bob) Kwong