[YEAR 7!] Quit our jobs, sold our home, gone riding...

At Hans and Julia's place, our bikes have a warm and dry place to sleep

Our hosts are also motorcycle travelers, so they know exactly what we need. Food, shelter, garage, laundry and wifi are all provided within minutes of us walking through the front door! Danke schoen!

And we are greeted with a warm homemade dinner

Like so many other fellow moto-travelers, we also met Hans and Julia on the Stahlratte. We ran into them on our second round out of Central America. You can catch a glimpse of them on our Stahlratte video. They also spent considerable time on the road. They were out for nine months riding from North to South America on the Pan American Highway. It felt very warm and homey catching up with them, and I sense that they really got a kick out of re-living their trip when we all chatted about our shared experiences.

Again, I got a close-up of what "real life" was like after a long trip. They both managed to negotiate long-term sabbaticals away from their employers, returning back to the same jobs and their own house after their trip. But they also echoed that familiar sentiment - always dreaming of life back on the road, constantly planning their next big trip.

Perhaps for people of our ilk, "real life" *IS* the nomadic existence. And the long periods in between travel are spent sleepwalking through the routines of whatever needs to be done - anything to taste again the freedom of our waking and most-alive moments wandering the world on the back of a motorcycle.

Is this something we want to give up?

Do I look Tired? Must be from Treading all over Germany.

We're continuing to be diligent about our maintenance by putting on new rubber on Neda's rear wheel. Hans and Julia were kind enough to order us a Michelin Anakee 3 shipped to their place. Hans just recently built a very cool workshop outfitted with all the tools and toys to maintain their two-wheeled hobby. So we took Neda's wheel off her bike and drove to the neighbourhood bike shop to mount the new tire.

Hans and Julia both ride Africa Twins. These are the ones they took to the Americas and back. Very cool bikes!

Anakee in the U.K. (or in this case, Germany)

I put on the older Anakee 2 on my bike, since that was the only tire they had on the shelves back in Sweden (they ran out of Stockholm). Wonder what the difference will be between the 2 and the 3. At one point at the start of the trip, Neda and I were on the same tire replacement schedule. But the power and weight differences between the two bikes means that I wear out my tires sooner than hers, which doubles the time we need to spend shopping and mounting tires. Just a note to prospective long-term travelers considering taking two different kinds of bikes on their trip.

Hans the Woodcutter gets some logs ready for the fireplace

And homemade apple pie is ready for us when we come inside. Delicious!

Apples are the most cultivated fruit in Germany and they are currently in season. Which explains why I've been having a lot of apple pie while we've been in the country. I think this recipe is called "Wiener Apfelkuchen" and is more of a cake than a pie. While the Austrians have their strudel, this is more particular to Germany.

Julia tells us that the Apfelkuchen slices must be served standing up on not on the side, otherwise you will be cursed with a bad relationship with your mother-in-law. Not sure if that's a German thing or not?

Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral)

The next day, our hosts take us out to do some sightseeing in nearby Cologne. We learned that Hans *LOVES* churches! So he takes us to the most well-known one in Cologne.

Beautiful inside!

I like churches too, but specifically the votive candles!

Preparing for a concert in the cathedral

Hans said that we could get a great view of the city from the top of the cathedral. The only catch was that it was 532 steps to the top, about 150m climb. *Ugh* I hate hiking (and climbing stairs) but I succumbed to peer pressure. We were all huffing and puffing and had to stop several times along the way to get here:

Well worth it! View of Cologne and the Rhine

Ducati 998 in Cologne. I miss my sportbike so much!!!

Taking a walk along the banks of the Rhine

Walking around the Old Town of Cologne, cobblestone streets and pastel painted buildings. Just like the Gringo Trail towns of Latin America! :)

The only thing I like taking pictures of more than candles are indigenous people

Hans and Julia are such great tour guides and hosts! They even treated us to a German dinner:

Schweinshaxe - deep fried pork knuckle (or ham hock). Not particular to Cologne specifically, but delicious nevertheless!


great read-great pictures and narrative...many thanks for sharing with us....and best of luck in whatever you decided to do in the future...
Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/260.html

Liverpool and Manchester clash on the soccer field. Montreal and Toronto throw off their gloves on center ice. The benches in the dugouts clear when Boston and New York go head-to-head at the ballpark. Oxford and Cambridge duke it out on the academic standings as well as on boats on the river Thames. So many great rivalries over the years with the town just down the street.

But do you know about the on-going feud between the North Rhine-Westphalia neighbours of Cologne and Düsseldorf? And what the big brawl is over?

Since we are so close to both cities, Hans and Julia take us on a tour of the region to find out firsthand!

But first, we visit a church! Altenberg Cathedral

Did I mention that Hans really likes churches? Although the Cologne Cathedral gets most of the attention in the area, the Altenberg Cathedral is still quite impressive for being out in the middle of nowhere.

Although we're taking a break from our bikes, others have different ideas on how to spend a sunny day

Hans is giving us the history of the church

Of course, all this walking around the cathedral and the expansive grounds built up quite a thirst, which was Hans' idea all along. Plus he really likes churches! We head back into Cologne for a liquid lunch and Hans takes us to the most well-known brewery in town, Cölner Hofbräu Früh. As we sat down to order, he introduced us to the long-standing feud between Cologne and Düsseldorf, centered around which city brewed the best beer.

You could say that it was a bitter rivalry.

Hans said that he wanted to take us to both cities and sample the best of both types of beer, and then we could make up our own minds as to which brew was the best. He said he himself had a favorite, but he wasn't going to try to color our judgment or influence our decision-making in any way.

Before we ordered, Hans gave us a bit of history about the Hofbräu Früh. It's rated the best brewery in town, specializing in Cologne's brand of beer called Kolsch. However, he also told us that this place is also well-known for its snooty servers who aren't very friendly. Our waiter came to take our order (actually he just wanted to know how many glasses of Kolsch to bring), and came back promptly and set the small 0.2L glasses on the table.

Neda and I exchanged glances, "Hmm... they're not that rude", we both telepathically conveyed to each other in that husband-wife way that only comes about from nearly two decades of companionship and close-quarters living and travel.

Sampling the best beer in Cologne: Kolsch from Hofbräu Früh

At Hofbräu Früh, once you start drinking, they keep bringing you beers when your glass is empty. They record how many glasses your table has had by marking them as slashs on a coaster. The only way to stop the beers from coming is to put a coaster over your empty glass. If there seem to be a lot of slashes on the coaster it's because it's a Früh tradition that for every round of Kolsch that we drink, the waiter also orders himself one. Really? Hrmph...

Kolsch is a light-coloured lager with a very thin taste, similar to the weak cervezas in Latin America. I'd imagine it would be very refreshing on a hot summer day, but since Neda and I prefer much darker beers, we didn't enjoy it so much.

Hans, remaining neutral and impartial while drinking Kolsch

Neda offered her opinion, "It doesn't have a very strong taste", she stated diplomatically. She added, "And the waiters are kind of rude"...

Hans nodded in quiet satisfaction. Julia just rolled her eyes. I have to work on my matrimonial telepathy.

Ostrich Farm

Since we've already done some sightseeing in Cologne a couple of days earlier, we hit the road again. We passed by this ostrich farm on our travels through the scenic Rhineland countryside and stopped to take some pictures. I was surprised to learn that there are quite a lot of these bird farms in Germany. Ostrich meat became popular here in the early 2000s after some cattle were found to be infected with Mad Cow disease. It became a national public concern and Germans looked to alternatives to beef, and ostrich farms started cropping up all over the place.

Ostriches are the largest birds in the world. But they have such funny-looking, tiny heads

Then it was off to Schloss Burg Castle to do more walking around and sightseeing. It's the largest reconstructed castle in Rhineland.

Gates to Schloss Burg

Fresh baked goods inside the castle walls

Sample of local apple wines from the region. Did I mention apples are really popular in Germany?

Very pretty grounds, but very touristy too!

My security detail :)

Used antiques for sale. And Claudia Schiffer.... who is from North Rhine-Westphalia, which I guess is the tenuous connection?

My energy is flagging

From Schloss Burg, we take a trail that follows the Wupper River north. It's about a 2km hike through a pretty forest and I suspect that Hans is taking us through here to build up more of a thirst for the second half of our beer tasting tour.

Müngstener Bridge in the background, the highest railroad bridge in Germany
And then it's off to Düsseldorf, Cologne's rival in the Great Rhineland Beer War! And yes, we are doing all of this in a single day!

When we arrive into the city, we are whisked off to Altstadt otherwise known as "the longest bar in the world"

Scores of people pack the bars and patios that line both sides of the streets as far as the eye can see. Hans spreads his arms out proudly as if to say, "See how popular this place is? The beer must be good here or something..."

Doing a little sightseeing before we hit the bars. Düsseldorf City Hall

The city seems to have a much younger vibe than Cologne. And the crowds!

Bars and restaurants line the walkway along the River Rhine

Our tourguide giving us more of the history of the area

Finally, we get to try the Düsseldorf beer, called Altbier

We took in the atmosphere of the crowded bar on the Altstadt as the waiter cheerfully set down four glasses of Altbier. From the dark tint of the ale I already knew I would prefer this over Kolsch. Hans sipped his beer and looked like he was in heaven. Julia just shook her head at him. I don't think she really has a horse in this race. I took my first taste of the copper-coloured Altbier. The strong taste of malt and hops filled my mouth and stretched the corners of my mouth upwards. The smile on Neda's face echoed my sentiments. I think... Exactly what we needed after a long day of touring the Rhineland.

Although Hans failed spectacularly to remain impartial during the whole judging process, in the end, it turns out that we are both more Altbier fans than Kolsch.

Decision goes to Düsseldorf! Technical knock out.

Speaking of knocked out, we poured ourselves into the car and back south towards Bonn. On the ride home, Neda and I pass out sound asleep in the backseat, victims of the Grand Old Beer Feud between Cologne and Düsseldorf.
Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/261.html

We're leaving Hans and Julia much better off than when we arrived. Our mood is so much lighter. This Friends Tour of Germany is working out quite well for us. Visiting people that we know, that know us and that are also fellow motorcycle travelers is really providing us with some sorely needed company. So we're going to continue on in the same vein, making a U-Turn and heading back south to see more friends that we missed this summer.

Saying goodbye to Hans and Julia. You can see by the logo on the wall of their house where their passions lie

Despite riding away into a grey, gloomy day, we're leaving in pretty good spirits

Our plan for the day is staying off the Autobahn and just taking our time following the Rhine River as it meanders south to the Swiss border. We're getting a bit conscious of the weather and how the days are not only getting shorter, but the temperatures are slowly dropping day by day, so south is a good direction to head this time of year. We still haven't made a decision as to what we're going to do once we finish visiting all our friends but we're having too much of a good time to worry about the future.


Catching the ferry again back south across the Rhine

Rain clouds have found us again

Following the Rhine southbound

Entering one of the tiny towns along the Rhine, Sankt Goar

Stopped to get some gas, eat a sandwich and take some pictures

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