25 Jun 2014

Europe 2014: Day 5 - Berlin to Prague

For the second morning in a row, I’ve been rudely awakened by a housekeeper walking in, completely ignoring the ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door! Not good enough, Aldea Hotel!!

Ok—let’s reflect a bit. The hotel was fine—clean and functional as you would expect—with comfortable beds and the cost was reasonable. But this, and to a lesser degree the lack of functioning wi-fi, tainted the experience somewhat and had me woken up on the wrong side of bed. Check-out time is 11am anyway and she came in at 9:30! Grump grump grump.

We packed up and left with dark skies and showers here and there. After 45 minutes on the autobahn we exited to take the back roads, stopping off at a supermarket to buy some food for breakfast/lunch about 60km from Dresden.

As luck would have it, the skies properly opened but by the time we finished eating the rain had all but stopped so we carried on towards Prague.

The sun came out again and found the landscape changing to rolling hills with fast sweeping bends. At a roadside pull-out Zev noticed some foliage of which he wanted some specimens...

A few more for the specimen container.
...which gave me a few minutes to ponder the bike. Yes, the bike—not a lot has been said about it because it has hummed away dutifully without any backtalk. BMW really do make a cracker—even fully loaded it never wants for power, and the handling feels almost as light as when I ride it alone. I have been averaging 50mpg (10 less than my F800GS in similar conditions) and the bike has not used a drop of oil whereas the previous air/oil cooled engine is known to be quite thirsty at times.

If I had to split hairs, at certain revs and at specific engine loads there is a slight vibration in the bars but otherwise it is smooth as you’d want—considering it is a two cylinder engine with each chamber’s capacity the same as a 600cc sport bike, BMW have done well to smooth it out, and the engine loves to rev quickly and freely.

The only other thing of note is a few rough shifts with the Gear Shift Assist Pro system when it should have shifted smoothly—that said, 99 times out of 100 it shifts flawlessly under light throttle, heavy throttle and everything in between. Perhaps a future software update will resolve the odd rough shift. The literature about this option is quite right—the system is absolutely made for the type of riding I’ve done on this trip and makes the experience quicker yet more relaxing.

Ready for take-off.
One for the GS Europe group!
A trail in the woods from the roadside pull-out to an unknown destination.
Carrying on, we reached what was once the German/Czech border checkpoint—not a very inviting structure and no doubt a cause of anxiety to many people through the years.

All function and no form.
I admit I felt a little bit apprehensive entering the Czech Republic, simply for the reason that the language is absolutely foreign to me (whereas I can speak French and Greek readily and enough German and Dutch to do the basics). About five minutes into the country I stopped to refuel and, without thinking, spoke German to the clerk—of course being so close to the border she responded in German. I needn’t have worried, however, as it seems nearly everyone speaks English almost fluently.

The roads in the Czech Republic are much rougher than the German roads and require some acclimatisation—bends which cannot be taken safely at the speed limit are generally not marked. For example, on a 90kph road, in most countries a sharp bend will have an advisory posted at 50kph (or whatever is appropriate) but these advisories are few and far between here—extra concentration is essential. Also, where sections with a passing lane merge back to a single lane, they do so at the sign without advanced warning like most other places.

Nevertheless, the roads are fast and great fun, especially on a bike like a GS with extra-travel suspension so soak up the poor surfaces. I would say, among the most fun of any roads I’ve been on so far this trip.

We arrived in Prague around 5:30pm and made a few calls to find a hotel which offered secure parking. We found a room at the 4-star Hotel Louis Léger for €38/night, right in central Prague. I thought this was a mistake! The hotel was originally an aristocrat’s mansion and was named after the French poet. The rooms have 12-foot ceilings and antique-style furniture. Absolutely lovely.

After a bit of a rest, we headed out to dinner after asking our lovely hotel receptionist her recommendation—Restaurace & Music Bar Legenda.

Legerova at sunset.
 I was so hungry I forgot to photograph the food but it was delicious and inexpensive (roughly half the cost of an equivalent meal in London).

Drinks on the terrace.
One for the road.
After dinner, straight under the duvet for a bit of blog updating and then off to sleep.

Europe 2014 quick links

Day 1: London to Sint-Gillis-Waas
Day 2: Sint-Gillis-Waas to Bad Driburg
Day 3: Bad Driburg to Berlin
Day 4: Berlin
Day 5: Berlin to Prague
Day 6: Prague
Day 7: Prague to Wemding
Day 8: Wemding to Ammerschwihr
Day 9: Ammerschwihr
Day 10: Ammerschwihr
Day 11: Ammerschwihr to Eschdorf
Day 12: Eschdorf to London