Burgenland. Land of Castles, Sunshine and Parties.

Visiting friends in Burgenland, Austria. They know how to party.

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When people think of Austria, skiing and wintersports are probably what comes to mind first. The West side of Austria is really beautiful and cities such as Salzburg and Innsbruck are really great to visit but for me my favourite part is Burgenland along the East side of the country, bordering Slovenia, Hungary and Slovakia. It gets about 300 sunny days a year and has castles, lakes, palaces and most importantly parties!

The reasons for this trip are: rambling by motorcycle around Europe; and, visiting my friend Steaffi that I have know for twenty years, when we were Peacekeeping in Bosnia in the 90s. He has a big “roundy” birthday and he invited me to the party. So I am staying in Austria for five or six days. I have been here at least a dozen times before and love his family and extended family and friends. I know all the good restaurants and wine houses by now too. 

Aunty’s place and Heidi’s wine house for example. Heidi makes great wines and really that is true for all Burgenland wines because they are very interested in the quality of their produce. It’s probably helps a lot when you have sunshine 300 days a year. 

Another remarkable thing about the friendly people of Burgenland is their ability to party. For example, have you ever heard of a celebration called Fruhschoppen? Neither had I. What does it mean? My friends weren’t sure either. Something like early drink celebration. 

I know exactly what it means. A reason to start partying early! That’s the “fruh” part. As for the rest? Who cares. It just means that instead of starting at the normal time for partying, you start before lunch. You eat beautiful food that’s cooked right there by the locals and served by young people who are wearing traditional Austrian costume, Lederhosen and Dirndl.
 There is no charge to attend but you can donate money which is collected for local youth activites. Another great aspect of these big parties, that the whole village or town, young and old usually attend, is the music. 

Every town has a band that plays traditional music. The sound is somewhere between brass band and orchestra, according to my limited knowledge of these matters. 

In some countries it would be frowned upon if you stood on the furniture.

 

In Austria it is almost obligatory to stand on the table and clap and sing along to show your appreciation. 

You have to be a little careful too in Austria because sometimes one party sort of runs into the next, or should I say the next day. 

On the day of Steaffi’s birthday party we went to a celebration party hosted by the local motorcycle club, the Flying Foxes, 

which had an emphasis on activities for the local children. The cluhouse and garden was jammed and yet again the guys were cooking and barbequeing right there in the yard and families enjoyed the festivities with great food and local wine. The club had gone to the trouble of making a little track in the garden so the children could try out mini quads which they loved.

 

We couldn’t stay long though because we had to get ready for Steaffi’s party. It was held in the Music Band Hall. It’s not the first party I went to there and as usual the food and the company was extraordinary. As well as the traditional main courses there were approximately a million cakes and sweet dishes. Everyone brought something. It was a fantastic party. The highlight for me was a music video that everyone of his family, children, parents and grandparents took part in, dancing to a very happy song indeed.

A meal in the Grenadier restaurant in Forchtenstein Castle, the night before my departure, 

with friends rounded off my visit. It’s a favourite for bikers too because of the interesting winding road up to the castle. 

Something tells me it wont be long before I visit again. In the meantime Steaffi and some friends are visiting my home two days after I get back. So where to next…

From Stelvio to Bled, Slovenia.

Through the Italian Alps to Bled, Slovenia.

After Stelvio I stopped in a beautiful town in South Tyrol, Italy called Silandro, or Shlanders if you prefer the Austrian version. First night in Italy so it had to be fantastic Italian food and wine and a stay in a lovely hotel. Next morning I tracked East through the Italian Alps. Remarkable little towns that seemed to be barely perched on the steep mountainside. 

Then after two days in the Italian Alps I decided to visit Lake Bled in Slovenia, and to get there the best option seemed to be the autobahn through the 7.5 kilometre Karawanken tunnel that links Austria to Slovenia. So Suzi Suzuki had the first run on a motorway all the way from Northern France.

When I visited the castle I made sure she had some shade from the hot sun as well as the company of some other motorbikes.

Now it’s time to return to Austria, to Burgenland South East of Vienna, to spend a few days with a great friend who has a “roundy” birthday to celebrate. Steaffi and I were peacekeepers together in Bosnia twenty years ago and have been close ever since and I’m looking forward to meeting his fantastic extended family again. I think there is a possibility that we might drink one or two white wine spritzers too.

Adventure Biking to Laconia Bike Week.

Adventurous bikers travel to Laconia on every type of bike from just about every where.

Adventurous bikers come in many different guises.

Someone recently put up this post on a Facebook page I follow called “Adventure Bike Riders”:

This page is exactly what Facebook should be about!
I’m taken by how many people are on here from every walk of life and from every corner of the globe, all joined by one thing with 2 wheels.
No negativeness (usually) and all the nice comments and mutual respect, regardless of who we are or what we choose to ride.
It’s bloody marvellous isn’t it!
Keep it going folks, life is too short X

It’s fair comment in my opinion and it’s what motorcycling is all about. I am really looking forward to this year’s big trip in Europe. I will be taking the ferry from Ireland to Cherbourg in Northern France in about six weeks time and travelling down to the Alps, but enjoying everything in between. Last year I went to Boston and travelled up to Laconia Bike week in New Hampshire and the most important impression I took from it was how overwhelmingly friendly everyone was and how everyone respected their fellow bikers. It didn’t matter if you were into adventure style bikes or cruisers, everyone we met wanted to talk to us and ask where we came from. I saw KTMs and Africa Twins and 250cc scramblers on Weirs Beach Boulevard as well as lots of custom bikes and of course the big cruisers like Harley Davidson and Indians. We met people there from every State in America and from other countries asĀ  well. One guy had ridden his big cruiser from Alaska to New Hampshire. The first part of his journey had been all snow and ice and poor driving conditions. It took him three weeks to get to Bike Week. He may not have been on a BMW GS1200, but that is adventure biking at it’s finest.

I was travelling with Matt, a friend of mine, riding a 2013 Harley Electra Glide I had hired at MOMS Motorcycles in Foxboro, and initially I had found it very heavy and unwieldy, especially as we were hitting some seriously challenging roads. I am not normally a cruiser rider and the roads we had been riding on would be really great for enduro or adventure style bikes, but not for the Lincoln Town Car, as I had christened the Harley. I have to acknowledge though that this bike was definitely growing on me. In fact it didn’t put a foot wrong, and even when the conditions became demanding, I was getting a kick out of leaning it into the corners and it behaved absolutely impeccably no matter what I or the roads threw at it. It had great weather protection and even when it rained, hardly a drop got by the big fairing.

One of the “must do” activities when you are at Laconia Bike Week is to visit Mount Washington and the Mount Washington State Park. It is the highest mountain in the North Eastern U.S. at 6,288 feet (1917 m.) and has a very erratic and dangerous climate. The highest wind speed ever recorded, other than in a cyclone, at 231 mph (372 km/h) makes this a place to be taken seriously if you want to make a bike trip. In fact there is a visitors centre on the way up on the Mount Washington Auto Road and when conditions are bad you are not permitted to go beyond the visitors centre. When we arrived up there we were disappointed to learn that the road to the summit was closed. It had snowed about three inches earlier with wind speed recorded at over 100 mph. The snow ploughs were out even though it was June, and it wasn’t going to be possible to ride to the top. The parking lot would usually be packed at this time but because the road was closed with temperatures at the summit between 15 and 34 Fahrenheit ( -9 to +1 Celsius), taking the wind chill into consideration, and winds too high, there were just a few visitors in the souvenir shop and the restaurant. Mount Washington would have to wait for my next visit. So we went and rode the “Kanc” which is another of the famous attractions for bikers in the Laconia area. The two major highways in the area go North/South and the Kancamagus highway, or Kancamagus Scenic Byway, connects these roads East to West. It is open most of the year, except for during really heavy snow, unlike some other roads in the area. It is a 32 mile or 52 km stretch through the White Mountains, connecting the towns of Lincoln and Conway, that is a favourite with bikers because it is a winding mountain road, that seems to go from one left hand to right hand sweeping bend, interspersed with hairpins and continuous inclines or declines. It you travel east from Lincoln, you enter the White Mountain National Forest following a branch of the Pemigewasset River, ascending until you reach the summit at Kancamagus Pass where there is a viewing point. bridgeThen you start down by the Swift river, all the while enjoying some great riding because of the sweeping bends which sometimes tighten into hairpins. Eventually the terrain begins to flatten until you find yourself on the Main Street in Conway. I cannot emphasise enough how beautiful this whole area is with fantastic viewing points to pull over, rest the weary bodies and enjoy the spectacular forest, mountain and valley views. Quaint small towns, river crossings with covered bridges and many other quintessentially American attractions abound.

Back at Weirs Bridge the highlight for me was Keith Sayers freestyle motocross show. There was a crowd of people watching the show of top class motorbike aerial acrobatics, where Keith Sayers, with Todd Potter and James Carter wowed the crowd, jumping from very steep ramps and doing amazing somersaults and other aerobatics. The show started off with one bike in the air, and culminated with all three bikes spinning through the air at the same time. Before we left we had a look at the fantastic custom bikes at the Infocus Mobile Audio Stand and let me tell you they were so impressive. These custom bikes have massive speakers built in behind the fairing and in the side boxes. The sound systems are integrated so seamlessly that they enhance the appearance of the bikes. I have included some images at the end so you can admire their work.

That was my visit to Laconia Bike Week and hopefully I will visit there again, maybe for the 100th Bike Week. Warmth and friendliness was a common theme throughout the whole visit. Everyone we met on the trip was so friendly and just a note to demonstrate that: on one occasion that we pulled over to enjoy the view of the White Mountains I had parked the Lincoln Town Car in a depression of the ground on a hill. Matt said he would give me a hand to push it backwards out of the depression (as I couldn’t go forward because of a big rock just in front of the front wheel). As he was just about to push, a guy stopped his truck, jumped out, and asked were we in trouble and did we need help. He was probably a biker as that is “the biker code”, but he may have been just a random passer-by. Either way it is indicative of the easy, friendly and helpful attitude we met as a constant on this trip. A great trip and I am looking forward to this year’s adventure in Europe.