- International Event
Submitted by : Laura Swart
We first heard about the H-D 115 Rally in Prague late in 2017 from our Czech friends Jan and Georgie of HOG Jhb, who were returning to the Czech Republic for their annual holiday. They suggested that this was going to be something special, as this was both the H-D 115 anniversary and the biggest Harley Event of the year in Europe. We didn’t need much convincing and started chatting to a few of our friends who have toured with us before, thinking that this could be a great opportunity to visit new places and experience a truly global Harley event. Before we could blink, word spread and we soon had 18 eager bikers all on board for our adventure.
Planning and timing was on our side, and we managed to secure the Harleys we all wanted from “House of Flames” in Munich Germany, who were super-efficient. From experience, if you are planning such a trip, always start with the bikes so you know what you are getting. By leaving it for the last minute you are almost certainly going to end up with the wrong bike or none at all. Our group also opted to have a backup vehicle, to assist with luggage and driven by licensed rider who could fill in should anything happen to one of our bike riders. This proved to be invaluable, as our tour leader was recovering from surgery and gladly shared the riding and driving so as to not undo his recovery.
We started our adventure in Munich, an energetic city with a great mix of aged and modern buildings and a spiders web of roads and freeways, where we collected our trusty steeds and had to learn very quickly about riding in Europe on the “right” side of the road, being rather unfamiliar to us all. We had many laughs about everything being back to front, but thankfully no safety issues.
As we spent 2 nights in Munich, there was time to see a small part of the city, including our introduction to the culture of “Beer Gardens” where one can enjoy a great meal and a few beers in the warm summer weather outdoors. (the sun only sets around 9pm) where families and groups meet and socialise in sprawling gardens.
Our first day tip was to “Dachau”, one of the WW2 concentration camps, this was a very sobering experience, where we got to visit a place filled with memories of great horror, torture and cruelty and also the resilience of the human spirit of those who survived. To be honest, this place left me with a very heavy heart bearing witness to just how inhumane people can become in times of war or if left unchecked and following ideals that make any group of humans lesser than another This should be a warning to everyone in the world and our country.
Following this, we headed north to Nuremburg for a 2 night stopover. We stayed on the main roads, which are incredibly well maintained and where everyone follows the rules, another shock for our South African bikers, but we tried our best. The countryside was lush and green as far as the eye could see, with many farms and small colourful towns along the route. Another revelation was the massive use of solar and wind energy production spread across the whole country, with towering wind turbines and fields of solar panels on the land and many building rooftops, clearly showing that a commitment to renewable clean energy for everyone is possible.
Once in Nuremburg, we were treated to more of the local sights as one member of our group, Marco, who is local, took the lead to show us his home and surrounding area. We visited a castle nestled up in the woods and had lunch at a biker beer garden in the lush green countryside, only light beer of course as we were all on bikes. Once again even the smaller country roads are meticulously maintained which makes for a fantastic riding experience, through the many smaller villages and hamlets sprinkled around the countryside. We were treated to a German tea/coffee break at Marco’s family home, with a very warm welcome to all the Harley folk and an abundance of cakes and treats that could feed a small army.
On our last night in Nuremburg we once again headed to a local beer garden where we met up with the Nuremburg HOG chapter director and a few local HOG members for dinner and a some craft beers before we headed out to the Czech Republic early the next day.
Although the countryside in both Germany and the Czech Republic are very similar in terms of landscape, there is a definite change in feel as the remnants of the post-Soviet influence can be seen in the buildings and infrastructure as we crossed over the Germany, Czech border en route to Karlovy Vary for our 1 night stay before we met up with our Czech friends and guides/hosts from MDA Riders.
We were recommended to try a dinner at a local Czech restaurant in the heart of the city which seems to come alive only after the work day ends. The food was great and portions large and as we had avoided the touristy areas the prices were reasonable too, and everything was just a brisk walk from our hotel.
Onward to Prague, we were met en route by Jan and Georgie and our host Kada from MDA riders, who looked after us over the next 5 days while in Prague and attending the H-D 115 Anniversary rally. We could not have asked for more, as over the next few days we would see the city and surrounding countryside and towns that would have remained unexplored if it was not for our most welcoming hosts. But I am getting ahead of myself, so let’s take it step by step.
We were safely marshalled through the bustling streets of this beautiful old city by our guides, somewhat daunting with the trams, busses, taxis and an abundance of bicycles and pedestrians everywhere. Everything has a fast paced energy and with narrow roads, cobbles and tram lines, at first it was rather overwhelming, especially trying to keep all the Harleys together, but our hosts took control and delivered us safely to the door of the Golden Crown hotel, an old but pristine hotel that was our home for the next 5 nights.
We had asked our hosts to show us more than just the city and rally, and they did not disappoint us, starting with a “Dungeon Dinner” in a genuine medieval dungeon restaurant called “Vina’rna u Pavouka” with a set meal , live dance and fiery entertainment as we enjoyed endless complimentary glasses of wine and beer.
The following day was our first visit to the rally site, to register and collect our rally packs and look around, this was definitely a lot bigger than we could ever imagine. The rally area was located at the state show grounds and buildings. The only RSA comparison may be our “Nasrec exhibition Centre” … but for Harley’s only. We believe that over the rally period there were in excess of 63 000 Harley Davidsons and close on 100 000 guests attending the event. The sprawling grounds hosted stalls for the various Harley Davidson clubs, military exhibitions, shopping area, numerous beer gardens and music stages for the live bands that played day and night for the crowds. The exhibition halls showcasing custom bikes, vintage bikes and the latest Harley models and accessories available were alive with crowds taking shelter from the summer heat and viewing what was on offer. You could walk around for days and not see everything.Bikers of all ages, shapes, sizes and nationalities blending together celebration their love of Harley Davidson.
Our next treat was riding through the Czech Republic countryside and small villages to a lunch in a 600 year old restaurant, next to the remains of a gothic cathedral and onto the mysterious 13th century bone church, “Kutna Hora”, which is adorned with thousands of human bones… rather macabre but via a guided tour we learnt that the bones were preserved in honour of the persons whose graves had been dis-interred to make way for new building. Most interesting and another highlight of the tour.
The group had a lot of free time in Prague, with people choosing to visit the rally, attend the mass ride through the city, visit the main castle and cathedrals, bridges and museums and open markets in town or shopping and dining out, but always getting together for a group dinner and comparing stories of the day’s activities as there was just so much to see and never enough time. We even had a rooftop birthday celebration dinner overlooking the busy streets of the old town and a landmark 60th birthday celebration for another member the following evening.
Our last Czech excursion was yet another treat with beautiful country roads to a hillside castle filled with the requisite suits of armour and historic battle stories and then a lunch in Mělník chateaux, where we were personally welcomed into the home-grounds of the county Prince and his family, overlooking where the Elbe and Vltava rivers meet. We bade farewell to our hosts from MDA Riders at a dinner on the “Vltava river” on board a brewery ship, where thanks was given and gifts exchanged and promises to meet again.
Our next destination was Vienna, the capital of Austria, for 2 days, where we had our stay perched high on the hill on the outskirts of the city in a majestic hotel overlooking the wondrous lights and sounds of the city below us. We were pampered and had to try the original “Vienna Schnitzel” of course. With a requisite outride the following day to Harley Davidson dealerships in neighbouring Bratislava, Slovakia and one in Vienna for the obligatory souveniers of our journey.
We started our journey back towards Germany with a 1 night stopover in Linz overlooking the great Danube river and a trip through the Austrian Alps on route to Salzburg.
Now this was a ride to remember, summer in the Alps is picture postcard perfect, with large blue fresh water lakes, and endless switch backs up the mountains to the top of the ski slopes for lunch, then higher still to a lake at the foot of a still frozen glacier. And back through the mountains, rolling hills and winding roads into Salzburg where we stayed 1 block from Mozart’s house.
Sadly every great adventure must have an ending, and our intrepid adventurers headed back to Munich to hand over the bikes, which had carried us through some of the most beautiful places and roads that Germany, Czech Republic, Austria and Slovakia have to offer, before we had to say farewell to some of our group who were staying on or travelling further.
Definitely an adventure of a lifetime with fantastic friends, and just so much to be thankful for with the companionship, laughter and shared memories of this epic motorcycle touring adventure, until next time.