|White Cliffs in Dover|
We made it with time to spare, and after a painless two hour cruise, we escaped to mainland Europe. We met an extremely nice English couple named Clyde and Julia that actually volunteered to have us follow them to Belgium, since they were going the same direction. We wouldn't even need to navigate! It was extremely nice of them; they even corrected a wrong turn for us after we got onto the freeway in the wrong direction. Thanks again guys!
We left France fairly quickly, and after a quick beer in Belgium, moved on to Germany where we attempted to find a campsite in the dark near our goal of Cochem. At night, everything seems like a sketchy place to sleep. Every footprint in the mud is the freshly laid track of an axe wielding drug dealer. We hastily found a lit parking lot, and hoped that we wouldn't be confronted by the cops or the locals.
As it turned out, the concerns of the previous night were baseless; the parking lot was actually adjacent to a small suburban development. We were more likely to run into thugs in Superior, Colorado than at our campsite. Besides an angry dog, we got out of the town without being confronted and managed to escape to one of our primary German destinations, Burg Eltz.
We did not quite know what to expect, but after a pleasant short hike through though the woods we took a corner and saw this amazing castle in the middle of an isolated German valley. Based on the dissimilar architecture it was clear that the castle was built up over time. The structure had a fascinating history, at one point it was under siege for 5 years (long enough for the intruders to build a permanent fort on top of one of the surrounding hills). The collection of artifacts was stunning as well. We even had a chance to get some good German food and beer from the on-site restaurant!
After leaving Burg Eltz, we set to work on the Perodua's exhaust in the parking lot. It's been contacting the right rear shock, the bumper, as well as a suspension strut mount. We solved most of the problems by cutting off some of the bumper with Byron’s multi-tool, securing the exhaust away from the shock with some wire, and wrapping the contact area with some aluminum tape. Hopefully this will last 10,000 miles! A nice German/American family also stopped by to check out the car and ask some questions while we were doing the repair, the kids even signed the car! We're going to try to take some pictures at random places so that they can see their names move across the continent.
|The team at the Nurburgring|
After the castle adventure, we set upon fulfilling Byron's automotive fantasy of driving on the Nurburgring. This is a 13 mile track, and is classified as a Gernan highway, which allows anyone to take their car onto the track and drive it as fast as they're able, whether it be a Porsche 911 GT3RS, or in our case, a 2006 Perodua Kelisa with a 3 cylinder 54 hp engine, with 4 people in it. We were, by far, the slowest car on the track, but I think we absolutely had the most fun. Everyone in the car was calling out passing cars, relaying information, and chanting that the highest priority was getting the car to Mongolia. It was a team effort that makes us all the more confident that we're ready for the challenges ahead!
Thursday was one of our best days yet, we woke up clean (ish) after our recent showers, and booked it for Prague after packing up. Prague is a beautiful city, built on a river in the Czech Republic. Just as we found some illegal parking near the hostel, a guy rides his bike up to us on the street and says that he did the rally in 2009! This is the third person we've randomly run into that has done the rally in the past. His name is Burt, and he provided several recommendations for food and drinks in the surrounding area, as well as recommendations for what to see in Prague. He quickly realized during the rally that he wasn't going to be able to return to his past life in Virginia, and has been travelling the world ever since.
Unfortunately, we decided to get the Getz to Vienna a few days early so that the wobble that popped up after the crash into the ditch could be inspected, so Michael, Byron, and Tom all left Prague a bit early to get this done. Nick, Joyce and Alex would stay in Prague until Saturday, and then we'd meet up in Vienna so that we could convoy down to Turkey. It's a risk separating, but we decided this would be the best way to fix the car and let everyone who really wanted to see Prague not have to miss out.
It turned out that the drive through the Southern Czech Republic and Northern Austria is a beautiful drive, with sunflower fields, wheat farms, small picturesque lakes and rivers, and an abundance of interesting architecture. We stopped the car a few times to take pictures and video because the landscape was so gorgeous.
|Taking a break from driving in the Czech Republic|
Vienna's architecture is stunning, every building seems to have its own character and identity, but at the same time each is fitting with the overall style of the town itself. The three of us stayed with Tom's sister Katie and her husband Mandi, who were extremely welcoming and inviting, giving us an opportunity to wash our clothes and recharge (physically, mentally, and electrically).
Stay tuned for an update from the Prague contingent!