story and photography by Mark Tuttle
Fear not, dear reader—I’ll spare you a blow-by-blow account of how my wife Genie and I spent our glorious summer 2007 vacation with 21 Rider readers in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Liechtenstein. Since we partnered with Edelweiss Bike Travel to host this inaugural Rider Museum and Castle Tour, neither will I feign to write one of our usual tour reviews. No, it seems to me the best report for all concerned—you, me and the readers on the tour—is a mostly visual one, hence the montage on the following pages.
To set the stage, suffice to say that despite some rain the tour was a terrific and memorable experience, largely due to one of the best groups of riders with which I’ve ever had the pleasure of riding. Starting and ending in Munich, Germany, with six riding days in between, our capable and hard-working guides Marco and Claus laid out two routes for the group each day. Whether you took the long or short, each route served up a platter of fine riding—first north through Germany’s scenic river valleys and farmland, then southwest toward Stuttgart on some of the winding and narrow little “white” roads in the mysterious Black Forest (think cake and cuckoo clocks) before climbing into the majestic Swiss and Austrian Alps. The high mountain passes we bagged in these two countries were too numerous to count—Klausen, Furka, Grimsel, Oberalp, Susten, Furkajoch, Flexen—and even in August snow lined the road on some of the highest over 7,000 feet. At one point the group and their bikes took a ferry across Lucerne’s Vierwaldstätter See to reach our hotel high above the lake, and in between we visited the quaint little principality of Liechtenstein and made an ascent along vineyard-lined roads into Swiss wine country.
First stop was the BMW Museum in Munich, a temporary structure until the remodeling of the original bowl across the street and the BMW World complex nearby are completed next year. BMW has still included several of its most significant bikes and cars in the temporary museum. The Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart a couple days later was an awesome contrast, as this modern, 178,000-square-foot, multistory building seems to include every significant Mercedes vehicle among its 165 on exhibit, from a replica of the 1885 Daimler-Maybach Reitwagen—the world’s first motorcycle—to Mercedes cars of the future. The twisting, towering structure is a double-helix of glass, steel and concrete blocks, each one a unique shape to form the curving walls and ceiling.
Finding worthwhile castles in Europe is much less a problem than deciding which ones to visit, and here Edelweiss did a good job of deciding for us as well as keeping the route interesting. Along the way were stops at the medieval cities of Nördlingen, Dinkelsbühl and Rothenburg, with their imposing outer walls, cobblestone streets and centuries-old architecture. Near the Black Forest our first major castle opportunity was the imposing Hohenzollern, built in 1850, then later most of the group toured mad King Ludwig’s final residence and only completed castle, the outrageously ornate Linderhof.
I was really impressed by how well most in the group handled their unfamiliar bikes on the foreign and often wet roads—we only had one minor mishap, and it was probably due to some spilled diesel. Thanks again to a cohesive group and the way Edelweiss likes to keep things casual (“You can have dinner in your riding gear,” as guide Claus liked to say), the general mood was fun and easy-going. Each night’s hotel was charming and comfortable at a minimum, some were luxurious and high in the mountains, and most dinners turned festive pretty quickly. The food was great, too, though now I guess this is starting to sound like a tour review….
Although Rider will continue to formally review other tours by Edelweiss and motorcycle tour operators around the world, I have wanted to put our stamp on an overseas group ride for a long while. So far Edelweiss—which has been in operation since 1980 and hosts nearly 2,000 tour participants every year—has offered the most flexibility in designing each year’s Rider tour around famous castles and automotive/motorcycle museums. In my opinion neither should be missed while you’re there, even if the focus is, of course, on great riding and roads.
Rider contributor Clement Salvadori will join the 2008 Rider Museum & Castle Tour, which will travel to Germany, Austria and Italy, taking in the Ducati and Ferrari museums, as well as Innsbruck and its magical Hofburg, Lake Garda, the Po River valley and amazing Dolomites. For an overview see page 63; complete details are available on the Rider magazine and Edelweiss Bike Travel websites at www.ridermag.wpengine.com and www.edelweissbike.com.