The DB Bahn (railways) in Düsseldorf in Germany, to catch the DB Autozug (car train) to Alessandria in the north of Italy. That’s where we were heading on that sunny Wednesday in July. Our Harley-Davidson, named Big Black, was glad to finally have free rein again and roared his pleasure, carrying V-man and myself plus a large travel bag eastward. Yes ladies, only one bag for our luggage. There were side bags on the bike, but those were small and contained our rain gear, two pair of shoes and my toiletry. But who needs clothes when you’re going to Italy, right? I didn’t even pack a pair of jeans; only shorts, a skirt and a dress. Plus tank tops, shirts and a sweater. The other accessories should be obvious.
We arrived rather early at the train station and watched the proceedings. Which didn’t proceed as smoothly as we hoped for. For some reason, unknown to us, the rows of waiting cars and bikes got longer and longer. The whole road was blocked, which did provide us with an interesting spectacle of people and machinery. But the mood was relaxed, the temperature very agreeable and over two weeks of freedom just ahead of us.
Finally – hours later – the boarding sign was given and V-man rode his Harley onto the train, making sure he didn’t hit his head on the metal bars that passed just inches over his head. Then cars were loaded on the second floor and after securing the motor bike, we were on our way to our sleeping cabin. A small cabin. For six people. Including six bunk beds, two of them stuck halfway to the wall. That might get a little crowded! Fortunately only two others entered: a Dutchman (also a biker) who lives near Maastricht, and a German student. Nice guys. And so I spent the night with three men, which of course kept me awake all night. So much for the ‘soothing rocking train’.
In Düsseldorf we had met a couple of Belgian guys, also going on holiday, but to France. Or Spain. My brain was too foggy to remember. The train split up halfway to take our four compartments to Alessandria, and the others to… well, to where ever they were going. Somewhat later – the trains had moved back and forth a bit – suddenly a figure appeared in the disconnected train on the tracks beside us. It was one of the Belgian guys, who had taken out his (extremely odd) guitar and was beckoning me to get closer. I jumped into the aisle and leaned out of the window, while he was doing the same on the other train. Then he started playing and singing. More and more people gathered in both trains, and when finally the trains started to move in opposite directions, we were clapping and laughing out loud. That man knew how to party!
After a very nourishing – NOT – breakfast, we arrived in Italy. We had made it to Italy! But Big Black was nowhere in sight. That took another two hours in the searing heat, waiting for the train to find the right track and unload at a docking station. At that point a very funny railway lady appeared, who made a real show out of directing the passengers to the right train compartment and the right floor in the right time to get their car/bike. She would canter after people who didn’t obey her orders, screaming her instructions over and over again, in Italian, French and English. It took forever, but the effect was hilarious. Soon after, we were cruising the Italian roads, which lead us straight to Florence, or Firenze (in Italian).
Do you have any idea how difficult it is to safely park a Harley-Davidson in a huge city? Our B&B didn’t have a parking space and directed us to an underground garage halfway across town. Over one-way roads. I almost kissed our Garmin GPS device, but her nagging nasal voice kept me from it. The parking garage. Right. A barrier blocked our entry. But that would open with a ticket! After punching the keys for the fifth time, I started to get irritated. No ticket. Only the words ‘no vehicle available’. Well I’ll be damned, there was a six hundred pound bike on its territory! V-man rode back and forth, but we still got the same message. I tried typing in the registration, but it just didn’t budge.
It was hot. I decided to use the information button and buzzed the person on the other side. After several tries, a voice in three quarters Italian and one quarter English told me ‘Ah, senza motori, NO motor bikes in garage!’ and then disconnected. I gazed at my black knight – sweat pouring down my face in the horrible heat of Florence – slithered my helmet over my wet tresses and got back on. I was screaming with frustration in my head but kept quiet. Back to the B&B!
After a few phone calls we were redirected to a hotel, only 200 meters down the road. Which had a private parking we could use. I could kiss the B&B lady out of pure thankfulness for getting us out of the heat, into the coolness of our room. And the shower. In stead, I kissed my V-man. In the evening we strolled into the old center. I’ll leave you with these photos. Goodnight, my friends.