no, we are not in our Buzz Lightyear outfits!!
We're back in our motorbike gear heading east across Russia until the road runs out. Just to be rebels we'll occasionally turn south to take in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan & Mongolia on our way. There will be a blog but as usual it will be weeks behind. If you want to be more up todate you can try the official blog at http://www.londontomagadan.com/an-intro-london-to-turkey-ii/
We started out from the Ace Cafe with 15 antipodeans and 1 American and headed for Rouen, France. After only 1 night we left the group - but only temporarily, they are head down through Turkey and across the Black Sea to Sochi in Russia. While we are partying our way across Europe visiting friends in Brussels, Berlin & Warsaw then heading down to Sochi via Ukraine.
First stop – Rouen with its wonky half-timbered houses, the spot where Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake and the cathedral so often painted by Monet.
Second stop – the Somme Battlefields. Maybe a strange choice but later in the trip we'll visit famous WWII
battle sites and ride on roads built by Gulag prisoners so it seems only right to give WWI a quick nod. It was so worth going - its an amazingly beautiful place. Within almost every field of view there's a cemetery often sat in the middle of a giant wheat field surrounded by a copse of tall trees. The cemeteries are so well cared for – perfectly mown grass, rows of simple white headstones each with an individual beds of flowers at its foot. It is just so incredibly beautiful & tranquil & peaceful so not what it would have been like all those years ago.
At key places there are monuments to the lost & missing. On 1st
July 1916 the British & French attacked the German front line, by the end of the day the British had suffered 57,000 casualties, 20,000 of them dead. When the battle ended on 8th
Nov 1916 the British Army had suffered 400,000 causalities, over 70,000 bodies were never found. Each country involved (Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland etc.) has its own memorial and museum telling their story. From the top of the Canadian Monument at
Nwefoundland Park, Beaumont-Hamel you can see the British & German trenches stretching out in front of you, even the twisted metal poles that held the barbed wire in place in front of the trenches are still there.
There are some stunning bronze panels at the South African memorial at Delville Wood, Longueval. On 14th
July 3,151 South Africans entered the wood to defend it against relentless German attacks. When they were relieved 5 days later only 780 men walked out. The bronze panel “the sixth day” just sums it up perfectly.
Third stop - the Technical Museum in Speyer & Sinsheim to see the Tupolev Tu-144 (Concordski) sat on the roof alongside Concorde and the Russian Braun Space Shuttle which you can actually climb inside. Space travel is going to be another theme for the trip so it was nice to catch up with these 2 before we enter Russia and pass the places they were made and launched from.
So far we've mostly been on main roads getting from A to B but finally we get to do some real riding as Robert leads
us down the winding back roads between Warsaw and the Ukrainian border. So here we are ready to leave Europe and step into uncharted territory
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