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Germany to Corsica – and Return!

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

I’ve put this ride report together from jottings I did while away, mainly for myself, as already the memories are getting a bit fuzzy on the when and where. Though not up to our resident scribes calibre, I hope it gives you an idea of what a marvellous trip it was. I will get back over and ride east from Germany into Slovenia and Croatia, maybe I can drag some adventurous among the Club along for the ride, pun intended.

Day 0

Pick up by OzAlps and given a scenic tour around Munich with the highlight being a visit to Lewis; think of a motorcycle accessory warehouse on steroids, with boots and gloves and helmets and jackets as well as everything else you may need. I couldn’t help myself and bought a pair of boots, which turned out to be a good decision with the weather about to turn for the worse. Spent the evening at our accommodation in Shongau and got to know my travelling companions, a nice bunch of Aussies

Day 1

Picked up our bikes at MARTIN BMW Motorrad Shongau, an old and historic Bavarian town about 1hr south of Munich. Yours truly hired a BMW F900R, must say I was hesitant about my choice initially but it proved to be very nimble with a good spread of power well suited to sticking it up the larger capacity bikes in the Alps.

Shaw and Marty, Sydney guys, both on F900XR’s, Paul and David from Queensland were on a R1250R and a R1250GS respectively, Pete and Sue from Dubbo on a R1250RT, Craig and Karen on a S1000XR and Rob on another F900R, all bikes brand new with only dealer service K’s on them, and of course our host and guide Cliff on his Dual Clutch automatic (yes automatic, flappy paddles and all) V4 Honda Crosstourer.

Joining us for the trip was Graham on a Hayabusa that he’d picked up from England, he was on my last trip in 2019, I have a memory of a T-shirt he had back then “I’m not Racist… I’ll Race anyone”, needless to say we ride well together……..

The rains came but we still had to get out and get to know the bikes and re-learn how to ride on the wrong side of the road, the mantra we use is “throttle to the gutter” and yell this at each other until we’re in the groove, which doesn’t take long, anyhow, after a few hours of riding in the rain back to the accomodation in Shongau to dry off and hit the bar for that always excellent German bier.

Day 2

Left Shongau on another very wet day and traversed 3 mountain passes, south into Austria and ski resort of Seefeld and through the Inns river valley. Crossed the border into Italy at Brenner, and up and over first gold pass, Penserjoch (2200m) and down to the city of Bolzano for Italian coffee. Climbed the race-track like ‘Passo della Mendola’ (1360m). Being constant rain my wet weather skills were improving. Overnighted in the village of Fondo. Hot Sauna to finish off the day. More bier

Day 3

The rain has moved away! A big ride day of stunning scenery, cruising through the Italian alpine foothills- Strada del Vino (streets of wine) - part of the vast northern vineyards.

Up and over the Passo Madonna di Campiglio, and eventually a spectacular descent to the top of Lago d’ Garda . Along the single-track’ sealed Passo Crocedomini (1890m) above Riva del Garda, the small city at the top of Lago di Garda, riding not seen in Oz.

Through a series of Italian villages and run down onto Lago d’ Iseo for well-earned rest overnight. Beautiful Lakeside restaurant, good food and more bier.

Day 4

Another traveling day across Val Pandana, the large flat plain that stretches east-west across the north of Italy from France to Venice. Interesting area, crisscrossed by ancient open canals irrigation and Italian farms. Onto the autostrada for a quick blast, the Italian equivalent of Western NSW at +150 km/h...

Up and over the Apennine Mountains in the afternoon- away from the straight roads, getting tighter and twistier as we gained height. Great riding with a succession wonderful Italian mountain villages to pass through or stop for an espresso which is like a dose of speed, certainly gets the heart pumping. Down onto the Mediterranean and continue along the Med coast to La Spezia for two nights.

Day 5

Next day a short ride up to the Cinque Terre coast, scenery overload, five fishing villages hanging off the cliffs, then back and walked La Spezia, a fantastic old style Italian coastal city with grand buildings and a harbour full of boats probably more expensive than our average house.

Day 6

Left La Spezia early, Autostrase (pegged on 150 to 160 km/h) down past Pisa to meet the ferry to cross to Corsica from Livorno, four hour ferry ride took us to Bastia, from the ferry a short ride into the hills and down to the coast for lunch, a taster of what is to come, fast flowing roads before heading back to Bastia for overnight accommodation, pizza and aaahhh bier.

Day 7

Up to blue skies and sunshine head off down the eastern side of Corsica, an introduction to why all the bike manufacturers choose these roads to release their new models to the bike press.. Roads, roads, roads, and almost too much choice for which ones to take in.

Rugged coastal vistas to end the day into accommodation overnight at Porto Vecchio, stunning and ancient town on the southern tip of the island.

Day 8

From Porto Vecchio along the southern coastline, with a mix of mountain runs. Great scenery, as well as plenty of amazing roads, and the unique French-Italian fusion of culture and food. Up in the mountains the Pigs (not the ones with blue and red flashing lights) are what we needed to look out for, you could say they are free range and have zero road sense, porky ran across in front of me and I had an immediate appreciation of the F900’s stoppers, 80 km/h to almost full stop, ABS chattering away. Not uncommon to come across a herd lolling about on the road. If it isn’t pigs it’s the goats, but these seem to be a bit more sensible.

Overnight in Ajjacio, the unofficial ‘capital’ of Corsica, a busy tourist city with old french style buildings and a beautiful harbour full of more expensive motor yachts, apparently the rich and famous cruise over from the Riviera for a change of scenery, oh to be so lucky.

Day 9

Another blue sky day and the highlight of riding Corsica – through the central Parc Naturel Régional de Corse, grand peaks and roads that are difficult to describe; ‘Jaw-dropping’ ?? Mountain up and over to long coastal cliff runs – riding paradise. The mountains need to be seen to be believed, like the Dolomites, great granite structures. Monte Cinto the tallest is 2700metres with 19 other peaks above 2000 metres, most can be viewed with the Mediterranean as the back drop, more scenery overload.

Riding up the western coast, mostly roads on the cliff edge, sea on one side and mountains above to our overnight stop at Calvi, an old port city, with an amazing citadel fortress and a harbour flanked by snow capped peaks.

Day 10

Two nights in Calvi, rest day, no riding for me, I opted for a sleep in, a haircut and a walk, then seafood and……..bier.

Day 11

Next day across the top of the island back to Bastia, the mountains drop down on the northern tip but the roads stay fast and flowing until close to Bastia where the coastal burbs start, load up on the ferry and watch as Corsica fades into the night, would I go back?……..shit yeh! Overnight on the ferry from Bastia to Savona on the western Italian mainland.

Day 12

Morning into Savona, unloaded the bikes off the ferry and headed into the hills out of Savona. By lunchtime well and truly back in the Alps - snow capped mountain vistas and roads with perfect cambers and not a pot hole to be seen anywhere, over

Col d’ Lombardo and Col la Bonette at 2715m (highest in Europe!) and Route des Grandes Alpes – roads regularly featured in the Tour de France. Overnight Barcelonnette, very French alpine town surrounded by the Alps

Barcelonnette is situated in the heart of the French ‘Maritime Alps’ - the riding from here is incredible in all directions. Two nights in Barcellonette so did a bit of local riding, Col d`Allos (2250m), Col des Champs (2090m), Col de la Cayolle (2230m), turned out to be a big day but well worth it! afternoon thunderstorms chased us back to Barcellonette, but didn’t catch us. Tried Snails that night after a few biers, say no more, I’ll leave them to the French…..

Day 14

Big ride day, but in the rhythm now, great mountain passes, Col d’Izoard (2360m), as well as the Col de Galibier (2645m) and Col de Madeleine (1995m), full day of beautiful mountain roads chasing the larger capacity bikes up and over, by now I’m well impressed by the “little” F900, not quite scratching but the side of the boots were getting a work out!

Overnight in Bourg Saint Maurice at a ski resort great food and…….bier.

Day 15

More good weather, traverse from France into Italy, and end the day in Switzerland.

Up and over the Petit Saint Bernard (2185m) with fresh hot-mix descent on the Italian side. Two metre deep snow drifts on the side of the road up above 1500metres. We were to follow along the Aosta valley before climbing the Grande Saint Bernard (2470m) and up and over the Furkapaβ (2430m), but due to the rain we had at the start of the trip bringing snow up high both of these passes were still closed.

Diversion was back into Italy and along the length of Lago Maggiore, can’t complain about that! then back into Switzerland and over the Gottard Pass 2106m, a road on the way up that is cantilevered off the side of the mountain, spectacular to say the least! It was blue skies on the way up only to be hit by a blizzard at the top so we all huddled under an overhang and donned the wet weather gear in -2c temp and set off, ten minutes later the temperature rose, the afternoon sun shone and the road dried up.

Andermatt was the overnight stop at the end of a long but satisfying day, almost 12hrs riding, so a grappa or two was called for followed by a plate of pasta and ……bier, slept well that night! Think of the quintessential Swiss valley and that’s it, green pastures and wildflowers surrounded by snow capped mountains, throw in the cow bells ringing all round…….

Day 16

More good weather and a rough west-east course, all up high, along the Tiefencastell road and around the Älplihorn and Piz Buin Mountain peaks. More of the Swiss high passes, including the Flüelapass (2385m), over the Austrian Reschenpaβ (1500m) and into overnight in Imst, Tyrolia. Tonight was “death by meat night” the local Gasthof had pig on a spit plus potatoes (what else) all you can eat for 20 euro, so meat and bier it was.

Last day and over the Hahntennjoch (1895m) south-north, Berwanger Strasse, along the lake edge of Plansee, over to Garmisch Partenkirchen, an old and historic town under Germanies tallest Mountain ‘Zugspitze’ and into Oberammergau, another old and historic town (they lots over there) famous for its christmas markets and traditional murals on the buildings. Finally a cruise in the German country side to a lunch of baked duck in a monastery restaurant before back to Schongau.

All up a trip that will stay with me as another “trip of a lifetime”, lots of riding, rain, snow, temperatures ranging from -2c to 28c, and arguably the best roads in the world….money bloody well spent!

Some observations

  • Speed Cameras. Italy has orange “boxes” on the side of roads, most don’t have anything in them, if they do the locals happily vandalise them until the authorities give up and remove any camera that may be inside.

  • France has speed cameras but they are well marked with plenty of sign posted warnings, if you get booked it’s only your own fault.

  • Germany, Austria and Switzerland put them in towns, so you respect the 50 km/h areas, I didn’t see or hear any revving or speeding in the towns or cities that is all too common over here. In Germany 15 km/h over the limit will cost a 30 Euro fine!

  • Country roads are unlimited, within reason, they will book you for driving dangerously if they see you and you are hammering along, though no one is looking.

  • They do have unmarked cars with cameras policing the autobahns, tailgating, erratic driving and not moving over to let faster traffic pass is mostly what they look for, they won’t pull you over, you just get a fine in the mail with your picture.

  • You will not see “Highway Patrols” or cameras hidden on the side of the roads, nor stupid changes of speed limits (80,90,100kph) unless there is roadworks. Once you hit the Alps and the passes, or away from villages and towns then we’re all grown ups and responsible for ourselves.

  • If there are too many bike accidents on a given stretch of road I did hear they just close the that stretch to bikes at certain times of the year, make your own mind up.

  • Italy is a great place to ride, most Italians started on mopeds and scooters at a young age, they respect motorcyclists and there is always an extra lane, not marked, down the centre for motorcycles, drivers will make space for a motorcycle to pass.

  • Then there’s the German drivers. They stick to the rules and expect everyone else to do the same “hell has no fury like a mildly inconvenienced German”, same for the Swiss and Austrians, you just pick your spot and get past them.

  • Finally there’s the unpredictable French…….say no more.

All up the Europeans seem to have a much more relaxed attitude to “speed” with no emphasis on revenue raising. Having said that, Europeans have much better driver training and therefore better skills and attitude than the majority of tin top drivers Downunder.

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