Saturday, October 31, 2015

Snippets from Copenhagen

From Germany we took a ferry out of Rostock to Denmark. Changed our Euros for Danish Kroner.

Our hotel room offered a great view overlooking old town Copenhagen. Of course we took the programmed city tour of palaces, museums, churches, etc.  Copenhagen old town is a compact flat island with more bicycles than automobiles. And more boats than bicycles, or at least it seems that way.

At the Amalienborg Palace, the Guards are young and more relaxed.  They didn't seem worried about anyone trying to break in or the royal family trying to get out. 

The opulent Christianborg Palace was void of much furniture, nice parquet floors though.

Looks like we're too early for lunch at the palace dining hall.

Trying my best to not get heads of other tourists in the picture, 
so just as I snap the photo, the fountain decides to jump in.

Many canals and waterways lined with shops and cafes, divide downtown Copenhagen into neighborhoods. 

How could we possibly go to Copenhagen and not visit the little lady.... 
who watches over the Danes cruising her waterways since 1909.

From the hotel, spotted a church with a spiral walkway around the outside of the steeple in the Christianshavn neighborhood, a different island from Old Town. Saw I could walk across a pedestrian bridge over the old moat for a closer look. 

Wandering the cobblestone streets in Christianshavn, am amazed at all the bicycles. With their mild coastal weather they say they cycle year round.

Arriving at the church, could not bring myself to violate one of my cardinal touring rules, Never pay to go into a church. God can hear me from outside as well as he can from inside.  

Noticed quite a few people walking past the church toward another area, so decided to follow the flow. Arriving at a rather funky post-hippiedom park called Christiania, or the Green Light District. 

In 1971, 700 hippies claimed squatter's rights on an unwanted abandoned military base. This weekend they are celebrating the anniversary of the occupation.  While the buying and selling of drugs is illegal in Denmark, the government has decided to ignore the potheads, idealists, non-materialists, the "Bob Marley" youngsters and "Willie Nelson" oldsters who just want a little puff. To protect their non-aggressive way of life, this self-administered neighborhood outlawed automobiles, hard drugs, firearms, explosives and violence.

The graffiti advertises busting hard drugs and celebrate grass.

The welcome sign in multiple languages, reads
Dear Friends,
There are three rules in the Green Light District.

Have fun.

Don't run, it causes panic.

No photos. Buying / selling hash is still illegal

Sorry, no more photos . You will just have to go experience it for yourself. 

Departing for Sweden by ferry, our final Danish vista is the Kronberg Castle.

Next stop, Sweden, now to find where to change our Danish Koners for Swedish Kronors.


Saturday, October 24, 2015

Snippets from Germany

This Fall Amparo and I took a three week tour of northern European capitals and Russia.  Experiencing eight countries, eight different languages and five different currencies. Juggling all of that was both fun and a challenge. This and the next few posts will be snippets from that trip. The complete story will be worked into a book for the family. So here we go...

Coming out of the airport, our first view of Berlin.  Has sort of a Star Wars feel to it. 

Once in the Art'otel, we crashed after being up for the last 23 hours. That evening we went walking...

There is new construction going up everywhere in Berlin. Since almost all of Berlin was destroyed during the War, new construction is either modern steel and glass or made to look like it was built in the 1800's. 

Of course we had to get some local cuisine...

and walk some more... Thought it interesting the doorway to Dunkin Donuts was next to the doorway to McFit on the second floor.  Get your latte and cream-filled jelly donut then walk it off on the treadmill. Both places were busy.

Mama bear hugging her soccer playing son next to headless joggers. 

The next day we bought a three day city bus pass so we could ride anywhere the buses go in city centre.  And then, none of the bus drivers checked to see if we had a pass when we boarded.  Guess they figured two grey haired tourists couldn't be dishonest. 

Seeing Brandenburger Tor was high on our list.

Library tower above and corridor below. See what I mean, new construction made to look old.

Kaiser Wilhelm church tower still stands. One of the few pieces of buildings that remained standing after the bombing of Berlin in 1945. 

Has not been restored or rebuilt. Only supported to keep it from crumbling more.  The church bells were replaced, now marking the hour every day. At noon the bells ring out a melody.

Time for a snack in an outdoor cafe. Strawberry chocolate mousse pie and hot tea while we people watch the world go by.

Even here, when shopping's done, still have texting to do.

A different type of bicycle, for delivering goods to and from stores?  Noticed most here remove the bicycle seat when they chain their bikes for the night.

We decided that English and German are similar in many ways making it easy to read signs and directions. We should probably spend a week or two exploring the rest of Germany in the near future, but for now...

on to Denmark and Copenhagen.

Auf Wiedersehen

Friday, October 16, 2015

German Enigma

On a narrow tree lined street in Berlin, sits a sidecar rig parked on the sidewalk. One’s first thought is how nice and clean it is. Not that cheap bright plastic shine, but a hand rubbed pride of ownership sheen. The smooth soft silver bodywork on a bright red frame is a strong hint that the owner has spent many hours with his hands on this beauty.  The second observation is the total absence of any logos, brand markings or labels anywhere on the bike, the engine or on the sidecar.  

The motorcycle has a familiar shape and look yet something is different. The sidecar has a comfortable old school look but… it too is not like others I have seen. Is this an Eastern Europe bike that we rarely see in the States or maybe a recently built Indian knock-off?  Definitely calls for a closer inspection.

Starting with the engine: it’s a single cylinder, air-cooled, four stroke, very clean, no grime, no dripping oil. Appears to be a mid-size 300 to 600cc?  Has a carburetor and a glass in-line fuel filter. That’s unusual. The standard gear shift and drive chain on the left side means it not older than mid-seventies though it looks to be much older. Maybe a retro fit?

 The two disk brakes with solid rotors on the front wheel says mid-seventies or newer yet a small drum brake on the rear wheel declares it's a much older bike. The trailing edge of the front fender has a low wide flare to divert water away from the engine and rider’s feet. Looks like a 1970’s bell-bottom pants leg. The front fender carries a seldom seen small chrome running light top center.  A matching running light is on the sidecar fender. A single round headlamp sits in front of a speedometer marked in kilometers. Handlebars are a chrome low rise with a wide grip. Again standard clutch on the left, front brake on the right. No windshield. No turn signals. Nothing to identify the manufacturer. 

 The seat is a custom bench seat residing above a chrome after market horn. Not unusual for an owner to replace a factory seat with a more comfortable custom. The rear fender is interesting. It’s hinged for ease of removing the rear tire, but the fender mounts are unlike any I have ever seen.  It has a small diameter old school looking taillight that matches the taillight on the sidecar fender. Maybe this rig is older than I thought.

Turning to the sidecar body, the front has that familiar torpedo shape of a Cozy brand sidecar we see in the States but this one is different.  The rear section of the body is tapered like the nose of an Indy racecar with a trunk lid and a small luggage rack. The tube body is mounted at two pivot points to the sidecar frame in front of the passenger seat. The rear of the body is hung with two chrome extension springs.

The fender looks to be a familiar design yet the running light on top and the gap between the fender and the sidecar body hints this is not factory.


 The sidecar frame itself is attached at four points to the bike, which appear to be factory mounting hardware, though not like any I have seen.  The three wheels have normal squared off sidecar tires.

Still not finding any hints as to brand or country of origin, I look around for someone to ask about who might own this rig. Have many questions to ask to resolve this enigma.

Only now I notice the rig is parked in front of a motorcycle gear shop, LOUIS Fun Company. With any luck the owner will be a customer inside buying something for his beautiful machine. Entering the store I ask the cashier if he knows who owns the sidecar rig out front.  He calls out something in German toward the back of the store.  A tall slender fortyish man with dark hair emerges from behind a stack of helmets. The cashier introduces him as Erik Haid, the sidecar owner.

 Fantastic! Erik willing shares his story of how he built this truly one of a kind rig. What good fortune, but it quickly fades once we realize our linguistic skills are not up to discussing things technical. While Erik’s English is a thousand times better than my few German phrases, we are stumbling over too many technical points. Quickly we recruit an interpreter. Thank you, Detlev Louis.

Starting with just the engine, frame and gas tank from a badly wrecked 1980 Yamaha SR500, Erik started an epic journey of building his dream sidecar rig. After removing the useless damaged parts and sections, deciding what was salvageable and what to discard, Erik spent the next seven years rebuilding with whatever parts he could source in his native Berlin from salvage yards, abandoned bikes, scavenger hunts, friend’s parts bins and neighbor’s garages. What he couldn’t find, he fabricated himself. With a limited budget of money and time, Erik applied ingenuity and creativity to meet the challenge. Very few new parts were bought. Most everything was outsourced and recycled.

The original front forks were twisted beyond repair. Searching around town, Erik found a set of forks with twin disk brakes off a Yamaha XS650. Then the headlamp, speedometer, ignition and front fender were scavenged from several different MZ BK350 bikes. Of course the many pieces from all these different manufacturers could never fit together, so Erik cut, hammered, welded and reshaped everything until they did fit. He says there was a lot of trial and error fabrication going on. He would try something, go for a test ride then rework it again until he was happy with the results. Today everything fits together seamlessly as if it came from a factory that way, just not like any other rig you have ever seen.

Erik thinks the sidecar might have been made by Globe in India. When he got a hold it, it too had been in an accident. I thought the front looks familiar but not the tail section. That’s when Erik explained the tail was smashed in so bad he had to build a new rear section of his own design. While he was at it, he added a trunk with a top lid and a chrome luggage rack.  Instead of the Cozy style rubber band mounts for the sidecar rear, Erik decided to use a pair of chrome extension springs.

He says many of the original sidecar mounting brackets and sub frame parts were missing as well as the sidecar fender. Back to scrounging for parts, Erik either outsourced or fabricated whatever he needed in order to move the project forward. He freely admits that not everything worked out on the first attempt. Many variations of parts and ideas were tried, removed, reworked, discarded and another approach tried before arriving at what we see now.

Erik says the most difficult task for him was having to completely rewire the bike and sidecar.  Having no factory wiring schematic to work from, Erik created  his own. In a burst of inspiration, Erik decided to use matching old style small diameter taillights on the bike and sidecar but the crowning touch was to mount on top of the fenders small chrome running light from an early VW Beatle.

Satisfied that everything was working properly as he wanted, Erik totally disassembled the rig, smoothed the welds, added gussets, sanded, polished and painted. Then reassembled the hundreds of parts into a smooth running machine.

Not only was Erik concerned about building a safe and smooth handling rig if his family was to ride in it, he also wanted it to look good.  An elderly German couple stopped to admire the rig while we were talking. They complimented Erik on a fine looking machine.  Looks like Erik has accomplished his goal. This sidewalk enigma is indeed a fine example of good design, hard work, resourcefulness and German ingenuity.


 After seven long hard years and countless late night hours, Erik now owns a sidecar rig that anyone in the world would be proud to call their own. 

If you are ever in Berlin, go to Louis Fun Company at GuntzelstraBe 17-18. Erik works there. Tell him you heard about his sidecar  story, his personal enigma.

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