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15th April 2009

Erzgebirge and Beyond - Part 1
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Phil Speakman points his MZ ES250/2 eastwards towards an MZ rally and some Eastern Bloc excursions. First stop; Hameln and Thuringia..

Always looking for a possible new idea for a holiday, I'd placed a few questions on the web site about old bike events taking place in Germany. My Dresden based friend Lothar had been dangling the occasional worm, hoping I would bite and start contributing to their web forum. Eventually his patience finally paid off.

The consensus of opinion from the forum contributors who'd responded to me, was that I should attend their Spring meeting at Sosa. Located on the western edge of in the Erzgebirge (Ore mountain) region, Sosa stands on the very doorstep of what used to be known as Bohemia. Planned was a weekend of camping (with the option of sleeping indoors in a comfy warm bed for Big Gurlie Wusses), drinking, eating and a few ride outs, though not necessarily in that order. It wasn't a holiday in itself, more a grain of sand around which a pearl of a jaunt could coalesce.

Dutifully I filled in all the details on my "Big Gurlie Wuss" application form and spent a little time online looking for other things to do to keep myself amused either side of the weekend.

Dresden was where I really wanted to end up after the meeting, as I had always wanted to see the rebuilt Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) so that was taken as read. However, after that I didn't really have any firm plans other than possibly skirting north around Berlin towards the Baltic coast and Mecklenburg Vorpommern. Another possibility was to head southwards into the Czech Republic, before looping gradually back towards home via Bavaria? Eventually I relaxed about it all, as long as my ES250/2 was running well, I could worry about it after I'd visited Dresden.

The Hull Rotterdam ferry about to do it's usual trick... MZ ES250/2

I had done my usual trick of booking 4 weeks off work in one continuous lump, starting from the second week in May. The Hull - Rotterdam ferry deposited me safely onto the precariously maintained shores of the low countries at 9am and I set about making for Hannover via the motorways, before turning south for the first night's stop in Hameln. I'd booked a hotel there, simply because I remembered the story of the Pied Piper from my childhood, but mainly because it was a perfect place to stop in readiness for exploring Thuringia during the following day. One thing I wasn't expecting, was the number of British squaddies still square-bashing throughout the town. As I left the following morning, three squaddies were sweeping up outside the entrance to their barracks. As they stopped to look at my 250 Trophy, from the look on their faces, I think the last thing they expected was for the rider to berate them with, "Eh up lads, now then, no slacking !!"

The previous day, my luggage laden ES250/2 trophy had happily sat at 60-65mph for hour after hour on the autobahns. However, today would be a far more leisurely affair, with me sticking to the smaller roads, southwards towards Suhl. Shortly after lunch, I parked up outside the old Simson factory in order to take a few photographs of whatever was left of the enterprise. The large factory complex has now been split up into individual industrial units, some of them still manufacturing Simson moped parts, though many appear to be standing empty. At the entrance however is a display building, showing a few of their past production models.

Wonder what the other side of phil's bike looks like? MZ ES250/2 outside the former Simson factory

Shortly after taking a few snaps, I found myself engaged in a one sided conversation with a pleasant, though unkempt and slightly wobbly local resident of a similar age to myself, who'd taken a shine to my MZ Trophy. He engaged me as a witness to an authoritative and at times extremely solemn monologue, often illuminating his words with wild uninhibited alcohol fuelled gesticulations.

'Trials' bikes on

Despite me not understanding one single word of what he said, I know for certain that he was describing to me with great enthusiasm and indeed moments of poignancy, the sheer awe inspiring scale of past operations at this factory and the sense of glory that this now run down site had once possessed. He had clearly worked there during its heyday; doing, from what I could gather, a job that had something to do with headstock manufacture.

After enthusing at me for a while longer about the condition of my Trophy, he eventually shook my hand for the umpteenth time before finally allowing me to mount my motorcycle and ride away in the direction of Sosa. Sadly, I can't help but feel that his own personal downward spiral was inextricably linked to that of the former Simson works.

That evening I found a room in an inexpensive small guesthouse in the centre of a small town that by 7pm was completely closed. Every single bar, restaurant and food outlet had shut up shop leaving me walking the streets alone. This has surprised me in the past, but not any more. I had it explained to me with brutal simplicity by a waitress in a Marienberg restaurant one Saturday evening the previous year.

My entirely innocent question as to, "Where is everybody?" was answered after a long cold stare during which she appeared to be probing the very depths of my stupidity.

After some length, once she had evidently satisfied herself that the apparent unfathomable depths of my ignorance were indeed beyond the reach of man, she replied in such a way as to entertain no further discussion. "Nobody has any money," she said curtly and promptly left to draw up my bill. I seem to remember that that was an early night to bed too.

Same side of the bike again, this time by the Bascul bridge...

I'd decided to take a little detour into the Czech Republic on the way westwards to Sosa, just to say I'd been there. Well that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. You'd never get me admitting that I'd found myself in another country, simply by taking the wrong road out of Klingenthal by mistake. Besides, around here everywhere looks the same due the dense coniferous woodlands.

The weather had remained good so far, but as I climbed higher into the Vogtland National park, the weather became what could be described as changeable. Violently changeable would be a more realistic description, with intense electrical storms rolling through the region sometimes on an hourly basis. During these downpours it is better to stop and seek shelter not just as protection from riding through a wall of water (for that is what it is like) but from the bolts of lightning looking for an easy route to earth.

I had learned the lightning lesson many years ago, whilst riding my Honda VFR750 through the Austrian Alps. Keeping an eye on a glowering storm front closing in from my left, the road out of an anonymous alpine village gave me hope that its direction would allow me to beat the weather, if I was quick. As I left the outskirts of the village, a bolt of lightning made landfall directly on the centre white line barely one hundred yards ahead of me, burning its downward path into my retinas as a jagged blood red line in my minds eye.

I decided that the better part of valour was discretion and immediately returned to the village. Picking the nearest house, I parked on their drive and sheltered under the wide eaves whilst the storm raged around me. Once the puzzled owners of the property returned, I pointed at the sky and simply shrugged, they smiled and before I rode on, together we transferred their load of newly purchased bedding plants into their garage. It was the least I could do.

The final ride up to the Rote Grube campsite at Sosa (, or the Red Pit to you and me, involved a steady climb to more than 3,000 feet above sea level. The last 5 miles or so were a slow steady second gear ride on gravel forestry tracks, before I eventually emerged from the dark corridor of fir trees and parked up. I had just enough time to plant a kiss on the top of the headlamp of my Trophy before a beer was pushed into my grateful hand. Finally after a little more than 700 miles I'd made it to the Sosa Spring Treffen.


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