2017 International Gathering of Ulysses Clubs: Eppelborn, Germany
The smallest parts of countries tend to be special. England’s smallest county, Rutland, has the motto “Multum in Parvo” (Much in Little) and has a distinctiveness that attracts tourists. In Saarland, Germany’s smallest state, you will see car stickers proclaiming “Großes entsteht immer im Kleinen” (Large things always arise in small things). This compact state is the home of Ulysses Club Germany, the host club of the 2017 International Gathering held over the Pentecost holiday weekend in early June this year.
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Saarland’s central location makes it ideally suited for such a meeting. Bounded by France, Luxembourg and the large German state of Rhineland Palatinate, Saarland provides a good base for visiting the Vosges, the Mosel, the Rhine and the hilly Eifel and Hunsruck regions. If you ask one of the club members how long it takes to ride to any interesting tourist spots in these areas you will receive the reply “About one and a half hours.” Saarland itself provides much of interest to see; the forested hills are riddled with empty roads that are ideal for motorbike trips.
On the Friday evening visiting riders from Ulysses clubs in Great Britain, France, Switzerland, Norway and Australia started to congregate in the Schutzenhaus (“shooting house”) bar and restaurant in the countryside just outside Eppelborn. Proprietors Anne and Stefan had worked hard to set out marquees, tables and an outside bar to cater for the gathering crowd. With typical German efficiency tickets were on sale for drinks and food and the serving staff worked hard to ensure that members’ glasses were filled with local beer and wine. We were warmly welcomed by our German hosts and it was good to meet up with friends from previous years and get to know new faces from the various countries. In all more than 100 members attended the event and we counted at least 70 bikes.
At 10am on the Saturday the local petrol station (the “OIL Tankstelle”) provided the meeting place for the group rides. Armed with coloured ribbons riders located their group leaders amongst the growing mass of motorbikes. Although, as might be expected in this country, BMW GSs seemed to dominate, there was a ride range of marques, models and ages of bikes on show to engage members in earnest discussion and tyre-kicking. Ride leaders set off with their multinational groups, proud to take us on a tour that showed off the best of Saarland’s roads and viewpoints. The organisation was impeccable and the various groups were able to meet up at various locations including the lunch stop at Saarschleife, a lofty viewpoint that provided a stunning vista over a huge meander in the River Saar. The roads were traffic-free and a pleasure to ride on, the villages were quaint and a glimpse into gardens would reveal the tripods of the “Schwenker” swinging barbecues, a well-known feature of this small state.
The Schutzenhaus was packed on the Saturday evening and the crowd was treated to a performance from “The Ipcress Project”, a talented band led by club member Christoph. We enjoyed classic rock and blues sounds from the 60s and 70s including, of course, Cream’s “Tales of Brave Ulysses”. Multi-lingual speeches by Gernot Mining, president of the German Ulysses Club emphasised the strong feeling of community offered by such a meeting. The German club had even organised a weekend of warm summer weather which allowed us to sit outside into the late night.
Sunday’s ride took us into the beautiful Hunsruck-Hochwald national park part of which is in the neighbouring state, Rhineland Palatinate (about one and a half hours from Eppelborn!). There was some fabulous riding through forested hills and the stop at a skiing centre provided an assembly point for an impressive array of bikes in the huge car park. Even though this was a holiday weekend, the roads were empty enough for the riders to enjoy the sweeping bends and the beautiful views.
A final evening at the Schutzenhaus provided members to share plans for their journeys on the Monday. While some would be starting the often long ride home, others had plans to ride the Nurburgring, which is only about one and a half hours away, or extend their holiday with a trip to the Italian Lakes and Austria. Farewells were said and members left with an overwhelming feeling of warmth and friendship that resulted from this wonderful opportunity for Ulysses members to get together. We are so grateful to Gernot and the members of the Ulysses club for hosting and organising such a successful weekend and for offering such a warm and genuine welcome to the visiting Ulysseans. Saarland may be a small state but it has a big heart!
Pete Bull (“Twoshedspete”), Ulysses Club Great Britain