July 6, 2012
As luck would have it, Graham has learned that the German MotoGP is on at the famous Sachsenring just about the time we are heading past on our way to Berlin.
So a slight detour has us in Meerane, a former East German regional centre, for three nights.
It’s only 15-25 minutes, depending on which way the gps sends us, from the race circuit and we feel lucky to have found Wolf and his brand new guest house as almost every other bed is booked out within a 50km radius.
We were on the verge of bypassing the whole event, especially as websites are telling us the GP is sold out as well. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.
We head to the circuit on race day regardless, to try our luck with scalpers if necessary, but there are plenty of general admission, single-day tickets for sale at the office. Fantastic.
The Sachsenring is a twisting circuit built on and around a natural amphitheatre so we park ourselves on the hill with the mob, in front of a large screen. Graham says it reminds him of Amaroo race track back in the day.
We are all ready to sing the Aussie national anthem again but Casey crashes during a last-minute challenge for the lead on the last corner.
It has been raining on and off for the past couple of days and as we leave the track it BUCKETS down. Luckily we’ve made it back to a shelter near our bike … we’re parked in a car wash bay. Some rude Germans try to get Graham to stand in the rain so they can get their bikes under cover! I have never seen angry Graham I realise. I hope he doesn’t get in a fight!
We have arrived in Meerane via Duren, a less than impressive German city near Aachen, and a pretty little town called Eisenach, home to JS Bach and, for a time, Martin Luther. I visit the Bach museum and wangle my way into a presentation on the various types of organs and pianos in use during Bach’s time. The presenter, who appears to be a college music student, explains that the rest of the audience is German so I won’t understand the commentary. I tell him I just want to hear the music.
At some point we cross the old East-West German border although there are few remnants of it left. Meerane, however, bears all the hallmarks of the former East Germany we saw 25 years ago.
Huge, once grand but now half-derelict buildings; sad, grey streets. The town is slowly coming to life, through the efforts of local entrepreneurs and expats like Wolf, who moved to South Africa 40-odd years ago as a 21-year-old and has returned to his former family town. He’s running a flooring import business (lots of trade I expect from renovators) and an antique shop, and is now renovating the rest of this massive ex-civic office block into guest apartments and office space. It’s a huge project but this place has so much potential.
The town will need to lift its game for tourists, though. We can find almost nothing open on Saturday afternoon, not even the town’s museum, art gallery or library and almost nowhere to eat on Sunday night. We end up at a friendly kebab shop.
On the outskirts, however, what a contrast. A Maccas opposite the servo. Just like in Australia.