Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

"If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools."

– Plato


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Another Glimpse of Europe From My Triumph

Leaving Copenhagen on my new bike

     Several people emailed me and wanted me to add more about my motorcycle trip through Europe in 1969.  Trying to remember that far back in time is a challenge, so I’ll just hit on a couple of things briefly in this blog. 

            As I said, the plan was to meet a friend in Munich, but he met a German girl and was busy making the “beast with two backs.”  Needless to say, he didn’t show up.  So after drinking 150 gallons of beer and waiting for him for many hours in the famous Hofbrauhous, I left and began the journey on my own.  I had no plan and chose my course as I went along. 

Two Austrian children
I had landed in Frankfurt then went to Copenhagen to buy the bike. While waiting for some modifications for the U.S., I went to Sweden.  Then I came back from Sweden to Denmark, where I picked up the bike, then through northern Germany down to Munich.  This trip was an adventure in itself.  I may talk about that in another blog.  My idea was to go south because of cold weather.

            I mentioned the contrast between Austria and Yugoslavia previously, so I’ve attached a couple of photos.  The beautiful colors and typical dress of the two Austrian children were in contrast to the drab environment when I crossed into Yugoslavia.  Ox carts were common, as were women working in fields.

Typical scene upon entering Yugoslavia
We have friends from the former Yugoslavia who say that this wasn’t typical of where they lived.  But our friend Mike Mesaros was a very famous soccer player and lived like a king, so they may have been isolated from the rural areas I traveled.  He is close to eighty now, but is immediately recognize and interviewed on TV when he and his wife travel in Europe even today.  Mike was literally the Joe DiMaggio of Yugoslavia.

            Interestingly, Yugoslavia and Austria were my two favorite places.  The rolling, green hills of Salzburg, where they made “The Sound of Music,” were in contrast to the rugged beauty of the coastline in Yugoslavia.

            There’s an island off the coast of Yugoslavia called Krk.  I have no idea how to pronounce that, but it was a German nudist resort that my curious nature drove me to visit.  It was all for research, you understand. I was going to study how long I could keep my pants on.  

Taking a break
The only way to get to the island was by boat.  I’m basically modest and really did try to get away with keeping my pants on until the stares from the mostly college-age nudists became embarrassing. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”  So I did as the nudists do and no one stared anymore.  I’m not sure if that’s good or bad.

            The thing I remember most about that weekend is the pain when I left the island and began my ten hour ride around the coast of the Adriatic on my way to Spain or somewhere. Every bump in the road and the impact on my sunburned rear end reminded me of my folly.

I have to say that each country had its own personality in those days.  Along with the tribulations there was much to be enjoyed and experienced.  I’ll admit that I was happy to get home.  I was married within weeks of my return.

            That trip was an interesting adventure, but it was more of a “problem-solving” exercise than a pleasure trip.  There were a lot of challenges, but a real adventure isn’t all fun. I treasure the memories of those many weeks of rumbling through the beautiful countryside, riding through the Alps in Switzerland, bouncing over coble-stone roads, fighting traffic in Rome, and drinking Slivovitz in Zagreb.  It was well worth the effort. 


  1. Keep it up, Ralph. This will be a great book

  2. Thank, Chuck. I'm not planning on writing a book on this topic, but it would actually be fun to do.