Elefantentreffen: The elephants' gathering
- Flaminia Brigandì
Snow. Cold. Ice. Extreme conditions are the certainty that accompanies those who decide to get on their motorcycles on the coldest days of the year and ride hundreds of miles in the freezing cold, then spend three days in a tent in a snow-and-mud-filled basin getting hammered with strangers. Originally conceived in the 1950s as a rendezvous for owners of Zündapp KS 601 sidecars, the Elefantentreffen over the years has opened up more and more until it has come to be known as the most extreme of motorcycle gatherings. The name comes precisely from the Zündapp KS 601 Gespanne motorcycles used by the German army during World War II and nicknamed precisely Elefanten.
Since 1989 the event has come to life between the last week of January and the first week of February, in a valley in Germany's Bavarian Forest where between 5,000 and 10,000 motorcyclists from all over Europe land. In the 1970s and 1980s, the venue was Salzburg with an average attendance of between 20,000 and 30,000 bikers, hence the decision to move the venue to the Loh Hole, nestled in the Bavarian National Park, to reach 3,000 to 7,000 attendees. The more adverse conditions, the fewer people manage to arrive and the more successful the rally is, in contrast to all rallies in the rest of the world.
It is a real challenge between man and nature, between alcohol and physical endurance in a closed and deep valley in eastern Bavaria, the Hexenkessel aka Witches' Basin, or, for the affectionate, The Hole, which in late January marks temperatures ranging between 0 and -20/-25 degrees celsius. You get here via several small roads, and there are only small hamlets in the area served by a few grocery stores. The organization charges an entrance fee and donates a souvenir medal, and provides, for a fee, bales of straw and bundles of wood to participants. Everyone sleeps in tents or in huts made of tents and wood with an indoor stove, and the beer flows freely in front of bonfires. The 'Elefantentreffen thus tests the resilience of both the motorcycles and the riders, who every edition are more and more and riding the most unlikely means; the concept is in fact to gather in a very cold place, after an exhausting journey, to fraternize with all those who have succeeded in the feat. Ready for set off?