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Old 09-28-2014, 03:05 AM   #1
duibhceK OP
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Cool2 Terrable Twins travel the Balkans

Before we get started, a confession. This ride report is not really about twins, we prefer our steeds to be single. So I apologize to anyone who may have ended up here under false pretenses. But while you're here perhaps I can still interest you in a little story accompanied with a few pics.

This report covers our latest outing in the Balkans region in June 2014. The plan was to ride the back roads of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo and Serbia, to return via again Bosnia, Croatia and Slovenia. At least that was the plan. But we are the kind of people that meticulously plan a lot beforehand and when we're actually on the ground, try to find the most creative ways to ignore the planning.

"We" that's my girlfriend (inmate Laouen) and myself (I guess that would be me). Last year we rode roughly the same region but Laouen's FZ6 made the few unpaved roads we did back then not a lot of fun. And we had to pass by some places that looked really nice, because the FZ isn't exactly made for comfortably riding those kind of road conditions. This year though, we're back, and now we're packing the serious stuff.

The stuff looks a little something like this:

The pic was taken on route, downtown Lukomir (BIH) and should clarify the "Terrable Twins" appellation. We deliberately chose to get 2 identical bikes because it would save on tools and spare parts for the other Big Plans we're dreaming about. .
These Husqvarna Terra bikes fit the bill quite well.

duibhceK screwed with this post 10-14-2014 at 06:29 AM
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Old 09-28-2014, 03:48 AM   #2
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When planning this trip it took a bit of effort to convinced our respective employers to grant us a little over 3 weeks for this trip. Despite objections around some arbitrary "max 3 weeks rule" we really wanted to have that time. It would allow us to make most of our time in the Balkans because we had decided to put the bikes on the car train of Deutsche Bahn to Villach in Austria, skipping a few days of boring motorway to get there on the road. Unfortunately those trains return only on Thursdays and Mondays. The Monday train would see us back home on Tuesday and back in the office on Wednesday. So, a little over 3 weeks, something to look forward to.

As for routing, we had planned a rough route on the GPS and marked a few places we'd like to visit. We tried to use unpaved roads where possible, relying on what we learned on our previous visit, Google satellite imagery and tips from locals we met at the HUBB Montenegro Meeting last year. But I was also very fortunate to receive a lot of detailed and much appreciated info from inmates Louisdut and Gliga.

Anyway, a little preview of what is to come:














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Old 09-28-2014, 09:04 AM   #3
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Nice roads, keep posting!
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Old 09-28-2014, 09:16 AM   #4
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Looking forward to following this report.

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Old 09-28-2014, 09:53 AM   #5
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Thanks, guys. Getting some feedback is always encouraging.
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Old 09-28-2014, 11:08 AM   #6
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Day 1 - Sunday June 8 - Belgium to Düsseldorf (D)

Day 1 - Sunday June 8 - Belgium to Düsseldorf (D)

Our first day starts out very relaxed. We sleep in and finish the last of our packing. Besides saving us a lot of motorway miles, the car train has the added benefit of leaving late afternoon. It's only a 2 hour ride to the Düsseldorf train station, so this is a super relaxed way to start the holiday. To top it off we'll arrive in Villach early tomorrow morning, hopefully well rested.

Today is also Pentecost and my birthday, what better time to start off. Even the rain showers that started in the morning make way for a sunny blue sky. By the time the roads are drying up, the bikes are ready to go.


After an unremarkable ride we arrive well in time for the boarding. And we're definitely not alone.


Before boarding commences straps are distributed amongst the bikers. 4 straps for each bike so you can choose yourself where the bike will be strapped down. Great system.

Riding the bikes on the train is a bit tricky, mainly because there's 2 levels and bikes are all parked on the lower level. The floor of the second level is very low. I had to press my chin all the way down on the tank bag in order not to hit my head.

But once you're on the bike is professionally secured and all that's left is to grab the tank bag with my tooth brush and some clothes for on the train.


And off we go! With German efficiency, at 17h58 exact.


The vehicle section of the train is filled with bikes, old-timers and cars of pensioners that don't like flying, but are no longer up to riding for hours on the motorway to get to their favored Kärnten.

After grabbing a bite and a few beers in the dining car we spend the rest of the evening enjoying the views of the Rhine valley and the cities we pass before the sun sets.



Frankfurt in the setting sun

We hit our bunks early, breakfast will be served at 6AM.

duibhceK screwed with this post 09-28-2014 at 12:24 PM
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Old 09-28-2014, 12:28 PM   #7
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Keep it coming.
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Old 09-28-2014, 04:38 PM   #8
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Old 09-29-2014, 12:18 AM   #9
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A good start.., subscribed!
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Old 09-30-2014, 02:29 PM   #10
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Day 2 - Monday June 9 - Villach (A) to Postojna (SLO)

Day 2 - Monday June 9 - Villach (A) to Postojna (SLO)

Breakfast on the train is ok, but not great. Definitely better than some others I've had. A couple of factory produced mushy buns, small single portions of jam, liver paste, a chocolate chip brioche, some orange juice and a big cup of tea or coffee.
It is served pretty early, so there's ample time to enjoy the views. One of the nice things about a sleep train is that you suddenly wake up to a landscape that is profoundly different from what it looked like when you went to sleep.


It's 7h30 AM when we roll into Villach train station. It still takes some time before we can get the bikes off, as the cars are disembarked first. Keeping our heads down while riding the bikes off the train still applies though.

It's only 8 AM when we're ready to set off.

Villach is right on the border between Austria and Slovenia. The main obstacle seperating them is the Würzen pass, which is a nice starter to wake up with. The pass takes us right into Kransjka Gora where temps are already very much on the up. We decide to have a drink first in a nice little cafe before riding on.
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Old 09-30-2014, 02:54 PM   #11
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After that, it's on to Vrsic pass. 51 hair pins and a lot of history, but more on that later. Right now we just want to enjoy the twisties and the accompanying views.




There's still quite a lot of snow around for this time of year.


Back down in the valley it's time to stock up on some food supplies. Kobarid has a nice little super market that has everything we need. After that it's on to the first stretch of gravel on this trip, into the forest and over the hills. Most of it can only be described as 'gravel highway': wide, smooth and fast. Only higher up in the hills does it narrow down a bit. But it stays a well maintained road.


Nice place for a pick nick as well.
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Old 10-01-2014, 01:00 PM   #12
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When we get out of the trees the views get even more impressive. The gravel roads are still a dream to ride. Better condition than many paved roads back in little ol' Belgium.




Temperatures are still on the rise and after a couple of hours riding it is time for a little break. We come across this nice little church and hang around a bit. It is nice and cool inside.


We're not yet done riding for today though. There's some touristy stuff we didn't have a chance to do last year when we were in Slovenia. We arrive at Predjama castle via some small back roads and are greeted immediately with busy parking lots and big buses.
There's no lack of tourists obviously.


The castle, and particularly the location, is pretty impressive though.


We decide not to go inside, but instead grab an ice cream and a drink at the little tourist shop filled with all kinds of paraphernalia.

By the time we get back to our bikes we decide to start looking for a place to camp. Postojna isn't too far off and we remember a German friend telling us he stayed at a camp site there a few times. So we decide to go look for it as well.
It turns out to be a little bit out of town, but there's a restaurant and showers and toilets are nice and clean. We're sold.


After setting up the tent it's time for and my local favorite: Cevapcici.

Today's route:


Elevations:

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Old 10-01-2014, 04:40 PM   #13
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Day 3 - Tuesday June 10 - Postojna (SLO) to Plitvice (HR)

Our plan for the first few days was to make good time through Slovenia and Croatia to allow us to make most of our time in the mountains of Bosnia, Montenegro and Albania. After that we'd evaluate our further plans based on the time we'd have left. So for the first part we stuck mostly to our planned routes over smaller paved roads and easy, fast gravel roads to make good time.
Once in a while though re-routing is necessary, either through necessity or because of mistakes in navigation. Today we would see a lot of those. But it is all part of the fun.

It is easy to get into the rhythm of traveling. Whenever we're on the road with our tent we usually hit the sack when it gets dark and are up with the birds in the morning. Today we're all packed and suited up by 8 AM, which conveniently is also the time breakfast is served in the camp site restaurant.
After stocking up on food in Postonja our route takes us via Cerknica to the border with Croatia. Not via the obvious main roads, but along a nice flowing gravel road. There's a couple more slippery wet patches between the trees, but the riding is good.

The few larger roads did offer some nice opportunities to take a break.


We cross the border, and pick a larger road that would take us along the border for a while before we would turn off what looked like a small gravel road on Google earth while I was planning the routes. But when we get there a sign forbids access. We decide to play nice and quickly find a detour on the Freytag & Berndt map. Unfortunately, that particular road turns out to dead end outside of Cabar. There's a parallel road across the border which would take us where we wanted to go, but the river that forms the border is a bit deep to cross. The only bridge we find is blocked on both sides of the river. The only option is to backtrack for a bit and pick another road going south. That turns out to be an absolute winner with some amazing twisties. And we come across a spring where we can fill up our water bladders and have a quick lunch of bread and cheese.
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Old 10-02-2014, 03:28 PM   #14
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After lunch, while we're just about to ride off again, a van with some local lumberjacks pulls in. It looks like they had the same idea as us and came there for their lunch break. We are already on our bikes, so we just give them a wave and hit the road.
Past Delnice we're back on the small single lane roads, but in Sunger we again come upon a sign forbidding us to continue on this road. There's plenty of other roads around though, but it is a bit tricky to find one that will take us further south. After ending up on someone's courtyard we do finally find our way out of the valley, over the hill and more or less southbound.


There's not that many people in this region of Croatia, a big contrast to what you'd find on the coast. But the views are stunning and the riding is pretty nice as well. We end up on a small gravel road through a forest, in the direction of Plitvice. The shade provided by the trees is a welcome change. Out in the open the sun is making us work up a good sweat.

Even though it doesn't look to us like these roads are used often, they are well-maintained and there's signs posted everywhere.




It is still a good idea not to wander too far off the road though.


We end the day's ride at Autokamp Korana, not too far from the Plitvice lakes. Not cheap, but it is a pretty touristy area and it is a well equipped camp site with a lot of space to put up our tent.


And to top it all off there's a very large restaurant with a great selection of local dishes. And of course.


Not to mention HUGE desserts. Yes, those are full-size plates.




Our route of the day:




Tomorrow: Bosnia!

duibhceK screwed with this post 10-03-2014 at 01:35 PM
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Old 10-03-2014, 04:43 AM   #15
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I'm really enjoying seeing a part of the world I don't think I've ever seen before.
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