9732 km - Balkanski 2013

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by TobyG, Oct 7, 2013.

  1. TobyG

    TobyG be happy :)

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2011
    Oddometer:
    784
    Location:
    Nemčija
    Having bought my first bike April last year,
    I finally went on my first real motorcycle trip in August.


    As for the route/planning:
    No plan sounded like a good plan. I wanna see some of the Balkans, that's it.
    Well, ok, I ended up "planning" at least some.
    As in "what-countries-to-go-to-in-which-order", not that I'd sticked to that plan :lol3

    According to my first estimates,
    I'd be doing ~7000 km within 3 to 5 weeks,
    which already seemed a lot, considering that I had originally opted to do the same distance in 8 weeks,
    mainly trying to stay away from paved roads [due to a couple reasons I had to abandon the "8 weeks"-idea, though :cry].

    Obviously I ended up doing even more kilometers,
    going through Czech Republic -> Slovakia -> Hungary -> Romania -> Bulgaria -> Macedonia -> Albania -> Montenegro -> Kosovo -> [Serbia, more on that matter later :augie] -> Montenegro -> Serbia -> Bosnia -> Croatia -> Bosnia -> Croatia -> Slovenia -> Italy -> Austria -> Germany


    [​IMG]



    The first day was a rather short one,
    I didn't start before 11:30 AM and still didn't have to hurry at all,
    as I stayed with a friend in germany instead of going to Czech Republic this day,
    so the ride was pretty relaxed and I took some small roads through the german countryside.

    A couple impressions:

    <img src="http://img4.imageshack.us/img4/2003/9m1z.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img545/170/11m6.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    <img src="http://img12.imageshack.us/img12/3503/9fy1.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    The next morning it was time to say Goodbye!, not only to my hosts,
    but also to sleeping in beds, at least for a couple weeks.

    I was actually going through Czech Republic in a pretty good pace,
    mainly because it's really not at all far away from home and I'd rather spend more time in the countries which are further away and thereby in a way harder to reach.
    The same applies for Slovakia&Hungary.

    Therefor I didn't stop for pictures too often and tbh the first couple days were more or less uneventful,
    so I'll just cut these short by showing you some more random pictures without any comments:


    Czech Republic:

    <img src="http://img543.imageshack.us/img543/5651/5btl.jpg" width="1024" height="682">

    <img src="http://img844.imageshack.us/img844/9774/9smx.jpg" width="1024" height="682">



    Slovakia:

    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img809/5274/oorh.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    At this point I may add that (afterwards) I felt like I should have taken at least a handful more pictures during those first days....too late now, though, at least I still have all the tracks (I had a GPS tracker running all the time),
    just in case...



    At some point in Slovakia,
    I spotted 4 guys on cross and trials bikes on the side of the road,
    as they looked like one of their bikes broke down I turned aorund to ask them what was wrong and whether I could possibly help them out by offering them to use my tools.

    As it turned out, three of them were from Austria (Walter, Andi & Horst) and they were on their ways with their local guide (Marsi), when the engine of the Ossa 300 gave out (major mechanical breakdown), so there was no way of helping them as I didn't find a spare engine in my luggage :lol3

    Just because I stopped and offered assistance they invited me for a Kofola (a local lemonade) in a nearby restaurant,
    while waiting for their guide to come back with a transporter to pick up the Ossa.

    By the way, the Ossa is a 2014 Prototype, one of 5 at that time, the owner obviously got some good connections to the company.
    Here's a small teaser :evil (crappy cellphone picture):

    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img822/7356/lj0r.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    After Marsi got back they've also invited me to stay for lunch with them (yummi, Pizza!), meanwhile they told me how this was already the second bike they broke during their trip,
    the other being a 300 KTM which they'd "dropped" on some steep hill, resulting in a broken tail and bent forks.

    At least they got humour :lol3

    While they ran out of backup-bikes,
    Andi announced that he was gonna call it a day after lunch (thanks again for paying for my meal, guys :clap),
    as he was just too exhausted from the previous days.

    So Marsi, Walter and Horst headed out for some more, while Andi and me took some pictures and then split ways, too.

    <img src="http://img547.imageshack.us/img547/703/qqkc.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    The same day I made it to Hungary,
    but I had to resort to camping in some field, as there were no camping places nearby.
    Of course, when I started packing up my stuff at 5 in the morning it was foggy and everything was wet and cold,
    including my tent :doh


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img703/1047/vmsx.jpg" width="1024" height="682">






    Next up: Romania.

    After kinda rushing through Hungary on decent, paved roads,
    I finally arrived in Romania.

    Paradise.
    Gotta love the public roads in rural Romania :clap

    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img199/7983/ibj3.jpg" width="1024" height="682">



    Some kilometers later the roads bot a bit wider and generally speaking a bit better, making it safer to go near the speed limit (90kph).

    Just generally speaking, though.


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img716/5946/ri7z.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    See that stick there? That's all that you've seen coming towards the bridge,
    if it weren't for that stick I'd have probably hit that with at least 50 kph as you couldn't see that the bridge had collapsed until you were maybe 15 meters away.
    Talking about a friendly reminder to be even more careful on the roads in these parts :eek1


    That could've ended bad :eek1

    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img7/2696/1d5p.jpg" width="1024" height="682">




    Originally I had intended to try and go through Romania in close to one day,
    after I had come to realize that this just wasn't gonna happen, considering my riding habits, and after reading "Fagaras" on a road sign, I remembered something about a sweet mountain road, called the the Transf&#259;g&#259;r&#259;&#537;an.

    Have a guess where I went next :deal


    After getting there at about 7:30 PM, I met two romanian guys on my way up,
    one of them (Almos) spoke english

    <img src="http://img836.imageshack.us/img836/5894/ic37.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    Of course I directly asked where they were gonna set camp for tonight,
    to which they replied something along the lines of "Somewhere along the road",
    which was fine by me and we ended up riding the rest of the Transf&#259;g&#259;r&#259;&#537;an together and camping together,
    including Dinner and a planned breakfast :freaky

    The next morning, however, I was told that we had some visitors that night (we didn't pitch our tents and instead just slept under the stars), a Momma bear and their two cubs, who were after our breakfast, jsut leaving us some cheese :(

    Now it's even known in Romania that it's hard to wake me up once I've fallen asleep,
    as everyone who was camping around us woke up from the bears looking for food - everyone but me


    The day before, after setting camp,
    I discovered something that before this day I've ever only heard legends about.
    I must have lost the Clip from my chain's clip lock somewhere in Romania.
    Before anyone asks, yes the clip was mounted the correctly.
    And yeah, I will still be using clip lock style chains in the future, I might carry an extra clip, though.

    So a quick Ghetto-Fix was done (still holds up to this day, 8'000 km later), meanwhile the other two guys adjusted their chains' tension, using my tools


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img14/2425/a4u0.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    Today's plan was that they wanted to ride the Transalpina, which I had never heard of before, and they invited me to come. Sure, why not?

    And I wasn't disappointed, at all. We went up to over 2'000 m above sea level and were rewarded with a great view

    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img41/245/wwyq.jpg" width="1024" height="682">




    Later on the same road we met a guy who reaaaaaly seemed to love my bike,
    as it was time to move on we almost had to forcibly seperate them :cry


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img59/895/x3uf.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    After those 400 wonderful kilometers over the Transalpina and a couple tiny roads through mountain villages it was time to say Goodbye once more,
    we quickly exchanged email addresses after dinner and went on seperate ways, I was heading south to Bulgaria, while they were heading north to get back home.






    That's about it for the first couple days,
    next up: More Romania and then some Bulgaria

    :drums
    #1
  2. TobyG

    TobyG be happy :)

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2011
    Oddometer:
    784
    Location:
    Nemčija
    It must've been around 19°° after we'd split up and I decided to do the Transf&#259;g&#259;r&#259;&#537;an again and camp in the same area we'd camped the night before.


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img580/355/b9bd.jpg" width="1024" height="682">

    Yep, right decision :)

    Basically you got people camping all over the mountain,
    on my way down I spotted a F650 GS Dakar and decided to check out if the owner spoke any english,
    again I was lucky, he spoke english.

    Once again, plans changed, I ended up camping together with Jakub on an altitude of 1'800 m,
    drinking tea (he had a small camping stove with him) and exchanging stories and experiences.

    At that time he was already on the way back home to Poland, he'd ridden down to Constanta at the Black Sea,
    having about as much of a plan as I did.
    He didn't even have a map to begin with, he bought the one he had with him somewhere along the road :lol3

    By the way,
    you got an awesome starry night sky up there,
    the picture ain't the best, but it gives you an idea :deal

    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img835/5475/5487.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    In the morning he'd offered me another tea, which I gladly accepted,
    after all it was freezing cold even though I was wearing pretty much everything I had with me,
    3 layers of clothes and it was still darn cold before the sun arose over the summit :vardy

    Anyways - the view made up for it :clap

    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img560/6385/ktz5.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    Other than that a few horses were passing through the camp and a shepherd also came through with his sheep and dogs later.
    By the way, the horses didn't really care about the people and cars etc. around them,
    as seen around 8 AM, they were blocking the road and that one guy, after honking at them for a couple minutes had to get out of his Mercedes to shoo them away :rofl


    Once again - time to say Goodbye!, Jakub was heading north to Poland while I was heading south to Bulgaria.
    He left quite a bit earlier than me, as I was waiting for my tent to dry (it had still been wet from that one night in Hungary), but finally got to move on around 10.

    There are other ways of experiencing the Transf&#259;g&#259;r&#259;&#537;an, by the way :evil

    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img703/7791/o4xt.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    A couple meters further, however, I had to turn around as it got pretty gnarly, the boulders got bigger&bigger,
    after all not a thing you'd want to ride with luggage and alone :wink:




    Next Stop:
    Doug's Motocamp in Idilevo, Bulgaria.

    On the way there I'd bought another 5 liters jerry can [I already had a small, 1.5 liters one with me],
    just to be on the safe side, as my main tank only holds 10 liters, which isn't too much if do get into rather remote areas. FYI: I was mainly planning ahead for Albania, everywhere else it wouldn't have really been necessary with some planning.


    Arriving in Idilevo around 17°°,
    I was promptly greeted by Polly & Ivo as well as the other guests,
    at that time a (french?!) Scot, who was waiting for the paperwork to be allowed to buy a house in Bulgaria, if I got that right, Andreas, a german who appearently is a regular guest with his XT600,
    an english guy who had a house in Bulgaria,
    later being joined by Tamara & Micheal, also from germany, on their HU hack.


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img713/6296/fw6k.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    I could've taken a room, but hey, I am travelling on a very low budget, camping mat and sleeping bag, it is.

    The english guy [whose name I forgot :( ] said he was gonna invite us all for Dinner,
    so we ended up having some great local sausage, fried eggs, cucumber salad, tomato salad and bread.
    Thanks for the good meal :clap


    The camp is pretty cool as well,
    going from the interior ...

    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img854/1756/e1iv.jpg" width="1024" height="682">

    ...to the "fleet"....

    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img854/2690/khrd.jpg" width="1024" height="682">

    ...and of course, the people you meet and the stories they tell :freaky

    Tamara and Micheal had already been travelling through europe for 3 months at that point,
    all onboard their sweeeet KTM LC8 powered HU sidecar hack with their 2 dogs.
    Naturally they had a lot of good stories to share with everyone,
    in case any of you guys is interested, here's their travel blog:
    http://www.travelnaid.de/

    They are about to start a RTW trip within the next 1 or 2 years, I was being told, by the way ;)


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img197/5451/v94q.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    After a great breakfast I did some routine maintenance work,
    you know, the usual, adjust chain tension, adjust the clutch cable, blablabla

    I had my own tools with me, but i still made use of their motorcycle lift, makes some things easier,
    such as lubing the chain :lol3


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img812/1730/vyf4.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    Meanwhile my (now clean) clothes and Camelbak had time to dry.
    Not that I'd felt like leaving anyways,
    it must've been close to 40°C that day :jkam




    Gotta go - more to come, soon.

    Keywords: Smallest mountain roads/paths, extraordinarily friendly people & Buzludzha.

    Stay tuned ;)
    #2
  3. pip_muenster

    pip_muenster curious

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Oddometer:
    589
    Location:
    Karlsruhe, Germany
    I'm in!
    :lurk

    Started to do almost the same route, counter-clockwise, a few weeks ago -but ended up a little different.
    #3
  4. Olirider

    Olirider Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 19, 2008
    Oddometer:
    500
    Location:
    The country of stinky cheeses
    Thanks for the nice RR and beautiful pictures.
    I am amazed as how light you travel.
    Seeing your loaded bike, it's hard to believe you have camping gear.
    #4
  5. TobyG

    TobyG be happy :)

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2011
    Oddometer:
    784
    Location:
    Nemčija

    Sounds good, I am going to be follwing yours, too,
    after all I will definitely be going back to the Balkans :thumb


    Thanks for the compliments :shog

    As for travelling light:
    More than just a few people I'd met on my trip commented on that, but I didn't really miss anything during those 4 weeks :dunno

    Packing as light as possible was one of my main goals and I think I did pretty good,
    I didn't take anything with me that I didn't use, other than my small first-aid kit, but I am not going to ditch that,
    for obvious reasons.

    I am here for holidays, not to work out by having to handle a bike loaded with about half a ton of luggage.


    The tent I took with me is a Vaude Bivi, the sleeping bag is a High Peak Pak 600 (NOT made for cold weather, but perfectly fine for travelling in summer) and the camping mat is a Grand Canyon Cruise 3.0.
    Again, the main goal was to keep it small, light&simple.


    I stashed the most important tools in the engine guard and only had a handful of tools in the dry bag.

    Other than that, I only had some essentials with me, a couple clothes to last for about a week (I had been to camping places at least once a week to wash clothes etc.), a first-aid kit, my HTC HD2 for navigation and my good ol' trusty Nikon.
    In case anyone is interested, I must still have my packing list somewhere.


    The tires I took with me were meant to go on the bike later on,
    as I'd thought my current ones (an already used MT21 on the front and a new T63 on the rear) would maybe last another 5 or 6 thousand km.
    It turned out that I didn't need those at all :doh
    On the bright side, I do now know that they'll last for up to 10'000km and I already/still have a set for my next trip :lol3
    #5
  6. TobyG

    TobyG be happy :)

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2011
    Oddometer:
    784
    Location:
    Nemčija
    It was about 2 PM and I had still been in the Motocamp...meanwhile Andreas told me that my next destination,
    the "Spaceship" aka Buzludzha has just been cracked open.

    FYI, the Buzludzha has been built and used for political party events by the former Jugoslavian Social Party
    and had been vandalized by angry citizens after Jugoslavia broke apart and has since been permanently closed to public,
    however, sometimes it's cracked open by urban exlporers,
    much to the joy of people who want to take a closer look, such as me :evil


    Around 3 PM I finally decided to leave and head towards the Spaceship this day,
    my GPS wanted to lead me over what looked like a freeway, but I wanted to check if there was a way
    that yielded a bit more fun, so I headed for the mountains to check it out.

    My GPS didn't show any of the paths which I was riding on, so I just kinda had to guess which way was gonna lead further.
    The first one turned into some really narrow single track after a while,
    let me tell you, it wasn't too much fun after I realized I should better turn around.
    Bad news is that it was either downhill to the left or uphill to the right, but after some "lift the rear to turn" action I finally managed to get it turned around.

    Supid Idea to begin with, following some single track in the middle of nowhere in Bulgaria witho no one around and no idea where it could lead.
    Lesson learned, after I gave the bike some time to cool (the engine got very hot during my "turn around" maneuver)
    I rode back to the last fork in the path and followed the other one.

    A couple minutes later this one split up again, in a small village and I figured I'd be better off asking for directions,
    so I pulled in what looked like a restaurant,
    turned out the be a hotel, but again I was lucky, both of the guys I found on the back porch spoke english :clap

    Beforehand: I only wanted to ask for directions.
    And stupid me left the camera on the bike, so no pictures for a while.

    First of all the owner of the hotel asked me whether I wanted some homemade tea,
    before I could even ask my question.
    No way I could've said "No, thanks", even if I wanted,
    on a side note he also offered me some homemade mushroom soup, which I had to reject,
    as I had just had lunch right before I left.

    After they gave me a chance to ask for directions, he directly led me to a big wall-map of Bulgaria and showed me some good routes to Kazanlak (which is close to the Buzludzha) and from there to Macedonia, where I'd be heading next.

    He even offered to give me a map of Bulgaria, another gift had to politely decline, as all of those routes showed up on my GPS.

    Once again, he asked me to sit down and wait for him to return.
    Of course he returned with a soup plate :fpalm
    Don't get me wrong, the soup was the best mushroom soup I ever had,
    I had simply been overwhelmed by fow friendly he was, even though he was not exactly in a good situation.

    One of the first things I noticed about the hotel is that there were no guests.
    While he was gone and warmed the soup up, I had a little chat about this with his friend,
    it turned out that the hoteal had just been built a couple years ago, but due to the current economic climate,
    he simply didn't have any guests.
    Not now, not during the main season. Not a single guest in a whole year :eek1


    After having the pleasure to meet those great guys, who turned my "5 minutes to ask for directions"-stop into a one hour break, I headed back to the previously described "Freeway",
    as there was no better way through the mountains, the path I had followed ended a couple hundred meters later.

    One a side note, I experienced such astonishing hospitality several times, alone on this trip,
    one of the main reasons why I love eastern europe that much.






    Back to the main topic - the Spaceship.
    I finally arrived on site around 8, with the bonus of being the only one up there at that time.

    [​IMG]


    The walkway seemed a lot shorter and more fun, so I took this one instead of the normal way up to the actualy building.
    Obvious why it's been nicknamed Spaceship, huh?


    [​IMG]


    Time to get the flashlight out and explore :D
    It really is a very impressive place, not at last because of the acoustics,
    if you stand in the middle of the assembly hall, everything you say is projected back to you, just a lot louder.
    Bad news is that the light in there was pretty scarce, so the pictures I took to try and assemble a panorama didn't turn out all that good.
    Because of this, here's a video (not mine) that captures it quite well:

    <object height="315" width="420">


    <embed src="//www.youtube.com/v/dcnrLPNFJUs?hl=de_DE&version=3" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" height="315" width="420"></object>


    The video was shot around the same time I'd been there, the starting point of the video is right where the current (or maybe former, by now?) entrance is located.

    And a couple of my pictures to go along with it:


    Both is visible, remains of the destruction and remains of the construction.

    [​IMG]

    By the way, if you are in there during nightfall, it can get quite eerie, especially in the basement :uhoh :yikes

    [​IMG]






    After getting out of there, I pitched my tent nearby,
    for the next day I planned to meet up with a couple friends from germany who had their bikes shipped to Greece and were riding back to germany from there.

    Stay tuned :evil
    #6
  7. jackalsour

    jackalsour Dreamer

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    781
    Location:
    Classified
    Your pics and that video in HD makes some of the most interesting "urbex" I've seen! (I love abandoned sites like this) This was marked on my GPS but I cut it out because I was behind schedule. I had no idea if I would be able to get inside or not. Thanks for sharing, now it's as if I was there :clap
    #7
  8. Navigare

    Navigare Adventurer

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2012
    Oddometer:
    28
    Location:
    Warsaw
    Hi TobyG, Great Adventure!

    Can you share some info: what was paved/dirt road ratio during your trip and how you planed your route to stay on second mostly?
    #8
  9. rootsy

    rootsy Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2012
    Oddometer:
    130
    The spaceship is amazing! Thank you for the video and images. Safe travels!:freaky
    #9
  10. TobyG

    TobyG be happy :)

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2011
    Oddometer:
    784
    Location:
    Nemčija
    Hi,
    initally I planned on doing 60 to 70% on dirt roads/offroad and only 30 to 40 % on paved roads,
    but due to having less time than I originally figured I'd have,
    It was more like 30% dirt roads/offroad and about 70 % paved roads :(:


    I always "planned" my route the evening before.
    For actual Navigation I used my Android phone and a traditional map as an emergency backup.

    On my phone, I used two apps which both work offline,
    the first one, called Navigator, is the one I used for navigating paved roads, it's a free App, using free maps (I used the Openstreet Maps).
    The downside? It turned out to be pretty useless in Albania. All other countries I've been to it worked fine, but it had barely any roads mapped for Albania.

    The second one, which I used for navigating dirt roads/offroad, is called "Soviet Military Maps", this App uses, as suggested by it's name, old soviet military maps, which even today are pretty accurate.
    The downsides are: You have to pay for it in order to use it offline [it's just ~ 10 €, though],
    no turn-by-turn navigation [you can set waypoints, then you'll be shown the aerial distance and direction to the waypoint)
    and the files are HUGE, if you want the maps to be really detailed.



    Hope that helps :thumb


    Once again, ain't my video ;)


    Safe travels?
    Always helpful, thanks, you too (Hey, I know you wanna see the spaceship yourself :evil).

    Even though this trip took place in August,
    a new (longer) already entered the planning stage, (hopefully) starting next February :deal
    #10
  11. TobyG

    TobyG be happy :)

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2011
    Oddometer:
    784
    Location:
    Nemčija
    Time for an update.


    After waking up early I headed out towards Macedonia,
    after a couple text with Volker, one of the germans I wanted to meet up with for a couple days,
    my goal for today was getting to Lake Ohrid on the Macedonia/Albania border, because that's where they figured they'd be heading.


    FYI: There wont' be pictures for some time, once again.

    Thing is, at first I managed to really cover some distance,
    I suddenly encountered flooded roads in Skopje, which confused me, to say the least.
    After all it didn't look like it rained, as the street was partially completely dry?!

    On my ride through the city I encountered more stuff that got me worried, though.
    Partially flooded roads with over 2 feet of water in the deep spots, uprooted trees......
    ...dammit.
    Bad News: A huge thunderstorm was ravaging basically thorugh all of Macedonia.

    Around 8 PM it got pitch-black and started raining.
    I pulled into a gas station and tried calling Volker. Tried.

    So, not being able to reach him and being "only" about 120 km away from Ohrid,
    I decided to go on. Of course, no more than 30 minutes later it started to absolutely bucket down.

    Time to pull into the next available gas station, order some coffee and try calling the others again.
    No luck, though, couldn't get a hold of them, again.

    It wasn't all bad luck, though, first of all the gas station attendant was a really nice guy and spoke some english (thanks for the free candy bar and the cheerful talk :thumb).

    While trying to figure out what I was gonna do ( camping was an option, but considering the current weather and how ridiculous dark it was, not really a good one, but I was in the middle of nowhere, so not too many hotels around, either) a car with german license plates pulled in, one of them born in Albania, they'd recommended me to actually go the remaining way to Ohrid and check in one of the many cheap hotels there.

    There we go, fill the tank up and head out to Ohrid.
    I must've arrived there around 10 PM, after a short ride through the city (where I met the guy from recommended me to go to Ohrid again ),
    I wanted to ride a bit further out of the city and find me a cheap motel.

    As soon as I turned around it started pouring again, surprise, surprise.

    After another 30 to 40 minutes waiting out the worst at a gas station and some croissants and more coffee.

    Must have been around 11:30 when I arrived a good motel, I was one of the few guests, they had a wedding in their hall this evening, but I didn't care.
    A warm, dry bed, a TV and a warm shower and all that for 18 €. I was a happy man, after this long day :lol3



    The next morning I had also finally managed to get a hold of Volker,
    who told that they'd pretty much left out Macedonia and went into Albania further south instead.
    We came to the conclusion that we'd best meet a bit north of their position towards the end of the day.

    You know what that meant?
    Lazy day for me. I didn't get out of bed before 11 AM, because I only had to go around 150 km that day,
    to get to our meeting point (which was changed a couple times, as their plans changed; I had no fixed plans after all, so I didn't really mind).


    The first good thing on the road, shortly after entering Albania:

    TurtleTurtleTurtleTurtleTurtleTurtleTurtleTurtleTurtleTurtleTurtleTurtleTurtleTurtle


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img22/8003/h21x.jpg" width="1024" height="682"> :lol3




    We ended up agreeing on the city of Berat as a meeting point
    and I went through Elbasan and explored the city a bit further before heading south to Berat.
    I took a pretty small route alongside a river down to Berat, which turned out interesting.
    In between clay-like mud for about 3 kilometers which kept me busy, partially it was being prepared for asphalt, by using those annyoing fist sized pebbles as a bedding :puke1
    However, I enjoyed the ride, but after a while I came to a fork in the road,
    one way seemed to lead me over the river, the other seemed to go away from the river.

    So I tried crossing it, even though I saw no bridge,
    after riding almost 120 m into the riverbed (It must carry a LOT of water during the snow melt) I discovered that there was no way for me to get through that river, too deep, too fast and the embankment on the other side didn't look good either.


    Time to try the other way (looking at my maps would be too easy, wouldn't it??),
    this is where I met that guy right here:


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img33/8162/bkd8.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    He pointed me the direction of a bridge across to river, which would also directly lead me to Berat,
    perfect, many thanks :clap


    Once I arrived there I tried contacting Volker, but again, no luck.
    No worries, they are probably still out riding,
    time to go explore the city.

    Did I mention that they got a pretty sweet old castle in Berat?

    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img12/6880/n33t.jpg" width="1024" height="113">

    (click for greater resolution)



    After riding a bit further, my phone suddenly rang.
    It was Volker, telling me that I just rode right past them in front of their hotel :shog


    I turned around and -yep - there was someone waving :D


    After moving into our rooms, everyone took a quick shower and we ordered some pizza,
    we were the only guests in the hotel and had the balcony for ourselves, where we ate dinner and had some beers while watching the streets below.

    There were quite some things to see,
    from not-so-cheap cars driving down the road over and over again,
    Mercedes, Hummer, BMW, you name it

    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img707/9076/ic56.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    to kids throwing old tires on the street :eek1 and what-not-else.





    More to come, soon :thumb
    #11
  12. TobyG

    TobyG be happy :)

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2011
    Oddometer:
    784
    Location:
    Nemčija
    For today it was planned to do mostly paved roads as Tom, Joe and Volker had already spent a lot of time on dirt roads and only had about 2 weeks of time to get back to germany.
    So we headed out towards Tirana around 10 AM, after having a great breakfast (that local cheese :tb ).


    After about 30 minutes Joe pulled up next to me and asked whether I was aware that I had a flat tire.

    No, I wasn't until then. Great, the one with the undisputably best knowledge of changing tires had a flat.
    But, hey, I had already changed 2 sets of tires by myself and I had 3 "voluntary helpers" :D with me.


    [​IMG]


    With instructions and help from the others we got the tube out after a couple minutes and I took the wheel to the car washing place across the street to get all the dirt washed of (didn't want to get that in the tire).
    The guy from the car wash did good work and even had something to protect the bearings,
    but as I wanted to pay him, he did not accept anything, no matter how hard I tried, once again, many thanks, stranger :clap

    After patching the tube weh got the wheel back on the bike and the whole thing was done after ~ 45 minutes.
    Would've taken me a lot longer all by myself.


    A couple miles later I stretched the patience of the others once more, as I almost lost my spare tires twice (my fault, I didn't really tie them down too well and it was a bumpy track we took).


    After all that trouble (that's not yet the end of it :puke1) we had some great views, though:


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img837/2882/jiew.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    Of course, it would've been too easy if everything went on without any further issues...
    next thing that happened, once again to me, I lowsided in a roundabout shortly before reaching Tirana.

    There were two different surfaces in that roundabout, on the outside it was normal tarmac, on the inside it was some very slick conrete, though.
    I didn't really come to realize this and BAM...the bike slid away underneath me as I accelerated out of the roundabout.

    Lesson learned: Do NOT assume that conrete offers a good grip.

    I could go on about blaming the road surface, but after all I could've (should've ?) known, probably my fault, then.


    Luckily I didn't get hurt and the bike also only suffered minor damage, such as loosing my right hand mirror,
    tweaking my forks (loosen triple clamps, straighten the fork, tighten them again - no big deal) and slightly damaging my clutch armature (only to be discovered the next morning - I could've fixed it, but Volker had a spare with him :clap, so no need to waste time fixing it on the road).



    From there on we took the highway to Tirana, which ended in a rather amusing way.
    Basically they just stopped building it any further in the middle of Tirana.
    No warning signs, no nothing, if you'd drive on there by night, you'd might end up in the bushes ahead, while going 65 miles an hour.
    At the end there was no fany off-ramp, but just a small, rough, improvised off ramp.
    Maybe 3 meters long (while dropping 1 meter) and with a very tight 180° turn to the right :lol3



    From Tirana we went straight to Montenegro, being winked through the pedestrain line by the border control,
    they didn't even check our passports.
    We figured it wasn't a big deal, as it was only the exit station for Albania, but as we later found out Albania and Montenegro got a joined border, well, who cares?


    After a day full of problems and delays (full with problems and delays caused by me :deal),
    we looked for a camping place and found us a great restaurant close to the sea and called it a day.




    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------




    I was more than surprised that I woke up the next morning and their bikes were still there,
    I wouldn't have been too surprised if they would've left without me after that hell of a day :rofl


    Tom and Joe took a swim in the sea while I fixed up my bike and did some routine maintenance (changed my clutch cable and lubricated the chain).


    This the day we all continued to be amazed by how beautiful Montenegro is,
    considering that barely ever hear about that country at all.

    Montenegro pretty much got a bit of everything, mountains, deep canyons, untouched nature, you name it.

    Just a couple impressions:




    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img42/4580/5xpk.jpg" width="1024" height="326">





    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img69/9996/qmpo.jpg" width="1024" height="287">



    Believe me, in reality the scenery is even more stunning than it looks on those pictures!




    Riding on some tiny, beautiful roads through the mountains we reached Kotor after a while,
    Kotor lies in a bay close to the croatian border, often visited by big cruise ships which dock there.


    You see that small hill to the left of the bay?
    We spotted a nice track going up there from our current position and figured we'd have a great view from there,
    so we wanted to see if we can figure out where the track starts.


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img198/3049/6h0a.jpg" width="1024" height="682">



    Tom rather wanted to go down to the harbour and check if he can find a post office,


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img4/4301/2qx3.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    so it was only Joe, Volker and me who rode up there.

    The track got rather rocky, narrow and steep towards the end, but the view was more than worth it :thumb


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img41/4941/8zxq.jpg" width="1024" height="682">



    On our quest to find a camping place nearby, we followed the road along the bay,
    maybe going a couple miles over the speed limit :rolleyes


    Suddenly a guy on a scooter appeared next to me, he gave me a thumbs up and then passed me, going toward Volker, who was one or two cars ahead of me...wait....does his shirt say "Policija"...yep, sure does...

    Looks like Volker is gonna get pulled over. Or not?
    They started talking, while riding and the cop signaled us to follow him,
    he ended up leading us to his house, inviting us to have a beer with him


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img832/7501/kpxm.jpg" width="1024" height="682">



    He just finished his shift for today, he's a motocop, normally riding a 1200 cc Beemer,
    other than that he got a small holiday rental in his house and a small carprenty in his shed,
    as otherwise he'd struggle financially.


    He was really nice and helpful, shwoing us some good roads nearby and recommending us a great, small camping place right by the sea :freaky


    After we left we headed right to the recommended camping place, got something to eat and once again called it a day.





    That's it for today :wink:
    #12
  13. jackalsour

    jackalsour Dreamer

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    781
    Location:
    Classified
    That's great :D And he invited you all over to his place! I usually only learn what the motocops in new countries look like when they don't wave back to me. Montenegro is beautiful!

    Nobody checked my passport at the Albanian border either :lol3 It's for sure hard to read their roads when they change so much random... Small delay is nothing really :1drink
    #13
  14. TobyG

    TobyG be happy :)

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2011
    Oddometer:
    784
    Location:
    Nemčija
    Actually I've only had positive encounters with cops on this trip,
    I've been stopped in Czech Republic (not sure if I mentioned this?), but they only checked my papers,
    asked where I was going and wished me well and then I had an encounter with another cop in Montenegro (more on that later).






    Time to continue the RR:

    From sea level we quickly rode to the skiing areas in northern Montenegro,
    let me tell you it's cold up there [​IMG]

    All in all Montenegro is just a huge up and down, in a positive sense, mountains, sea, more mountains, more sea :clap

    After a spectacular view over the river Tara and the Canyon it flows through,
    close to Žabljak (no worries, pics will follow :evil ) the guys I was riding with decided to cross the border into Bosnia
    that day instead of waiting another day.

    I then followed them to the border and went back to the Durmitor National Park, taking another route.


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img824/1003/7ljg.jpg" width="1024" height="682">



    From the bridge over the Tara river I spotted a small camping place right down by the river
    and found the path going down there a couple minutes later.

    Before I could make my way down there, though,
    a group of italian riders approached me, asking about my tiny blinkers (road legal, though :evil),
    so I had to prove to them that they are actually visible :lol3

    Once I arrived on the camping place I'd spotted 2 other bikes there,
    one from Italy, one from Greece.

    The greek couple (Maria and Konstantinos) welcomed me right away,
    so I pitched my tent next to theirs.

    They also had a small cuisine on the camping place,
    so we sat down there to have some dinner after I'd pitched my tent.

    As it turned out, it was Maria's birthday the next day,
    so we ended up ordering the obligatory bottle of wine [​IMG]


    The "not-at-all-false" smile picture :rofl


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img541/5402/2wfr.jpg" width="1024" height="682">



    A couple more pictures of that sort were taken later that evening,
    the italian couple later joined us for some more pictures :lol3

    All in all it was quite an hilarious, great evening which also got me some tips for the next day.

    By the way, Maria and Konstantinos originally planned on going to Croatia but have also been overwhelmed by
    the beauty of Montenegro, so they spontaneously decided on just spending their whole vaction in Montenegro :1drink

    Also Maria ended up paying for the whole meal, arguing it was her birthday,
    well....shouldn't she have her meal paid for then :hmmmmm
    No chance to change her mind, though,
    so I gotta say it once again:

    Thanks a lot :beer

    Sadly they wanted to continue the opposite direction of where I wanted to go,
    so it was time to part ways in the morning...oh well.
    We exchanged emails, though :thumb


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img203/1772/kmyr.jpg" width="1024" height="682">



    I continued through the fog shrouded Tara Valley:


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img10/20/upa2.jpg" width="1024" height="682">



    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img109/3861/k6i2.jpg" width="1024" height="302">


    A very cool scenery, even though it was cold and wet :clap

    Shortly after taking the panorama shot, it started to drizzle :(
    No worries, just zip those pant legs closed and continue.

    Nope.
    No way.
    Not even a minute later it really started raining,
    luckily there was a hotel a couple hundred yards further down the road (Hotel Ravnjak),
    I didn't have any breakfast, yet, anyways.

    Time to sit down, order some food,
    drink a tea and wait the rain out.



    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img69/8269/93w2.jpg" width="1024" height="682">



    Nothing left to wish for, a great view, a small cascade right behind the bungalow I sat in ,
    the food was damn good, big portions and the small price made it awesome (2,50 € for a big smoked ham homemade bread sandwich and potatoes, peas and carrots on the side) :knary :dg

    A small history lesson aka talk with the owner was included,
    appearently the guest house had originally been a hunting lodge built for a politician,
    before it had been converted to a hotel and bought by the current owner a couple years ago.
    The current owner immigrated form the Netherlands by the way, great guy, if you ever come through there,
    make sure to stop by there, well worth it :D


    The cascade (is it cascade or cascades??):


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img22/9569/a6if.jpg" width="1024" height="682">



    The rain almost stopped after an hour, time to continue.

    Another photo of this incredible area:



    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img849/9455/um7l.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    From Mojkovac I'd been heading towards Kolasin, stopping by the Biogradska Gora National Park,
    which had been recommended to me the day before :freaky

    The Nat'l Park is a big lake, surrounded by virgin forest with only a few paths passing through.
    I ended up walking all the way around the lake through the forest.
    I am not gonna comment this any further, here are some pics:

    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img809/2249/9p7t.jpg" width="1024" height="682">



    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img607/1369/za1y.jpg" width="1024" height="682">




    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img560/3389/lsup.jpg" width="1024" height="682">




    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img19/5707/d8fo.jpg" width="1024" height="682">




    Through Kolasin I made my way back to the coast, riding through a small canyon


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img839/788/ge09.jpg" width="1024" height="682">



    On the coast I went to a camping place,
    promptly spotting three Italians which also just arrived there,
    perfect, time for some bike talk :lol3

    On this camping place they also had a small cuisine, eight down by the sea,
    when big waves came in you felt it, it was THAT close to the sea :evil

    As no one could decide upon what to order we simply ordered a big mixed meat&vegetables plate

    They'd just arrived in Montenegro, coming from Albania and making their way back to Italy
    (they wanted to arrive back home the next day)


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img838/5624/yaib.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    Aaaand another time my meal was paid for.
    In exchange for it they simply wanted all the coins I had on me.
    No problem :huh
    Reason is they always had a ton of (somewhat worthless) coins left after leaving a country and gave all of them to one of them. Basically they just wanted to see how many coins his wallet could hold.

    So I gave them all the coins I had on me, not worth much and a couple different currencies.

    Other than that: Many thanks for dinner and the beers :super

    After they packed early in the morning and left


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img600/8933/rrks.jpg" width="1024" height="682">



    I went down to the beach and went for a swim, being almost the only one down by the beach.

    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img20/1063/zxz1.jpg" width="1024" height="682">



    I didn't really do much more that day, other than riding a bit further up the coast,
    all the way around the bay by Kotor, booking into another camping place close to the croation border
    and just enjoying the sun, lazy day :clap






    Stay tuned for more beautiful Montenegro :wink:
    #14
  15. STOP

    STOP Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2009
    Oddometer:
    111
    Location:
    ST Croatia
    It is good to see my neighborhood through your eyes :clap :freaky
    #15
  16. TobyG

    TobyG be happy :)

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2011
    Oddometer:
    784
    Location:
    Nemčija
    The evening of the previous day,
    I spontaneously decided to ride through Kosovo instead of going right up north.

    In the morning I headed out to Peje (Kosovo), once again riding through beautiful landscape :clap




    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img694/6159/o86d.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    Because of Montenegro being as small as it is I ended up riding along the small canyon between Podgorica and Kolasin.

    This turned out to be a good thing though,
    because one could spot a small bar down in the canyon, right by the river, which you couldn't see coming from the other direction. I later found out that it was called the "Bar Of No Return" :lol3

    Let alone the small path to get down to the bar was rather interesting,
    but I really wanted to go down there, even if for nothing but a coke.



    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img5/5246/yj6h.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    See the suspension bridge in the background?
    Of course you had to use it to get to the bar :thumb

    At the time I've been the owners family had a small family gathering with some great food :tb


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img821/4313/q77b.jpg" width="1024" height="682">



    Thanks to two "interpreters" the communication worked out just fine
    and just as I was ready to leave they basically forced some of their food on me :shog

    Oh well, time to order a second coke.
    At that time I figured I could just as well ask them if I could pitch my tent down at the bar and stay there for the night.

    Luckily they gave me the ok and also showed me a small gravel road I could use to carry my stuff down into the canyon, but I just rode my bike down, so I only had to carry my stuff through the river.

    We sat there a couple more hours,
    shared stories and had a couple beers before they returned home :kumbaya



    The lesson is clear:
    It was a great decision to go to the bar, after all the day ended with good company, great food and a perfect camping spot [​IMG]
    #16
  17. TobyG

    TobyG be happy :)

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2011
    Oddometer:
    784
    Location:
    Nemčija
    ..I should really get this RR finished.


    One last look and off we go to Kosovo


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img266/4106/uw36.jpg" width="1024" height="682">

    Riding on tiny roads through mountain villages I crossed the border between Murina [Montenegro] and Peje [Kosovo],
    while enjoying seome great scenery, especially on the kosovan side of the border :eek2
    I could swear Iwould've taken a picture...can't seem to find it though :/

    Next destination: Pristina, where I'd planned to stay for two nights.
    Nope, that won't do.

    While I stopped in a cafe to find out the exact address of the hostel I'd planned to stay at,
    my phone decided to crash and upon restarting it, I didn't get a GPS Fix, no matter what I tried.

    Well, f***.

    After searching for over 30 minutes, I finally found the hostel,
    of course it's not even 5 minutes away from the cafe I stopped at before.
    On a side note: Kosovo should invest in street signs, thst would have helped a lot :lol3

    Time to park the bike and carry my stuff up to the 3rd floor.


    To sum the happenings of the next few days up:
    The first 2 days I tried fixing my phone by backing everything up,
    doing a factory reset, completely re-installing everything blablabla.
    No luck though. Should've just ridden through Kosovo instead.

    At least I'd taken a few walks through Pristina, even though I am not a big fan of cities.
    Pristina was pretty cool though,
    they have a large bazaar in the islamic neighborhood, great (and very affordable) restaurants are to be found everywhere, the historic disctric ain't bad, either.

    I do have to mention, however, that Pristina, as is Kosovo in itself, doesn't yield too many things of touristical interest.

    The nightlife in contrast is pretty darn awesome, though, which is probably to be attributed
    to the fact that Kosovo is the youngest country in europe, over 50% of it's inhabitants are 25 or younger!

    On my third day in the country I got back on the bike and headed to Prizren where the Doku Fest took place at that time.
    One week filled with about 200 documentaries being shown in cinemas and open air stages throughout the city,
    followed by aftershow parties every single night :evil

    They also have a large bazaar, of course.


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img832/106/ccy5.jpg" width="1024" height="682">

    The historic district is pretty awesome, too, and features many small restaurants.
    Just to say it again: I didn't eat any cheaper in any other country I visited.


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img853/3089/qg5j.jpg" width="1024" height="682">



    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img202/7241/365e.jpg" width="1024" height="682">

    Time to buy a map of the Balkans and a pen somewhere for navigation purposes and to sorta track where I'd been,
    sadly I couldn't use the phone for those purposes anymore :cry
    On my way back to Pristina I took a detour through the mountains:


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img542/9917/t7hz.jpg" width="1024" height="682">



    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img580/5388/az71.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    One thing that I got to say is that it indeed is surprisingly hard to find any structures ravaged by war.
    Don't get me wrong, it's not impossible, either, but the huge financial aid Kosovo received after the war shows pretty well, they didn't exactly waste any time rebuilding the country, it seems.

    No way the country could have done this all by itself,
    considering today's economic situation (which is worrying to put it mildly) and it's dependency on foreign insvestors.

    There are obvious problems in this country (very, very high unemployment rate, poverty and a struggling economy),
    still I did absolutely not regret going there.
    Yeah, there's not much to see for a typical tourist,
    but there's a ton of other reasons to visit, ranging from beautiful landscapes over an interesting history to the great people I met!

    The next day a couple from italy arrived on their XT660R,
    she was born in germany and later emigrated to italy.
    Not that it mattered, after all the "officialese" in hostels is english anyways.

    We later went to a combo of a bar and bookstore, called the "Dit e Nat",
    rather interesting combo, but not a bad one :nod

    Once again, my tab was paid for by someone else :shog
    Well, thanks for the Cuba Libre :freaky

    Later that night, a girl from Swiss, a professional football (soccer for yer 'Muricans) player who was in town to meet with his old team, a guy from France and a guy from Finland, the hostels' owners (2 brothers) and me went out again...you know, for science :lol3 :1drink

    We met a couple girls and planned on meeting them again the next day in Prizren, before heading back to the hostel at like 6 AM.

    Not much to say about the next day,
    unless you wanna hear more about food.

    In the evening it was time to get on the bike and to ride to Prizren once more,
    the others took the bus, but I wanted to head back in the night as I wanted to leave Pristina the next morning.

    I will just throw in a couple pics from Prizren at night...


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img534/6594/8rri.jpg" width="1024" height="682">




    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img819/3161/exj9.jpg" width="682" height="1024">


    Every now and then you saw some KFOR units, they got a big base in Prizren.


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img202/4707/wv7i.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    I got back to the Hostel at around 1 AM, deadbeat.



    Oh well, I didn't get out of bed before 11am (don't judge me, I had to enjoy my last night sleeping in a bed for the rest of the trip) and rode through Mitrovica in the direction of Peje.

    (Mitrovica with the Mitrovica Memorial)


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img849/6071/vgzq.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    After leaving Mitrovica I was not exactly sure which direction I had to go (remember no GPS anymore and my map wasn't too detailed).

    So I just went straight ahead, passed a military checkpoint, didn't think anything of it, after all it was northern Kosovo,
    so that didn't seem too unusal.

    I started to wonder though, why are there serbian flags on every single lamp post....:huh



    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img835/2791/eusi.jpg" width="682" height="1024">


    Oops,
    seem like I just entered Serbia on accident.

    Gotta turn around then, as I couldn't have left Serbia, as I didn't have neither a serbian entry stamp nor an serbian entry permit (which is issued if I one uses his standard passport instead of the travel passport to enter the country).

    After turning back I spotted the sign I was looking for, though :clap :


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img827/1919/5qz3.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    Once again time for an PSA:
    The conflict between Kosovars and Serbs, even though it's not as tense as it was in the past anymore,
    still shows on a few occasions.
    Take a look at the sign above, again.
    Those are always bilingual, the albanian name on the top, the serbian on the bottom.
    The serbian name is often painted over, corrected to the albanian or scratched off.


    I went back to Montenegro using the same border post near Peje that I used to enter the country,
    only to go into Serbia a bit further north legally.
    Novi Pazar, basically a city highly influenced by the islamic culture, is where I was heading.
    Someone in Pristina recommended me to go there, so I went.
    Not spectacular, but pretty nice.

    So let's go to Bosnia...
    wait...oh no, several miles of backed up traffic in Novi Pazar.

    Who cares, after all I learned riding by local standards on this trip, so I'll find a way for my bike.
    Ok, now I am suddenly standing in front of a couple cops who themselves stand in front of a crowd.
    But they signal me to ride through, so off we go.

    What I then saw still baffles me. I cannot quite wrap my head around what the heck was going on :huh

    Right in the middle of aforementioned crowd there was a table, right in the middle of the road,
    with 4 elderly men sitting around it.
    Just sitting there, talking and blocking the main road through Novi Pazar and causing like 2 miles of backed up traffic.

    To this day I have no idea what was going on.
    I kinda wish I would've stopped to take a picture or maybe ask what the hell was going on :lol3


    The same day I made it to Bosnia and stopped on an old part of the road (they rerouted the new, paved stretch of road and dug a tunnel for it) and simply laid out my sleeping mat right there.

    The angler who appeared on site the next morning at around 5:30am did have a funny look on his face once he spotted me :lol3


    Stay tuned for Bosnia!
    #17
  18. TobyG

    TobyG be happy :)

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2011
    Oddometer:
    784
    Location:
    Nemčija
    Did I mention thar shortly after crossing the border into Bosnia, my phone emitted a "beeep",
    to be more specific it was an "Hey! Look I just got a GPS Fix!"-beep.

    That means nothing other than that I can finally use my phone for navigation again :clap



    Next up:
    National War Monument on Makljen (near Prozor)
    &
    Livno Valley



    Through Sarajevo I rode to Prozor,
    the town next to the mountain "Makjlen" which is home to the Makjlen Monument,
    one of many jugoslavian monuments ordered to be erected by the former jugoslavian head of state Josip Broz Tito back in the 70s (the Mitrovica Monument also is one of those).

    Those monuments (this specific group of monuments is called "Spomenik",
    which simply means *surprise*: Monument.) all stand in a context with WWII,
    in example there's one to honor the bravery of the jugoslavian partisans,
    others honor the resistance of whole towns against the national socialists.

    The "Makjlen Spomenik" is dedicated to the battle of Neretva and was destroyed after the downfall of Jugoslavia and has since been decorated with graffiti.

    I will just show you a couple impressions of it right here:


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img27/1382/hazt.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img401/9345/xeom.jpg" width="1024" height="1536">


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img542/6579/zcko.jpg" width="1024" height="1536">


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img545/4695/8dsa.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img818/5848/nzt7.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    Enough talking, time to head out to Livno,
    on the way there I was once again blessed with awesome landscapes:

    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img594/8348/ib97.jpg" width="1024" height="682">

    The absolute highlight which launched Bosnia on the 1st place, together with Montenegro,
    was the scenery I got to enjoy shortly before Livno valley.
    Not gonna comment on this, other than it looked even more awesome in person :eek2


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img849/5606/5gzc.jpg" width="1024" height="682">

    Right around the corner it looked just as cool,
    of course I just had to take the opportunity to take the following picture :deal:

    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img59/4259/pccu.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    I mean c'mon, it had to be done :lol3

    and this scenery stretched out for miles, only interrupted by the occasional hut and some cows.


    Just when you thought it couldn't get any better....BAM....I present to you, the view over Livno valley:

    One could barely see from one side to the other...and that's the shorter side.


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img62/7181/907p.jpg" width="1024" height="682">



    In Livno I stopped to get some of that great Cevapi,
    the owner of the takeaway spoke german and handed me a plate with great local made sheep's cheese, free of charge, let's just say that ended up with me leaving him a pretty good tip :knary

    Heading west to make my way out of the valley,
    the atmosphere changed dramatically, at first it looked like normal, small villages scattered all over the place.
    That's until you notice that most of the houses are missing their roofs and that those signs keep popping up next to the streets.


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img832/342/uzop.jpg" width="1024" height="682">

    I proceeded to actually ride though a couple of those villages
    [Disclaimer: Before using ANY paths in posted areas, consult some locals on whether it is safe to use those,
    better double check on this!!
    In my case I was lucky as some of those villages were in between new villages and the fields their farmers' are using,
    so those paths had all been cleared.
    Still, it is highly advised not to leave the paths!!]


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img707/1744/m4ep.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img59/9008/fmou.jpg" width="1024" height="682">

    Quite an eerie atmosphere around those parts,
    which do remind you of the recent history of the former jugoslavian states without any detours whatsoever.

    After I made it out of the valley,
    I headed straight towards Croatia, where I was gonna stay for the night.
    #18
  19. TobyG

    TobyG be happy :)

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2011
    Oddometer:
    784
    Location:
    Nemčija
    At this point I'd might wanna say that there wont be too many pictures in this post.
    Yeah, I should really get some cheap&waterproof Point'n'Shoot in addition to the DLSR.


    So...Croatia.
    My first impression.

    Honestly, something put me off.

    One contributing factor may have been that it turned out to be almost impossible to find a camping place that'd take me and my (reaaaaally small) tent for 10€ or less. Most wanted between 12 and 14 €,
    no matter if I tried the ones right at the coast or the ones a couple miles away.

    My tries to barter for the price were strictly rejected, no counter offer, no nothing.

    At that point I already started wondering if I maybe teleported to Italy??
    Once I entered the country, it didn't seem to be much different from the Bosnia,
    other than the denser population. Infrastructure seemed pretty much the same,
    a lot of remnants of the war and so on.

    Once you get near the coast however....looks like western europe right there.

    And it seems that the whole countries' prices are, contradictary to the infrastructure,
    somehow adjusted to the levels on the coast,
    where, of course, they get a lot of tourists, and with them money, from other european countries, especially young people.

    Well,
    after a while I found an elderly couple that offered me a camping spot for 50 Kuna (~6,50 €, IIRC).
    And even only like 200 m away from the sea.

    A short trip to the supermarket to get some bread, cheese and salami for dinner and breakfast
    and it was already time to go to bed.

    Around 4am I was woken up by some ear-shattering noise.
    A thunderstorm. I guess some lightning must've hit the sea nearby.

    It is absolutely bucketing down, of course.

    It stopped for a short while around 7:30, but only really stopped at 2pm.

    Dammit,
    that meant that probably all my riding gear was soaking wet.
    Remember, I had a very small tent, so I usually just put my riding gear outside in a way that it stayed mostly dry during some short, normal rain.
    But this rain was more like the apocalypse.

    I hurried to get all my stuff hing up in some trees and whatever I could find to let it dry once the sun came out.

    6pm, it was finally more or less dry,
    so I headed out back to Bihac in Bosnia,
    I had seen enough of Croatia to get out of there as soon as possible.

    Little did I know what Croatia would do to try and keep me there.


    Only about 20km after I left, I got a nasty surprise.

    My engine mad some gut-wrenching sounds :becca



    Turned the engine off and let it roll to a stop on the shoulder.
    What now :confused

    I figured if it was something really bad, it was too late, anyways.
    So I ended up checking if it's start again,
    maybe I could figure out what's wrong by listening to where the sound comes from.

    After firing it up,
    it took it a couple seconds until I hread the noise again.
    Seemed like it came from the front of the engine, somwhere close to the starter motor.

    Sure enough, it actually was the starter itself.

    Time to figure out why the starter is running all by itself.
    Wait...rain....heavy rain...I should probably take the case of the starter button apart.

    Yep, that was the issue. it was completely filled with water.
    After draining it my problem was gone. Or so I thought.


    Couple miles later it looked like rain again, but luckily most of it was east of me, instead of ahead of me.
    Anyways, it already started getting dark again,
    so I just stopped at gas station to grab something to eat and fill up, before looking for a place to set my tent.

    Just as I wanted to ride my bike out of the way so others could fill up while I ate,
    it wouldn't start.
    Ok, now worries, just roll it out of the way to get it figured out, just as I said that,
    my kickstand dropped on the ground.

    Yes, the attendant gave me some funny looks as I rolled my bike to a post to lean it against.

    Should've just stayed in my tent all day long.

    It turned out that my starter button was done for.

    So I just taped the 2 wires on my handlebar and started the bike "by hand",
    strapped the kickstand on the back and off I went,
    now looking for an camping place where I could do some work the next day.

    This time I managed to get the price down from 100 Kuna to 80,
    actually those were the last Kuna I had on me, anyways.



    The next day I was quite happy that I bought the 2 pole version of the button I was using as my starter button,
    because only the one side was fried, the other one still worked,
    so I just grabbed my soldering iron and fixed this issue.

    As for the kickstand, I must've lost the pivot screw.
    Not at the gas station (no idea how the bike didn't fall over), but somwhere on the road before,
    at least I didn't find it at the gas station the night before.

    However, I got that temporarily fixed by using a long M6 screw, a nut and some washers instead of the super-duper-special-BMW-kickstand-screw and some zip ties to keep the kickstand switch out of the way.


    Fixing that stuff also gave me time to really dry my still sorta wet clothes, as well :lol3



    Now that I had dry clothes again,
    I also got back in the mood to take some pictures.

    Next up was the (former) Zeljava military airfield.
    I would've really like to take a closer look, as it is an partially underground airbase (!),
    but it's exactly on the border between Croatia and Bosnia,
    so, you do need some sort of permit to be able to explore it completely, without potentially getting into trouble because of illegal crossing of the border :cry.



    On the bright side, one can at least explore some of the non-underground installations close to the croatian town Zeljava.
    [Another Disclaimer: Do not leave the paved areas, this area is not cleared of mines!!]





    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img585/5615/lfea.jpg" width="1024" height="682">



    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img24/7972/vkqc.jpg" width="1024" height="682">




    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img706/6207/ysil.jpg" width="1024" height="682">




    A couple miles further I crossed the border into Bosnia again,
    riding along the beauriful river "Una" (partially a border river between Croatia and Bosnia),
    where I also pitched my tent, later.

    Sadly it was already time to start heading back home,
    with a couple days "reserve" in case I ran into any more mechanical problems.




    After this wall of text,
    I'll call it a day.

    Stay tuned for a bit more Bosnia, a bit more Croatia, another Spomenik and some Slovenjia :clap
    #19
  20. TobyG

    TobyG be happy :)

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2011
    Oddometer:
    784
    Location:
    Nemčija
    The plan for tiday was to head back to Croatia and make my way to Slovenia,
    as I said before, it was time to head back home :(:

    I Croatia I took a detour to see another jugoslavian monument,
    the "Spomenik revolucije naroda Moslavine" near Podgaric,
    which is dedicated to the inhabitants of Moslavin.

    Here are a couple of pictures for you:

    (This is the side you see from the road)



    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img580/4761/2lwq.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    The other side:


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img16/7365/32ih.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    A bit further down the road a sign pointed towars some castle ruins,
    so I headed up the (damn steep :eek1) road only to find out that it's currently closed to the public due to restoration work.
    Ok, whatever, time to get back on the road, then.

    Other than that the day was rather uneventful and I barely ever stopped for pictures.


    Just as nightfall set in in Slovenia, I rode along a steep face,
    which belonged to quite a big hill...hhhmmmmm....there's a huge antenna up there, so there just had to be a way up?!

    That'd be a pretty cool place to set camp,
    I'd passed on such opportunities 2 or 3 times on this trip...
    so I opened the Soviet Military Map navigation App to check where that path could be.
    I found one, the problem was that they'd built an interstate where it had been.

    Dammit, well, let's check the price for camping around these parts.

    Turned out to be 10€. Thanks, but I'm gonna pass on the offer.

    After looking for a bit longer I finally found a way that led up the hill and after kinda guessing where to go an a couple wrong turns I found the path the led right up to the plateau I spotted from below :clap

    Just another short, steep uphill and I'd made it,
    I pitched my tent roughly 1'200 m above sea level and quickly got in as it started to get cold
    :vardy


    It was however not before the next morning that I found out how great of a decision it was to keep looking for the right path and pass on the camping place :evil




    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img818/8531/u4sq.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    I am by no means a professional photographer, so I didn't manage to capture the moment in all it's beauty,
    but believe me that was hell of a great view!

    Right next to the fog (roughly in the middle of the pic) one could even see the sea :bow

    Just had to take the opportunity to take a panorama shot:



    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img716/6334/qrux.jpg" width="600" height="93">

    (for a bigger version Click me! )



    After enjoying the view for a while I packed my stuff
    to head out to get to Italy and Austria, maybe even already back into Germany, if the time allowed to do so.

    That day I'd been even more "picture-lazy",
    so don't expect to see many pictures (should have taken at least a few more :bluduh

    So here's a short written summary instead:
    The way down the hill had already been rather interesting,
    it started to rain a bit and the last couple hundred meters are paved.
    And those few meters turned out to be slippery. Really slippery. Yay "fun"!

    Filled up the tank in Slovenia, had some breakfast and meanwhile it stopped raining.

    On my way to Italy my Navigation app sent me through a beautiful forest riddled with marmor boulders.
    As if that wasn't enough to make happy, they'd seemingly prepared the road to be newly paved.
    Luckily they didn't make it past laying dirt and gravel :lol3
    Only 2 or 3 cars on that "road" as well...time to open the throttle and have some fun :wink:

    After exiting my nav app got confused and routed me along streets that weren't there,
    but I didn't have much choice either, there were only like 2 main roads there.

    In Gorizia I crossed the border to Italy.
    First shock: The gas prices. Just two days ago I paid 1,15€ a liter, now it's more like 1,70 € to 1,80 € a liter.


    From there to the Dolomites/Alps the ride was rather boring,
    there were some pretty cool old towns, but the roads were dead-straight :snore


    The first small mountain pass, however, was great, it was a very, very narrow road and the hairpins led through tunnels,
    which had traffic lights in front of them, that's how narrow everything was :wings

    As for the rest of it:
    A couple bigger mountain passes and some tiny roads towards the Zugspitze,
    you know, the alps and all :ksteve

    Near the Zugspitze I decided that I was gonna head to Füssen (Germany) that day.

    On my way there I stumbled upon an Oldtimer Rallye :tb


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img5/6452/0t8k.jpg" width="1024" height="682">



    and saw a few alpine lakes, as well.


    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img199/7746/slcr.jpg" width="1024" height="682">


    In Füssen I treated myself with a bed in a Hostel, mainly because my tent had still been a little bit damp,
    I really needed to wash some clothes and a camping place would've barely been any cheaper.

    So that's almost it.
    The next day I was only gonna ride west to Niedereschach to pay Touratech a visit
    and afterwards head north, home.


    Another non-scheduled stop at Neuschwanstein castle, just to buy two postcards and send them out.
    The things we do...:rolleyes


    After a great ride through the Allgäu I found a couple specimens related to my bike in Niedereschach :D




    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img21/746/zojv.jpg" width="1024" height="1536">


    Other than the two Oryx Extreme they also had half a dozen stock Oryx bikes in their showroom.
    But I was there to check out a few details on the Extreme bikes,
    which are not exactly well thought out on the stock Oryx.

    I took a couple pictures of what I was most interested in and already have a bunch of mods scheduled :deal

    Sadly they still didn't want to sell me their last "Extreme" rear fairing :cry
    (I want one to be able to install my other manifold and exhaust, as I don't like the low swung exhaust)


    After a couple minutes talking with one of their employees about the bike,
    I got back on the bike.



    End of the story.
    It was a great 4 weeks and I will sure be paying the Balkans another visit in the future :freaky
    (Yeah, I'll even give Croatia a second chance :lol3)
    #20