A Frenchie around the Balkans – I saw lots of the world but never my backyard!

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by mana, May 29, 2019.

  1. mana

    mana Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2009
    Oddometer:
    99
    Location:
    Grasse, French Alps
    Hi fellow inmates, although already more than 20 days into my ride I decided to capture a log of my journey, for myself, for family & friends and for whoever else finds this of interest! I’ll be sharing the thoughts that I personally would want to go back to in a few years, not necessarily what would be of most interest to all.

    I’m between jobs so I decided to take my trusted KTM Super Adventure 1290 S to a tour of the Balkans leaving from the French Riviera where I live, close to Cannes (the not-so-beautiful city of THE movie festival). My original plan below was to drive around the Black Sea, which meant crossing Russia. But when I realized that it required providing exact entry and exit dates together with a printed statement from my insurance to get a visa, I decided to take a ferry from Georgia to Odessa in Ukraine as xNOKIAx has done (2 days and 2 nights on a ferry!!!) - not to mention that I’m not sure I could get into Ukraine from Russia in any case from what I read recently…

    Now, 21 days days into my trip, I’ve gone a much less direct way than I anticipated, and I am considering coming back through Turkey rather than crossing via ferry – we’ll see when decision time comes!

    BTW it’s my first long solo ride, it’s fantastic freedom – I know no one will get frustrated at my way or lack thereof of planning! - but I must admit that I miss the bonding and camaraderie that riding in a team provides. I also wish I had company when the asphalt turns into dirt as I’m not an off-road rider at all: knowing that someone could give me a hand in case I drop the bike or if I hurt myself would be nice.

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    The original high level plan

    My live position is available at https://eur-share.inreach.garmin.com/manastrips, when the Garmin InReach doesn’t decide to stop tracking…
    #1
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  2. mana

    mana Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2009
    Oddometer:
    99
    Location:
    Grasse, French Alps
    Day 1 - Wed 2019-05-08 Grasse to Turin 262 km ⭐⭐⭐

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    I thought I would leave a bit earlier in the day but last-minute packing delayed my departure to after lunch – one (*I*?) always thinks it’s faster to be ready!

    The in-law family was visiting, they all took pictures / videos of me leaving as if the departure itself was worth capturing. I feel that Eastern Europe for the most part doesn’t qualify as a true adventure. What is a true adventure? I think it’s leaving your comfort zone, which so far has happened at times, but not every day.

    I decided to start with some highway because I already know the routes around home but I couldn't force myself to ONLY do that, so I took the direction of Col de Tende after Nice to cross the southern tip of the Alps to Italy. It was familiar terrain but still very nice and twisty - when I wasn't stuck for 20 min at the entrance of an alternating one way tunnel.

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    Right after exiting the Tunnel de Tende and entering Italy the rain started – it wouldn’t stop until I reached my destination. The road once the Alps were behind me was dull and boring. Turin wasn't boring but it was unpleasant, very busy traffic and Southern European drivers (note I don’t differentiate French & Italians :-) ).

    This was a good opportunity to test my new riding gear, it kept me totally dry, except for my feet slightly wet. I guess I’m ready for more rain!

    Before my last stop I had to try an ice cream place that my son had recommended, which I’m glad I did. I think Italy and the US are the best places I've experienced when it comes to great ice creams.

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    Who says you need sunshine to enjoy a good ice cream?

    For my first night I had decided to try Couchsurfing, which I hadn’t experienced before. My host Silvio lives in a nice neighborhood of Turin and had prepared a bed in a spare room – not the tidiest yet nothing too bad. He is a very nice fellow, PhD in chemistry I believe, teaching and doing research. I invited him to diner at a place he had booked for us, a very nice local Piedmont restaurant where no one spoke any English. Excellent local food. Excellent first evening away from home despite the rain.
    #2
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  3. mana

    mana Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2009
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Grasse, French Alps
    Day 2 - Thu 2019-05-09 Turin to Como 302 km ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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    2nd day, now the fun is supposed to start! I left Turin without regrets, took a break at Lago Sirio with a cool view of the surrounding mountains reflecting on the lake.

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    I then got into some seriously narrow, twisty and damp section of road with a good dose of gravel and wet leaves - pretty stressful section for me. That’s what you get when you plan an itinerary online, it doesn’t warn you or differentiate 30 kmh vs 70 kmh road sections :-)

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    It became excessive and I decided to cut it short and head straight to the next city, Biela. Well straight is a figure of speech because the GPS took me to a road turning into gravel and mud. I got lucky because when I stopped to consider whether to go back from where e I came, a gentleman was stepping back to his truck. He didn’t speak any word of English but with my Spanish I managed to understand from him that there was only 1 km of dirt before the pavement started again, let’s follow his truck through the dirt track! It turns out there was a gate at the end of the dirt section and he had a remote to open it! Thanks for being there just when I needed you Italian friend!

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    I then proceeded to Lake Maggiore but was a bit disappointed, too much traffic and nice scenery but not impressive as I expected it. This took me to Switzerland and back to Italy as I wanted to spend the night in Como where I would meet Antonio, an old friend from work I hadn’t seen since 2007.
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    BTW that day I started a trend to cut short my planned itinerary as I got tired through the afternoon. Would I have been tired the same way 20 years ago???

    I had a lovely evening reconnecting with Antonio enjoying a good pizza – what else in Italy?

    Attached Files:

    #3
  4. Saso

    Saso Happily sporting the DRD4 gene Supporter

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    :lurk Thanks for taking us along.
    #4
  5. mana

    mana Adventurer

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    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Grasse, French Alps
    Day 3 - 2019-05-10 Fri Como to Pieve 355 km ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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    A FANTASTIC day! If Lake Maggiore was below my expectations, Lake Como blew me away, and gave me a visual orgasm. I’m not too certain what it is, I think the combination of magnificent nature and architecture, knowing that the buildings in the distance have been there for centuries… I decided I had to come back and spend a few days in the area with my wife.


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    It was not the sunniest day to take photos with high contrast, but the scenery remained impressive.

    Once I reached the north part of Lake Como I had decided to head south to reach Pieve by the Lake di Garda, going through the Passo San Marco. Well, May 10 was still too early in the season, I learned from a nice bar tender in a village on the way that the pass was closed so I took a detour via a less twisty road towards my destination for the day, Pieve. I had come across the Strada della Forra on the cool website dangerousroads.org and absolutely wanted to ride it, I read that many car chases had been shot there including a James Bond movie I believe! It was so thrilling that once I reached the top I went back down to the lake and did it again! A quick view here (hoping the link works)

    Attached Files:

    #5
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  6. mana

    mana Adventurer

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    Apr 25, 2009
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Grasse, French Alps
    This is probably not the best thread to ask the question, but I'm now in Istanbul after 5000 km and I need new tires. I tried to look online but what I found seems to be resellers to dealers. Does anyone know where to get tires in Istanbul? Or in which forum to ask the question? Ideally I am looking for Continental TKC70.
    https://www.lapas.com.tr/ not able to reach them, not sure they sell to consumers
    http://buzmotor.com seem to only carry Michelin, would need to order them
    #6
  7. mi-g

    mi-g n00b

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2019
    Oddometer:
    1
    Location:
    France
    According to Google, the most popular tire shop for motorcycles in Istanbul is
    Zenn Motors Motorcycle Tire & Tuning & Balance
    Eğitim Mahallesi, Adım Sk. 6/A, 34722 Kadıköy/İstanbul, Turkey
    +90 216 380 92 96
    #7
  8. mana

    mana Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2009
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
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    Tried them, they said they don't have anything for my bike and to call Sportmoto KTM, which I called and who told me to call Zenn Motor :-) I suspect they do have tires, I may need to ask help from someone who speaks good english and turkish
    #8
  9. bout2ride

    bout2ride Been here awhile Supporter

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    if you are still in the area, you need to see sirmione on the south end of largo de Garda.....eat at the outside terrace at the fort....you will not forget it!
    #9
  10. Scudman

    Scudman Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2009
    Oddometer:
    677
    You may want to follow the Isra coastline in Croatia. The road from pula through rasa, plomin on to Rijeka is amazing. Rijeka to senj is another spectacular road.
    #10
  11. bout2ride

    bout2ride Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    just rode senj to zadar last week, tight turns, sweeping curves and a view of the ocean practically every km, was a "wow" every minute. riding senj to pula Tuesday, can't wait. with the views how could a ride be better? well, okay the dolomites maybe, doing those the month of July.....:y0!
    #11
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  12. Scudman

    Scudman Been here awhile

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    Avoid Rijeka as it is a traffic mess if you can. While passing through labin you may want to stop at the farmers market for the best prosciutto you will ever get. Located on the second floor of the market. They close early right after lunch. Also stop in plomin and see the flowers that should be in bloom on the ancient walls. These flowers only grow in plomin.
    #12
  13. bout2ride

    bout2ride Been here awhile Supporter

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    thanks I will be passing thru about lunch time, may catch that on the way back to zadar Thursday.
    #13
  14. mana

    mana Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    99
    Location:
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    I'm not in the area anymore, actually I'm doing things wrong in the sense that I am late by many days to share updates :-)
    #14
  15. mana

    mana Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2009
    Oddometer:
    99
    Location:
    Grasse, French Alps
    Day 4 - 2019-05-11 Sat - Pieve to dolomites - Orchards, snow and a great airbnb host! 265 km

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    Lots of rain the whole day with a few dry moments. After I left Lago di Gardia behind me the scenery changed, the road meandered through very green and lush orchards, there was a lot of agricultural activity visible.


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    The road then took me to a pass that I had not anticipated, no snow on the pavement but plenty on the sides! That's the problem when planing a trip on a computer, you don't get information about the elevation of the roads... It got cold and when I switched to the other side of the pass I found myself inside of a cloud... I used my GPS to help me anticipate turns coming as at times I couldn't see beyond 5m

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    2200m on that day meant snow...

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    That’s not going to be a fast ride!

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    Getting out of the cloud

    To my amazement after a second lower pass I found myself on a very steep downhill slope above the clouds. Magnificent view, worth the cold and the fog. Here is a short video - I just trimmed it, no editing.



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    My final destination was an airbnb in a small town lost in the mountains, rented by Alessandro, a really nice and interesting young guy to talk to. He explained that the town lived thanks to the large sunglasses and prescription glasses factory based there. Because of it most young people stopped school early and didn't get any degree, knowing they would get a job at the factory, which upset him.
    #15
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  16. mana

    mana Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    Continuing with a few weeks of delay :-)

    Day 5 2019-05-12 Sun Dolomites to Trieste 234 km ⭐⭐⭐

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    Highlights: Val de Mis tunnels, Ester my host @ Trieste. What sucked: rain and highway


    Alessandro who also rides a motorcycle suggested a few roads for the day and advised me against my original plan to keep going east as the road was likely under snow. So the plan turned into driving through a nearby lake and then head south to the coast and Trieste even if it meant highway, hoping to finally get some sunshine and warmer temperatures.

    He recommended Val de Mis, a narrow twisty road with lots of wet leaves, branches and gravel that took me to a river and small lake bordered by small tunnels hand carved - very impressive as usual.


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    Outcome of a recent storm, lots of damage along the road.


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    Some people worked hard to get that done, probably a long while ago


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    Snow not very far away. Sorry for the water on the GoPro, it rained all day and I didn’t buy the wiper option that probably exists given how many accessories are marketed around that camera :-).

    After some dull highway here I am in Trieste.


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    A city that values the benefits of motorcycles :-) and offers free specific parking.


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    In Trieste I found one of the nicest airbnb hosts of my trip, Ester who very nicely offered me to share a plate of an excellent stew she had prepared for herself.
    #16
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  17. mana

    mana Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2009
    Oddometer:
    99
    Location:
    Grasse, French Alps
    Day 6 2019-05-13 Mon Visit of Istria Peninsula 212 km ⭐⭐⭐

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    Highlights: the old town in Rojni, driving across 3 countries in a few km. What sucked: same old, the rain.

    As I wanted to rest a bit and spend 2 nights in the same place I headed for the Istria Peninsula, which made me travel through 3 countries, Italy, Slovenia and Croatia over just a very few km.

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    One of several villages I came across perched on a hill.

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    Rovinj was a nice old city to visit and roam around. Old stones overwatching the sea, quite touristic.

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    I love stumbling upon these old 2 wheelers you don’t find at home anymore :-)

    Then back to the airbnb for another chat with Ester with some help from Google translate to complement my spanish and her italian.
    #17
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  18. Olirider

    Olirider Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 19, 2008
    Oddometer:
    656
    Location:
    The country of stinky cheeses
    He Frenchie ! Here's an other frenchie following your trip.
    I rode the Balkans too but stopped at the Albanian border.
    #18
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  19. mana

    mana Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2009
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Grasse, French Alps
    Day 7 2019-05-14 Tue Run away from the rain: Trieste to Slovenia 298 km ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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    Highlights: NO RAIN! My GPS takes me again to an exhausting yet beautiful single lane. Stunning road in the north of Slovenia, Sella Nevea. A nice motorcyclist host with lots of recommendations.

    After checking Ventusky to get the weather forecast it was clear that I had to go back north and postpone my travel to Split in Croatia. By the way for long journeys without set itineraries I highly recommend that website also available as an app: https://www.ventusky.com, it provides an animation over the next hours and days.


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    How’s that for a simple border crossing? I ended up crossing the Slovenia/Italy border several times during the day.

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    Yikes, I guess it gets windy here at times..

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    That’s a lot of things that could go wrong on a single strada…

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    Hmm, I didn’t see branches on the road on the warning sign above, they missed that!

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    As if the first warnings weren’t enough :-)

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    I’m not an offroad rider and that stuff just freaks me out, always paranoid that I’ll lose the rear or front…

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    This is on the north part of my itinerary of the day, Sella Nevea on my way to Bled.

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    Isn’t riding a motorcycle pure awesomeness?

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    Planning for tomorrow with Gregor and his son who helped translating. Oh, and Gregor came with 2 beers of course!
    #19
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  20. mana

    mana Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    Grasse, French Alps
    I forgot this important picture of the dinner that closed my day. Canned beans to feel like a cowboy of course

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    #20
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