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
    I would agree with you, it's my 3rd KTM. SMT 990, 2016 SA 1290 and 2017 SA 1290 :-).
    #41
  2. mana

    mana Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2009
    Oddometer:
    99
    Location:
    Grasse, French Alps
    It’s 8am and I don’t know where to go. A very useful way to take the right decisions is to look at a topographic map. It is striking below: I have 2 options to avoid death by boredom: go north or north east through the mountain range of Romania then Slovakia and Austria, or head west through Serbia and Bosnia. But avoid the plain towards Hungary! (my position is at the small green square)

    [​IMG]
    #42
    TM1(SS) likes this.
  3. bout2ride

    bout2ride Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2018
    Oddometer:
    413
    Location:
    EU & Balkans
    it is starting to get hot along the coast of Croatia, I'm thinking, to cool off, going to the alps, starting with Austria! :knary
    #43
    mana and TM1(SS) like this.
  4. mana

    mana Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2009
    Oddometer:
    99
    Location:
    Grasse, French Alps
    I decided to go west, the loop through Romania and Slovakia would have been too long for my time-away-from-home allowance

    Weather is crazy hot here in Serbia, peak at 35 deg C.

    Shall we meet somewhere on the road bout2ride? Let's PM
    #44
  5. bout2ride

    bout2ride Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2018
    Oddometer:
    413
    Location:
    EU & Balkans
    pm sent
    #45
  6. mana

    mana Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2009
    Oddometer:
    99
    Location:
    Grasse, French Alps
    As I wrote above, I'm skipping a huge chunk of my report and focusing on what just happened. First yesterday:

    2019-06-12 Sofia to Drobeta-Turnu Severin (South east of Romania) 390 km

    [​IMG]

    Highlight also a lowlight: a sad feeling of desolation in North-Eastern Bulgaria and Serbia with so many abandoned buildings

    Getting out of Sofia was a pain, as usual in big cities, but the day started very nicely with a mountain road to Mezra that surprised me for the number of villages along it, unusual population density. No pictures though, they’re in my gopro

    [​IMG]

    Got to take a picture of a church!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Lunch break at the restaurant “Cave” next to a small stream falling off a cliff. I couldn’t understand what the cave next to the restaurant was for, only that it was man-made 50 years ago.

    [​IMG]

    Really? :-)

    After the pass I hit a 110 kmph expressway that I had not expected and that I didn’t enjoy at all so I asked my GPS for an alternative that turned out to be a very busy road with A LOT of trucks from many different countries - at least it wasn’t an expressway.

    Ruins of gas stations. Villages that probably were striving years ago now almost empty. Factories empty and falling apart. And it was hot. And the trucks were loud. And I was tired and felt bad about all these places that had died.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Then all of a sudden, border crossing! The GPS had taken me to a detour that was going through another country before I reached Romania. 3 countries in a day is good. I like surprises.

    The Serbia border guy was one of the first since I got started on May 8 who said a few nice words and who smiled - why are all border customs and police officers so unfriendly? But when I hit the romanian side I got a different treatment when the guy on duty started acting tough and asking for my drivers licence with a soft and threatening “Hello Coste. I believe that you don’t know Romania”. He was quickly stopped by a colleague who obviously told him not to waste his time, yes even though I had traveled through Turkey! The face on the other guy was funny, he seemed disappointed not to be able to complete his tough guy act. I was tired and relieved to be let go quickly.

    [​IMG]

    Unusual sight. Weird cemetery just by the side of the road right at the exit of the 1st Serbian village.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The Danube. Lots of fishermen.

    The previous day in Sofia was an airbnb with self checkin so I didn’t meet the host. I want to talk to people, so boutique hotel it will be. The last 2 days were a hassle to find a place to sleep once I reached my destination so this time I booked before starting to ride.
    #46
    Saso and TM1(SS) like this.
  7. mana

    mana Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2009
    Oddometer:
    99
    Location:
    Grasse, French Alps
    2019-06-13 Drobeta-Turnu Severin (South east of Romania) to Kragujevac in the middle of Serbia

    [​IMG]

    Highlights: beauty of the sceneries I went through. What sucked: 35 degrees Celsius.

    The impression of desolation I had yesterday when I drove 50 km through Serbia is gone! I discovered a new Serbia, green so very green. Colorful, flowers everywhere, especially in the gardens of the often very colorful houses. And poverty not as visible as yesterday.


    [​IMG]

    Lunch plan for the day. Lunch will be a highlight - not the food, the location.


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The Danube! I read on a motorcycle adventure website that a great way to find awesome motorcycle roads is to find ones that follow water - and I agree 100%. The Danube is so wide that the scale of the curves allows to take them at unreasonable speeds. FAST sweepers. Awesome.


    [​IMG]

    Leaving the Danube! Looks promising


    [​IMG]

    Monster rock sculpture of Decebalus, 43m high, created from 1994 to 2004 by 6 sculptors for more than 1 million dollars - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_sculpture_of_Decebalus


    [​IMG]

    Vibrant greens!


    [​IMG]

    What is worse than a road needing to be fixed? A road being fixed :-) For maybe 5-10 km I went through this, with portions in the shade of the forest where it was really tough to see the holes in the shadows. It was fun though, the part that sucked was the downhill section with gravel all over.


    [​IMG]

    Brother butterfly, though you’re the wrong orange for my KTM, I’m glad that we met under these circumstances rather than in the more typical and more dramatic situation that would have ended your life on my windshield!


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Lunch break by a stream. I stopped the bike not expecting anybody would go through. Then a tractor shows up, I have to move the bike. A picture please? Then I see this hidden treasure at the back of the tractor. Too busy, no time for chit chat.


    [​IMG]

    I think it is a farm. I would have loved to know what the gentleman (yellow dot in the middle of the pic) yelled at me :-)


    [​IMG]

    So much green again. Very pretty countryside.


    [​IMG]

    Lots of very colorful buildings and homes throughout my day! I love it, wish we did that more back in France.
    #47
    jeckyll, spokester, Saso and 2 others like this.
  8. mana

    mana Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2009
    Oddometer:
    99
    Location:
    Grasse, French Alps
    Today I stumbled upon 4 very nice French dudes on big ktm adventure bikes like mine who were going to the annual European ktm adventure rallye in Sarajevo.. I crashed in their airbnb tonight and will see if I can join the rallye. I'm a bit scared to ride on dirt, but it's now or never, especially with all the assistance of an organized event.

    It changed my plans, but that's.what adventure is about!

    Madame who's waiting for me back home is supportive of the time extension. What more could I ask for? Life is good
    #48
    TM1(SS) likes this.
  9. christophebp

    christophebp Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2014
    Oddometer:
    20
    You lucky dog!
    And it’s time for the world to know that you are married to an amazing lady.

    Enjoy.
    #49
    mana likes this.
  10. mana

    mana Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2009
    Oddometer:
    99
    Location:
    Grasse, French Alps
    They let me in! I'm starting the KTM rally today, but here's an update from the day before I met my new buddies.


    2019-06-14 Kragujevac in the middle of Serbia to Zabljak in Durmitor park in Montenegro 370 km ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


    [​IMG]


    This was one of the most thrilling motorcycle days of my trip! Endless fast mountain roads.Sceneries reminding me of the Alps at times and at the end of the day that magic color of the sun low on the horizon as I approached my destination.


    [​IMG]

    Many grocery stores in Serbia are protected like that - is it a sign of lots of theft? A local told me that an upcoming law was going to prohibit the stores from keeping goods outside of the store.

    [​IMG]
    Looking back at Serbia, just entered Montenegro. Gives a good idea of how nice the road was behind the tunnel.


    [​IMG]

    That was just on style of the fast sweepers I was going to encounter throughout the day. Felt like some parts of the Alps. All so smooth riding that the 6 hours of riding felt like 3.


    [​IMG]

    Snake like roads With 4 twists per 100m are some of my favorites. The fully loaded SAS 1290 is heavy so it’s not as much fun as with the super flickable SMT 990 I owned before but still a blast.


    [​IMG]

    Cool light, it’s not photoshop making the green look like yellow, it’s how it was.


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    The 5 pictures above are from the Durmitor park in Montenegro.



    [​IMG]

    View from my hotel.


    [​IMG]


    In the evening I had a long chat with Simo, a very smart young chap who studied economics but couldn’t find a job in Montenegro, so during the summer he took jobs like this while his dad watched the farm he owns and that he’s working in turning into a B&B. Once again my choice of going to small hotels vs. airbnbs proved right, much more human contact, which is what I look for in an adventure trip together with motorcycle thrill.
    #50
    jeckyll, spokester, Saso and 2 others like this.
  11. bout2ride

    bout2ride Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2018
    Oddometer:
    413
    Location:
    EU & Balkans
    excellent photos (look at that color of water) and great ride report, this place is on my list for august. looking for a place to stay just like what you had. roads look like fun too....keep it up! :y0!
    #51
    mana likes this.
  12. mana

    mana Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2009
    Oddometer:
    99
    Location:
    Grasse, French Alps
    Thanks. You *must* follow the same trace if you have a chance, both Serbia and Montenegro traces. I'll PM you the place where I stayed.
    #52
  13. Olirider

    Olirider Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 19, 2008
    Oddometer:
    647
    Location:
    The country of stinky cheeses
    I loved too Durmitor park when I rode there in 2014. I was pulled over by police at the outskirts of Zabljak for speeding (70 km/h instead of 50). I thought, I had exited the town limits but apparently it was not the case. The cops only spoke Serbian. After spending half an hour trying to explain me how to pay the speeding ticket with no success, they let me go without paying !

    There are fantastic gravel roads to discover even with a loaded beast.
    Durmitor_Trail.jpg
    Thank you for letting me remember good memories !
    #53
    jeckyll, spokester and mana like this.
  14. spokester

    spokester Long timer

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2013
    Oddometer:
    1,616
    Location:
    SE USA
    Absolutely amazing! I'm leaving the Baltic sea coast on Sunday heading for Serbia and Romania on a BMW R-45. I hope to be gone for about three weeks. A big adventure for a boy from little ole South Carolina!
    #54
    mana and TM1(SS) like this.
  15. KL__07

    KL__07 ride your own way

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2008
    Oddometer:
    62
    Location:
    South Hamburg
    Ok brillant things to remember from rides to Montenegro and Albania - YOU are still OK??
    #55
  16. mana

    mana Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2009
    Oddometer:
    99
    Location:
    Grasse, French Alps
    Ahaha, thanks for asking. I'm back home and I've been caught in catching up with lots of overdue stuff. But I do want to finish documenting my ride. More pics to come.

    The journey was absolutely awesome. Why did I wait so long to go on a long solo trip?

    We all always have lots of good reasons, we get caught in our daily routine, and in my case I needed a trigger - losing my job - to get going.

    Will I need to lose another job to go again?
    #56
  17. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2009
    Oddometer:
    20,442
    Location:
    Edmonton, Alberta
    Outstanding! :clap
    #57
  18. mana

    mana Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2009
    Oddometer:
    99
    Location:
    Grasse, French Alps
    2019-05-20 Mon - Hanging out in Dubrovnik

    On June 11 after I reported on my travel for May 19, I decided to not try anymore to catch up and instead I shared pictures and thoughts about more recent days.

    Well, I am now sitting at home, my trip is over - sad sad face - and I didn’t even finish reporting the end of my trip.

    So let’s continue from where I had stopped, in Dubrovnik on May 19. I spent 2 nights there, thinking it was a shame to pass through so many interesting places without taking the time to visit them. It’s been a question I kept asking myself throughout my trip, should I spend more time in each location to visit monuments, experience the city and get more opportunities to meet people or should I just hit the road and favor the pleasure of riding my adrenaline-inducing Super Adventure and of seeing more stunning sceneries?

    That’s the very very cool thing about traveling alone, there’s no compromise needed with anybody! :-) At the end I favored riding, with a few exceptions. I found that the most memorable encounters were anyway always far from big cities and touristic places.


    [​IMG]

    Igor, my airbnb host, had spent some time recommending a few places to visit and one of them was "Srd", the hill above Dubrovnik that offers an impressive view of the city and of the Adriatic Sea. He told me to be careful as on a regular basis motorcyclists found themselves stuck in front of a bus in the very steep hairpins and ended up dropping their bike - it made me smile as I didn’t expect anything more gnarly than I had gone through :-)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The view was astounding indeed.

    [​IMG]

    At the top of Srd was a fort built by the French 2 centuries ago that is now hosting a museum commemorating the Siege of Dubrovnik during the 91-95 Croatian independence war. Dark reminder of the human reality after the awe of the Croatian landscape :-(

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    First encounter with a concrete block while exciting a motorcycle parking area. And I picked the narrowest cases…

    [​IMG]

    The real owners of Dubrovnik - and the Balkans generally (not to mention Turkey I would find later!).

    [​IMG]
    #58
    TM1(SS) and Saso like this.
  19. mana

    mana Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2009
    Oddometer:
    99
    Location:
    Grasse, French Alps
    2019-05-21 Tue - 196 km Dubrovnik to Kotor

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    On the way to Kotor I stopped to visit a small monastery in Herceg-Novi which was a stop recommended by travelguide.michelin.com. A friend I later made on the road made fun of me for using THE classic french tourist guide :-), but regardless of the friendly sarcasm I found it very helpful while on the road. I recommend its mobile app, it allows to filter tourist attractions on a map, including only showing nature sites and national parks - I often referred to it to decide where to head.

    [​IMG]

    I arrived in Kotor too early to end my ride for the day and instead went up to the Lovcen National Park, west of the city. The road starts with 16 hairpins and at times is too narrow to cross the many buses that were coming back from the vista point above the bay. Fun! Especially with the very steep cliff below.

    [​IMG]

    Kotor bay after the 16 hairpins.

    [​IMG]

    Cloudy days can be beautiful. View from the top of Lovcen park.

    [​IMG]

    Yes, in Montenegro and many restaurants in the Balkans it’s still allowed to smoke - ecig for me.

    [​IMG]

    Hmmm, is Kotor to be packed with tourists coming from this floating city? They're everywhere, kind of the opposite experience to a solo motorcycle adventure.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Lots of custom pedal-less vehicles in pedestrian Kotor.
    #59
    jeckyll, elron, Saso and 2 others like this.
  20. NSFW

    NSFW basecamp4adv Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2007
    Oddometer:
    22,767
    Location:
    Burbank CA
    very nice RR. thanks.

    hopefully in 2021 i will have the opportunity.
    #60