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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by Stara Varos, Jul 1, 2020.
[ my Balkan trip is already posted, among other rides, on my personal blog here ]
As every year, the riding season starts in March and my birthday, in the middle of the month, is always a good opportunity to explore the Balkans. Given that in many of the mountain passes the chance of encountering snow on the road was quite high, Albania and Montenegro were chosen as my destination.
Day 1 [Thessaloniki, Greece - Tirana, Albania] 665 km, 9h10m.
Through Egnatia Highway i soon arrived in Igoumenitsa and from there a route parallel to the coastline was chosen with direction initially for the area of Chimara, a strip of land 20 km long and about 5 km wide, defined by the Ionian Sea to the southwest and the 2000 m. high Keravnia Mountains (Llogara Pass) in the northeast. The name is derived from the Ancient Greek «Κεραύνια ὄρη», meaning «thunder-split peaks». This mountain range in antiquity was the boundary of the Greek world as it was the physical border between the Greek tribes of Epirus and the Illyrian tribes. In the area of Keravnia, the Chaones were settled and further south the Thesprotians. At their foot were the cities of Chaones: Phenicia, Himara, Ekatobeton, Panormos and Ogismos (see Strabo «Geography», book IV).
I was particularly interested in visiting the Venetian Castle in Porto Palermo Bay.
It is often referred to as Ali Pasha's Castle, but anyone with minimal historical knowledge can clearly discern Venetian design in the construction of this fortification. Finally, Porto Palermo was the ancient Greek city - port of Panormos, which served the walled city of Heimarra (Chimara). Most likely, Panormos was renamed during the Byzantine period by the Sicilians of the city of Palermo as Porto Palermo, since the original name of the Sicilian city of Palermo was also Panormos. Relatively cited by wiki.
[Note: The aerial shots of the Castle that follow, come, after permission, from the personal account of Lana Sator on Instagram. This is my favorite account related to the area of abandoned and urban aesthetics].
In the Gulf of Porto Palermo is another «hidden» but very famous remnant of the Cold War era, the submarine base of the Albanian Navy, also known as the "Porto Palermo Tunnel". It was built in 1969, during the period of the Socialist People's Republic of Albania, under the rule of Enver Hoxha and even today the area is under military control.
For some, it is considered a base for high-speed, short-range cruise ships, while other sources claim that it is the base of the four Soviet submarines «project-613», known in the West as «whiskey-class». According to wiki «..the Pasha Liman Naval Base in Avlona was the only Soviet base in the Mediterranean in the 1950s. An incident took place concerning the Base between the Soviets and the Albanians in 1961, when Albania came out of the Warsaw Pact unannounced and so not only did prohibit the use of the base by the Soviets, who had made large investments in it, but also seized 4 Soviet submarines..». These were withdrawn in 1998, and the truth about the use of the base can only be found in military records.
A few more shots of the former Naval Base by Lana Sator.
Stop for lunch in Heimarra.
Continuation of the route with the famous Llogara Pass, which crosses the homonymous National Park.
Panorama, some 650 m. above sea level, from something that initially looked like a half-finished building, but actually was the top of a Command Bunker.
The entrance to the tunnel just below the building was open and for a second i had a thought to go check the interior but the weather changed dramatically and in a few moments i found myself in the heart of a dense fog, so i had to skip it.
Scattered throughout Albania, small or large bunkers, are estimated at about 173.000, some 5.7 per square kilometer, were built under the leadership of Enver Xoxha, without any logic, as they were never involved in any armed conflict.
Arrival late in the afternoon in the capital, Tirana. From the day's route i singled out the villages of Vouno, Dermi and Drymades beach, which i will definitely visit in the future.
Day 2 [Tirana, Albania - Kotor, Montenegro] 260 km, 5h30m.
The area of Crnojevica River in Montenegro was the day’s goal.
To reach to the point i was interested in, i first had to drive a small provincial road, the P16, which started almost right behind the Albanian border and continued at a high altitude next to Lake Skadar, which is shared by the two countries.
The rainy weather and the cloud cover at the height of the road created an incredible scenery and if i hadn't placed incorrectly my gopro, i would have had some really awesome material.
It took me about 2 and a half hour to cover the 80 km of the lakeside route, and finally the view of the river fully compensated me.
The river Rijeka Crnojevica.
The omonymous small town is associated with Duke Ivan Crnojević, and it is said that in 1494 the first book in Cyrillic, the «Oktoih prvoglasnik», was printed in a city's cellar. Of particular interest at the entrance to the city is the «Danilov most» bridge, built in 1853.
Then, via Cetinje, i rode the small road P1, which surrounds Lovcen National Park. The road was under reconstruction works and especially near the village of Njegusi, was irregularly paved with thick stone. A little later, i found myself again above the clouds, with stunning views of Kotor Bay.
I ended my day with a walk in the extremely well-preserved old town.
Rest in the - ship's hold like - room.
Day 3 [Kotor - Ohrid] 360 km, 7h45m.
Starting early in the morning, i entered Albania and through small provincial roads (SH46), i crossed the Ulza Dam, the small town of Burrel and via the SH36 road i rode towards Peshkopi.
Side winds made me do this.
After a quick border crossing near the town of Divri, i drove south and parallel to the Black Drin River, to the town of Struga and finally to Ohrid, where i spent the night.
Ps: Fortunately, my fellow travelers remembered my birthday, since ι had completely forgotten about it.
Day 4 [Ohrid - Thessaloniki] 290 km, 3h40m.
North of Mount Varnountas, for others National Park «Pelister».
Finally, when i arrived at my house's parking lot, i was thinking about the previous days’ ride. I made sure of how much i enjoyed the whole trip, simply by observing the dirt and mud covering my entire motorcycle.
Thanks for the RR. I plan to ride the area next year if the virus settles down.
Gimme a heads up @Doogle as im always somewhere around
Thanks for the offer. I think I stayed in Thessaloniki several years ago on a RTW trip. Rex Hotel. I broke a wheel north of Athens. I'll save your name for future reference.
Shaking loose some nice memories, thanks!
Agree, the P16 in Montenegro was a highlight and the lookout that pic was taken https://bit.ly/2Ayqs08
has a tiny, semi-overgrown and steep road branching off next to the old Hotel leading to the M23 to Cetinj.
We took the road through Lovcen N/P up to the mausoleum and joined the P1 above the Kotor hairpins, sadly a very hazy and slow descent
among some heavy traffic, so we missed the Fort Vrmac visit on the way to Lepetane.
It's on the plans again for next year, starting in Athens for 3 weeks of backroads to Zagreb.
Heh...just saw the SH36 to Peshkopi pothole-heaven...we came the other way from Debar/ Macedonia and went north via Perlat and Prosek in the late afternoon of a day which already
had a flat tyre and a near headon crash near Qafe Murre ending in a rough off-the-edge excursion, bike and rider getting caught by a few half-dead bushes.
Never a dull moment in the Balkans
About post #22 in this thread
Thanks again !
Yes, @Doogle , do that!
Beers will be mine
Im glad @glitch_oz my post brought you back nice memories of rides around the Balkans! Even flat tyres or bad luck in general, also add something to the adventure
When you re back in GR, shoot me a message here or ig, because im always somewhere around! Now im Thessaloniki located, near the borders and Chalkidiki (if you plan for summer time, the beaches hete are a must go)
Once again, thank you for the read and comments, as they move me to keep writing and sharing..
Oh...coming from Australia, beaches are not really a prime target
But your mainland mountain backroads are....
I'll keep an eye on your trips