Four weeks around Europe on a 250

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Joris van O, Jan 12, 2019.

  1. Joris van O

    Joris van O Been here awhile

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    This is a report of a trip I did last summer (August 2018). I know it’s a bit late, I got distracted with planning my next trip which starts soon and will be live. This one will be mostly pictures.


    Last summer I managed to get four weeks off from work, and was able to leave the whole month of August. Last year I went three weeks and met up with friends along the way. This time I’m alone for four weeks, just to test the waters and see if I can manage on my own for a prolonged time.


    Goal of the trip was Istanbul in Turkey. I always thought about going there one day, the gateway to Asia. Only to figure out a nice route to get there, and back. I made a plan to first head east, to Krakow in Poland and then further into Ukraine, Moldova and down to Turkey. Then to Athens in Greece and up again along the coast. Doable in four weeks and lots to see. But plans change all the time.


    Before I could leave I had to get the bike ready. I bought this Honda CB Two Fifty in September 2017 for 550 euro. It had only done 12.000 kilometers (about 7500 miles) in the 25 years the previous owner had it. It came with new tires too! I fancied the CB Two Fifty over the Nighthawk i already have because it comes with front disc brake (Whooaaa such technology), a rev. counter and center stand. After one year of commuting and 10.000 kilometers later it was in need of a new rear tire and set of chain and sprockets. Greased the headbearings and changed the oil.


    The luggage racks and bags that were on the 250 Nighthawk I used last year went on, and I made a small windscreen which also houses my 12v/5v ports and voltage gauge. Weight balance and space is critical on this little bike so I build a metal box to hold all my tools, airpump, spare tubes and spare parts.

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    Time to go! Always packing to much stuff, but left enough room in the topcase to hold at least one six-pack.

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    Obligatory picture

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    I wasn’t really planning on sharing the trip with someone so took very little pictures the first couple of days. I was enjoying riding the whole day again after spending months in the office and getting an occasional short ride in. The first night I spend on a campsite in Bad Karlshafen in Germany.

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    The next day it got more beautiful and riding through the Harz region was really nice. It’s a bit like the Ardennes in Belgium or Luxembourg I think. When I stopped for a break I heard a whistle in the distance. I remembered reading somewhere that they still use steam trains in the Harz. So waiting for a while hoping that the train would come but the whistle sounded like it was moving away. Just as I got on my bike again it came rolling ‘round the bend (cue Johnny Cash). I figured the hills had muffled the sound. To get a better view I raced up the road, jumped off and ran into to forest to the tracks. Still a kid at times..

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    At the end of the day I found a campsite near Leipzig at the Markkleebergersee. I set up my tent in the rain and went for a walk. Some impressive mining going on in the area. For dinner a Schnitzel and beer.

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    Next morning the sun was out and I crossed into the Czech Republic, rode through Park české švýcarsko and briefly back into Germany again to Zittau before entering Poland. The Czech national park was absolutely beautiful! The road from Hřensko past Jetřichovice and to Krásná Lípa was very nice. Lots of motorcycles riding here. I ended the day at a campsite in Poland called Wisniowa Polana. The water in the large swimmingpool was very cold but refreshing after a day of riding.

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    Taking the back roads to Krakow. I have never been to Poland before but I’m impressed, it’s a beautiful country with very friendly people (and the girls here, damn).

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    #1
  2. Joris van O

    Joris van O Been here awhile

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    Arriving at the hostel in Krakow. I did a quick google search on hostels before I rode into the city and picked this one. Just a nice chill hostel, nothing to fancy or special, paid 20 euro’s for two nights.

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    Having no idea what Krakow had to offer I walked to the old centre to look around and get some dinner. Found a nice sized burger and beer at Moaburger, recommended!

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    Walking over the main square pondering what to do I saw a group of people who were going on a pubcrawl. After practically being on my own for a couple of days I could do with some social interaction so decided to join. It was a very fun night. The downside came the next morning in the form of a massive hangover.

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    After dragging myself out of bed, still feeling rough I headed out for some breakfast and a walk around the city. There’s no shortage of tourists in Krakow but it’s such a nice city it’s foolish not to go there one day.

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    At the end of the day, feeling better again I got on the bike and rode to Zakrzowek. An old mine turned to lake. Good place to cool off on a hot summer day.

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    The next day I packed all my stuff and went to another mine, this time one underground. The Wieliczka Salt mines near Krakow. The size of the mine is impressive, the tour I was on only covered a small part of the mine but at some places I got a glimpse of the size by looking at the closed tunnels. The groups mostly focus on the statues or the big cathedrals carved out of salt. I was more impressed with all the woodwork that went into digging and supporting the mine. There was a second tour of a lower part of the mine, and for some reason I got a Russian speaking guide. That made it interesting. Going deeper into the mine it also got cold, numbing cold when only wearing shorts and a t-shirt.

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    One day before I left I got the idea of checking the Auschwitz website for information. I quickly found out that you have to make a reservation for the visit and that most timeslots –guided and unguided- are fully booked months in advance. There was only one unguided place left at 18:20, so after visiting the salt mines I got on my way to Auschwitz. I didn’t know what to expect and was impressed and at times speechless. On this sunny summer day the camp itself wasn’t that shocking, with the blue sky and mowed lawns, think away the fences and it’s just some old houses. But in those barracks were exhibitions with stories, pictures and artifacts of what happened in that same house or in the camp which brought tears to my eyes. Insane to realize it is not that long ago. I spend the night on a campsite nearby thinking about everything I had seen that day.

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    #2
  3. Iron Cross Junction

    Iron Cross Junction Been here awhile

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    Just skimmed both hurriedly— we are snowbound, and my wife is taking full advantage! :augie— so, I am in the middle of several tasks.

    Will enjoy your thread more fully this evening.

    Bill
    #3
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  4. TropicalDale

    TropicalDale The Adventures of Peter Pan

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  5. Haysie

    Haysie Adventurer

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    Watching with intent!
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  6. whatsgnu

    whatsgnu Scheissekopf

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    Loving the ride report, especially all the pictures!
    #6
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  7. zundappuk

    zundappuk Achtung Spitfeuer!

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    Looking forward to seeing more. I was in Krakow a few years ago on business. Managed to visit the Salt mines, that was impressive. As was the Vodka, the food and the women......
    #7
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  8. Joris van O

    Joris van O Been here awhile

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    The following morning I took the 945 in the south of Poland and crossed into Slovakia.

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    My initial plan was to ride to Lviv in Ukraine and then head south To Moldova. Somehow that idea changed as I rode through Slovakia. The landscape was pretty boring, the weather wasn’t that good and it was still a couple days to Lviv. Besides that, some people I had met in Krakow were going to Budapest and never been in Hungary before it sounded pretty good too. So I ditched the Ukraine and Moldova and pointed the wheels south to Budapest.

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    After a bit of riding through immense rain I was in Budapest. This trip is turning more and more into a citytrip then a motorcycle trip. And it’s only the first week. Got to a hostel and went out for another round of beer, this time keeping the next morning in mind. Way past midnight I walked back to my hostel, and only met a handful of people on the street. Very different city by day.

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    Budapest is again another beautiful city, a lot bigger than the last city I was in. Where Krakow has a small historic centre which you can walk through in a couple of minutes, Budapest is very large and it takes a while to walk from sight to sight.

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    I couldn’t come to Budapest and not visit the thermal baths. After a week on the bike and a whole day of walking this was perfect to get rid of the backpain that had developed. Different temperature baths, hot saunas, I looked old and wrinkled when I finally got out. Finished the day with some good streetfood and a beer.

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    The scenery to the border with Romania wasn’t super spectacular, I apparently didn’t even stop for a picture. That didn’t really changed when I crossed the border, which turned out to be completely deserted.

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    That evening I holed up at campsite Pensiunea Dorr in Semeria, Romania. The campsite and pension was owned by a very helpful old german man who had moved to Romania when he married his Romanian wife many years ago. At first I was the only guest so he did everything to make me comfortable, even ordered a pizza and some drinks for me. One hour later two young German cyclists arrived, they had started in Munich and where on their way to Odessa to catch a ferry to Georgia, talk about adventure. We got along pretty well and went back to the owner to fetch some more beers to keep us hydrated while we talked about our travels. Around 11pm we all hit the sack but were woken up by a couple of campervans arriving very late and setting up camp.

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    The next day I finally found some mountains again! Some say it is the best driving road in the world. All I know is, the traffic was ridiculous. I was heading for the Transfăgărășan obviously. Said to be the best road in the world by Top Gear my expectations were high. It looked promising from a distance. High mountain peaks with mild clouds around. About five kilometers before the top traffic came to a standstill. It was insanely busy, luckily I was on two wheels and could easily filter through. But it definitely tempered my expectations of the best road in the world. But I think that when there’s no other traffic I it will be paradise.

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    I stopped briefly at the top for a little walk, which offers nice views of the road snaking up through the valley. But as half of Romania was there as well I decided to move on. Just after the highest point a tunnel runs through the mountain to the other side. This dimly lid tunnel without any kind of ventilation was also full of standing traffic which made the air in the tunnel reach toxic levels. So I was happy to get out quickly on the other side. Going downhill was much better.

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    At that moment I didn’t had any other sights I wanted to see in Romania and was kinda looking forward to the rest of the trip so pushed on to the Bulgarian border. A crossed into Bulgaria around 8pm and was thinking of riding the last 200 kilometers to Motocamp Bulgaria. But that would be at least another three hours on the bike, and riding in an unknown country an hour before midnight didn’t sound like the best idea so I opted for wild camping. I was a bit skeptic because the place I found was just off the main road but after the sun set everything (even the stray dogs) went quiet and I slept fine.

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    #8
  9. Joris van O

    Joris van O Been here awhile

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    Oh man, the women.. They are just everywhere :knary
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  10. joenuclear

    joenuclear Long timer

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    N! :lurk
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  11. Joris van O

    Joris van O Been here awhile

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    The main reason for me to ride to Bulgaria, except for the fact that you need to cross it to get from Romania to Turkey, is to see the famous Buzludzha monument. Perched high on the mountain peak it’s visible from many kilometers away. It must have been a very imposing site back in the days. There used to be a small hole through which one could enter the derelict monument but when I walked up the stairs a guard came walking out of a little cabin, the hole was closed anyway. I almost lost my gloves there, as I had stashed them between the side bags for the ride down the mountain but they fell out. Luckily they were right in the middle of the road next to each other and no one had bothered to pick them up.

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    At the monument there was another bike, not sure what it is exactly but it made mine look like a big new bike.

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    The whole of Bulgaria is filled with communist statues and monuments in different states of disrepair. They are fascinating but a bit weird to watch. From Buzludzha is was another couple hours to the border with Turkey. But once across the border at Kapikule I was determined to take a dip in the Sea of Marmaris that evening. I had applied for a visa online before I left so the whole crossing was fairly easy. They wanted to check my bags but after finding dirty clothes in the first one it was alright. I also bought a toll vignette of some sort, but I have no idea if it even worked because every toll booth that I passed flashed its lights when I crossed. I quickly rode on regardless.

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    Finally on a campsite called Semizkum Mocamp, finally a beach and luckily they had beer in Turkey as well. At the campsite there was also a young woman from I think it was Slovakia on a Honda XL600R. She was on her way back home having followed almost the same route as I had, except she took the Transalpina in Romania which should be even better than the Transfăgărășan. The next morning I had less than one hundred kilometers left to Istanbul.

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    #11
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  12. joenuclear

    joenuclear Long timer

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    Love those helmets!
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  13. Joris van O

    Joris van O Been here awhile

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    Istanbul is big, very big. And big means a lot of traffic. Riding towards the city the traffic became denser and denser. Four lanes filled with cars, trucks and busses flying along and people switching lanes without looking or indicating made for some tense moments. Reaching the centre, traffic was gridlocked which made it easier as I could filter through just like all the mopeds do. At 10am I got to Cheers Hostel which I had picked on Google Maps. Being this early I left my stuff at the hostel until I was able to check in and went for a walk. A lot of highlights are literally within one kilometer of each other. I first walked to the Blue Mosque and as I was wearing shorts which aren’t allowed I got to wear a nice long fluffy skirt. The inside was insanely big, unfortunately there were some reconstructions going on so some parts were shut. The Yerebatan Cisterne was close so I went there next. This was also mindblowingy big and beautiful. And apparently there are several of those water storage places in Istanbul. It was dark so I didn’t take pictures, but everybody has seen it in the James Bond movie.

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    The Hagia Sophia is so big it wouldn’t even fit in the frame.

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    I walked along the Bosphorus until it was time to check in at the hostel. Going back through the Topkapi palace gardens. I took a moment and sat down on a bench to admire everything and all the people and to listen to the call to prayer from the many mosques around. After checking in did a quick tour through the hostel and decided that the rooftop bar would be a good place to have a beer tonight.

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    But I still wanted to see the other side of the city so went out again for a walk. Near the Galata bridge is the dock for the many ferries. The bridge itself is interesting as well. Traffic on top, restaurants on the bottom. I crossed the bridge and continued to the Galata Tower. Had I said before that there are a lot of people in Istanbul?

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    The old tram heading to Taksim Square.

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    On my way back I walked through the Big Bazar, which reminded me of Marrakech in Marocco. Although this one was a bit more organized. I was getting tired so a good meal was in order.

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    Having walked more than 30 kilometers that day, which is a lot for me, I went back to the hostel and up to the roof to admire the view. Played some darts with an American, an Australian, an Englishman and a South-African which was fun.

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    Lots of cool bikes around, this used to be a Honda CG125 or something.

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    Also lots of ‘art’ work and old cars around, I guess this Tofas Kartal is a Fiat derivative.

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    #13
  14. Dickyb

    Dickyb Bewildered Adventurer

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    Loving it. Thank you for posting.

    Cheers,

    DickyB
    #14
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  15. Joris van O

    Joris van O Been here awhile

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    I’m not sure why but after one night in Istanbul I was keen to get going again, to head a little bit further into Turkey. My initial plan was to ride to Izmir and take a ferry to Athens in Greece. However, I didn’t want to bother with the ferry so the new plan was to ride around the Sea of Marmaris to the Dardanelles Strait then cross the border into Greece and down to Athens, a 800 kilometer detour but I was happy with that.


    Leaving Istanbul was again an interesting experience, traffic was at a standstill as usual. At first I filtered through between the lanes, but there were many people walking between the lanes selling drinks and they would pop out just in front of me so that became annoying and sometimes to close. I switched to the shoulder and that worked fine until the traffic thinned out. I also noticed that there is a lot of construction going on, I must have seen hundreds of apartment buildings under construction. There must be a lot of money going into these projects, but is the demand really that high? Then this thing came into view, the Osman Gazi Bridge. This thing is huge! It is more than two and a half kilometer from end to end.

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    Beautiful views on my way to the ferry in Çardak to cross the Dardanelles Strait to Gallipoli

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    Once across I got to understand the significance of this small stretch of water and why it played such an important role in history. It just over a kilometer wide and through it goes all the traffic to the Black Sea. Ships from Bugaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia and of course Turkey itself have to go through here. Having control over these waters is vital, this strait and also the Bosphorus. This was magnified by the many concrete bunkers on the hills.

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    From Gallipoli to Keşan was a nice route, not much traffic and there even where pine forests. Something I didn’t expect to see in Turkey. From Keşan to the Greek border there was hardly any traffic at all. They must be expecting a lot of traffic in the coming years to construct such a road.

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    #15
  16. dirtdiver

    dirtdiver Long timer

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    enjoying this!
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  17. Joris van O

    Joris van O Been here awhile

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    I was looking forward to Greece and the Mediterranean culture so it was exciting to finally cross the border. It had been a long day, leaving Istanbul in the morning, riding around the Sea of Marmaris and then into Greece so I picked the first campsite that I could find. That happened to be the municipal campsite in the city of Alexandroupolis. Having ridden more than three thousand kilometers it was time for an oil change. There was a Lidl supermarket nearby so I went to get some drinks and some oil. One young guy on a scooter parked next to me in front of the store and asked if I had come all the way on that bike. He was very interested and said he wanted to do something like that as well, only he first had to pay the loan of the new scooter he had just bought. Back at the site I changed the oil, and made a bit of a mess. I had no drain pan so had to improvise and bought the cheapest two liter soda bottle I could find. Tossed out the soda and cut a small hole in the side of the bottle. The bike holds 1.5 liters of oil so it should all go in there. The thin plastic bottle didn’t really respond well to the hot oil though, luckily I had an old rag underneath it. I also did some maintenance and fix some lose items. All jobs done there was just a little time left for a swim before the sun would set. On the campsite there also was an older gentleman from the same city as where I live and we had a little chat. He was born in Greece but moved to the Netherlands a long time ago. But every year he would take his campervan and ride back to Greece to stay there for a month or two. He knew a lot of cool places and stories, he asked where I was going to eat and recommended a good place just up the road. It wasn’t hard to find because it was filled with people, must be good then. It was a streetfood restaurant/take away place so not super healthy but I didn’t care, I was hungry! He had recommended a special Giros sandwich but when I tried to read the menu I noticed a problem, it was all in Greek. More helpful Greeks were around and they translated for me. In the end I ordered the same sandwich two times because it was that good!

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    Following the coastal roads through northern Greece, Athens was still a long way away. I spotted a large group (flock?) of Flamingo’s in one of the lakes of the Nestos Delta. Such a gracious bird, last time I saw them was in Mauritania.

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    I continued along the coast, past Thessaloniki, and finally into the mountains again which creates a beautiful rugged coastline. Before I left I downloaded some of the TET gps routes. If you’re not familiar with the TET, it’s the European counterpart of the TAT called the Trans Euro Trail. I happened to see the Greek TET line on my navigation so decided to follow it for short while. It was super fun. The path was a rutted singletrack and I found it pretty challenging on my loaded bike. Around four in the afternoon I decided that it was enough and that should check out some of the natural beauty that Greece provides, so I picked Camping Gold Beach in Kalivia Varikou because the name sounded pretty good. While pitching my tent a couple of guys were having a barbecue from which the smoke blew over my tent. They apologized and gave me some fine cooked meat, nice! After that I Fix-ed myself a beer and went to the beach. I was looking at the mountains in the distance and wandered what the view would be like from the top. Google Maps pointed out that it was the famous Mount Olympos I was eyeballing. Well damn, I should definitely try to get to the top then. I was not inclined to walk all the way so searched the satellite images for a track. There was one, leading to a shelter at around 2400 meter. The rest I had to walk.

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    After a good night sleep I set off early to make the best of the day. It took me a while to find the track I had spotted on the satellite images. I took a wrong track first which led to a free roaming horse and a couple of dogs. They weren’t overly happy to see me so while I tried to turn around came storming towards me. I saw the horse galloping behind me through my mirrors, luckily it gave up after I rounded a corner. I had no idea if it was just curious but I wasn’t planning on finding out. Finally on the right track, it soon turned to crap, woohoo.. see how far this little bike will go.

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    The view was so good!

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    The track snakes around the mountain so at one side I had a beautiful view over the village below, on the other side it was covered by clouds. Which gave an eerie feeling, especially as I was on the mountain of a god. Climbing higher and higher, I saw strange shadows up ahead. Big shadows. I slowed down and then saw what it were, cows. First the horse now cows.. I’m turning into a chicken.

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    I crawled on, trying not to damage my tires as getting a flat up here would be annoying, and finally past the shelter. The track went on for a couple hundred meters and every meter I could spare to walk, until it ended. Packed my bag with a bag of peanuts, water and my camera and went for it. There was nobody but some deer. My stamina was crap and the climb was pretty steep so I needed a couple of breaks to reach the summit (I’m not even sure if it is the real summit that I reached). It was surrounded with clouds but after a while it cleared up and I could see something. It was time for a selfie.

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    Going down was easy and went quick. I took this pic when I was riding down, that piece was fun!

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    Insane views again, can’t stop looking.

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    After the mountainous adventure I pushed on further towards Athens, or I would never get there.

    Just before sunset I pitched my tent at Camping Interstation Stylidos at the Gulf of Maliakos Kolpos and managed to split one of the poles. It had a hard life so I wasn’t that fuzzed. I paid 60 euro for this Coleman Darwin 2 tent and it has been through multiple Europe trips and three months in Africa. I reckon I’ve pitched it at least one hundred times. With a bit of ducktape it was fine again.

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    #17
  18. NSFW

    NSFW basecamp4adv Super Supporter

    Joined:
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    wow...small bike traveling in europe. i thought my 650 was too small. ended up doing backroads. took me forever to get from one place to the next. a 180 km is a full day ride for me. the best part, i was able to see the countrysides.

    i admire your perseverance and patience. i take your RR as an inspiration. was thinking of shipping my africa twin CRF1k to replace the 650. but now a maybe.

    small thumper rules!
    #18
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  19. Joris van O

    Joris van O Been here awhile

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    Thanks for checking in (everyone)!

    I had a couple of bigger bikes like the old Africa Twin, Transalp, a 650 single, a 500 twin but I did never really 'connect'? with them.
    On the 250 I average 300km per day. Longest I did was almost 700km just German Autobahn and I still want to ride a 1000km one day. But I agree, the point is not to hurry, 'cause there are many bikes that will do that better.
    #19
  20. Joris van O

    Joris van O Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2015
    Oddometer:
    144
    Location:
    Netherlands
    A couple of people had told me that Athens wasn’t a nice enough city to spend a couple of nights in, especially compared to where I had already been. Krakow, Budapest and Istanbul are hard to beat. Doing a Google search on ‘top 10 Athens’ didn’t go much further than visit the Greek ruins in the centre. So when I rode in early in the day my expectations were tempered. Maybe I was annoyed even, it was hot, the traffic was thick, the roads super slippery like riding on glass, and when I stopped to get fuel the guy (he does it for you) tried to sneak in the most expensive fuel.

    Athens is a busy, big and hot city.

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    I decided to first visit the Acropolis, after all that is where Athens is famous for. The whole site is impressive, not just the Parthenon. From a top the mountain you can look over the city from the sea to the far end where the mountains start.

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    Having seen every corner of the Acropolis I walked through the National Gardens to the Olympic Stadium. It is a nice city, perhaps to visit in another time of the year and I’m probably not doing it justice but I just wasn’t feeling it and was eager to get out. So after a couple of hours wandering around I was on the road again.

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    Something that I did really like and was thoroughly impressed by was the Corinth Channel. It is massive, a deep slash through the rocks like Zeus himself went for it. With crossing the bridge I entered the Peloponnesus and entered the most beautiful part of Greece. I found serenity at a campsite called Kastraki Camping. I needed to stay away from big cities for a while, I had seen enough of them in the last two weeks.

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    The south of Greece is sooo nice! Nature, roads, good food and ancient sites to visit. I picked Mystras because it was on my route and was lucky that I did. The city is build on a steep hill, when I reached the top I was exhausted. I sat down for a while eating a sandwich and imagining how life would have been here 500 years ago. I again ended the day on the beach, this time in Kourouta. For me this is the perfect end of a day of riding.

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    #20