2013 was Another trip to Balkan….

So another came around the corner, and yet another vacation to enjoy and look forward to…. (and yes, I’m a bit late writing this – been preoccupied with other more interesting things) …

So due to things outside my influence the bank account was not as filled as it was supposed to, and I had to change my route a bit, but it wasn’t that much ….

Big change was that due to being a nice guy, and being told off by the nice people who pay my salary I had to leave one month later than planned (FFS), but then well, shit happens.

One early August morning (more precise 10. Aug. 2013) I left home for a few weeks of seeing interesting things.

This years big adventure would be to follow the Carpathian mountains from Poland into Ukraine then via Moldova into Romania … the rest was more up to wishful thinking, and hope, and a prayer to the gods that I would break any bones, or catch something really nasty – hey, the world is a dangerous place…..

I think this is the most dangerous thing I saw the who 5 weeks …

Oh, he was a mean customer, but more about that later :-D

First stop was somewhere in Harz (Germany, where I found a nice camping, actually it’s nice enough for me to think about going back, which is why I will not share it’s location with anyone), next was a really nice place just south of Görlitz and 300 meters from the Polish border, nice filled with flies … and as discovered Ants .. just an advice never ever get Ants into your helmet, you will live to regret it, and you will regret it, f… painful…

I had a pleasant evening, talk to and old lady who turned out to be a survivor of the Dresden bombings, and grew up in the East (Germany). She had some interesting comments on our current society, most of them I agree with; we are unfortunately more interested in our self than we are in how people around us are … sad.

Next was Poland… hummm, interesting place, both in a pleasant surprise, and what adjectives comes up when one drive through it, most of the words are not of the positive kind. I stopped at some point to get a picture of an old tower, and roughly 5 seconds I was yelled at.. I was not allowed to part there, and was mostly told to piss off ….

The tower was kind of nice, but it didn’t really make me look at that place with positive eyes…

I decided that Auschwitz, probably wasn’t too bad a place to visit, history and all that. And I’ve reached a conclusion; really bad people make good people do bad things… as for the rest, read history and learn from it, as it will repeat itself.

There is a Hotel / Camping close by, where I meet a young Dutchman, who had been stuck for 3 days with a broken bike, talked a bit to him, but not much help could be offered….

Then to the High Tatras (Polish side), which is a tourist trap, and for further reference should be avoided.

At that point I had enough of Poland and decided (well my GPS decided to act up, and I didn’t really know where I was, and my map did not line up with my thought process), so I ended up driving a bit in Slovakia – which is pleasant ;)

Now having endured so much just to see some mountains, I finally got to the Carpathian Mountains in Poland, hummmm, hummmm. What can I say; cloud cover …. nice roads though. Found a cabin for the night, and continued to Ukraine…. Next year though….

More to follow…. (photos as usual)

Balkan 2012 – part 1

2012 have until now been an interesting year, in April/May I was on my way to Morocco on my newly aquired steed, which decided that it didn’t want to go any further when I got to Burgos, Spain, so having 1 extra week of vacation to use on my summer vacation I decided to run off for 5 weeks during July/August. Yes, I know this is the warmest period, and yes I (now) know that it’s damn hot… but I like it that way… the laides wear less cloth;-)

As I got my bottom firmly planted for too long at Motocamp Bulgaria in 2011 I decided that I had to revisit, and see the rest of the countries in the Balkans.

Everyone who know me, know that long term planning is a (as we say in Danish) a small village in Russia, so the only thing I more or less planned was which countries, and a few things I wanted to see, until further notice the route would be: The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Austria, Germany, and The Netherlands – I did mention that my planning skills really are not that great, and the final route was slightly off… but for once not much.

Also something I have gotten used to; the first couple of days it always rains – not I have not gotten used to it, I’m just trying to be a grown up, not with much success.

As always a bit of panic takes care of all normality, but for strange reasons due to being at the German HUM (Horizon Unlimited Travel Meeting) in July I more or less had my foot on everything, new paniers had been ordere well in advance (one try with softluggage and I was back to using the alu things), so early’ish one saturday in July I set off on a “small” trip around the Balkans….

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Balkan 2012 – part 2

This year I’ve decided that I’m not going to do this whole thing day by day, as I know that I’ll be tired of writing it before I’m done, and you (hopeful reader) will think it’s boring, and stop reading (shame on you).

Germany

I actually did promise Martin that I’d stop in Heidelberg to say ‘Hallo’, but the weather was really crap, and the only thing I could think of was to get as far as possible (I did fell bad about not keeping a promised to a good friend – shame on me).

Got as far as Nuremberg, found a hotel, which was not really cheap nor expensive, but they had internet, warm shower, so an early evening (I keep saying that, but it’s not true), and with a bit of luck I could get on the road early next day.

Well the day started fine’ish, and I decided to see Zeppelin Field. I alway have an odd feeling when I see that guy with the mustage in the old B/W movies from the 1930s screaming at people from that place, and have promised my self that I would go and have a look when I had a chance to do so.

Strange what people do… “really bad people, make good people do bad things” (don’t know who said it – might be me) – more about that later.

So as the weather was still “slightly” crap, I decided to get on the road, and do some closer to warmer weather – 2 weeks later I was dreaming about rain….

Austria

So I got out of Germany and into Austria, not being all that happy with the weather. I found a place to get something to eat, or at that point a place to get warmed up and get some human fuel. Which was somewhere in the Neighbourhood of Linz. I’m not a great fan of Austria, maybe it’s me who is so used to Germans, that the culture difference is something I can’t get over (and they even speak a kind of German). But from here on all roads where to be main roads or smaller, no motorway until I got back to Austria some weeks later.

So small roads, with the occasion oil spill in the rain, just what is needed to keep the heart beating at a high rate. The nature was nice, didn’t notice much of it as I was busy keeping the bike on the road.

Finally got to Baden (only one Baden not two), found a B&B (cheapest I could find), which probably would have been fancy a generation ago, but was kind of run down. After a nice hot show I succeeded in finding a Curry place, where I got one of the best curries I’ve had in a long time.

Next day I continued, and ran in to the welcoming and helpful locals. I stopped at a gasstop to get a vignette for Hungary (couldn’t remember if I needed on – better to be save than sorry), and was told I had to get it at the border (in a kind of go away tone). Right…. what border, just an old stone bridge over a stream and a sign, that was it – well if they didn’t want my money then so be it.

Hungary

Right, last time I was in Hungary was in 2011, where it came from Slovakia and on to Romania, as fast as possible…. This time I would spend slightly longer. I didn’t really have any interest in seeing Budapest (one can always fly in and have a quick look), and had been told that next to least borring thing to see was Lake Balaton (right….), and all roads in Hungary are small and not very good (well in my humble opinion). Ok, ok, I was not really there to enjoy the motorways, I was there to see the country and if that included under par roads, so be it.

When one live in the congested North Europe, there are a few things one hardly see; I was driving on this tiny road next to some fields, and on the other side there was some woodlands which was fenced off. On on of the pools a hawk (Rough-legged Buzzard) was sitting, looking for something to catch, a few hundred meters further along on a stone in the field there was another one – that made my day… awesome sight…

Lake Balaton, the North of it look to be a turist trap, and the South side a mix of small villages and quiet campings – I would still not recommend anyone going there.

So the whole plan, was to get down to the Donau at Mohács, and then follow it as close as possible, the whole way to Romania (plans are there to be change).

The whole way through Hungary it was dry and hot, and then suddenly it turned green and lush, it’s always interesting to see what a river can to do it surroundings.

What can one say about the Southern part of Hungary, well it’s flat as a pancake…. not much going on.

Got to the Serbian border, tiniest border crossing. On the Hungarian side I was asked where I was going… “Serbia, Romania ….” (I’m not brave enough to say Berlin), on the Serbian side the occupants where sitting in a couple of plastic chairs. I was asked something in Serbian… “Sorry I do not speak Serbian” … was waved through…

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Balkan 2012 – part 3

Serbia

So when does the adventure start, well not really yet. The Northern part of Serbia is flat, just like Southern part of Hungary, “hey there is a corn field, and a sunflower field … and another corn field…”, and the road are kind of strait, and very borring.

Got to Novi Sad, which looks kind of interesting, especially the old part of town on the south side of Donau, but that would be for another day. I was on my way to Romania. I got out of Novi Sad, on the way to Romania, and after a couple of hours of more corn fields I started looking for a place to sleep – preferably a hotel. Non to be found, and no place to do wild camping (fields every where), finally got to Vršac, where I found a “cheap” bed at the Hotel Srbija, had better beds, but the shower was working, and food was in walking distance. Ended the day with a massive Lasagna.

While I was updating my GPS, and in general just poking around, I got a “where are you?” on chat from Andreas (friend from Germany), as I in general have a problem where I in general are, it took a bit of time to tell him. 2 seconds later I got a link to google maps with a route to where he was (Temska, south east of Serbia)…. some 380km away, well Romania will also be there next year, so why not.

Next day, instead of going to Romania I went south… and started to see a bit more green stuff…

Got over the Donau, and decided that it’s not only in Romania where there are disel fumes to be found, but also in Serbia. Well go in to the mountains, and had a blast of a drive for around 200 km. The mountains start roughly at the Donau, and continues, and continues south… the whole way down. I just enjoyed it.

As I got closer to Temska the “big hills” started to transform into “bigger hills”, even better…

So the only thing Andres had told me was that I just had to stop at the grocery shop and ask for him (as every one know Andreas…), so I stopped at the first shop (he did not mention that there where two of them), went in, got a bottle of water, and asked for him … Imagine you goto New York, and ask for Donald Duck… yes… I was the moron. Then I remembered that it had to do with camp, and asked again, and “ahhhh, da,da, go right… ~200m, big sign…”, I thanked, and left. While I was drinking the water Andreas showed up… Mad world..

So this whole thing was a youth camp (and I am very old), where young people from all over the world show up to help clean the forest for some asian trees which grow like weed. I arrive the last day, and almost everyone was gone. Interesting collection of people.

I got unpacked, tent pitched, and suddenly turned around and a handful of kids where looking at my bike, like drooling … So I got everything off the bike (which was not bolted down), and put it on the center stand… and told them that yes they could sit on it, but only two at a time….

It was kind of amazing, for the 1 and half day, they spend the better part of 4 hours on that bike, and everything which could be explained, was explained, and touched, etc, etc, they had a great time (so did I).

Sasha (RIP) a friend of Andreas and Andreas decided that 1) I had to go to the beach with them (right) (it’s a bar next to the river/stream), 2) next day I had to goto the waterfall with them, etc, etc.

So 1) was accomplished, they play loud electronic music, and people drink (a bit), otherwise quite nice, and one can run into interesting/nice people (women)


(Sonja & Andreas)

2) next day they dragged me around the village, for no obvious reason, and then we went to the hydro power plant… build sometime early in the 1900′s, but still very interesting (and deadly).

That evening there was a BBQ, yummy, awesome food … at some point one of the locals (who was fairly drunk at that point) wanted me to have a beer, which as I don’t dring alcohol politely said “no thank you” to, I was then offered Rakia, which I also politely declined. I was then told that men who do not drink alcohol are no men… sure…

Andreas at that point had been pinned down by two, not very nice woman, and a gent, who was wearing black t-shirts with something which looked like swastika’s printed on them. Over 3 hours he was told (in not very good English), that everything was the fault of the Germans, and if not them the EU, and if not the EU, the the USA, or the English, or the Danish…. least of all it was not the Serbians who was at fault of anything… Interesting, I felt very sorry for him.

I almost forgot, at some point before the BBQ started, one of the girls asked if I would give her a ride on the bike, as she had no helmet I declined, but Andreas the adventure he is said yes. As he had parked his bike in the middle of a crowd I handed him the keys to the BEEMer, now imagine he can just touch the ground, and this girl is not one of the smallest, she puts her foot on the pilon footrest, and start lifting her self up… Andreas sudden very surprised discovers what she is doing and looses connection to the ground and the bike flips (first scratch, than you so much). Gravity sucks :D

I stayed up talking to people until late, and had a good sleep.

I got up next morning, started packing, and just before I left, went over to Andreas’s tent to tell him that I was leaving…. he looked like something the cat dragged in the night before, after playing with it the whole night… HA,HA,HA…

We had been told that there was a new border crossing towards Belogradchik (Bulgaria), I could not find it (and was later told it’s only in planning), so down to Nis, and turn left towards Bulgaria… passed the place where I got introduced to e-coli last year.. and to the border…

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Balkan 2012 – part 4

Bulgaria

Now Bulgaria, is by far one of my favorite countries, and I always enjoy being there (most of the time).

I got to the border crossing, on the front of the boot there is a notice in 3 or 4 different languages, where one is warned that if one have been in the country earlier and have committed any trafic violations one can be asked to pay the fine before being able to enter the country. And one is told that “The police is driving white Open Astras with ‘Police’ written on them in blue letters…”, really sweet.

The lady in the boot took my passport, processed it and said “Goodbye”, not wrong but probably not the right work for the occasion.

The road was more or less closed for some reason, it’s interesting to see people who drive up to a police office (who is waving people not to proceed) and try to hustle them self past. Always a good time for a smoke and some water.

Hot, good damn hot, this was the point where I could use the rain…. (see I was right)…

Got past Sofia, which I still think is a beautify city, but in dire need of some TLC.

Just when one come of the motorway (yes, yes, yes, I know) there is a gas station, I went in to get an icecream, and they have an Air con, maaannn, was that needed.

Continued to Motocamp, hardly got in through the gate when Ivo declared I was late and I had to hurry as “we” where on the way to get something to eat, and by the way this is Kew and Lorain, and that’s their bike … (you’re here by part of the family, and you will be told off if you don’t behave). Harley by the way, did not even bark once… so much for greetings…

Kew and Lorain where on the way home from a 3 and a half year trip around the world. The new few nights I spend with discussing Life, Universe & Everything with Kew, people who have spend that long time on the road have interesting things to say. And they where stuck as Kew had woken up with a nerve stuck in his left shoulder somewhere in Romania.

A couple of days later I meet up with Svetlana, who introduced me to one of her friends (Mischa), who as a first thing presented me with an icecream :-D

They took me to a Nunnery (monastery) outside Veliko Tarnovo, where the nun who was looking after the church, told us that as I was a Lutheran protestant buying a candle would do me no good, as it would not work for me… hilarious.

… it’s been 5 months since I started writing this …

Andreas was supposed to have shown up by now, I send a few texts, and finally got an answer; he was down with a stomach bug, and would show up later.

Otherwise nothing happened, except for hanging around doing nothing except for read, eat, sleep…

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Balkan 2012 – part 5

One can not just sit around doing nothing for a long time….

I wanted to see the Dardanelles in Turkey, as it is one of the places where the English really got things wrong during the 1th World War, also it’s the south eastern border of the European Continent.

So I started driving south, got to Svilengrad which is as all border towns (I guess), nothing much going on (good), found a hotel. While I was eating a gentleman walked up to me and asked if the bike which was parked outside was mine, I told him it was. And was told it would be better if it was parked in the closed yard behind the hotel, but I should finish my dinner and come and find him, which would be easy as he was the owner. So after my dinner the bike was moved to the yard. He asked me to sit down and have a drink, and I spend 2 hours discussing Bulgarian / Turkish politics… kind of an eye opener.

Next day (26/7-2013), easy head for border…

Now one thing about Turkey which everyone talk about is the fuel prices… ie. fill up before going there!!

The border is interesting, 2 booths to get out of Bulgaria, 4 to enter Turkey, can’t remember it in details, but something like 1. all papers, 2. immigration, 3. vehicle, 4. a check of all of the above, and finally a fat man in a plastic chair who put a stamp (or two) in the passport. He also asked where I was going… (funny enough he didn’t ask where I came from).

Now if I’d known I would have spend time there, but in Edirne they have the Selimiye Mosque which is a master piece, and build by one of my favorite architects; Mimar Sinan, he btw. also build the bridge in Mostar (read on).

But I didn’t know that, so I continued; I’ve been to baren, and borring places before, but that part of Turkey probably takes the price, there is one 4 lane road which goes from Edirne to Maydos, and that’s it – there are bi-roads, but they don’t go anywhere. There is nothing to see (unless one is into Turkeys Military Baraks).

I got to the tip, looked around, took a few photos (non of them are any good – you’ll have to go there yourself). Turned around and started looked around for a place to sleep, I was sweaty, tired, and just plain annoyed.

So the first hotel I stopped at in Maydos didn’t have parking (except across the road), the next one let me park outside the door, and they would keep an eye on it during the night (also it was just below my balcony).

I found something to eat, which wasn’t expensive, but nor cheap…

And had a look at Asia Minor …

Next day, I drove back north, but instead of going to Bulgaria, I took a “short cut” to Greece ….

Exiting Turkey is the same as entering 4 booths, but this time there was a tax free zone (Ya!!), no space for anything interesting (bummer). It looks like the Turks and the Greek don’t like each other much, as there is a fair amount of military around that border….

The eastern part of Greece is not really that interesting, except that they have a lot of new cars around… hummm….

With the help of my paper map I found the tiniest border crossing, two 20 foot containers dumped in the middle of no where.

I stopped, Greek person comes out takes the passport, checks it, and gives it to his Bulgarian colleague, who then ask for bike papers, 1 minute later he comes out and give me the passport and bikes papers back – how easy…

I stopped 30 meters after the border, to get everything arrange again, and inserted the earplugs… Suddenly a very heavy hand landed on my left shoulder (I almost did …), I turns around and there a walking door (wide, and approx. 170cm high) in black jeans, and black t-shirt was standing with big smile on his face. I took out the earplugs, and he hand came out… well one is polite (especially around borders), so I shaked his hand; him: “Hi, I’m George, and is that your bike ?”, me: “Yes”, him: “Wow!!! …, me also got bike”, after which he takes off and 1 minute later comes back on an XT600 in pristine conditions. We talked about the XT and so forth. A camera comes out, and he asked if he could take some photos of the BEMMER…, and asked if I could take a photo of him … sure…

Quite funny, if it hadn’t been the heavy hand….

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Balkan 2012 – part 6

Ya!! back in Bulgaria….

Now, there is a reason why I have a GPS… I do not get lost… actually I get lost even with the GPS, also it does not help if the maps are not covering the area I am in…

So I got to Ivaylovgrad, looked at the map, and turned left (the right thing here would have been right), but hey.. stunning landscape, but the road ended blind… right back track got back to the Ivaylovgrad, and on the way… still stunning landscape (must go back).

Found a hotel in Mumchilgrad (Hotel Berito)… if you like your sleep do not go there… loud music from 8am to 2am.. not my kind of place…

Next day I was asked if I wanted breakfast, and they where quite astonished that I didn’t …. I had enough… (no breakfast with loud electronic music).

I had promised Svetlana and Andreas that I would stop in Stara Zagora for the bike meet, went out for the drive out, but wanted to continue to idilevo, but was stopped by the “Road Captain” … I had to have a drink, and when I then wanted to leave I had to give an interview for the local tv station. I doubt they ever will use it… and if they did I don’t know when it was aired, nor which tv station (do not ever mention it if you’ve seen it).

Got back to Motocamp … sweaty, dirty, and tired….

A couple of days later I went on a drive with some people ….

I went and saw

In all of that I found out that I do not float in fresh water, I sink like a stone, I lost my glasses, and that women in Bulgaria does not snore…. DO NOT MENTION THAT… EVER!!

Also there is food, and there is “Polly Food”… you should try it, it’s worth it… and do not tell people you’re late due to the fact that you’re having Polly Food, as it will earn you any points…

Time had come where I needed to leave … good thing must come to and end…

Over another pass…. this one pretty awesome…

I wanted to see Hisarya, as it’s old, and build before anyone in my part of the world knew what baked bricks was.

And Ivo just before we left (we, as Andreas had decided that he wanted to tag along), said that one have to stay at Eco Camping Batak, which is true… nice, clean, and quite… and the owner Chris is a cool dude… (no waves for surfing). We decided to stay 2 nights…

Then via a very interesting road over the easter part of the Rila mountains to the Rila Monastery. Don’t do that, it’s illegal, we where told off, and did promise never to do it again. But if you feel like, drop me a note, and I’ll publish the GPS track..

But it starts like this

Got to Rila Monastery, which is old (or so I’m told). You can stay there… the beds are not the best (far from). While I’d been walking around looking Andreas had booked us in (me not happy). I had to explain that I do not share rooms with people (just a small principle). So I got one for my self, and fairly fast decided to get my mat, and sleeping bag…

Then off to Macedonia (I don’t like the Greeks, so for me it’s a country, and not a renegade state which should belong to Greece).

I learned something new – do not take photos in proximity of border crossings even if your camera is pointing the other way..

Right so Macedonia, is not thing special, it’s there… I split up with Andreas on the way to Ohrid… he arrived 3 hours after me…

Later when Andreas was leaving his dwellings, and Australian voice asked if that was my bike.. Oz.. here.. hummm… Turned out that he was Serbian, and was in Orhid for vacation, but had been in Serbia to see family. Got in to an interesting discussion about the Balkan wars, and learned something new…

Next day off to Albania… one can write pages about Albania, but in my book it’s; poor, dirty, not very good food, and horrible roads, with not the best drivers. Tirana looks like a place to visit, if it wasn’t so polluted…

On the other hand, if one goes off the track and finds the small road in the mountains then it probably would be more fun…

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