Tag Archives: Balkan

Balkan 2011 – Part 1

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So, due to unforeseen issues I didn’t get around to goto Morocco in 2011. But as I have these friends who have been telling me all these wonderful things about Bulgaria (thanks), I decided that why not make it into a round trip.

So with 3 weeks of preparation I decided on a route which would take me through; Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, and via Germany home. Needless to say long trip, and probably I would end up hating myself at the end of it.

Well got 4 weeks of from the end of July, and everything was set … right…

Now sitting infront of my computer reading my travel diary, I can see that everything didn’t start as planned.

Day 1 (23/7-2011)
Got everything packed (I though), one the way out of Rotterdam I was almost pushed off the bike by a Polish tourist (or maybe not), well it didn’t go that far, but it was a close few seconds. The first few hours are always the worst, as I spend the time going through everything in my mind, did I remember to close the balcony door, did I lock the front door, and so forth. Also going through everything did I remember to bring this and that. And then 100km from home… eBook reader…. FUCK… still om my bedside table. Turned around fetched it, but was feeling a bit silly to say the least.

Got through Dortmund, when it started raining, not what I needed. I really dislike rain the first day on the road, any other day does not really matter, but not the first (please).

Found a gasthouse/inn in Effeln, got something to eat and off to bed.

Day 2 (24/7-2011)
Todays plan was to get to Dresden, and everything was not looking great… cold and misty rain (poor me). But I headed off, and was taking landes strassen, as I was on vacation, and actually was there to see things. It’s amazing, Germany is like hugh, lots of people, but when one gets ourside the really big cities, like Berlin, München, Düsseldorf, etc. there isn’t really anything except for small cities, villages, and nature. Going through south part of Harz was stunning, and absolutely miserable – cold and wet (from 7c – 14c), but glad that I did it.

At some point I somewhere before getting to Leipzig I decided that enough is enough, and jumped on the autobahn. Growing up I was watching things from East Germany, and Leipzig was one of these places where they used to dig coal (open pit mining) and passed on of these

Quite stunning actually that things simply disappear.

Finally got to Dresden, found a hotel, and set out to see the rebuild city center

And no problems sleeping…..

Day 3 (25/7-2011)
Got up, breakfast, and off to Prague…. Getting out of Dresden was kind of interesting, where the bloody !@#$!@#4 is the sign for Prague, but I managed. Followed the 170 instead of the river or the autobahn… I’ve been to Morocco where people are kind of suicidal when it comes to driving, but in CZ things are kind of different. It wasn’t until later I found out that it could get worse. Got to Prague, checked in to the hotel, and went to the office (yes we, that is the company I work for have an office there), to see some friends, and just hang around for a couple of hours. Went out for dinner with the local crowd, and had a nice time. And it was kind of embarrassing to have to borrow money for the metro, but I am proud to have paid it back ;-) (yes got photos … :-))

Driving in Prague is not fun, slightly moist cobble stones, tram tracks, and insane people in cars, no good.

Day 4 (26/7-2011)
Up, pack (getting into the rhythm), Still following B roads as much as possible, and I wanted to see the Church of Bones, as everyone is raving about it. I found it (took a bit of doing), got the bike planted, and stopped… Long’ish queue, and they wanted money. Errr I’m sorry not really that interested. Found a bottle of water and an ice-cream (A Cone..) which, I am sure, was more gratifying.

I have to say I’ve until that point been on bad roads all over Europe, but from here until much later it would not get better, it would get worse, and the introduction to the eastern Czech roads was like being hit in the head with something very solid, like a goldbar. Some have told me that they do not find them that bad, I am glad that I have an Enduro bike, as I otherwise would have given up at that point.

Made it to Brno, the have a cathedral, which is used 1 day a year for MotoGP racing, absolutely awesome.

Continued on, and yet again rain, was looking for a pension, or maybe a small hotel, but no luck, finally found a camping (in the blasting rain), put the tent up, got something to eat, and enjoyed sleeping in a tent in the rain (poetic justice some will say)

Day 5 (27/7-2011)
Right, got up… in the rain’ish… had forgotten to close the right side pannier… which now had a “bit” of water in it, or was it leaking, %#@$%@. Got the stuff packed, and then off.

Got into Slovakia, no really difference, and decided to use the motorways to get to the High Tratras, and guess what; more rain… must be something I’ve done in a previous life.


Found a hotel in the middle of nowhere. Did I forget to mention that at this point I was soaked, like really soaked. The poor girls in the reception was laughing their head off (for obvious reasons), as they knew something I didn’t – no heating in the room, so drying the cloth was going to be difficult.

Now the High Tatras is a major turist area, but nothing much have changed the last few decades, including the service. The restaurant in the Hotel was an interesting experience, at the end of the all we (me and another guest) had to chase down the locals to be able to pay for the meal.

View from the Hotel

But as always a good night sleep will sort everything out.

Day 6 (28/7-2011)
Wet cloth… eeee not nice….
Right, be a grownup and get on with it, back on the road, and todays destination would be Romania (I got no interest in Hungary – maybe someday), saw my first Gypsy village, didn’t look pleasant. Poor creatures. One thing about Slovakia the tourist brochure forget to say is that in Slovakia, there are hills/mountains and vallies, the vallies are where the people and industry is jammed in, which means that the air quality might not be perfect… far from it. My throat was in agony for most of the time until I got to Hungary.

Now Hungary is a different matter, there are ongoing discussions about toll roads (vignette), I stopped at the border to get one, and was told as I would be going to Romania directly there would be no need for it. 30 km. later I see a sign that I should have one… hummm, at this point the jury is still out on this issue.

The Eastern parts of Hungary are as depressing as things can get, I was lucky I only had good 200km to get to Romania.

Got to Romania (Petea border crossing), and in the next town I found a Hotel. Nice enough, and a very nice looking receptionist – did’t get at it at point, but Romanian women will laugh at anything as long as you carry a western european passport.. wierd. Got some nice food, and off to bed.

One of the things which I do wonder about is that, how is it that Hotels will let dusty, sweaty and smelling bikes in…

Continue with Balkan 2011 – Part 2

Balkan 2011 – Part 1
Balkan 2011 – Part 2
Balkan 2011 – Part 3
Balkan 2011 – Part 4
Balkan 2011 – Part 5
Balkan 2011 – Part 6

Balkan 2011 – Part 2

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Day 7 (29/7-2011)
This is the day where the vacation would really start…

Now, as Romania does not use the Euro, I had to find an ATM, and the one I found was probably not in the nicest area of the town (the previous evening I’ve been told that I should not go out and get money at 9pm). Well nothing happend, and I had gained an experience. Next was to figure out how road signs in Romania works; well they are not really the most predictable thing. But they got some railroads

Looking at my diary, I can see that I was not really a happy bunny, but I signed up for it, and by #%@#$^@ I would go on.

Roads where a hell hole with people driving like idiots (worse than anything I’ve seen in Morocco), roads where worse than in Belgium and Scotland (combined), and the exhaust fumes from the old cars was killing me.

I now know where bad cars go, when they do not go to car heaven, they are banned to roam the Romanian roads

One of the things I wanted to see was the Wooden Churches of Maramure?, and the road leading to them was an experience. But I would say it was worth it.

One can see why Romania is a place worth visiting

Some of them are a bit too touristy.

But in general it’s a place of Romania which is very much worth a visit.

Ended up at a pension (could have been somewhere in South Germany, Austria, Switzerland), can’t remember the name but it’s at N49°49’36N E24°7’14″.

Spend the evening discussing politics and economics with the owners son.

Day 8 (30/7-2011)
No breakfast, nor nothing to drink.. f… all

My diary reads: Shitty roads on no breakfast, potholes with tarmac…..


(this was on of the better examples)

Followed the road up to the Moldavian/Ukrainian border, and then down and west to see this famous gore (Bicaz Canyon), well got there, saw it, and hummm. But still.

The road from Bicaz through the mountains is filled with traffic, and the trafic was “kind” of slowish – slow trucks, busses, and OLD cars. Decided to take another route when I got out of the montians, and ended up looking of for a hotel in Târgu Mure?… found a **** (Grand Hotel) for €75 incl. break feast. Nice enough (hint), and had a lovely evening at the 10th floor.

Great view….

Day 9 (31/7-2011)
Lovely morning, until I figured out why the TV, lights and EVERYTHING else didn’t work, was because of all electricity was gone…. So instead of taking the elevator down for breakfast I decided to get dressed and leave (hint; if you ever stay there make sure that you’re not too far away from the restaurant).

Todays challenge was to get to Hunyad Castle, and I have to say it was an experience. Horrible drivers (the locals), was almost run off the road by an BMW x3 with Luxemburg plates (IDIOT, probably a local who live in Luxemburg), but nature is awesome, and and it’s difficult to drive a watch at the same time.

Got to the castle, kind of interesting, and hugh….

And more broken down factories

Passed through Sibiu, tried to find a pension/hotel near the Transfăgărășan, as that was the next days journey.

Found a pension in Fagaras (not really that close, but still).

Day 10 (1/8-2011)
Right, no sun… just my luck….

Now the Transfăgărășan have been made famous by Top Gear, they call it one of the greatest roads, well I have to disappoint you, there are better things to be found in the French Alps (been there done it, got the t-shirt). But the again the 3 dudes from Top Gear are a bunch of wankers.

But it’s not all that bad…

Got over it, and went west to Bran to see the castle (where the blood sucking Dracula is supposed to have lived – actually that is not the case).

The driving there was cool; up, down, nice bends, etc. everything what a boy could hope for.

But Bran is soo filled with tourists that I decided to ditch it, stopped to get something to eat, and the first thing I saw after getting helmet off was a face 2″ from my nose saying “1€”… Me: “for what”, Face: “parking”, Me: “how long?”, Face: “1€”, Me: “1€ will allow me to park for how long?”, Face: “1 hour”, Me: “you must be insane”, and gave the Face 1€. Got to talk to some Slovak bikers, and had dinner with them. Which was nice – other bikers for a change.

Decided to do the Transalpina next day (goal was Iron Gates), and found a pension (next side the road) in Bradu (Parabola Hasjenda). Where I ran into some very uncommunicative Czech bikers (they all seam to be like that :-( ), but got to talk to 2 elderly german gentlemen. One of them was a priest who was taking his friend around the Balkans to show him where he was from (left in the 50′s due to the communist prosecution). And discovered that the place would not share it’s wifi….

Continue with Balkan 2011 – Part 3

Balkan 2011 – Part 1
Balkan 2011 – Part 2
Balkan 2011 – Part 3
Balkan 2011 – Part 4
Balkan 2011 – Part 5
Balkan 2011 – Part 6

Balkan 2011 – Part 3

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Day 11 (2/8-2011)
Got up, now for the fun stuff (right, sometimes one should not look forward to things which might come). The Transalpina is an interesting ride. The conditions change, as they are working on it, as in laying tarmac and removing it again.

In 2011 the North side was great, new tarmac, and great bends… south side is something else…

15% decend, around a sharp corner, no tarmac, just disappear, and a drop of 20cm, it would only reappear some kilometers later… in rain – no fun… Only thing which saved my ass was the ABS.

Turned right where most people turn left (don’t really know where it is), but got out of the mountains for a short while and got on the DN67d, which would take me to the Donau (Iron Gate). What an awesome, excellent nature, fairly good road, and no traffic.

Got to the Iron Gate, only to figure, that to get out onto the dam, one have to pass into Serbia (not on the program today, sorry). Stopped at the next hotel (Hotel Tudor), and yet another good looking receptionist (if I only was in my 20′s), who’s sister strangely enough works in Denmark (if you ever meet her, say hi from me).

These Eastern Europe hotels, are very strange, the restaurants/dining rooms, are as big as ball rooms, but there are hardly anyone there, it’s very weird to be the only one in a room the size of a stadium.

Nice sunset….

Day 12 (3/8-2011)
Last day in Romania… would I come back, probably…
Got lost, and ended up driving a 100km detour, goes with the territory (give me an GPS, and I’ll show you how to get lost). Followed the Donau to the first river crossing into Bulgaria.

And “where is the boat” ?

As I like big structures (me a boy) I wanted to have a picture of this big dam/lock I saw on D56B (N44 19.107 E22 34.143), but a guard with a very big pice of metal on his hip was saying “NO” when I said “photo”… so no photo…

Got to Calafat to take the ferry to Bulgaria…. right

There are times in life where one really have to decided if one should not just find another way…….

Well got on the “boat” and got to talk to a young Bulgarian in a Merc with UK plates, him and the girlfriend was on the way back home for vacation.. and he agreed that driving in Romania is interesting.

Bulgaria here we come…..

Continue with Balkan 2011 – Part 4

Balkan 2011 – Part 1
Balkan 2011 – Part 2
Balkan 2011 – Part 3
Balkan 2011 – Part 4
Balkan 2011 – Part 5
Balkan 2011 – Part 6

Balkan 2011 – Part 4

More Photos

Bulgaria…….

Now one would think that would be the difficult, it’s not, 2 minutes and done, welcome. Only exception I had to pay €6 euro for some kind of health tax, something one can live with (I think).

Right, so what next, well the plan was to get to Belogradchik to see the famous rocks.

Well they are kind of interesting

One of the things which I learned the very scary and almost fatal way, is that in Bulgaria they do not use salt during the winter, they use sand, and they to not remove it again… two very big wobbles laster, and I decided that Bulgaria is not the place one should go to get ones “chicken strips” removed.

Found a hotel (Hotel Rock), and went for a walk, nice town, could stay for a few days, but will continue tomorrow.

At this point, I would say that Bulgaria is nicer than Romania, more green stuff, cleaner, and nicer people.

And the food… ooohh. Had a salad, Ovcharska salata… ohhh, not the last one

Day (4/8-2011)
Just a day to enjoy, started out early, and just followed the road to Veliko Tarnovo, and as Loney Planet say nice things about it, I checked into Grand Hotel (due to the view..), bad idea, my room was on top of the restaurant, where it seams they have live music every day until 12pm, I did complain, and I left next day….

Had a walk around, and yes, it’s a nice place, and pleasant people.

Had yet another salad…

Day 14 (5/8-2011)
As I decided to leave a day early, I made an informed decision on to goto the Black Sea (wouldn’t hurt would it).

Everything was going just find until a bit T-junction, where I had to stop, and the idiot in the car behind me didn’t … didn’t look too back on the bike, a panier slightly bend, and a massive scratch on the car (me happy’ish) (2 days later ….), but got the number plate if something else would show. So if someone know someone show is driving a Honda with plate CD-669D in Bulgaria, tell him that he’s a fool….

Some time afterwards I ran into some Bulgarian bikers, who where on the way to a bikers rally at the Black Sea, and drove with them until Varna (they where insane… what trafic rules!!!), but incredible friendly.

I went south from Varna, and ended up at a camping, in the rain, and got my self a hut for 2 nights.. at €20.. not too bad one would think.

But, uu, iiihhh, dirty… Moved the bed linnen with 2 fingers, and got my sleeping bag. And the toilet/shower was even worse.

Got to talk to an elderly couple from Switzerland, and after some food went to bed (not really nice that is), but had a good long nights sleep.

Day 15 (6/8-2011)
At the beach… and glad that I’m not fond of swimming as the water is blood cold.

Otherwise just reading, eating, and sleeping a bit…

And just enjoying the view of the locals…

And irking over the russians in torpedoes… so 70′s.

Continue with Balkan 2011 – Part 5

Balkan 2011 – Part 1
Balkan 2011 – Part 2
Balkan 2011 – Part 3
Balkan 2011 – Part 4
Balkan 2011 – Part 5
Balkan 2011 – Part 6

Balkan 2011 – Part 5

More Photos

Day 16 (7/8-2011)
Pack, set ready, next Stop Moto Camp Bulgaria, which I’ve heard lots of nice things about.

Some nice roads

Some nice scenery

And a few monuments

I stopped at one point to get some gas, and noticed while I was eating yet another ice-cream, that my left side pannier was kind of off. After some inspection I discovered that when I was hit from behind the whole panier rack had been move 3cm forward, and 2cm up, and the pannier itself was bend quite heavily. Blast, not what I expected (and should have seen earlier). But things happen, and I was still in one piece and on vacation.

Arrived at the Moto Camp (not that easy to find, with missing signs.. they disappear, ie. people steal them). But was introduced to the puppy (Harley – Doug likes, if not love Harley Davidson bikes), and the putty cat, who is the master of the place, and knows it.

Harley…

who is also an escape artist… She is permanently depressed as not enough people want to play…

Was given the option of a room, and that was it. Decided that I’d probably stay for 2 – 3 days, you know just to relax a bit.

Day 17 – 22 (8 – 13/8-2011)
Motocamp……. yes, I know, not 2 -3 days. Way to nice, and relaxing.

The place is in the middle of know where between Sevlievo and Veliko Tarnovo, in Idilevo, a small village, where nothing happens, except when bikers arrive or leave, or just ride around.

The place is owned by Polly and Doug (Bulgarian, American couple), with the help of Ilvo. While I was there, Doug was on yet another trip to somewhere (Russia, Magadan), but I didn’t mind to much – Polly didn’t yell at me that much, anyway (do not say stupid things without being told off).

Tough lady…

and the local kids love her …

One of the long term residents show up next day (I think), Andreas a German who show up, stay for a couple of days, then bogger off to somewhere (leaving his stuff behind), then show up again… btw. he is a cool dude, done the most amazing things, and have a very cool bike (Yamaha TT600R Belgarda, drooll…, if I lived in a place where one could do more gravel and off road I would get one of those). First time he showed at the Moto Camp it was for a few days and ended up staying for a month.

Weather was pleasant to very hot, ~30c to 37c, then after a few days drop to 25c and rain for a day, then back up, just as I like it.

One of the things I discovered is that food in Bulgaria is great, very great actually. My favorite dish is Moussaka, it’s like one can’t get enough of it… very bad as on can only eat that much.

I went for a ride with Andreas and Svetlana to a typical village nearby, and had even more great food…. (when does it stop), and I was loosing weight (what’s wrong what that country).

And went for a small ride around the area, one could spend weeks just running around on the bike….

Not everything is perfect, the country does not have any money, and people struggle.

But most people are friendly, and very welcoming. As long as one keep away from the tourist areas.

Continue with Balkan 2011 – Part 6

Balkan 2011 – Part 1
Balkan 2011 – Part 2
Balkan 2011 – Part 3
Balkan 2011 – Part 4
Balkan 2011 – Part 5
Balkan 2011 – Part 6

Balkan 2011 – Part 6

More Photos

Day 23 (14/7-2011)

Well all good things have to come to an end, and sunday morning at 11:15am I decided that I had to leave, otherwise I would never get home again.

So I packed up, paid my bill, after 7 days it was 96€, I was shocked, but who am I do discuss these things.

And left (sadly), but all good things come to an end.

And, Polly, Doug and Ilvo, just to be warned, I’ll be back in 2012….

So off, direction Sofia, and then Belgrade…

The road to Sofia goes through some awesome nature, and unfortunately I did not have time to spend more time there.

In Sofia, I stopped to get gas, and was asked very politely by the gas station attendant (young man) if he could take a photo of the bike, how often does that happen… and yet another ice-cream.

Got to the border, and into Serbia, which was easy enough, wasn’t even asked if I had insurance (which I actually do have), got some local money, decided to change €100, which gave me a huge amount of local money – felt like a gangster in the 30′s (big role of doh). Went up through a amazing gorge close to the the Old Mountain National Park (worth another visit). And stopped for a salad (again), which should later prove to be a very big mistake. This one gave me an e-coli infection, next day, and the following week my whole body was hurting, and ended up living on paracetamol and water for 2 days.

The perpetrator

It was nice, but afterwards I don’t think it was worth it….

At some point I started looking for a place to sleep, but for some strange reason the hotels where on the oposite side of the motorway, and after the exit, without any signs.

Got closer to Belgrade, got to the peage, at around 8pm and it was hot, like hot, the queue for the payment was so long that I had to turn off the engine so that it would not over heat.

Then finally in while passing through Belgrade I saw a hotel in the distance, got off the road, and booked a room for the night.

Nice, view and everything

Day 24 (15/8-2011)
Next morning, breakfast, on the bike again, towards, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Germany….

Hot like in Hot, 37c at the Serbian Croatian border… and flat… which never stopped…

Got to Slovenia, where it started to piss down, why do I always have to get into these kind of situations. Finally entered Austria, stopped at Las Legas for a cola. Humm, don’t really like Austria, Austrians that much, and combine it with HD’s…

Found a self service hotel further on, got something to eat, and a nights sleep…

Day 25 (16/8-2011)
Up early, DO NOT SNEEZE…. crap (no not that way)… Did I mention that I do not really like Austria. You pay for a vignette, but still have to pay for some of the tunnels. Got to München, the Ulm, then Stuttgart, now next thing would be to find Touratech so that I could get a new left side pannier rack. They are ~100km south of Stuttgart….

Friendly people, very helpful, and yes I could have the left side only, and yes he would keep it until next day.

Found a hotel, something to eat (not really that fun at all… DO NOT SNEEZE)…

Day 26 (17/8-2011)
Last day on the road, I hope….

Got to Touratech, got my stuff, incl. a new GPS (Garmin Zumo 660), as my old Zumo 500 was starting to show the tolls of +100.000km on the road in all weather conditions.

After some struggling, and a bit of swearing to the pannier rack changed, and back on the road.

Got to the flat country (The Netherland), stoppe shortly to see a friend who was house sitting in the east of the country, and no thank you no food for me… cup of tea will do, still NO SNEEZING.

And arrived at home around midnight… tired, and happy to be home…

Balkan 2011 – Part 1
Balkan 2011 – Part 2
Balkan 2011 – Part 3
Balkan 2011 – Part 4
Balkan 2011 – Part 5
Balkan 2011 – Part 6