Balkans, Home

The Balkans

I left early from Ioannina and it was foggy and cold. I crossed the border with Albania and it was painless and quick. I then descended in to a valley witch was still in a thick layer of fog.  A pitty because from what I saw through some holes in the fog it should be baeutiful.

Once I got out of the valley the sun was shinning. On this pic you can see the fog I just came out of.

Then mountains again:

The road is interesting they are making it wider and putting down new tarmac. But this happens in sections. Sometimes there is about 500 meters of gravel and sometimes only 1 meter between new road sections. And maybe because of the road works they removed the roadsigns or they just do not have them.  TomTom knowledge of Albania is limited and so is mine.

The route:

I arrived in Durrës in the early afternoon. I had a walk around town and the beach it is a strange place though. At the sea side most building are new and the roads are good but behind my hotel you can see the old city which still has dirt/gravel roads and no flats. The only restaurants I could find where fast food or pizza places. The day before I had pizza in Ioannina as it was the only thing I could find that was open. So now I went to a supermarket and got me some bread, cheese and mandarins.

Sunset at the beach:

I think Albania needs/deserves more then just 2 days but unfortunately I need to move on.

So the next day I made my way to Dubrovnik, Croatia

The route:

My knowledge of Albania and that of TomTom got us somewhat lost as I tried to follow the old road that TomTom was showing and at some places it was just not there anymore. I decided just to stick to the new tarmac as again roadsigns where nowhere to be found and found my way to the Montenegro border. Montenegro took me by surprice what a baeutiful place. And those roads…… Twistty mountain roads and stunning views.

Some ruins:

As you are constantly going up or down it is hard to stop and make pictures. Also you would be stopping constantly. Again Montenegro needs and deserves more then just a half day ridding across.

One funny thing happend though, there is a lake in Montenegro and you have 2 option take a ferry or ride around it. As I did not have any local currancy I wanted to ride around it but, again something with road signs, about a 1/4 around the road was bloked and I had to turn around.

Once I got back at the ferry I found out that they except euro’s. It was only 2 euro to cross. In Albania I had to pay 2 euro for the internet which did not work. I payed with my creditcard but wanted my money back. So the girl at the reception gave me a 2 euro coin. So I could cross without having to unpack my luggage in surge for 2 euro. On the ferry there was a Russian archpriest, he came to talk to me about motorcycles. He owns a 1800cc Intruder. Once I told him I had been to Russia and spoke a little Russian he gave me his blessing, a book, 3050 rubles and 100 euro. Thank you again Nicolay.

That day took me through 2 borders into Croatia. I am now in Dubrovnik and had some great dinner last night and had my first sight on the well knonw old town.

It was a great riding day. It was around 360 km’s but it took me from 09:00 till 18:00. Today I will have a look around in Dubrovnik. It is rainy and there is a strong wind. The forecast is not that great for the coming days. Yesterday might have been the last sunny day on this trip….

Cheers

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And on to Italy

Dubrovnik is a beautiful city. But due to the rain and strong winds I think I mist out on a lot. Because it is build on a mountain side you have some steep roads and stairs. On some of them small streams started to appear. I will have to come back to this place at a better time.

Never seen this fellows actually do what they are made for:

On the next pic there was at least 3 cm of water on the sloop and comming down:

I also got the sudden urge to press on and I decided to not go to Sibenik but to Zadar, about a 100 km further. The storm had calmed down overnight and I made it to Zadar without any troubles although I did had to wear my oempa-loempa outfit again. Zadar should be a nice place during the summer but now it was quiet and pretty much everything was closed. The hotel I stayed at had some deal with a local mine so it is open all year. They even kept the kitchen open for the miners so I got a nice meal in the evening.

The route:

The next day I wanted to go to Italy and I had booked a B&B in Duino and it would be a 320 km ride to get there. The morning started out calm and easy. I had my breakfast and left the hotel at around 9 o’clock. After about 1 hour it started to rain a little so I put the raingear on again. I had chosen not to use the highway but to take the road along the coast. At some point I run into some patches of snow lying around on the sides of the road. And there where some high mountains up ahead. A quick check with TomTom revealed I would not be going up into the mountains so I would be fine. It did got me worried for a bit. At some village I filled up with petrol and although there where some strong winds I did not see any harm in that but the local authority was thinking otherwise. I saw a police car drive by while I was at the petrol station. And this guy was waiting for me just a km after a sign and a blinking trafficlight. The sign was not very clear to me so I continued. Thus running straight into the strong arms of the law. The road was closed for all other traffic then normal cars without trailer. The asshole fined me 500 Kuna, about €67,- I did not have the money on me so I followed him to the closest ATM. I tried to talk him out of it but he was not having it. I asked him why he did not warn me before or just could not let me go with a warning. His answer was “you broke the law thus you shall pay”. Before we parted ways I told him I hoped he would be a bit more understanding with the next motorcycle traveler. That dumb fuck is payed to protect and to serve. Well he might have protected me but sure as hell did not serve me. Needless to say I was pretty pissed.

I now had 2 options 1) stay here and 2) follow the highway to Rijeka. As it was only noon at that time and I would not be defeated by some asshole officer I chose option 2. And how I regret that decision now while writing this….. but who knows what would have happened if I stayed there?

Soon I started to climb and the first snow appeared but the road was clean and the temperature was above 0. All went fine until I got from the A1 onto the A6 and got into a snowstorm. I soon realized that I should not continue and call for help. But as I slowed down near an exit I lost control and dropped the bike. When I got up I saw that the right pannier had broken off. No damage to me or the bike other then that. It is the original BMW suitcase plastic mounting frame that broke. Luckily some guys stopped to help me pick up the bike and to see what could be done. They told me that about 20 km further the snow would stop and they where willing to stay behind me if I dared to continue. They took the pannier and guided me to a petrol station in Rijeka. I must say that those 20 km where the most scaring km’s in my short little life. But I made it and will never do that again!

From here to the B&B in Italy was still only 80 km but by now it was 16:00 hours and it would be dark soon. Also the road would go up again and I would risk running into snow again. I thanked the guys for helping me and I considered my options. To continue would be foolish as I was exhausted  and I could not mount the pannier. So I asked the guys from the petrol station to call me a taxi that could take my pannier and I could follow him to a hotel. The taxi came and soon they where all debating about where to take me and where there would be someone that could help me fix the mounting frame. He took me to a nice place with a great restaurant and free wifi in the bar and there should be a mechanic around here. I had a few beers to celebrate that we made it about a 100 km’s through that bad weather and only broke the pannier mounting. I tried to call the B&B to explain but no one spoke English and they hung up on me. I had a chat with Sarah which made me feel better. I just hope I did not spook her to much though. After a nice dinner I went to bed as I was still tiered as hell. But after about 4 hours of sleep I was awake and unable to sleep. It is now 3:00 hours I am still tiered and should try to get some more sleep. Tomorrow is another day and I need not to worry about the pannier now as I do not have the means to fix it anyway.

The route:

And a pic of the broken off pannier, the black bits pointing out, just below the lid, should be on the bike and not here:

 

This morning I had a look at the damage after breakfast. I reorganized the luggage in order to make the pannier as light as possible and surged through my luggage to see what I had to somehow fix the pannier so that I could go and find that mechanic. With some ti-raps, a ti-down strap and some elastics I had the pannier mounted in minutes.

The broken part:

And after some fiddling:

I have to thank Dammes (friend and colleague) for the fine job on those subframes he helped me make. I was so confidant about the way it was tied down I did not bother to find that mechanic and went straight for the Slovenian border… Not exactly though, I took the long way round as there was still the risk of snow in the mountains so I went around them.

I had 2 plans, 1) get something made for the pannier and make my way to Trieste if it would take a couple of hours. 2) had for Mestre if it would be done quickly. So I went for plan 2. While driving I came to the conclusion that I would want this plastic mounting frame to brake instead of something else. The pannier was still intact and my laptop was still working. If the mounting frame would have been made from metal it would probably have survived the crash. But the pannier is made from aluminum and that would probably have not as would my laptop. So I will buy the same frame again, as it is original BMW and will be somewhat easy to get. Despite the cold it was a huge contrast with yesterday. The road was amazing and there was no snow at all.

I am now in Mestre and found a nice hotel with private parking. While writing this I am waiting in a laundry service to get some of my stinky socks washed. Although all my systems are in a “get the fuck home” mode I will stay 2 nights here and visit Venezia tomorrow. I need the rest as I did not sleep very well last night and I just can not leeve this special place unseen. So more to come soon.

The route:

And a combined route pic:

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Venice

There was something wrong with my footwear:

But why? I hear you thinking, well:

So I got myself some fancy Italian footwear:

It ain’t no Gucci or Armani or what not, but it does the trick.

I always thought that we Dutch people were a bit crazy living below sea level and all, but I never considered that living “at” sea level would have certain consequences as well. I always understood that the Mediterranean sea did not have any low tide /high tide thing.

But lets start at the beginning. Parking is quite expensive in Venice, about € 27 for a day. Motorcycles however can park for free at the entrance of the city.

The guy from the hotels reception told me to take the “water” bus number 1. It is the slower one but you get to see more.

There should be 3 statues here, I wander what happened?

Maybe he/she went for a swim?

On the “water”bus there was a lady that warned me about my shoes and told me that high-tide would be around midday. Another told me that you could buy the fancy footwear pretty much everywhere and that it is not that expensive. I quickly understood that it would be a necessity.

This is around 11:30:

This at noon:

I knew Venice had some water issues, but I do think that we “Dutchies” have ours a bit more under control though. But I was not the only one that got the surprise. I saw a Japanese guy carrying his wife while she was holding his shoes.

Anyway, some more pics:

I wander if the water level has gone up so much that these stairs where once above the water line:

They say that the city is sinking and all the melting ice on the north and south pool should have some negative effect as well.

I saw a bunch of these, I do not know what they are:

There is clear evidence of the city slowly disintegrating look at the pavement:

You can clearly sea the red residue coming from the bricks.

This little boot was waiting for its master to come back:

I wander which overpaid football player was also shopping for fancy Italian footwear?

While I was having something to drink all these guys showed up:

I had myself a bit of an Alfred Hitchcock moment!!!

It started raining and I had seen enough water for the day so I went back to the hotel and prepped for tomorrow.

I took my new GPS logger along just to see how accurate the think is well see for yourself:

Another funny story is that this new logger did not come with something to mount on the bike to hold it. Garmin would not be Garmin if they did not sell it separate. The thing is that I did not think about it back in Istanbul. But next to the hotel here in Mestre there is a bicycle shop and guess what they had one on stock. So here it is:

Oh and I promised my dad a pic of the odometer:

You all can look back at one of my earliest posts and figure out how many km’s it has been so far.

 

 

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And then France

After Venice I went to see another strange Italian thing, the tower of Pisa.  And yep it is still at an angle and nope it did not drop down yet. But to get there I decided to take the highway up until Bologna and then take some small roads until Pisa. But once near Bologna I was so cold I stopped at a gasstation to fill up and put on some more clothes. I changed my plan and followed the highway until Pisa instead. And I am glad I did because although the temperature was still above 0 there was again a lot of snow. The roads where clean but it made me feel very uncertain.  If I would have taken the small roads though I guess the roads would not be cleaned and I surely would had to turn around. It is funny how this things sometimes work out. It was a nice scenery though. The sky was clear and there was sunshine. No pictures though. The last time I stopped in snowy conditions one pannier broke off. So this time I did not stop.

Once in Pisa I took this pic of all the clothes I was wearing:

My finger tips are still painful due to the cold of that day.

The route:

The hotel was only about a 100 meters away from the famous tower.

I really am late for everything. OK the tower was still there but the city was really dead. The only place I could find were you could sit outside was one of those famous laughing clown places. So I had me a Coke and enjoyed the last rays of sunshine.  It was even hard to find a restaurant that evening. The one I found was a bit disappointing though.

Pisa by night:

This morning it was raining and there was a lot of wind but at least it was warmer. I followed the coast road to Nice. Near the France border the sky cleared and the temperature raised to 17 degrees. So Wolsly made it back to France….

The route:

If you take a close look at the picture you can see that there where a lot of tunnels this day. As everywhere they give them names. In Italy all Saints get there own tunnel but I think they run out of saints at one point as there was one tunnel called Saint Bernardus II or something. Once in Nice I checked in at the hotel and went out in search for Dafy Moto. This is a big chain of motorcycle shops in France and they have a big store here in Nice. I found a solution for my cold hands:

These are battery power heated gloves. They should make my last few km’s a lot more comfortable.

More to come soon…..

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Rain and Highways

The weather is somewhat working against me. It is snowing in parts of France I wanted to pass through. So I changed my route to avoid the snow but that mend I had to make a lot more km’s to get to the north. But I did get to spend a day with my sister in law and nephew in Perpignan.

The route from Nice to Perpignan:

It was great to spent a day there, but the weather in France turned from bad to worse. I had my doubt if I would make it back due to the snow everywhere and now it was even snowing in Holland. I bought some extra thermal underwear and took my change and left the next day towards Bordeaux. It was raining most of the way.

The route:

Due to the distances I would have to travel each day I took the highways this time. I really want to get home now.

Today I made my way to Le Mans. Again only highways but today I had to take my tools out during my lunch stop. My TomTom and my MP3 player were not being charged anymore. The Relays I installed stopped working. I bypassed it and off we went.

The route:

Tomorrow I will make my way back to Dunkerque and I will have made it full circle. Then depending on the weather conditions in Belgium and Holland I should be back home on Monday the 10th of December.

A combined GPS pic:

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Back home

Well, I am back in Amsterdam. After 98 days and 21.804 kilometers. The last 2 days have been rainy and cold but at least there was no snow.

Yesterday I arrived back in Dunkerque from where I started on the 3 of September.

The route:

The last overnight parking place for the bike:

Today I did the last 321 km’s of this trip back to Amsterdam:

Back home:

The total triplog makes for an impressive pic:

And the odometer:

I am glad to be back. I still have a few days before I have to get back to work which is nice. I will post some more final thoughts about the whole trip once I am more settled in.

 

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Thank you!

Let me start by thanking everybody who helped me in anyway, those who have taken time out of their lives and made this trip an unforgettable adventure. I hope that someday I will be able to show some of you or fellow country(wo)men the same hospitality.

I realize that I am very fortunate to have been able to make such an extensive trip but I can only encourage others to do the same. The world is still filled with lovely and helpful people.

It has been 4 weeks since I came back. Although it is great being back with my girlfriend, sleep in my own bed and not have to pack my bags every morning, I am still adjusting. Life has not stopped here and waited for me to be back. Not only I have been through a lot but a lot has happened here too. And this is a weird feeling. I somehow have to find my place back into the life I used to live (although it has been only 98 days). The thing is I am not sure I want to….

As I mentioned before the world is full of nice, kind, lovely and helpful people but it is run by some selfish, corrupt, greedy, power hungry assholes.

With every political, religious, military and corporate action you have to ask yourself, who benefits from this?

Someone’s loss/pain/misery is always another’s gain and this does not need to be.

We humans claim to be better/smarter than any other animal but why are we still fighting, killing or cheating each other in the name of a god or for some other foolish reason? I do not know any other species that does.

I will try to find an active role in making our planet a more free, social, understanding and compassionate place.

I hope you enjoyed my stories and pictures. I sure did enjoy sharing it with you and loved reading the comments. Feel free to keep posting them.

Greetings

Steven

“We look forward to the time when the Power of Love will replace the Love of Power. Then will our world know the blessings of peace”

British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone (1809–1898)

If you are interested please have a look at the following links:

http://axisofjustice.net/

http://www.thevenusproject.com/

http://www.thezeitgeistmovement.com/

http://playingforchange.com/

http://www.moviesthatmatter.nl/

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