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Old 05-21-2014, 06:10 AM   #1
BigRedS OP
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First longish trip - London to Athens?

I live in London and in September I'm spending a week in Athens; I'm thinking about riding there and back. The furthest afield I've yet been on a bike is France and Belgium, and I suspect things change in/near the Balkans.

Also, it's 2000 miles each way and I'm short on spare holiday from work, *and* this is going to be either side of a relatively energetic holiday.

It looks like 4 days is the absolute minimum I could do it in if I just ride there (4 10hr days, which perhaps isn't *that* realistic, with as much motorway as I can find), but I've heard rumour of a train I may be able to get to Northern Italy from Belgium, and I imagine it would be quicker to ride down Italy and get a ferry to greece.

Given the holiday in the middle, I'd probably prefer to spend a few more days getting back; I'm wondering if I can do the return over six days.

So, I've a few direct questions, and a general plea for advice:

* Are there any things I should be aware of that I've probably not yet stumbled across - handy timesavers/useful services, potential problems, good routes?

* What's crossing that bit of Europe like? Are there any normally-unexpected delays I should take into account?

* Does this sound like a daft idea and just a way to spend four days on a bike not enjoying myself?

Thanks!
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Old 05-21-2014, 07:02 AM   #2
Pecha72
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Yeah it should be do-able. And you can make it quicker by going to the "heel" of Italy and take a ferry to Greece from there. (But Italian motorways ARE expensive, and if you don΄t use them, it is usually quite slow-going!)

If you had more time, the Adriatic coast route in (mostly) Croatia is really quite beautiful.

I΄m actually heading to Greece this September. See if I can fit in Albania, Kosovo and Motenegro, cos I haven΄t been to these countries before.

(BTW, In Kosovo, your Green Card insurance will not be valid at all - make sure your bike does NOT get stolen there, cos you won΄t get a dime from your insurance back home!)
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Old 05-21-2014, 07:51 AM   #3
BigRedS OP
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Yeah, I'm wondering about somewhat expensively getting the train to northern Italy and a ferry from mid/southern across to Greece to compress the outbound trip to a couple of hectic days, and then being able to spend six or eight days coming back up the balkans (probably around Kosovo...) somewhat more enjoyably.

This is fairly contingent on my finding someone else in the group who prefers this idea to flying, though...

Are there any nifty tools for working out costings for things like this? Partly to make sure I don't forget to take into account things like motorway tolls and stuff.
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Old 05-21-2014, 09:10 AM   #4
Pecha72
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VERY hard to say exactly, what YOUR trip is gonna cost! In general, east & south of Europe is a bit cheaper than west & north. But that's a huge generalisation, really depends on you a lot, how much you'll spend. Actually I haven't toured in Europe for several years now, so it's better I won't even try to guess, what things cost now (..more than last time I think!)
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Old 05-22-2014, 08:46 AM   #5
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I would second the opinion for you to take a ferry from Italy to Greece, either from Ancona or Bari. You may wish to maximise the time you have in Greece and decide to return the same way. I believe you are being optimistic for a four day journey via the Balkans, it will be less of a holiday and more of an endurance exercise. Maybe leave the Balkans until next year as those countries deserve sufficient time for you to explore those countries and enjoy the journey.
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Old 05-22-2014, 09:18 AM   #6
catweasel67
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From here (to Athens) the fun way would take you 3 days - that's 2 and a half days to Northern Greece and another half day (ish) to Athens.

The fun way is, btw, through Slovenia, down the oh so awesome Croatian coast road, into Monte Negro, then Albania before crossing into Greece...(see the Adriatic Loop August 2009 link to RR in my sig). You'll need your green card for this btw - and make sure all the countries you'll be in are covered. Not all green cards are equal.

You could do London to here in 2 reasonably easy days (my bro's actually riding out here in September btw from Basingstoke..if that means anything). He's leaving after work, plans to get across the Channel and over-night somewhere in Belgium before cracking on through Germany and into Austria in one day. Might be worthwhile getting hold of an IDP as well, isn't technically required but sometimes the local plod don't know that...it's not something you'd volunteer but it's nice to have if asked for it.

You'd be looking at about the same time if you went direct to Italy (arriving in Venice, or the area) after a rather long day and a half. You'd then have to decide how long you want to spend on a boat - and your expected arrival time at the ferry port (no real point in arriving AM when the boat leaves late PM for example). You've, I believe, 3 main choices for leaving Italy - Venice, Ancona, Bari or Brindisi with boats going to either Durres (in Albania), Igoumenitsa (Corfu area), Patras or Piraeus (Athens).

I think the shortest ferry is gonna be Igoumenitsa to Brindisi but you'll need to do some thinking and some planning if you're set on using the ferry.

Oh, FWIW there's no coastal road worth using in Italy but the autostrada, whilst classic slab, does move through some nice countryside. And the Italians drive like utter bastards :) Best leave the outside (fast) lane to them unless you really have to be out there - to them, flashing headlights just means "unless you move out of the way, I'm gonna kill you...and it'll be your fault" :) I love the place :)

But..do the right thing :p ride down, man up! ;p take 4 days each way :) If I only had 2 days each way, and then the bike would sit in Athens for 2 weeks, I'd fly.
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Old 05-25-2014, 12:39 PM   #7
BigRedS OP
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Thanks for the responses!

I'm liking the ferry idea more than the train-to-Italy one, despite my lack of love for riding across France, and I think I can do the Balkans separately and in less of a mad dash later. I'm still liking the idea of going relatively directly there and coming back a more scenic and interesting route over a few more days.

Prodding Bing Maps, I think I like the idea of bombing it across France in the first day and staying somewhere in the alps (we used to drive to somewhere near Geneva annually, and that was doable in a long day), and spend a couple of more pleasant days going down Switzerland and Italy before getting the ferry over to Greece. I'd completely forgotten about getting from the port to Athens, though...

It looks like Bari-Igoumenitsa could be done as an overnight crossing which might be ideal - save some daytime for riding and avoid one night's accomodation :) Though at 60 Euros for a bed from the few quotes I've seen, perhaps it'd be worth getting a daytime crossing.

The time in Greece is already booked, so this is all happening on either end of it - I'm not going to eat into my time there with the route, but work and holiday allowances precludes spending a week travelling on either end :(

And then coming back, I think the same ferry crossing and spend a couple of days up Italy and then go round the outside of France over four or five days to get the maximum number of countries in :)
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Old 05-25-2014, 12:51 PM   #8
catweasel67
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Stick with the over-night crossing but don't worry about getting a cabin on the ship (unless your bird is with you) - just take your sleeping mat and bag with you on the boat, find a nice corner and crash out - or else nab one of the recliner type seats in some of the quieter sections. Ear plugs and some of those eye cover thingamewotsits are also a good idea.
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Old 05-25-2014, 01:01 PM   #9
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Of course, now that I've actually read your report I'm going off the idea of Italy... :)
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Old 05-27-2014, 12:39 AM   #10
catweasel67
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigRedS View Post
Of course, now that I've actually read your report I'm going off the idea of Italy... :)
LoL - ;p

You're gonna have a blast :) Make sure you catch the Meteoras if you have time (about 2 to 3 hours N ish of Igoumenitsa) and remember to have loads of coins/handy cash or a CC for the tolls (if you're gonna use motorways).

Might be an idea to let your CC company know you'll be abroad and where as they can sometimes be wary when they see non-standard behaviour. I had my card blocked twice in the US - only took a phone call to unblock but it's not always convenient
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Adriatic Loop August 09 Mandello Guzzi Protest Sept 09
"I've got the key to the gates of paradise...but I've got too many legs!!" Jeff
Guns don't kill people, people kill people but people with guns manage to kill more people than people without.
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