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Old 05-25-2007, 08:42 PM   #1
nerudarider OP
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Historical Ride from Anatolia to Scandinavia

Hey Ho, off you go! Here I go again on my own! Yihaa!

I think it just about rounds up my thoughts as I passed the Bulgarian border crossing.


All was going well until now. I had woken up around 0830 – not too early but not to late, and left home around 10:00. It is late according to many riders, but hey – what’s the rush? Better to be fully charged before you start a long distance ride.


Another great thing about today is that I’ve met nice people wherever I’ve stopped – namely two Lithuanian families on the gas station close to Edirne . Here’s a picture with me and paraglider Aleksej and his son.




Then I met Vesko - aka ‘afrikan’ on the border crossing. Working at he border crossing, he’s a rider himself -guess what bike he’s riding? J - and has travelled around Greece and Romania and is going to do Turkey this year. Great! Me and my new buddy Vesko




I love the comradeship among long distance riders on the road. You can usually tell who is and who’s not. Who is what? Who is a ‘Real’ biker. I mean, it is more than just owning a bike and riding it on a long distance right? Even though I’ve only been riding alone on all my trips, I’ve always felt the friendship of fellow riders wherever I’ve encountered them. It may be only a smile in their eyes, or a sturdy handshake. I feel, if I get in trouble, and if they’re around, I can expect their help. Am I right? You tell me.


So far two stops and two friends (actually three, there were two Lithuanian guys). What more could I ask for?


Oh, this was a ride report right? OK, let me tell you about the ride…


The route is my usual between Istanbul-Stockholm. What’s usual about it are the destinations, but I prefer to take different routes as much as possible. This time I was using the Kapikule/ Kaptan Andrevo border crossing. For fellow riders riding in daylight from anywhere in Europe in to Turkey, I’d recommend the Budapest-Cluj Napoka (RO)-Sibiu-Bucharest (but try not to enter the city)-Russe (BG)-Varna-Burgas-Malko Tarnovo and enter through the Dereköy (TR) border crossing. That is so if you like curvy roads and nice views, especially between Cluj and Sibiu as well as between Varna and Malko Tarnovo.


As I’ve done that route and others through Romania I decided to ride to Sofia and from there visit the Vidin fortress in North East Bulgaria and continue to Timisoara and from there in to Budapest.


I was trying to avoid Serbia. The reason is I was suspecting it to be hostile to Turkish riders. We had passed the country several times in the 80’s with my family as we were driving from Stockholm to Istanbul when I was a kid, but after the war and the hostilities towards Bosnians, I was thinking it’s not a safe place for Turks in general.


Thankfully, I was wrong. The first stop in Bulgaria was in a roadside ‘lokanta’ with Turkish text ‘Mehmet Usta’s infamous sis kebab’. I haven’t had the opportunity to feast on Bulgaria’s culinary delights, so I safely decided to choose a Turkish place to eat. The restaurant was full of Turkish truck drivers, all of whom I saluted and was greeted. You know the story, you sit down and conversations begin – Where are you going? With the bike? Why? Etc. When I asked them about safety in Serbia I was told it was a piece of cake, with motorways all the way from Nis to Belgrade. I decided to change route. After all, I hadn’t ridden in Serbia, and thanks to this change of plans, I could visit historical places like Mohac and Szigetvar in Hungaria. Besides, Belgrade is also important in my historical perspective. After all, it constitutes an important landmark of my national history and was a Turkish city for 357 years.


I must say, western and northern Bulgaria is a much nicer place to ride compared to the east (with the exception of the immediate coastline). The roads are better, the views are better. Next time, I need to visit the northeast Vidin, passing through a place with a cool name like Montana.


Enter Serbia through Dimitrovgrad. The police seem nice. Probably because I’m expecting them to be worse. What is it with Serbians anyway, they seem really cold, though and disciplined. That’s probably why Serbs constituted a major block in the superior Ottoman ground infantry Janissary corps (Yeni Ceri meaning New Soldier in Turkish). And that’s probably why there’s a tough Serbian (or Yugoslavian) mafia in Stockholm. But then again, there is a tough Turkish and Russian mafia too. Please, please, accept my apologies if I have forgotten to name any other tough mafia in Stockholm. You don’t have to remind me that you exist as well;)


Anyway, riding in to Serbia just after Dimitrovgrad, the landscape immediately changes in to rocky mountains and canyons. Himmm… this explains the toughness of Serbian units… And even further, maybe this explains why the Turks won twice in Kosovo? After all, the mountains in Anatolia are higher and the cliffs sharper… Can’t even imagine how tough Tibetan troops must be. Wait! Wasn’t Gurkhas a special unit within the British army, selected among people from around Nepal?! Even Alexander the Great had a special unit selected from mountain men north of Ipiria. My self admiration of finding a short cut to create a superior army came to an abrupt when I heard 200 Hell’s Angels riders closing in on me. Himm, suspicious, I didn’t know they were riding so fast in groups… But there is no one in my rear mirror? So where the hell does the sound equivalent from 200 choppers coming from?


I was right in a canyon. I stopped the bike and checked my exhaust.


See what had happened, I’m not technical enough to describe it.



What I could understand was that there was a hole in my exhaust, which not only made my bike sound like a tank regiment pushing forward, it was also heating up my right foot. Comfortable, after all, especially I the chilling April afternoon - but will the glue in my boots melt down so I end up riding in my socks?


Something had to be done, but not now and certainly not by me.



I squeezed in two more sets of ear plugs (joke, I didn’t) and continued my ride.


I’ve always liked the way people turn their heads as I am approaching. The faster I use to ride, the earlier people start staring. Sometimes, I’d be surprised the way people have already turned around and waiting for me to pass by. I have normal silencer, stock BMW, so the sound can’t be like those sports bikes I’m hearing. Anyway, now not only had people turned around waiting for me to pass by, they even have had time to organize a band for my arrival. So loud was my bike. Utterly embarrassing…

nerudarider screwed with this post 05-26-2007 at 01:50 AM
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Old 05-25-2007, 09:16 PM   #2
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The road from Nis to Belgrade is, well, like a piece of cake. A boring, dry, and 4-5 days old piece of cake. And you don’t get any tea or coffee to melt it down with either. The gas stations are very minimal - they ‘only’ sell gas. Not hamburgers, soft drinks, magazines, detergents, charter tours like we’re used to at home.

So I was quite hungry when I finally entered Belgrade. It was getting darkish. Somehow, I needed to find the city centre and ask a few taxi drivers for a decent hotel.


Then comes a moment which is one of my peak points of the entire trip. The biker I just nodded to on the previous lights stops next to me as I am waiting for the next lights. He opens his lid and says:


-Sorry, I didn’t realize you are a stranger. Welcome to Belgrade, what can I do for you?


Ahhhhhhhh!!! I love being a biker! I love long distance riding! I love the comradeship of fellow bikers! I love Serbs and Belgrade! To put it shortly - the moment was full of love!


This, fellow bikers, is genuine and something what all of us should protect and nurture. How many times have you met other long distance riders on a gas station and just nodded? Go forward, shake hands, share information, and ask if they need something! Otherwise you might just ride a car, or take your 600 CBR around your blocks for a thrill. But don’t go riding long distances (even if you could) because you’re ruining other bikers’ experience.


Nikola was a great guy. He took me to a hotel, made sure I checked in, called his wife and friends to give me an updated list of places I could go that night and wrote down his cell phone in case I need him in an emergency. Thanks Nikola! I hope I can show you the same hospitality in Turkey or Sweden one day.





Next morning I got moving around 10:00 again. Told you I can’t start too early in the mornings. Checking the map while having breakfast, I decided to enter Croatia through Vukovar and Osijek in to Mohac in Hungary. I had never been riding in Croatia before, so it would just be a bonus on the way.

See, it’s much more fun when you don’t plan your trip in detail. Keep an allowance of a day or two in case you decide to make a detour or follow another route or just stay in a place you like.


Riding out of the hotel, I stopped at the sight of a building bombed by NATO I believe was the foreign affairs ministry of Serbia during the Balkan war. They still haven’t renovated it. Or rebuilt it, I should say.




Anyway, I had to take a look at the Belgrade fortress before I left the city. A picture with the Belgrade fortress on the background




I followed the Donau through Novi Sad and entered Croatia through Backa Palanka border crossing. After entering Croatia I took a moment to admire the great Donau river.




I think I saw an eagle cruising over the river.






Vukovar was interesting. The old town was totally peppered with bombs and bullets from the Balkan war. Many of the houses were still not renovated. Please see for yourselves:









The landscape was more or less similar until Osijek and then the traces of war were less visible. Exit Croatia enter Hungary directly in to Mohac.




Mohac is an important landmark in Ottoman history. Here, in 1526 the Ottoman Army won a decisive victory over the Imperial Hungarian & Croatian Army led by their King Lajos II. See : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Moh%C3%A1cs


As I just decided to visit Mohac on the way, I didn’t have the chance to study the battle in detail. I wish I had the knowledge and opportunity to visit the field the battle took place. I’d pray for the souls lost from both sides.


The city centre is interesting for a small town. Don’t you think the church resembles an Ottoman mosque? Maybe the right answer is that it resembles a Turkish mosque which resembles a Byzantine Church.



Even the municipality building looked liked it was designed in Bagdad. Why I don’t know.



Me and the Hungarian King



After a coffee in Mohac I continued toward Szigetvar, another historical landmark in Turkish and Hungarian history.



Here was a fortress the Ottoman army would take on their way to Vienna.

The fortress:

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Szigetv%C3%A1r

Me just next under the walls of Szigetvar.




Probably the most glorious of all Ottoman Sultans, Suleyman the Magnificent (this is an English title, in Turkey we call him Suleyman the Lawmaker) was leading his army in 1566 to take the last stronghold of the Habsburgs but at being 72 years old, he died of age in his camp outside the Szigetvar fortress. His death was hidden from the Janissaries who had sieged the castle and were only informed of the catastrophe after it was was taken. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Szigetv%C3%A1r



Catastrophe for the Ottomans, miracle for the Habsburgs. The inner organs of the Sultan was buried nearby and the embalmed body was escorted by his army to Istanbul, where his tomb lies today.


Entering the town of Szigetvar, I stopped to take a picture of these curious small towers.




Immediately I was surrounded by locals hanging around (or in the nearby bars). All were very friendly, asking the standard questions.




Suddenly there was another motorcyclist passing by and they waved at him to stop. The rider’s name was Nemes, a veteran BMW fan.



He told me had 7 bikes in his garage! Here I am with one of his beauties.




Nemes was so kind to take me to a nearby monument made to honour Sultan Suleyman and the defender of the castle. The monument is within a park called ‘Hungarian-Turkish Friendship Park’. Beautiful.








Let’s come together Hungarian friends, you know that both of us are descendant brothers of the Huns right?


At the site where the Sultan’s inner organs was buried, a ‘turbe’ - memorial tomb was made – and protected for several hundred years until the Habsburgs regained the region and the new Catholic governor tore the tomb down and built a church upon it. The whereabouts of this church is not mentioned, but I’ve got a clue. A few kilometres outside Szigetvar, I passed this sign. It just has to be where the old turbe and new church is.




Any Hungarians out there who can give me a help on this question?




OK, time to continue my journey. Next target is Budapest. I’ve got to fix the bloody exhaust before someone fines me for disgracing the GS.

I take my GS to BMW Wallis Pest: http://autokereso.vezess.hu/partnereink/info.php?idx=301623



Nemes recommended the place, and he was right to. They are serious and work fast. My exhaust was fixed within 3 hours. Splendid! From now on Wallis Pest is my safe haven in Central Europe. I recommend them to all you BMW riders out there!



I took a brake in Budapest that day. It is a great city, with great monuments with a fantastic history.

Hungarian Parliament and a GS



Budapest belonged to the Ottoman Empire for 150 years. Why did I point this out? Not because I’m a chauvinistic nationalist Turk, I consider myself partially Swedish by the way, but because I’d like to remind some people with restricted memory – like Sarkozy – that the Turkish people are not limited to the guest workers in your country, they have shaped the European culture and history from since the first millennium. Yes today, we might have only a small portion of our country in geographical Europe, just like Austria is a fraction of what it once was, but our culture is a cornerstone in cultural Europe. Come and see for yourself if you don’t believe me.



nerudarider screwed with this post 05-26-2007 at 01:44 AM
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Old 05-25-2007, 09:26 PM   #3
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Where were we? Budapest is a great place to be, but even better if you have your darling with you. I didn’t so I had to move on.



Next target, the famous fortress on the Donaube – Esztergom. From Budapest you follow the Donaube river, which is so grandeous it overwhelmes you.




(By the way, as indicated on the back of my helmet, visit http://www.ommriders.com/ for more information if you are interested in riding in Turkey.)



On the road that follows the river you also pass other fortresses. This is a picture from the fort of Visegrad. The upper fort was build 1240 after the Mongol invasion. It was garrisoned for 141 years by the Turkish army.




Finally I reached Esztergom.



This fortress was very important as it allowed control over the Donaube. Even in Turkish ‘Mehter Marsi’ (Military Music) the Estergon Kalesi is a famous melody. Listen to it below:
http://www.videosofturkey.com/turkce/video_details.asp?id=59



Now there is a gigantic basilica in the centre.





I decided to ride around the fortifications and even found an opportunity to do some off-road riding under the walls. Enjoy the GS with a historical theme.












Pass the Donaube from Ezstergom (you can use the bridge :) and you are in Slovakia. Picture taken from Slovakian side.





Slovakia is a nice country. Poorer than most of it neighbours, it is however one of my favourite countries to ride in. If you like smaller, less then perfect roads around mountains, and forests, passing through small villages and even ski resorts, Slovakia is your place to be. In fact, to my experience and in terms of mc riding, there is nothing interesting north of Slovakia.

Naturally this is an invitation for fellow bikers from Poland and the Baltic States to inform us about great routes in their country and prove me wrong.



I rode from Esztergom to Levice to Banska Bystrica to Kubin to Tristina passing though everything from forest roads to mountain tops, and castles to ski-resorts.







Climbing up the Zakopane mountains (another must see) it started to rain for the first time (and thankfully last time) during the whole trip.


Naturally the rain and the dark didn’t stop me to take a picture of this interesting church close to the Polish border.





That night I slept in Krakow, one of my favourite cities in Europe. Everyone already knows about it, so I just fast forward to the next day.



Please listen up Polish riders! I need your advice for good routes in your beautiful country. I’ve been riding from Krakow to Suwalki numerous times, passing though Warsaw, Olsztyn, Byalistok and Lublin (at different times of course), but couldn’t find any roads passing through interesting scenery. Is it better in the west?

As I intend to ride through Eastern Poland many more times, I’d really appreciate if you could share with us your favourite routes.


This time I rode Krakow-Warsaw (no chance of avoiding it really)-Olsztyn-Suwalki (Zzzz…:)


I entered Lithuania continuing from Suwalki towards Marijampole. From there to Kaunas and taking the nice motorway directly in to Vilnius. It was dark and past 22:00 when I was in the city centre.


Vilnius is a frequent resting place for me on my rides to and from Stockholm. For personal impressions please read previous reports.




I like the city, the people and the culture. Not Scandinavian, not Russian, but an authentic Lithuanian character and pride. They are right to be proud; after all, they once ruled the lands between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea. A toast for Lithuania!


After Vilnius the road takes me through Panevezys and from there directly to Riga, which also is a nice, modern yet authentic city. You can feel the effect of Riga being an old Hansa port.




What impresses me every time I am in Latvia is the attention and care given to architecture and life quality. It’s like class is ‘embedded’ in their culture. A bus stop is not just a bus stop for example, but they have been designed and carefully built. The city of Riga is of course the culmination of this culture of class. A must see for people who haven’t been there yet.


Next day I got up late (as usual) and I barely made it to the ferry from Riga to Stockholm leaving at 1800 every day. One utterly boring night on the boat later I was in my sweet-scented, beautiful home town of Stockholm.


I hope to see you fellow riders on the road one day!

nerudarider screwed with this post 01-06-2008 at 02:52 AM
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Old 05-25-2007, 09:39 PM   #4
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Great report and pictures. Thank you for sharing your journey of eastern parts of Europe...esp. loved the fotos of Riga.

Visiting the Baltic castles is something I long to do - would be nice by bike. GS with fortress...
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Old 05-25-2007, 09:45 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by svizzerams
Great report and pictures. Thank you for sharing your journey of eastern parts of Europe...esp. loved the fotos of Riga.

Visiting the Baltic castles is something I long to do - would be nice by bike. GS with fortress...
Thank you very much :)

Here's the most romantic of the castles in Lithuania - Trakai.



Picture taken August 2006.
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Old 05-25-2007, 09:47 PM   #6
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Holy Moley, thats Great!

very nice writing.. fascinating countryside. Such History! Well done, and how lucky for you to have such a cool commute!






picturing these two guys meeting give me shivers!

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Old 05-26-2007, 04:24 AM   #7
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wow!! Awesome ride, report and pics! Thanks for sharing and taking us along with you.

A bit of JB Weld might have worked at sealing the hole in your exhaust
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Old 05-26-2007, 04:39 AM   #8
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Fantastic report. There is so much history to see.
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Old 05-26-2007, 04:57 AM   #9
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Great pictures and even better History Lesson of your area of travels. Thanks.
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Old 05-26-2007, 06:12 AM   #10
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Thumb Great Trip and Report

Thanks for posting this interesting report! Next summer three of my non-motorcycling friends and I plan a bicycle tour in this general area. Your trip report gives us more to think about as we plan our route. Even non-riders can appreciate a trip report like this one!
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Old 05-26-2007, 09:55 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gadget Boy
wow!! Awesome ride, report and pics! Thanks for sharing and taking us along with you.

A bit of JB Weld might have worked at sealing the hole in your exhaust
Seriously? What is it?

Thanks for your comments
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Old 05-26-2007, 09:58 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stagehand
Holy Moley, thats Great!

very nice writing.. fascinating countryside. Such History! Well done, and how lucky for you to have such a cool commute!






picturing these two guys meeting give me shivers!

Thanks I consider myself lucky as well. Meeting so many people and seeing the places, just wants me to do it all over again. This makes me the only lucky guy on the picture - as the other two died before seeing each other.
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Old 05-26-2007, 10:00 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bike4ever
Thanks for posting this interesting report! Next summer three of my non-motorcycling friends and I plan a bicycle tour in this general area. Your trip report gives us more to think about as we plan our route. Even non-riders can appreciate a trip report like this one!
Thanks bike4ever, achesley and scott63, your comments are appreciated

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Old 05-28-2007, 04:47 AM   #14
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Brilliant report Kaan! It might prove itself useful when I start planninig my own trip!
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Old 05-29-2007, 02:44 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Starstriker
Brilliant report Kaan! It might prove itself useful when I start planninig my own trip!
Thanks buddy! I hope one day I can use your report when I ride to --- MONGOLIA!!!!
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