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Old 06-07-2008, 08:37 AM   #16
simondippenhall OP
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Sarajevo to Montenegro

From Sarajevo to Montenegro via Banja Luca and Mostar

I had an interesting evening in Sarajevo, walking the town and seeing the few bright lights.


Next morning I set off, after a scraped together breakfast (Bosnians don’t seem to brakfast, so I got orange juice in one cafe and a cheese burek at another stand) I left Sarajevo by its majestic entry road and set off to Mostar to see the new/old bridge. Very few motorcycles, and lots of fun roads - except for the bits which had had the surface scraped off in readiness for new tarmac. However there were 10’s of kms of these sections which would be horrible in the wet as the wheels go in different directions from what the rider intends. And it looks like these sections have been around a long time without any work being done.



Mostar building (not the builder's original finish!):




Mostar was shell-torn and notable for the bullet holes in many of the buildings, and the picture-postcard bridge.

Driving into a very hot Mostar:



It was early in the season so there were few tourists. No-one was diving from it today, the problem with travelling out of season! The river was high, over its banks in part due all the recent rain.

The famous (and now, rebuilt) bridge:



From there I rode along the Aegean coastline which was breath-takingly beautiful, down to Dubrovnik - picture-postcard beautiful but stuffed with tourists so I made my excuses and left for Montenegro.
At the approach to the frontier I met a group of 5 very grumpy looking Slovenian bikers I had seen earlier - no smiles anywhere, reminds me of Sartre and ‘les autres’. Long queue to get into Montenegro and a charge for insurance - I was sent off to see a chain-smoking administrator who took 10 Euro and gave me a piece of paper. Not sure he stopped viewing his TV during the process. Lots of duty free between the border posts.
Once I got properly into Montenegro I stopped for some doner kebab or local equivalent, and in leaving met an Italian biker, ‘Simon from Italy’. He was riding all the way round the Mediterranean over a 3 month period. I mwntioned that I was aiming for Kotor that day and we sort of agreed to ride together to that town.
Immediately I felt hemmed-in and irritated, needing to match my speed to someone else and potentially compromise on stopping point, possibly hotel if we agreed to split a room. Only after an hour or two, and perhaps soothed by the beauty of the Kotor fiord, I relaxed again. We were passed by a bus from Simon Tours, and then we came across it IN the fiord having dodged to avoid a truck and nearly found a worse fate. Happily the 5 passengers broke the window and managed to climb out.

Local bus bites the dust - I mean, water:



In fact Simon was excellent company and we tried to get rooms in Kotor town - a walled city where motorbikes are not allowed- but it was way too expensive (90 euro + for a double room).



Charming Montenegrin landlady Emma:




About 300m outside the town we found an excellent newly furnished apartment for 30 Euro, and spent the difference on a very good dinner. I had squid stuffed with fish. A local speciality, which was delicious Foolishly I then had a couple of glasses of the local raki and paid the price the next morning.



'Simon from Italy':

‘Simon from Italy’ was a Venetian.


He was on a circumnavigation of the Mediterranean, going on to Egypt, Libya and then by boat to Italy from Tunisia. He told me a lot about this area, which historically had been part of the Venetian ‘empire’. This explained a lot of the architectural similarity to the Italian Adriatic towns.
So now it was time for Albania….
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Old 06-07-2008, 08:48 AM   #17
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Adriatic coast-line

If I had had more time, the Adriatic coast line would have been a wonderful place to camp...beautiful beaches and towns:






and more:




















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Old 06-07-2008, 09:41 AM   #18
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but it was time to visit Albania

The trip from Kotor to the Albanian border near Ulcinj should be a starightforward one.

However as I approach Bar, there is a long tailback of traffic. In true biker fashion I ignore it and ride to the front....where there is a barrier, as they are dynamiting a widening of the road. (this seems to be standard practice, as the previous day going around the Bay of Kotor (educational note: Southern Europe's largets fiord), we were stopped while the remains of a dynam,iited hillside were tipped off the mountain above us by a bulldozer.)

They say it will be 30 minutes til the road re-opens...but I want to keep rolling, and besides this is the obvious and direct road to my destination, which ADVriders will agree is never the most interesting way.

So I decide to head for a very small road marked on my map, which skirts the enormous lake Skardar. If all goes well it should deliver me at a very small border crossing into Albania.


That turns out to be an adventure in itself, as the road has many turns and gets smaller and smaller. I stop frequently to ask if I am on the right road, using my non-existent Montenegrin. At one point, 2 old codgers enter a big argument with each other about how many km's it is to the next village...but for me the main point is they agree which road goes to that village!

The road continues to dwindle, and now there is grass growing in the middle, so I don't expect to meet much traffic. And I was right.


Entry to Albania was interesting.

The road out of Montenegro was a dirt track, as it was being rebuilt. A large Albanian Mercedes pulled up as I did the paperwork to leave Montenegro. The car was marked police but the guy who got out smelled of eau de cologne and gagsterism. He introduced himelf to me, gave me a friendly embrace (that's how I know about the eau de cologne), and after much joking with the border guards jumped back in his car and was driven into Albania.

I followed shortly afterwards, having got my visa and paid a vsmall amount for local insurance.

The first impressions of Albania were a shock - much more desolate and poor than Montenegro. I may have been influenced by the grey skies!

The first Albanian castle


Local transport system is Mercedes Benz, or this:



And if you don't have either, you walk:


There are a lot of legacies of old, inefficient and now abandoned factories:


The country is littered with the bomb-shelters which Enver Hoxha (pronounced Hodja) decreed should be built. They are almost indestructible. (Apparently they also served as local 'lovers' lane' for many young Albanians).


My destination is Tirana:

It turns out to be like a huge moto-cross track, with roads all dug up and rush hour traffic racing each other (this is the good bit of road!):

simondippenhall screwed with this post 06-08-2008 at 03:59 AM
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Old 06-07-2008, 10:55 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by simondippenhall
I stopped for coffee on the way to Bled, and ignorantly asked if they would accept Euros. ‘Sir we have been using the Euro for 2 years!’.
Yay!! Us Americans aren't the only ignorant travellers in Europe.

Sorry, I am still reading your report and am enjoying it immensely. I just wanted to share that bit of insight before I read further.

donny662 screwed with this post 06-07-2008 at 11:14 PM
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Old 06-07-2008, 11:33 PM   #20
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Excellent report. Keep it coming.
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Old 06-08-2008, 12:30 AM   #21
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Fascinating

Fascinating report. I have sailed most of the Croatian Coastline and you have now made me want to take the GS!
More please!
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Old 06-08-2008, 01:03 AM   #22
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Amazing adventure
Waiting for more pics
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Old 06-08-2008, 04:49 AM   #23
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Through Albania

When I get to Tirana the pollution and traffic is so dense that I decide to battle the traffic (Mad Max comes to mind) and head through the city and further North.
One of the many Mercedes pulls up beside me and tells me he is actually based in London and can he help? He starts to guide me thru the city...but the traffic is so dense he cannot move as fast as I can.

I am up on the pegs at this stage, partly to be visible and partly so I can ride the bike better thru the rutted mud which seems to be Tirana's road system today.

Fortunately I have some trails that Damir from Zagreb has sent me and soon, after a few chats with helpful bystanders, I am on the road out of town.

Tirana has some large scale architecture from the Hoxha era:

I pass through Mullet City just North of Tirana - but to my regret, miss the chance to photo the town that gave rise to that fabulous footballer haircut of the 80's!

In Albania, petrol is served by men with high voices :


And in the left of the picture you can see an 'autoschool' learner car - also a Mercedes!

Everywhere there are 'auto-lavazh' or car-wash operations, using Karcher pumps, and sort of explains why most UK car-washes are run by Albanians...it seems to be a national pastime!

Other forms of transport



Eventually I make it across a mountain with fab windy roads, and to the steel city of Elbasan. The clouds are gathering and it is 5 pm so I decided, based on talking to a very friendly lady at a petrol station, that it is a good place to stop.

You can just see in the mist the huge steel works that I saw as I descended from the mountain:

My hotel is clean and efficient altho no lift despite its 4 floors. As I park in front, an officious doorman asks me to move it a metre to one side. (There is lots of space). I smile and suggest he has sex with himself or shuts up - preferrably the latter. (I have observed that in many places with these spurious adornments - doormen- they like to exercise their power in this meaningless way. They are best ignored or, depending on their level of English, smiled at charmingly while being roundly abused in English!).

I spend the evening chatting to a young Albanian who has just returned from studying in London at a college there. The main thing he seems to have learned is to use f**k every 3 or 4 words, so a perfect English education! Needless to say he is very proud of his Merc! He is part of the local well-off families running petrol stations...but he cannot explain convincingly why there are so many petrol stations in Albania, and also so many abandoned ones.

simondippenhall screwed with this post 06-21-2008 at 02:01 PM
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Old 06-08-2008, 05:51 AM   #24
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Excellent report. More please!!
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Old 06-08-2008, 06:08 AM   #25
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Nice journey; super report.
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Old 06-08-2008, 06:23 AM   #26
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more to come

Quote:
Originally Posted by kkahlm
Excellent report. More please!!

when the (rare) UK sun goes down!
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Old 06-08-2008, 06:28 AM   #27
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MORE!
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Old 06-08-2008, 06:36 AM   #28
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Very good write up...as a new member of the forum, I am very pleased to stumble upon this as my first thread...very interesting.

I am a Croatian living in New York City...I was born here but all of my family is from Croatia and I have always wanted to tour the Adriatic coast on motorcycle....such great roads with even better views.

Thanks again for the wonderful pics and great write up.

Johny
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Old 06-08-2008, 06:56 AM   #29
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Excellent!

I was there 2 months ago and the place is incredible. We didn't entered Albania as planned (rain+snow+albanian roads= not so appetizing).

Y suffered that scrapped surface in the road of Mostar-Sarajevo under a huge storm... Possibly we met there the same bus that you saw crashed in Boka Kotorka fjord as some bus advanced us "kamikaze style" in that scrapped section of the road at way way too high speed in a corner...





We had a really nice evening with Damir&friends in Zagreb. He's a great person. (allready waiting to his last report!).
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Old 06-08-2008, 09:48 AM   #30
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I leave Albania for Macedonia and Greece

After a quiet night in Elbasan, and a little argument at the hotel when they try to stiff me some charges for an extra coffee at lunchtime, I set off North to see Lake Ohrid. Thias is on the border of Albania and Macedonia but the Albania side cannot be accessed (for security reasons?).

I get to the Macedonian border without problems, and the weather is improving. Macedonia (or to be correct, FYROM or Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in deference to the Greeks who think they have a Macedonia already and don't want this one cosying up) gives me one nasty surprise.

As I don't have a Green card they relieve me of Eu50 (!) for 10 days local insurance - even tho I am only there for the day. I come to terms with this (just) by swearing at Devitt Insurance who would not give me a green Cardand then thinking of it as a tourist tax to visit an interesting country....supposedly the most old worldly of the former Yugoslav republics.

Lake Ohrid is very scenic.


On the way there I meet some Czech riders, one with rather unusual riding suit (maybe ex-Czech Army?). They warn me of the perils of Turkish speed cops, which I dismiss a little as they are moving so fast and I think it could never happen to me!

Over the trip I met very few bike travellers, perhaps because it's May, perhaps because (especially in Syria and Jordan) these are not the natural destinations?

The town of Ohrid is a pleasant resort town of winding alleyways

I decide that the best place to park illegally is next to a police car.

The town is full of burly guys in leather jackets...or am I becoming paranoid and seeing gangsters everywhere?


After I leave the town of Ohrid I visit one of the supposed 365 churches around it (one for each day of the year).


Then I take a little lane up the hillside to see a Macedonian village.






Finally I reach the Greek border. There is a lot of paperwork to leave FYROM and then I am in Greece. I meet 2 bikers...(1 a heavily-laden BMW with sidecar....why? ). I head for Florina...it seems odd to be in the EU again, so I decide to take a long back-road to the next major town. It proves to be a lovely ride, and I hardly see another soul. (I think it was the old E86 to Edessa). The area seems remote, but beautiful.


It is notable once in Greece that no-one wears a crash helmet, unlike some of the places I have just come through.


Eventually I have to take a bigger road to make some progress across Greece, which is sort of a 'transit country' for me on this trip, sadly. I pull up to refuel and the garage hand starts to chat. He is a biker also (Varadero) and I quizz him about where would be good to stop for the night. I had identified an area on my map that looked pomising, but he puts me right. He tells me there are probably no lodgings there, better to go to the coast near Alexandria. He suggests a little resort town called Asprovalta.


When I get there it is very quiet but there are 'room to let' signs. After a false start I find a good room on the sea-front, with bar attached and free wifi. Even better, Petros the boss is a former biker.

Here are some of his toys:

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