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Old 06-23-2009, 01:27 AM   #46
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Day 9 - The Route

A simple highway ride of about 135kms from Brno to Bratislava:

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Old 06-23-2009, 03:30 PM   #47
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The game is on...

Finding a decent hotel, at a decent price, near the center, with secure parking for the bikes had proven to be a bit harder than we had initially thought (gee, I wonder why), so we made the decision to start looking a bit earlier than when we did in Brno. We also decided to stick to the highway from now on, we had many kms to cover and we had enjoyed more than enough scenic routes by now, it was time to let the capos stretch their legs (or wheels) on the motorway and pick up the pace…

Instead of making another detour through minor roads, we would rather take the easy road, and save some time to walk around the city. Bratislava was after all a capital city, and we would have to invest some time in order to get to know it. Personally, I try to avoid big cities when touring with the bike, but sometimes it may be a sound choice.

After another poor breakfast, we went for a quick coffee at the main square, as planned, and give Brno a chance to win us back. The city itself is very nice, and bathed in bright daylight, it looks even better. We sat for a cappuccino and watched the city go through its day. A while later, we went back to the hotel, loaded the bikes (again), and got straight on the A65, south-bound.







I think the speed limit is 120 on that stretch, we were riding at 150 to 160 almost all the way to the exit (according to my gps data), except for a small single-lane part near the border. There is no real border of course, just a couple of road signs letting you know you’ve crossed into Slovakia.









My retarded companyon after spilling the gas all over his bike and himself...


A bug's life, as you won't see it in a theater..




Not before long we reach the center of Bratislava, and I stay with the luggage while Yani leaves with a much more agile bike (side panniers in the city are a burden) to go look and bargain for a room (he is a master at that, I usually ask to pay more)…



I start playing with my gps and I notice that I have a very complete POI file. I set all hotels visible at moderate distance, and I realize that this could become handy… Yani returns with quotes from some luxurious nearby well known hotels and they seem a bit expensive (what happened to the 35 euro tariff?). I tell him to let me give it a try with the gps (it’s still early) and ride a couple of kms away from the center. I navigate to a random hotel I see on my screen and it has all we ask for 60 euros for a double. The only problem is that there is quite a distance from the secure parking to the room, but we thought we could live with it (actually it was much worse with all the luggage in hand).

Anyway we check in, take a shower, get some sleep and hit the town in the evening, fresh but hungry. We ask around (suddenly everyone is polite and willing to help, hear that Brno?) and go to a traditional restaurant on Obhodna road (I’ll add the name later, Slovensko-something) and try some local specialties. It was something with goat cheese and pasta-like balls, Yani didn’t even finish the plate, but an extra sausage ration made everything right. The price was ridiculous, I don’t remember how much, but really cheap..

It’s now time to see the city. Bratislava is small but lovely. It has a nice atmosphere, a pedestrian-only old part (always nice for tourists), friendly and welcoming people, good prices and many places to get lost in time, and literally. I was expecting less, I was under the false impression that Slovakia would be a bit backwards compared to the Czech Republic, but what I saw was a euro zone developed country, rich and proud, with a lot to show to an open-minded visitor. We were both, from the moment we entered the city, instantly magnetized by this wonderful city.



The Greek embassy at the main square, pretty cool...






We strolled in the little streets until the center was empty (Monday and all) and then tried, unsuccessfully, to find a hip club some kms away, we had been given a wrong address. It was getting late so we returned to the hotel, but before getting to bed, we agreed that we would spend our extra day here, and head to Budapest the day after tomorrow. We had a lot more to see and we liked the city enough to invest another full day exploring it…

Tomorrow, we get to know Bratislava a little better, on foot and by bike…
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Old 06-23-2009, 04:02 PM   #48
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Day 10 – Bratislava part 2

We barely made it to the horrendous “breakfast deadline” and it was worth it. A decent energy-giving omelet started our day just fine.
We first walked around the city center, basically the same roads as yesterday, but it was still enchanting.











Later on, we took the bikes and went to the castle, which is under heavy reconstruction, but still it is a serene and calm place with a wonderful view of the city and the surrounding area.















Then we went on a “bike tour”. We rode the city and the river bank, taking pictures and enjoying the ride…







Then back in the old town for more sightseeing, food, followed by light clubbing…













We went to the hotel early in the morning, tomorrow we leave straight for Budapest, and my ignition problem comes back with a vengeance!!
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Old 06-24-2009, 02:33 AM   #49
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Day 11 - The route

202km on the E75 (which goes all the way to Athens from Gdansk on the north shores of Poland), entering the Hungarian capital.

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Old 06-24-2009, 05:35 AM   #50
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I was also under the impression that Slovakia was a little "less" civilized than Czech Republic .......... oh well, learn something new every day.

Looking forward to hearing about your next adventure and the result to your sh!tty ignition problem.

Soto
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Old 06-24-2009, 12:14 PM   #51
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I learned many things that day... Did you know that all the athletic awards that Czechoslovakia had won were "inherited" by the Czech Republic? Now that's tuff to swallow... Let alone all the heavy industry, the tourism infrastructure, all the main revenue generating resources that were left to the Czechs, but the athletic awards? (and they were not few)

The Slovakians went through a lot and landed on their feet, I was left with the best impressions from this country.
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Old 06-24-2009, 04:22 PM   #52
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Day 11 – Which is Buda and which Pest?

I managed to meet the “breakfast deadline” but Yani couldn’t get up yet… I had breakfast and started carrying the freaking luggage to the bike (remember it was pretty far). Yani eventually woke up, and, as he started packing, I went to my bike for some maintenance.

I checked tire pressure, placed the bike on the center stand, started the engine, put the side-stand up, switched to first, greased the chain, switched back to neutral and pushed the kill switch to kill the engine. That is the typical routine I go through when I grease the chain, the only difference is that when I push the kill switch, the bike is turned off. Today, 8 days since it had first happened, the bike started to give ignition… NOT AGAIN!!

To be honest I hadn’t relaxed at all through that week. Every time I had to turn the bike off, especially in the morning, I was expecting for the worst. I was better prepared, so I immediately turned the switch back on and let the bike start by giving some gas. The ordeal lasted for another 2 attempts, and on the 3rd time, the bike came back to normal operation. I was sweated and panicked, just as the previous time. I went back to Yani to break the news (damn it the room is far) and told him once again to hurry up because he was taking for ever…



We finally left the hotel and went back to the center for Yani to grab something to eat, as he had an empty stomach. Eventually, at about 13.00h, we were on our way. Today we pushed our luck a bit more, riding from 150 to 170, but mostly around 160. The weather was nice and we got to the outskirts of Budapest without and more problems. The road was faultless and made high speed touring a pleasure, there was only one speed trap, but we spotted it early enough to allow us slow down in time.



Today I was better organized for hotel-hunting. About 5km from the city centre, I started to look at my screen for hotels. The first one we checked was perfect. For 59 euros a double we had closed garage, LIFT to the room (hurray!), a nice clean room, free wi-fi access (hurray!), breakfast, you name it. The gps came through with flying colors!!

You know the drill by now, yeah, the luggage… Anyway, once we got to the room, we took a shower and got some more sleep. Yani logged in the net to find restaurants and bars, and I sat on my gps to orientate and plan a route for the evening. At around 20.00h we were back on the bikes heading towards the centre… The Hungarians are under the impression that Budapest competes with Prague for the crown of the most beautiful city of Europe. I haven’t heard that, but I can say that Budapest (the centre) is very beautiful, with some remarkable buildings, but it lacks a pedestrian-only part, where the carefree tourists could relax and walk calmly. I don’t like to “rate” cities, every city has its advantages and disadvantages, I enjoyed Budapest a lot, but I just didn’t click there.

We parked the bikes by the mighty Dunab, next to a central bridge and started to walk around. The river walk is absolutely fantastic and there is also a tram line, no2, which follows that exact same route, make sure not to miss it. We visited the parliament which is simply unbelievable, then took the tram back to the bikes.

























The Greeks will better understand this, let's just say that what this guy does on the poster isn't very polite in Greece...






Yani had read about a good restaurant which had 1 liter glasses of their own home brewed beer, we had to try it. I had saved it on the gps, so we followed blindly the directions through completely unknown territory, and, a little later, we were right on the doorstep. It was lovely; the food was great, the beer never-ending and smooth, the live band was playing gypsy-standards (as in jazz-standards), the building amazing, the prices ridiculous. They also have this game when you ask for the check, where they bring you 3 dices and if you roll 3 sixes, you don’t pay a dime!!







That's an HTC diamond to help you get the scale...




After that wonderful dinner, we went to a strange club on the top floors of a strange building, which seems all surreal now. The stairs with the chained bicycles on the rails were the cat’s pajamas… We had another drink and went back to the hotel…

Yo homie!


A great night out, with the gps, the whole concept of going out as a tourist to an unknown city changes completely… You are no longer restrained and helpless, you can go wherever you want easily and reliably, it was the first time I tried that and it won’t be my last…



Tomorrow, after many days in unfamiliar hotels, we’ll sleep at the welcoming house of my wife’s sister, I always like to return to Beograd…
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Old 06-25-2009, 08:21 AM   #53
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Day 12 -- The Route

380km on the E75. back in the Balkans after a long while...

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Old 06-25-2009, 03:31 PM   #54
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Day 12 – It ain’t over till it’s over…

Today I would be returning to roads and places I had visited before. The excitement of new terrain would go away, and the melancholy of a trip’s end was struggling to overcome me. On the contrary, the anticipation of reuniting with beloved friends and family in Beograd and Thessaloniki kept my spirit high. But the trip was ending, I knew it was going to happen, and I wasn’t ready yet.

We packed the bikes once more (the lift made things a bit easier) and after breakfast, we decided to visit Vaci Road, which was supposed to be worth visiting. I wasn’t really impressed, we took a few photos, had an espresso, and got back on the bikes to head south..



















Demiiiiiiiii!!!!


The weather today was cloudy and signs of rain started to appear early on the way. Thankfully the rain was light, and with our high speed traveling and warm temperatures we decided to stay with the corduras and leave our rain gear in the top case. We did however add an extra layer under our jackets as it got a bit chilly along the way.

Every day since Bavaria, we had been riding increasingly faster, and today was no exception. We cruised above 170 for extended stretches and only slowed down when the conditions called for it.

Soon we had reached the border, crossed it and stopped to get some dinars, coffee and rest. It was good to be somewhere I could understand (and speak) some of the language once again. I was amazed at how good I could communicate in the Czech Republic and Slovakia with my limited Serbian, but in Hungary it was a nightmare. I speak 7 languages and I can usually (in Europe) keep up with a simple conversation in languages I don’t speak by drawing on another similar language. In Hungary it was all Greek to me! I would like to know where that language came from as it seemed completely isolated from all Slavic and Latin languages, no common roots, no common voicing, nada.

Anyway, we were now in Serbia and I could once again ask simple questions and get around adequately. We left the gas station and headed for the jaw-dropping valley of Vojvodina. My wife comes from Novi Sad and she used to tell me about that place, saying that for as far as the eye could see there is not a single hill, but a distant flat horizon. The first time I traveled there I was amazed, and that amazement hasn’t gone away. Everything is flat, even on a clear day you cannot spot any variation on the surface! (too bad I was too bored to take any pictures ) Beautiful in its own way, riding at that place is really boring nevertheless… The only way to keep from sleeping is to go fast… So we did.





Police presence, however, got much more intense when we entered Serbia. We saw 4 speed traps from the border to Beograd (~200km)! Luckily we got through all 4 without problems and then hit the heavy Beograd traffic…

Another issue was driving styles. Beograd is no place to be polite and nice on the wheel. I was hypnotized by almost 2 weeks of “gay” driving in central Europe, and my reflexes had gone down. I almost got run over a couple of times before switching to “Athenian style” and started feeling safer. The trick is to dominate your intended route, show no hesitation, and never ride slower than the flow of traffic (cars will try to overpass at any place without any concern for your safety). It goes without saying that you must never give way if you have priority, unless you have a deathwish (following traffic will drive right through you)… It worked.

After a while we were in Canarovo Brdo, where Sasha’s place is. Sasha is my wife’s sister’s boyfriend and he, and Ruza, are both wonderful people. They always make me feel like home when I visit them, with or without my wife. Beer and treats are served immediately and we start catching up, telling stories and laughing out loud… A while later, before going to bed, me and Yani make another decision: We will stay in Beograd for another day, to rest and let Yani see a bit of the city, and postpone arrival in Athens by one day. We had agreed to return by Saturday and get some rest on Sunday, but we would stretch that trip as long as possible!!





Tomorrow, more ignition drama and a bit of sightseeing!!
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Old 07-01-2009, 01:47 AM   #55
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Mas ksexases;
Zaboravio si nas?
Did you forget about us?

Bump :)
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Old 07-01-2009, 01:52 AM   #56
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I'm on it...

It got a bit busy and I haven't been able to get around it...

A good ole bump always helps though... I'll post today the next episode!
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Old 07-01-2009, 03:25 AM   #57
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Great report!
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Old 07-01-2009, 08:03 AM   #58
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tserts
. I almost got run over a couple of times before switching to “Athenian style” and started feeling safer. The trick is to dominate your intended route, show no hesitation, and never ride slower than the flow of traffic (cars will try to overpass at any place without any concern for your safety). It goes without saying that you must never give way if you have priority, unless you have a deathwish (following traffic will drive right through you)… It worked.
Best explanation describing everyday riding in Greece ........... I have tried many different ways to explain this "technique" to my foreign friends, but from now on I can quote you ...........................

Soto
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Old 07-01-2009, 04:42 PM   #59
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Quote:
Originally Posted by quicktoys2
Best explanation describing everyday riding in Greece ........... I have tried many different ways to explain this "technique" to my foreign friends, but from now on I can quote you ...........................

Soto
Just add a disclaimer "use at your own risk" and you're set!
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Old 07-01-2009, 05:50 PM   #60
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Day 13 - "Murphy's law" or "Serves You Right"?

What we had decided was to take one bike (mine) two-up and go through the basic “Beograd tour”, let Yani take some pictures, and then take Ruza and Sasa out to eat somewhere nice.

We woke up, and had breakfast, then sat on the pc to burn some dvds and make room at my laptop, which was already full with the material from all 4 cameras… It had gone a bit late by now, so we got ready to leave but the moment we opened the front door, it started pouring cats and dogs… We got back in the house and agreed to wait it out… I had Knjaz Milos (my favorite sparkling water) and Lav (the beer, which comes in 2,5 liter plastic bottles , why don’t we have that in Greece?), so I really couldn’t care less if it never stopped to rain, but Yani, who hadn’t seen Beograd, was put down by it…

Eventually the sun reappeared and I wanted to wait for our hosts to return and leave straight for sightseeing and dinner, but Yani was restless. We got to the bikes, and I started mine in order to exit the garage. I haven’t told you that I had noticed, since Germany, in the mornings a very loose pull on my clutch, a clear sign that I needed to top up a bit of fluid to the small reservoir. Now I knew that I only needed ~5ml, so I thought I would wait until Athens, since it was working OK once the engine temperature went up.

The bike started OK, and I pulled the clutch. It felt VERY loose, almost no resistance, but I shifted into first anyway. It turns out that I was so low on clutch fluid that the disc was marginally transmitting to the wheel even with the clutch pulled all the way in. The bike would move forward unless I had my feet to the ground to keep it still… I got out of the garage, pulled at the side of the road, and hit the kill switch…

SHIT! My ignition thought it was a good time to start playing with me once again… I immediately flipped the switch on and tried to let the bike start again, so as not to destroy my ignition or battery, as I had done in Venice and Bratislava. The only difference is that I was in first already and the bike won’t start with any gear locked in!! I’m sweating and cursing for another 3-4 seconds that feel like a century, then I twist the right handle a bit more and I manage to start the bike. Meanwhile, my left hand has been turned yellow keeping a hard grip around the clutch so as to minimize forward transmission. I try to disengage the gear but without the normal clutch and the fact that the bike is still, the gear lever won’t budge an inch! If I was in a calm situation I would have let the bike gain some speed and force it to neutral but my mind is running at 10000rpm, but in all the wrong directions…

Yani is right beside me and he is stuck as well, and tries to kick the lever instead of telling me to let the bike roll a bit (it wouldn’t go back anyway). I give up on the gear and turn my attention to the ignition again. I flip the switch off again in the hope it will kill the engine and, thankfully, this time it works… With the bike off, I roll it backwards a few centimeters and the gearbox finally shifts to neutral with ease. I let the clutch with satisfaction and blood starts to rush down my palm once again… Side stand down, get off the bike, light a cigarette, wipe the sweat off the forehead… I could really do without this…

I hate to keep you at the edge of your seats, but I must go to sleep now (almost 4am here), I’ll have to finish this daily report in two parts… Don’t hate me, next episode “the quest for DOT4”!
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