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Old 12-21-2010, 01:31 PM   #16
pip_muenster OP
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Location: Karlsruhe, Germany
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Day 8

Drip, drip, drip.

Drip, drip.


Drip.


It's really hard to get out of your sleeping bag when you can hear the rain on your tent. Luckily it always sounds worse than it is. We packed, had a cup of coffee and hit the road again. Heading west, we should be able to reach Baia Mare before nightfall.


My cheap rain gear was still working fine.




The road meandered through the mountains with the clouds hanging in the trees. This would be a nice set for a Dracula movie.

But due to the rain we had to keep an eye on the road, trying to find a path through the shallower potholes. Several times this turned into a zick zack all over the width of the street in 2nd gear.

Later during the day we met another German biker on a heavy Bavarian sports bike heading the other way. He would have some fun on these roads ...




Here, close to the Ukrainian border each house had a huge wooden gate covered with artistic carvings.




It was an uneventful ride, only disrupted by occasional stops coffee or lunch. Actually, we only had lunch as it was a welcome opportunity to warm up.


To get to Baia Mare we had to cross another mountain ridge. The road (#18) turned out to be a huge bowl of asphalt spaghetti with wide turns, hair pin bends and just everything you could wish. This is what the Top Gear guys should have checked out.

There were three campsites on our maps and all were closed or in bad shape. We were dreaming on a warm fire and a cold beer, so we continued until we hit a hostel in Satu Mare. The place was cheap and had a heater. And after some minutes it was covered in dripping wet tents and rain gear.
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Reports: Nordkapp - Mt. St. Helen - Black Sea - Iceland - Morocco - Balkan

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Old 12-21-2010, 02:54 PM   #17
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Day 9

Today, Steffen and I had to split up as he had to get back to work soon. I still had some days left before I had to show up at my sister's party, so I turned south again.

Oh, and it was still raining.

Everyone we'd met had agreed that the cave we had seen earlier was kind of boring. And everyone had been asking us why we hadn't visited the much more interesting Bear Cave.
So I thought, I might search for that cave and than head towards the Black Sea.

We had learned that the red roads on the map were the overland routes and the yellow ones were smaller, but still most-often with good asphalt. Then, there were 3 levels of black lines ranking from 'probably asphalt' to 'probably dirt road'. I should be following the same yellow road (19A) for most part of the day.

A bike shop near Simleu Silvaniei.



There's a saying that Inuit would have hundreds of different names for snow. If that's the case, Romanians probably have hundred names for gravel roads.

This 'yellow road' turned from asphalt to 'mostly asphalt' ...





... to mud ...



... to potholes divided by asphalt ...



... to gravel with a foot-wide of asphalt ...



... but the scenery was great!

Also, I wanted to see something else than just tarmac all day. I loved it. While I was stopped to take a picture, I noticed that my gas was almost on reserve. I hadn't seen a gas station or even a village for hours and according to my GPS I had left the digitized world long time ago. Funny.

It was comforting that the GPS showed a road some 20km straight north of my position when I zoomed out. That should do.






And really, I found my way back on the two-lane blacktop, right next to a gas station. It was shut down.

This reminded me on 'Jupiter's Travels' - the only book I was carrying. As an introduction he describes a situation where he run out of fuel in the middle of nowhere and instead of worrying he's looking forward to the adventures this will start.

I didn't know whether I should have been happy or disappointed as
I found another gas station only 5 or 10km down the road. No adventure for me today.

Back on tarmac.



With the road getting better I reached the Bear Cave just in time for the last tour of the day. The guide was speaking Romanian, and I didn't ask him for an English translation as I was happily trailing the group and enjoying the cave on my own.

This was the biggest dripstone cave I've ever seen. As always, it was forbidden to take photos in here.



Now as far as I know the reason for this is that the photo flashes allow alga to grow on the dripstones - which is bad for the dripstones. So I ignored the photo ban and worked with the flash off. These photos only show some of the smaller dripstone colonies - they are nothing close to the real thing.



The guide told us an interesting story about this cave:
A worker of a marble pit had discovered it and notified the authorities. 3 or 4 men immediately joined up to ensure the safety of the place, since a similar place had been completely destroyed within 2 weeks by the locals selling the dripstones a couple of years before. The marble pit got mad about the worker since he hadn't simply bombed the place to ensure that they could continue working the marble. The authorities got the army in to guard the place and finally the ministry of tourism won and the cave was turned into a tourist attraction.
Months later the police got a tip and stopped a truck loaded with dynamite heading for the cave. That had been the last move of the marble pit so far.

So if you ever come to Romania, check out the Bear Cave before it might get blasted away!
When I got out of the cave, there was sunlight. No more rain.



It was not difficult to find a nice bed & breakfast for the night as this area is developing into a recreation area with lots of marked trails etc.
The only downside was that the price for the night had raised over night - not a nice move, so I won't recommend the place, even if the room was in fact a beautiful suite.
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Reports: Nordkapp - Mt. St. Helen - Black Sea - Iceland - Morocco - Balkan

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Old 12-21-2010, 03:47 PM   #18
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Day 10

I had used the night to go through the maps and decided to go south first and than turn towards the Black Sea once I was in Bulgaria.

First, I wanted to see the Dacian Fortress
Sarmizegetusa some 50km southeast of Deva. The last kilometers gave me the chance to practice more gravel riding and after a while I found myself happily speeding over the bumps trailing a huge cloud of dust.

The road followed a small creek winding through the mountains.



The Dacian Fortress





All this took quite a while, so in the evening I found myself near Bumbesti Jiu with no place for the night marked on my map. The sun set and I got really tired, so I just checked into the next roadside motel.
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Old 12-21-2010, 04:23 PM   #19
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Day 11

There will be no happy memories of that place. As it turned out, I forgot my olive oil and all my spices in the room. So some dull meals were coming up until I could restock.

The ride south was mainly straight roads and the beautiful mountains and trees were exchanged by open coal pits and oil rigs.



Oh, and while I'm looking up my route on Google Earth to check whether I forgot anything, there are some strange pictures in the system ... Is it possible that the local hookers advertise themselves with geo-referenced pictures on Google Earth?! Interesting product placement that is.

Anyway ...
I finally come to the border with Bulgaria, i.e. the river Danube.



There is a tug boat with 2 barges used as a ferry, so you have to do a U-turn at the end. This is interesting as the level of the 2nd one drops by about a feet while it's been loaded with trucks and a bike.


Ok, Bulgaria. I have no idea about the place. What's their currency? First I need to get a map ...



The only thing I have are the GPS coordinates of a certain place known well here on ADVrider ...



Doug is still in Turkey and will not be back for another 2 weeks and Poly is out of town, too. Nevertheless I'm welcomed by Ivo and get some great touring tips for Bulgaria.
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Reports: Nordkapp - Mt. St. Helen - Black Sea - Iceland - Morocco - Balkan

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Old 12-21-2010, 04:52 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gadget Boy View Post
What's the story on those ornate houses popping up all over Romania? I've seen them everywhere..
...gypsy palaces...
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Old 12-22-2010, 04:09 PM   #21
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Day 12

With all the tips I got, my plan had slightly changed over night. I wanted to cross the Balkan mountain ridge in the south and then go further south towards the Rhodope mountains, before turning east to the Black Sea. I had also been told that the direct route was currently closed due to road work, so I would take the pass near Troyan.

There's a nice monastery at Troyan.



This crossing keeper's house looks like an old railroad car.



Near the top of the pass I stopped for lunch. Warmed up, I came to the other side and had a nice view. It would have been even better without the clouds and occasional rain.





Once I left the mountains behind, it was mainly straight roads until I came to Plovdiv. Every road heading south was closed by police barriers. I asked a police man for the reason and he laughed at me. The next officer was more communicative and told me about the Bulgarian National Tour. The bicyclists were coming this way and for the next 3 hours every road would be closed.

I looked at my map and decided on a detour trying to reach Asenovgrad via Popovica. That worked out great, as I was told in Asenovgrad that the roads would be opened as soon as the last bicycle had passed - in about 10 minutes. Just enough time for a coffee break.

From now on I followed the winding road to Smolyan. I actually think this would have been a great ride, but with the road just re-opened, there was bumper to bumper traffic in both directions. Also, it was still raining, and as we climbed up to the ski resort of Smolyan, it got chilly too.

That was too uncomfortable for photos, so here's a Google Earth view instead.



I was freezing, wet and the sun was setting down. The locals told me that none of the campsites on my map actually existed. Luckily, not all of the hotels had been closed for the off-season and I found a nice and cheap room for the night. I had a hot shower, some tasty fish for dinner and could check on the internet for ideas on what to do next.
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Old 12-22-2010, 04:47 PM   #22
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Day 13

When I woke up I was greeted by sunshine!



I had an omelette for breakfast, got my bike from the restaurant's terrace where it had spent the night and hit the road.

For the next hours I should basically following a river. There were these small suspension bridges which were fun to walk on. In the middle the suspension ropes doubled as railings, but barely exceeded my knees in height. And you could make the whole construction swing easily.



Around noon the scenery changed completely and the forrests were exchanged by open fields of dry, yellow grass and bushes.
I explored some dirt roads leading to a lake near Kardzali.



Local traffic. I'm not quite sure whether the woman collection fire wood (?) belonged to the man on the carriage. They were doing about the same speed.



In Haskovo I saw this huge statue of the Virgin Mary.



And some more dirt to get off the road for a picnic.



I reached the coast of the Black Sea just in time to look for a camp site. In the first town I stopped at a super market to get some beer, meat and a throw-away BBQ grill, as I wanted to celebrate this adequately.

I was assigned a spot in the middle of the camp, despite my request for a beach-site place. I took a tour round the almost empty camp ground and decided to set up my tent right next to the beach anyway.

The day ended with a BBQ, beer, some nice conversation with a student couple traveling all over Bulgaria by train, more beer and finally a moonshine walk on the beach before it was time to fall asleep.
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Old 12-22-2010, 05:56 PM   #23
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Day 14

I woke up in time for the sun rise over the Black Sea.



As I hadn't seen anything as dirty as the facilities on the camp ground for a long time, my plan was to find a less filthy place and combine my bathroom break with breakfast, before having a swim in the sea.

I found a beautiful and remote spot where I jumped into the warm water and laid down on some rocks afterwards to dry.



The Turkish border was only about 30km away, so I decided to explore the coast as far as possible.



As Turkey was that close I had decided over night to visit Troia and do some unfinished business there.

Half the day was already gone, so I doubted that I could reach it before night. The border crossing was easy, though much more complicated than any other border on this trip before. Turkey is not part of the Schengen Agreement. I had to get my passport stamped by immigration and than cue up to get my bike's papers checked. They added a note on the bike in my passport to make sure I wouldn't leave the country without it. All of this was done in less than 20 minutes.

As soon as I crossed the border I noticed the smell of burning trash. I knew that smell from previous visits to Turkey, but was surprised now that I haven't smelled it anywhere on this trip prior to entering Turkey.

The day ended in a cheap roadside hotel between Havsa and Edirne as I didn't knew any good places to camp here.
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Old 12-22-2010, 06:51 PM   #24
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Day 15

I left the place as soon as I woke up and headed southwest towards the ferry crossing the Dardanelles. I was somehow disappointed that many major roads had been transformed into 4-lane highways in the last years.



The fortress guarding the European side.



On the Asian side lies the city Canakkale and its only another 30km south to Troia from here.

I'd been working with the archaeologists in Troia in summer 2001: For weeks, I had started working before sunrise, finished processing the data 1-2 hours after dinner and ended each day drinking beer with one of the archaeologists. 5 hours of sleep per night ... Great times!
I knew that the 2010 campaign had ended 2 weeks ago, so there was little chance to see any known faces - but I wanted to see how the place had changed over the years.


This is where we'd told the archaeologists to dig in 2001. (and yes, they had found what they'd been looking for)



They usually refill their holes once they're done with their work, but I found a small pile of dirt which might belong to that place.

This is within the main area (2001)



... and 2010. This is a different angle, it seems like there hasn't been much of a change.



At the entrance there is this 'replica' of the horse for the tourists. It's facing Troia, so
- if you visit Troia, the first thing you'll see is its ass and
- you'll only have good light for photos very early in the morning.



Tourists. These were even dressed in matching shirts.

Obviously German, and I had a theory on the exact region (based on haircuts) - but my prejudice was proved wrong by their dialects.



Relaxing on the coast of the Dardanelles.



As there were only 2 archaeologists left at this time and I didn't knew them, there was no point in staying longer, so I headed back to Europe.
I followed my own tracks back to Keysan where I turned left. When the sun set, I pitched my tent on a camp ground in Alexandropolis, followed by a swim in the Adriatic Sea under a starry sky.

After dinner, another solo rider and I finished off the spirits I had bought on the side of the road somewhere in Romania. Pius was traveling from Switzerland to Istambul and riding a GS like mine.

Disclaimer:
There have always been controversial discussions on whether or not this place has anything to do with the Troia described by Homer in the Ilias. I have no idea, who's right.

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Reports: Nordkapp - Mt. St. Helen - Black Sea - Iceland - Morocco - Balkan

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Old 12-23-2010, 05:40 AM   #25
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great ride ! and some real cool pics.
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My Balkan adventures
http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=629748

http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=591808

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Old 12-23-2010, 09:00 AM   #26
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Great pictures and report. Thanks for bringing this part of the world to us.
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Old 12-23-2010, 12:33 PM   #27
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Day 16

Pius was still in the world of dreams when I left.



The weather was just perfect and my route following the coast offered lots of opportunities for a refreshing swim.





I tried to avoid the large roads and follow the coastline, thus having some fun on gravel. Once or twice I actually had to stop as I couldn't see the track anymore.





My front brakes started making some noise and I wondered whether they could be worn out already. While I thinking about my brakes I passed to bicycles. I must have been deep in my dreams as it took me several minutes to realize that it would have been nice to stop and chat.

I haven't seen anybody else on this track and from their looks, these people had to be German. They were completely outfitted with Ortlieb bags and even wore khaki shirts, cargo pants and helmets.

When I turned around it took me another 5 minutes to catch up with them - and yes, they were German!
The couple had just finished university and were now on their way to Asia. It had took them 10 weeks to get here. They were also very nice and this time I wasn't annoyed to meet German tourists.



At the end of this day I reached a camp ground on the coast, right at the foot of the Olymp.
The first thing I noticed were several RVs with Dutch and German plates. I set up my tent as far away as possible.

Now here's the deal about that: If I'd wanted to spend my vacation time with other Germans, I could have just stayed at home or take a charter flight to Mallorca. These RVs also showed me that I had left the area where loaded bikes were rare. From now on I would see more and more RVs and bikers.

My only hope was that these guys came by ferry from Italy, so I wouldn't see many of them once I reached Albania.
I shortly talked to them on my way to the showers and found out that the owners of one of the RVs actually lived less than 10km away from my home.
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Old 12-23-2010, 02:20 PM   #28
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Day 17

Just behind this valley lies the Olymp and my plan was to pass it on its south side.




The road through the mountains was great and almost without any traffic. Now here's a question: Isn't this nice and smooth? With no traffic to be seen it was tempting to take these bends faster and faster.



... only that someone had parked his trailer right in the middle of the road. It had been hidden from view by a bush (visible on the photo above) and gave my ABS something to do.



I tried to talk to this guy, but everything he said was Greek to me. (sorry, old joke ...)



A
hill with a perfect view on the Olymp seemed to be a great place for lunch break. That road on the left got me itchy so I decided to try it out.



I was in good mood when I saw an ambulance parked on a field beside the road. Someone was lying on the stretcher and being treated, while others were busy packing something which looked like a large peace of canvas. I can only guess that someone had a bad landing with his glider or parachute.
No need for photos here.

I stopped a little bit further up the road and took a break to get my head clear.



There were reasons enough not to be distracted and focus on the road.



The road finally turned out to be a dead end for me as it let to a training camp of the Greek special forces.
Some of these seem to have some fun driving the hairpins, judging on the rubber left on the road ...



From the Olymp I continued heading west. Somewhere I saw this spot where dozens of carpets were hanging in the sun. It looked as if a whole village had decided to have a wash day.



Oh, wait ...



Today's destination were the Meteora monasteries located on a very special set of mountains.







I spend the rest of the day on these rocks looking at the incredible scenery before I road down to the nearby village to check in to the campsite.



There was a young couple with a 640 KTM Adventure and we chatted over dinner and some local wine.
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Old 12-23-2010, 05:30 PM   #29
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Day 18

There was a Rotel bus on the campground. The Rotel Tours were the first possibilities in Germany to see other countries after WW II. With their special setup they were independent from hotels etc., so they could tour all over Europe and even Africa.
However, I can't imagine spending a night in one of these ...



After a stop at the nearest bakery I went back to the monasteries and found me a nice place for breakfast.



'Beam us up, Scotty. There's no intelligent life down here.'



This early in the morning there was a chance to avoid the tourist masses. And really, when I got up to this one, I was nearly the only visitor.



There are almost 2 dozen monasteries, and the largest one was next on my schedule. The parking lot was already full of buses, several showing the same colors. Two elderly women were walking past them: 'Here is no. 8, that's our bus, my dear!'
How horrible is that? Imagine being on a guided tour with several hundred people ... wherever you'll go, it will be overcrowded.
I had a look at the cue and left.



At the foot of these mountains I met an offroad club. Loaded up with sand-ladders and everything else you might occasionally need on a trip through ... ahem, Greece.



I had been told that the Ohrid lake in Albania was famous for its tasty trouts. A species which only exists in that lake and is almost extinct nowadays. So I crossed the border to Albania, hoping there would be some fish on tonight's menu.

There are 3 things which you can notice immediately:
- a lack of road signs,
- hundreds of mushroom bunkers, and
- even more Mercedes.






I checked the next 50 oncoming cars and 20 of them were Mercedes.



When I got to the lake I met this little guy who was actually the first Albanian who could talk in English to me. He liked my helmet.



Cops drive Mercedes, too. On the first glance I had misread 'Police Baksheesh'.



There was a nice camp site near the lake which I only had to share with an elderly Dutch couple in a RV. They had driven the thing all over Albania and knew every single asphalt road.

And the restaurant had trout on the menu! Since they also had their own fish farm, I had no concerns ordering it. Tasty.


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Old 12-23-2010, 06:00 PM   #30
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Thanks for taking all those great pictures.
I've said it before how this site is an awesome way to see parts of the world I may never visit through the eyes of another motorcyclist. This RR allows me to live closer to that vicarious state as we have the same bike.
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