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Old 07-27-2014, 01:42 PM   #1
Teabar OP
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From Slovenia to Montenegro - And Places Inbetween

At the end of my Alps trip last year my thoughts, as they do, turned immediately to this year’s trip. I'd ridden the 2 classic European biker destinations (Pyrenees and Alps) in previous years but this time I wanted something a little further afield and a even more ‘exotic'.

Spurred on by great reports on ADVRider I opted for Croatia and its Balkan neighbours. A10 day plan was formulated which would entail my wife joining me in Dubrovnik for a few days of R&R in the middle of the trip.

The Route


The route would see me head south from Koper, Slovenia down as far as Durmitor National Park in Montenegro before heading up to Dubrovnik and then back to Villach in Austria to catch the train back to Dusseldorf.

The southern section (Montenegro) of the route I planned was in no small part thanks to the input of forum members ‘istankov’ and ‘drmracni’. I thank you both for a memorable experience. So, as I’ve gained so much pleasure from reading the RRs on this site to date and in the spirit of sharing here’s my attempt at a RR form this year’s road trip to the Balkans. Hope you enjoy the pics.

Day 1 - (Sat, 5th July) - Koper, Slovenia to Brodarica, Croatia (225 miles)

Day 1 Route


I (just) caught the 5.50am Eurotunnel train from Folkestone.

Start of the trip – Folkestone, with a clean bike


The weather was fine and the ride to Den Bosch to catch the train to Koper,, Slovenia was pleasant, if uneventful. The train managed to leave on time but dump us off in Koper the next day over 4 hours late. I shared a compartment with a mum and son from Holland and a young lad from Hackney called Adam. Adam was well travelled at a very early age and was a genuine sort. This is the 2nd time I’ve done Motorail and the 2nd year I’ve hit lucky with my bunk mates. 4 in a compartment that sleeps 6 is all you can hope for really.

Headed out from Koper with Adam and a couple of other English guys who were heading to Senj for the first night. Adam split from us after an hour to go to Romania and I tagged along with the guys until I took a wrong turn and ended up in an industrial estate off the beaten track.

The train delay meant that the riding didn’t start till 3.30pm and as such necessitated the cancellation of my first nights' accommodation in Tucepi in the southern part of Croatia. I would head down as far as possible and book something early evening on booking.com when I knew where I’d likely end up.

The train delay (and getting lost) made for a bad start to the trip (including the weather - very overcast and threatening rain all the time) but things were soon to get a whole lot better. Upon reaching the coast at Crikvenica the weather and the roads dramatically improved.

The 70 miles from Senj to Starigrad (there were to be many Starigrads on the trip – it means Old Town) were the best 70 miles I’ve ridden in my life.

My first sarnie break


I stopped for petrol in Senj and the attendent told me to ditch my plans to ride up into the Velebit mountains given it was so late and I was looking to get as far south as possible. Instead I should stick to the coast road. I'm really glad I took his advice. Immaculately consistent tarmac, undulating and twisting its way down the coast with very little traffic (the attendant says the locals take the motorway now).

Senj Harbour


From Senj to Karlobag (about 40 miles) the road twisted its way high above the coastline. Directly above me to the left were rocky lunaresque mountains and below to the right was the beautifully calm blue Adriatic. Taken at 3/4 speed the ride was fantastic.

Road from Senj to Karlobag


Looking out to Rab Island (top right)





The road from Karlobag to Starigrad was something out of a film. The road, now down at sea level, hugging the coastline to such a degree that you could almost dip your toes in the water.

The road between Karlobag and Starigrad


Tribanj – One of the innumerable beautiful bay side villages on the trip


I took a break in Starigrad. I pulled off the road and went down a small side street to the waterside. It was 7 in the evening and the place was still busy with families enjoying their Sunday. These water-side places, with their concrete jetties, are to be found everywhere along the Croatian coastline. This means that even though thousands use them for access to the water it rarely feels crowded.

Starigrad waterside




As I’d planned to be in Durmitor National Park, Montenegro on day 2 I had to get as far south as possible tonight. With that in mind my wife booked me a B&B in Brodarica, about 15 KM south of Sibenik. To reach that far I had to abandon the principle of avoiding motorways at all costs. I joined the magnificently surfaced and empty A1 just to the north-east of Zadar which allowed me to skirt the busy city of Split enabling me to save a ton of time. It's also worth noting that the tolls were also very reasonabl… in fact, I never once felt ripped off during my entire stay in the Balkan countries. That’s not to say it’s cheap as chips, just that the prices were pretty reasonable on the whole.

I arrived in Brodarica around 10pm after enlisting the help of 2 of the biggest coppers I'd ever seen. They were motorcycle cops on 1200RTs and were in the process of giving a local a ticket. They made a call to ask for directions. A quick chat about bikes and handshakes all round and off I went. I checked in 5 minutes later. All very civil.

A mix up with the booking saw me get a bungalow for the price of a room. I ate at their restaurant, had a quick walk by the calm water and crashed.

Waterside B&B was reward for a long day


My first Croatian beer – very nice


Breakfast view (Krapanj island) the next morning – it’s not your local Greasy Spoon


I hope to post the subsequent days over the coming days.
Steve
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Old 07-27-2014, 01:48 PM   #2
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That coast road is awesome :) Nice RR, thanks for taking the time to stop, take pic and, of course, post them up here. Makes me wanna go back but you know how it is ;p the road less travelled and all that.
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Old 07-27-2014, 02:15 PM   #3
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More pics, is the bike comfy?
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Old 07-27-2014, 03:05 PM   #4
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keep them coming...good stuff.
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Old 07-27-2014, 04:27 PM   #5
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Come on, we need more pictures, don't addict us to junkies and leave us on a cold turkey
Amazing pics and scenery, im in
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Old 07-28-2014, 01:15 AM   #6
Teabar OP
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More pics, is the bike comfy?
Hi Lucky,
It's no 1200 GS but it did the job. I covered off the to and from the start/finish miles by use of Motorail which made it possible. The lack of fairing was an issue only on the motorway - but it was an issue, forcing me to keep speeds between 70 and 80 mph. The slightly forward leaning seating position became an issue only at the end of the trip on long days - wrists got sore. Despite all the planning I still fell foul of the rule that you should plan in time and not in miles. Day 2 of the trip should be up in the next 24 hrs and this was a classic example, almost 12 hrs in the saddle but only 300 miles or so. The bike in the twisties made all of the above worth while. On the whole there are a lot better bikes to tour on but it was still fun.
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Old 07-28-2014, 12:40 PM   #7
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Day 2

Sun, 6th July - Brodarica, Croatia to Zabljak, Montenegro
320 miles, about 12 hours

Apologies in advance but I don't know how to size the pics correctly (using Photobucket if anyone has any ideas)

The days route


The morning started amid beautiful sunshine with breakfast on the hotel terrace overlooking the Adriatic and the island of Krapanj in the distance.
I managed to leave with the room key - I'd post it back later.

Krapanj island from the road


About 15 K down the road was the seaside town of Primosten. It looked to be another really classy holiday town. If it were in easy reach of the UK I could see me bringing the family back here for a week or two.

Primosten in the morning




I jumped back onto the A1 and came off just north of Makarska. I read that this is the start of the Dalmatian Riviera. I also read I should expect hotels by the hundred with the people and tourist town shops to go along with it, very much like any Brit-populated Spanish resort. I did see all that as I headed toward the centre. But having a bike allows you to 'have a quick look' at out of the way town centres where you maybe would have chosen to bypass with a car given the difficult prospect of parking. I headed into the old centre of Makarska and was rewarded with a lovely bay side spot to eat my 'packed lunch' (cheese and salami). The weather was perfect and sea perfectly calm. A really nice unexpected experience - always the best sort.

Makarska Bay




Pressed on down the coast past a town called Ploce and inland towards Bosnia through Metkovic and along the Neretva river. Ploce is an amazing place. Not a tourist stop off point that I could see (could be wrong) but home to a massive agricultural concentration with what seemed like hundreds, if not thousands, of orchards built on what I could see as the flood plain of the Neretva river. Route 8 skirts it providing amazing views down below.

Onwards past Metkovic to the border. The border guard was an archetype but the green card guy was a good sort. Olderish, about mid 50s or so, he made an attempt to communicate. He was really keen to point out the Bosnian beauty spots between here and Mostar. I felt really guilty as I knew that I didn’t have the time to see any of this but it was great to hear his enthusiasm. We shook hands and I was on my way.

It's worth pointing out at this stage that the single file queue to cross (both ways) was long. Having a bike I pushed my way to the front. It wasn't met with great approval by the officials and my embarrassment was saved only because I had to pull over for the green card. Once I had the insurance document it was straight to the front of the queue and into Bosnia we go.

Bosnian Border


The green card was a hefty 20 euros for 7 days of 3rd party cover. As I was only passing through Bosnia and would be in Montenegro that night it would mean 20 euros for 1 day of travel. A bit steep so I thought I'd best get my money's worth. I was planning on riding straight past Mostar and into the hills but I decided to take an hours detour. I'm glad I did but the hour was about right. Got some nice pics though ... and a couple of fridge magnets

This is what it used to look like back in the nineties




Parking - 4 Euros (they look after your jacket and helmet for you as well




Climbing into the hills above Mostar I quickly left the heat behind. My next waypoint for the day would be Gacko, some 55 miles away. I can’t recall how long the leg took but it seemed to go on interminably. The road immediately out of Mostar was great with a good surface lending itself to some decent progress but about a third of the way along the road you cross into the Republic of Srpska and the road conditions immediately deteriorated. Footnote: The Republic of Srpska (I’m open to correction here), often called the Bosnian Serb Republic, is one of two political entities in Bosnia and Herzegovina created as a result of the war in the 90s (the other being the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina) and as it implies is home to a majority Serb population.

Republic of Srpska en route to Foca (pronounced ‘Focha’, I think)


At the garage where the pic above was taken I spoke with the attendant. He saw me take a pic of the flag and asked me in broken English if I knew what it meant. I told him I did. We talked a while and it was very evident that the wounds of the past were far from healed in this part of town. I liked him though, he was friendly.

The road was poor all the way past Gacko, up to Foca and then became worse than poor once I crossed the beautifully green Drina river all the way south to the border. This leg was so bad that the average speed fell to mid-twenties (mph) making for poor progress and very sore wrists. As soon as I entered Montenegro it felt like the roads improved

Crna Gora (Black Mountain). Here's a 'selfie' - look closely


My Montenegrin border guard here took the biscuit. A miserable sort of the highest order. When he did eventually agree to let me in (I was shaking for a while, if honest) he directed me to a local bar to get my green card. Expecting the worst I entered the smoke filled bar (there were only 3 people in it including the bar tender) and was directed to this heavy-set big guy in his late 50s. He took me to a table outside and proceeded to write me out my document without any drama. He was a really amiable chap and why wouldn’t he be? How many jobs allow you to get tipsy and be paid for it? The insurance itself was about 10 Euros and lasted for 15 days (I think it was 10 Euros anyway).

I said my goodbyes and I was now riding in a country where I’d never previously visited in my life at any stage. Certainly a milestone. Upon taking the Trsa/Zabljak turn off from the main road I wound my way up the mountainside until I reached the turn off proper. I got a bit of a shock at what I saw. I parked up and had to take a moment.

This is one of my best memories - so alien


With a deep breath I entered the pitch black tunnel which curved sharply for a short distance (which gave it its real darkness) and emerged out the other side after what seemed like a hundred meters or so. I was on my final climb to Durmitor National Park. Some more climbing through woodland and I eventually emerged onto the meadow plateau.



The mountains were still a way off but the views were beautiful. I pressed on, it was about 8pm and the sun was going down. I only had 1 night booked in Zabljak but I decided that as this was a key destination and it was so late in the day I would come back again in the morning to see the park in its true daylight. The dusk afforded some nice views and what made it even more special was that there was zero traffic. I passed not one car between entering the park and reaching the Sedlo Pass (Dobri Do) towards the far side of the park.

There was nobody there


The ridge down the middle was about 25ft deep


I parked up at Dobri Do and took in the view for about half an hour.

Dobri Do (Sedlo pass) - at 9pm


Looking the other way


I exited the park and arrived in Zabljak at 10 pm in total darkness. This had been 1 long albeit exhilarating day. Zabljak is a ski town with a distinctive alpine feel to it. It’s very small, though quite large for the region, and you could walk it easily from end to end in 20 minutes. It was busy and had a nice feel to it with lots of young people moving from bar to bar. Given that this was summer these folk were mostly employed in the adventuring genre – rafting being a classic example. This is a big rafting area with the Tara Canyon being close to hand (I’d ride it tomorrow). I dumped the bags and headed off to grab a pizza and a couple of local beers at the local pizzeria which seemed to double up as a local cool hang out. I was Billy-No-Mates but in a good place.



I headed back and crashed.
More from Day 3 tomorrow, hopefully.
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Old 07-28-2014, 03:09 PM   #8
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Thanks for sharing, i love ride reports from Balkan!
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Old 07-30-2014, 02:49 AM   #9
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Great write up Teabar, giving me plenty of info for planning my own Adriatic trip next Spring.

Thanks for the email too, really appreciate the pointers.

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Old 07-30-2014, 05:02 AM   #10
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Brilliant report, thanks for posting.

I'm planning to visit Croatia next year or the year after.

Not sure why, but I haven't considered motor rail before. If you don't mind me asking…was it expensive and how long did it take?

Craig
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Old 07-30-2014, 06:55 AM   #11
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It was about £400 in total but part of that was a deal of £150 and the other half was about £250. It is sort of expensive but it's obviously offset slightly against overnight accommodation (if you don't mind sharing with 4 others in close proximity , tyres and petrol. The main bonus for anyone having limited time is that you're travelling while you're sleeping. That's a big driver for me.

the journey from Holland to Koper ended up taking almost 23 hrs (4 hrs late). That was a real downer as I missed the 1st nights booking. That'll teach me not to book the first night if I do it again. The return journey from Villach to Dusseldorf was about 15 hrs and was on time.
Hope that helps
Cheers
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Old 07-30-2014, 07:02 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Teabar View Post
It was about £400 in total but part of that was a deal of £150 and the other half was about £250. It is sort of expensive but it's obviously offset slightly against overnight accommodation (if you don't mind sharing with 4 others in close proximity , tyres and petrol. The main bonus for anyone having limited time is that you're travelling while you're sleeping. That's a big driver for me.

the journey from Holland to Koper ended up taking almost 23 hrs (4 hrs late). That was a real downer as I missed the 1st nights booking. That'll teach me not to book the first night if I do it again. The return journey from Villach to Dusseldorf was about 15 hrs and was on time.
Hope that helps
Cheers
Thanks for the info. Yeh I can see that some of the cost is offset, I took the ferry from Portsmouth to Spain on the same basis. Roughly the same cost/time too!
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Old 07-30-2014, 07:07 AM   #13
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Old 07-31-2014, 06:22 AM   #14
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I'm reading this thread with great interest as I'm heading this way in September (albeit on 4 wheels - camper van). Nice choice of bike for the trip.....it's nice to see something different from the "adventure" bikes !
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Old 07-31-2014, 07:45 AM   #15
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I'm reading this thread with great interest as I'm heading this way in September (albeit on 4 wheels - camper van). Nice choice of bike for the trip.....it's nice to see something different from the "adventure" bikes !
Cheers
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