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2nd Balkans Trip

7th June 2014 to 22nd June 2014

This is my second trip to the Balkans which I took last year (2014). Covered Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia Montenegro, Italy, Switzerland and then home to Holland.
Me on my GS 1150, Ron on his GS1200 and Mark on his Yamaha R6...who didn't complain once about being crouched over a sports bike for over 5,000 km in 2.5 weeks. What a legend! :)


Well the trip very nearly did not happen when I went to have my crashbars re-welded the day before we were due to leave. I had to lift the fuel tank in order to bolt them back on and as I did it myself, I lifted the tank and wedged it up, but in so doing I snapped the fuel connector which allows the flow between both sides of the tank. After much stress, and finding a mechanic to fix my stuff-up, I was ready to go just in time. Just stopped home quickly and said by to my lovely girl...

First stop to see my cousins in north eastern Holland - thats him giving me the finger laugh


 

But because we were all sick of iron-butting our usual way through Holland, Belgium and Germany to get to decent roads, we came up with the brilliant idea of taking our bikes on the Auto-Zug train from Hamburg (Dusseldorf places were all booked) to Villach. As it turns out we didn't save any real time, money or our arses from the long tedious ride north, but at least we can say we did it. Note to self: petition all train companies to do bike transportation from Holland everywhere nice in Europe :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arriving in Villach the next day:

 

 

Jumped off the train and headed straight to Slovenia - a bikers paradise... Take the 206 through Triglav/ Gorska - it's really beautiful. This is the route from Villach https://my.motortourer.com/en/routes/161-triglav-national-park

Just watch out for these crazy cobblestones they put in hairpin corners on the mountain passes...really dangerous

I would love to add something here about experiencing new cultures and feeling the freedom of the open road and blah blah blah...but we were 3 thirsty bikers in search of fun, beer and food.

 

 

 

 

 

We just were lucky enough to do it in some lovely locations. Like this for example. This is Piran in Slovenia - the small peninsula jutting out into the Adriatic Sea between Italy and Croatia....

 

 

 

 

 

 

We cut inside Croatia and headed East to one of the prettiest places I've ever seen...Plitvice National Park. It had literally thousands of waterfalls and springs just bursting out of the ground in a lovely national park - nice riding around there too!

And then to Trogir...also in Croatia. Beautiful town and well worth a good few days to relax and enjoy...basically everything you'd expect on a summer holiday!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Puntos de Interés

Another one for the honeymoon list boys and girls - this is beautiful

Heading inland towards Mostar, we took the same route I took on my last trip and was surprised to see our good friends at the EU had built them a lovely new and deserted highway through the mountains. Not all the way, but enough to get some decent speeds safely without fear of police or other drivers...just the 3 of us owning the road...pure bliss!

We found our way to Mostar and got the best place to stay at the Guest House Goa. The owner was a biker and the house was beautiful and perched over the river and the views took in everything you came to Mostar to see.
https://my.motortourer.com/en/poi/331-guest-house-goa-mostar

This is a vew from our room there...

OK - so call me a culture vulture, but I judge a country on 2 things...its people and its food. As last time, we met fantastic people - very friendly and hospitable. We had a good time and ate lovely food and had a surprisingly sober evening and even had time to watch Brazil play in the world cup in an open air cafe...

 

 

 

 

 

 

But we cut our stay in Mostar short because the owner of the hotel we stayed in told us about a big biker meet up in Trebenje - and this was something we didn't want to miss. The police allowed bikers to ride around without helmets etc and so long as you didn't take the piss, they pretty well allowed the bikers tot ake over the twon. No trouble everyone well behaved and enjoying themsekves...although the sounds of ambulances probably heralded the stupidity of riding with beers and no helmets for some. Pity we forgot to take photos of the whole thing...;) There were a couple of token pictures taken, so here they are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It seems we had to leave on the day the party was just getting started however :(   as we wanted to see Kotor in Monetenegro and then had a ferry to catch back to Italy. Kotor is beautiful and Montenegro offers some amazing roads and scenery.

Coming from Trebenje to Kotor is a lovely road - some windy roads (watch for potholes) on both flat and mountain passes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark was happy until the tarmac became more and more potted. His R6 wasn't up to the bumpy roads that the GS's just cruised over. But the little legend just gritted his teeth - cursed me and Ron a lot and then we were all rewarded with the beauty of Montenegro...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So we boarded an overnight ferry in Bar, Montenegro for Bari in Italy. It was a ship that was pretty upmarket once upon a time...probably at the time Frank Sinatra was still a star. The bedsheets weren't the cleanest and the word 'bed-bugs' ran through my mind all night.

 

 

 

                                                                   But at least we had a better bed than this guy...This is economy class - Soviet style ;-)

Economy Class?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After getting through the morning rush-hour traffic in Bari, we stopped outside of town for some breakfast (mainly because the breakfast on the ferry was pretty gross).

We'd noticed some pretty ominous clouds behind us getting off the ferry, but now it looked like the end-of-the-world scenario.  Pitch black clouds pretty well had snuck up on us and we had to push on to Pompei. We sped a bit to try to get ahead of the clouds but no luck. It came down that heavy we had to slow down to 60kph as you couldnt see anything. It was so hard it was stinging me through my goretex jacket and gloves...and as we were on the highway there was no choice but to suck it up and drive on.

But it started to clear up as we got near our destination (as it inevitably does) and the sun even started to shine....hooray!The BnB we found was right next to the Pompei ruins and had a pool. The lady asked us if once we'd finished unpacking and had a swim, whether we'd like a true Italian lunch....yes of course!So out she comes with a nice antipasto which was really nice....and a glass of wine, why not? But we were surprised that was just a starter, then she makes us a big salad...thank you i'm getting full but... ok. No - then comes the pasta. At this stage the rain came down again and we were actually glad to have an excuse to drink more wine, rub our bellies and feel lazy and pleased with ourselves. Oh and watched Germany play Portugal in the World Cup. It was good just to see Ronaldo cry (nothing against Portugal - just Ronaldo ;-) )

With the continuing rain and a few more wines under our belts, there seemed little point seeing Pompei until the next day so we repeated the whole process again until late in the night.Getting up early the next morning we finally did a whirlwind tour of old Pompei. I'll not go on about the history of the place - but here's a few pics:

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK from here the weather gods seemed appeased by our visit to the ruins and we started getting nice days again, so we headed up to Castiglione Del Lago in the centre of Italy.

 

 

 

 

 

Again we got rewarded with good food and wine, although the local special brew flogged off to us was pretty damned awful...we should have known by the fact that it was being sold only to tourists. But it didn't dent our enthusiasm (gosh I'm starting to sound like an alcoholic here ha ha ).The town is beautiful and historic with a cool old castle on the lake...but I'm sure at some time in history the townsfolk pissed off Moses because there is a plague of mosquitoes around that town that just do not go away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From this point we headed up past Lake Garda...

...and then on the final tunnel getting into Switzerland there was just one lane at a time going through. So you would have to wait 20 or so minutes for one side of traffic to come through from Switzerland before the traffic from Italy could go through. It was at the moment we got our green light that Mark and Ron took off first... but my BM-Trouble-You died. All the cars passed me and went along the 4 km Munt la Schera Tunnel and I was wondering whether the lads checked their mirrors at any time after they got out of the tunnel. Turns it it was a while before Ron came back. At this stage I'd asked every passing motorist if they had jumper cables. Most looking frightened at me and winding up their windows. One or two at least going through the motions of looking through the car boot.


Whoops! Sorry I stuffed it up - ha ha! How could I forget the Passo Gavia before we reached this point?! OK before we crossed over to Switzerland we took this amazing route via the Passo Gavia (2,640 high) and west via Bormio and Livigno..

 

Well from there we spent the night at one of Mark's friend's place in Switzerland. We had a great trip... but as always - too short. The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. We had to chew up a bit of rubber on the autobahns back to Holland as Mark had to get back to work. The fun didn't end for me there though. I started back where I finished. At the mechanic. All the way along Italy I'd been getting a vibration through my back that I could feel through my right footpeg. I couldn't work it out. I guessed it had something to do with my drivetrain. Something between clutch, gearbox and driveshaft. It wasn't until I got it back to Rotterdam and took the bike to work the following Monday that I found out what it was. I got 4 km down the ride and heard a horrible clunk and grind coming from the driveshaft. I pulled over and called a truck to come pick it up. So I decided once and for all to have my reliable BMW GS1150 checked out by a non-BMW mechanic. The electrical problem I asked them to check the starter motor - and sure enough there was a short in the solenoid. The clutch was worn and the drive shaft completely bollocksed. Touchwood the gearbox is fine and the engine works well...but basically everything that could break has done so in the 6 years I've had it. So technically I should have a brand new bike now ;) So let's see what next year brings. I didn't take a big trip this year sorry - but stay tuned for more later! Hope you enjoyed it!