UK-Turkey-UK via some other bits of Europe
The idea came from a beery night with my mate Steptoe, something about riding down to Asia and back through the new Eastern European countries would be a laugh. The planning had been minimal, the channel tunnel crossing and the ferry across the Adriatic had been booked plus the first nights hotel in Milan. Apart from that we didn’t have anything else arranged.
In fact we weren’t even sure who would be turning up due to home commitments. As it was twelve of us turned up to ride to Turkey and back over Easter.
In roughly alphabetical order……
Blowzorn, Paul or Special Uncle Alan, call him anything really, we did.
Bsogri, Brian. Nice bloke from Sunderland, couldn’t understand a word he said.
Darkhorse Dave, biker by day, male model by night.
Floyd, Mike, our token Scotsman.
James Burton, the trips facial cleansing advisor.
Novice, Tom. His forum name needs changing; he’s far from being a novice anymore.
Number 6, Andy. A last minute entry having decided to come the day before we left.
Popeye, Alan. Never saw him eat spinach once although he claimed to of had his first doner kebab while we were away.
Shapeshifter, Rob. Later to be renamed Shitshifter for his prolific toilet usage.
Shep also known as Shep, but we just called him Shep.
Wapping, Richard. Our Tour Dad. When we stood about smoking and chatting, he was running about sorting hotels and ferry tickets.
And me, I was only there for the beer.
So that was the Turkey Trot entrants, we had a destination and various credits cards so what could possibly go wrong.
Day One, Wednesday, 199 miles. Nottingham to Folkestone.
I left home mid afternoon heading for Folkestone but had to do a stop off at Devitts Insurance offices in Romford. The incompetent brainless droids had taken £26 off me a month earlier to issue me with a green card that gave me fully comp cover in all the countries we planned to ride through but failed to post it to me. It actually turned up two days after we’d left.
Even when assured it would be waiting for me on reception it still took the Muppets three quarters of an hour to locate it. They won’t be getting my renewal next year.
We all met up at the Premier Lodge near the Tunnel apart from Wapping and Darkhorse Dave who were to meet us at the Tunnel in the morning. We dined on mediocre food and talked to a 65 year old Goldwing rider on his way to a “Wing Ding” in Belgium. Not a very exciting day but the trip really hadn’t started yet.
Day Two, Thursday, 689 miles, Folkestone to Milan.
Up early and under the tunnel then onto the French Autoroutes. Easy miles and miles and miles of motorway driving. We generally stopped around the 200 mile mark to fill up and have a drink.
Into Switzerland and it got colder as we entered the Alps with snow at the side of the road. The traffic was busy heading into the Gotthard Tunnel and while filtering I managed to leave a lasting momento of my travels down the side of a VW Golf, the driver gestured for me to pull over but it seemed to be more trouble than it was worth and I carried on.
30 miles later, in the dark I saw flashing blue lights and was pulled onto the hard shoulder by two very polite Swiss traffic cops, they pulled Blowzorn earlier then realised they had the wrong bike. They explained that a VW Golf driver wanted a word with me and we were to wait for him.
We waited for twenty minutes and chatted about bikes, one of them owned a R100RT and toured on it. He was impressed with my Zumo. To say the Italian Golf driver was a little perturbed when he eventually turned up would be an understatement. The cops had to assure him I would be fined, the bike owning cop told me that this wouldn’t be the case but it seemed the only way to shut the “silly Italian man” up. We swapped details but I can’t see me getting a Christmas card off him. This feck about put me an hour behind the rest and I rolled into Milan at 10pm, hungry and ready for a beer.
Day Three, Friday, 272 miles, Milan to Ancona
We needed to be at the Port of Ancona around three to pick the tickets up and board the ferry to Greece. The Italian motorways were manic and at one point they came to a stand still. I saw a turn off for Rimini and took it as I’d lost the rest and thought the coast road would be a better option. If you’re ever down that way don’t bother going to Rimini, it’s a mess.
I stopped and had a coffee then headed South to the port, entering Ancona I passed a new 800GS who gave me nice cheery wave. The port security seemed non existent and let me into the boarding area without a ticket, a few were already there and we waited for the rest to roll in.
Wapping did the business collecting the tickets at the ferry office. He mentioned that the office was chaos and everyone in it a stranger to soap.
Blowzorn turned up with an oily rear tyre and oily rear brakes. His rear bevel wasn’t as oil tight as he’d have preferred. He rang BMW for details of the nearest dealer in Greece but they couldn’t tell him because the address on their system was written in the Greek Cyrillic alphabet. Nice one.
The boat was impressive; the guys boarding us said they’d tie the bikes down for us. Which they didn’t, perhaps they forgot.
We set up camp and got the beers in, smoking in public areas in Greece is obligatory.
During the night, Shapeshifter who shared our cabin evolved into Shitshifter and monopolised the cabins toilet facilities. He looked a worried man in the morning.
Day Four, Saturday, Igoumenista, Greece to Thesseloniki Greece.281 miles I think, the Zumo track log vanished for this day?
In the morning we got our first views of the Greek coastline, the weather felt as unsettled as Shitshifters arse.
The ferries pool was closed so no early morning dip for the Trotters.
We found a bike garage in Igoumenista to get some oil for Blozorns bevel and to try and locate where it was leaking from. They seemed to be quite relaxed about disposing of their unwanted bikes.
Brian waded in and got his hands dirty, silicon was put on the ABS senor “O” ring and the oil level topped up. The tyre was cleaned up as best we could and we headed off for the mountain roads away from the motorways for a welcome change.
The roads were impressive but I wondered how impressed Blowzorn was with mirror finished tarmac and an oily rear end.
I was just starting to relax after a few stressful days.
Later on in the day we pulled over to check the bevel again and Blowzorn decided to ring Williams and ask their advice as they’d serviced it just before coming away. They suggested he try the checking the oil filler plug for tightness. We didn’t even know it had one. It did and it was loose.
We reached Thesseloniki that evening and tossed about trying to find a hotel. Eventually we ended up in a roadside Motel. The rooms could be rented by the hour or all night. We paid for a full night. While dining there that evening we got to see a first. A Scotsman eating fruit that hadn’t been battered and deep fried.
Day Five, Sunday, Thesseloniki Greece to Bandirma, Turkey. 428 miles.
We loaded up the bikes and paid the Motel/Brothel owner.
While hammering across Greece my alternator belt snapped. It was an old one of Steptoes that I’d put on the last time it snapped on my way to a rally, which I’d neglected to change. I carried a spare so it didn’t take long to replace it.
40 miles down the road the replacement snapped. This was becoming tiresome. It seemed that I’d not got the first one all the way onto the engine pulley (if that’s what its called?) and the rim on the edge had cut through it. Shapeshifter also had a spare so I used his. It also started to rain.
The border between Greece and Turkey took a while because they needed to see all our document at numerous booths and offices. A couple the other guys needed to buy insurance and Blowzorn found out he’d bought along the V5 doc for his old 1150 not the 1200 he was riding.
This confused matters. It was still raining as we waited on the other side of the border for Blowzorn.
We passed the time taking photos, this ones one of Popeyes…..
Finally all through we made our way to Eceabat to catch the small RORO ferry that would take us across the Sea of Marmite. We drew quite a bit of interest from the locals.
Back on the road we didn’t really know where we were heading but wanted to get as close to Istanbul as possible. As it got dark we made a port called Bandirma and found a hotel on the front. The bikes lined up on the road outside looked impressive.
We all used needed a cash machine and food. This we dealt with then found a bar. A good bar. The barman was a little surprised when asked in Turkish if it was a gay venue, amazing the phrases you find in the Lonely Planet guide books.
On the way home in the early hours we found a kebab van. It had to be done.
Day Six, Monday, Bandirma, Turkey to Istanbul, Turkey. 171 miles.
The view from the hotel room wasn’t one of the best I’d seen but it was comfy enough.
My bike was looking suitably road weathered by now. Even the Monkey had started on the fags so he’d fit in with the rest of the locals.
We headed East to a small town where we could catch yet another small ferry to take us to the South of Istanbul.
The rest of the passengers on board were all very friendly.
We knew Istanbul was big and busy and we wouldn’t stand a chance of all keeping together and finding a hotel so we picked one out of the Lonely Planet guide book and booked ourselves in.
This was perhaps the wisest thing we’d done so far. Istanbul is massive and chaotic. We tried to get our bearings, flagged a moped rider down and asked him to show us to the hotel. His filtering ability far out did ours and most of us had lost him within minutes.
The next idea was to follow a taxi, we found one and gave him the address, he got us to within half a mile of it but then got himself lost. This is him abandoning us in a square.
At least the square had a decent view.
It all got very messy then and me and Shapeshifter ended up on our own. We asked a Tourist policeman who was stood next to a big street map where we were, showing him the address of the hotel. He didn’t know. But a passer by did. The hotel was only 100 yards away.
The hotel overlooked the Blue Mosque and had a manned car park in front of it, it couldn’t have been better. The guys in the car park were a fun bunch, both the British and Turkish.
On the roof top bar we shared a splendid view with the seagulls.
I got in touch with ExpatinIstanbul, David, who read about our trip on UKGSer.com and had said he’d meet us for a beer when we arrived. We met up and another Brit in Istanbul turned up, Ellis.
Davids the blurry one.
We ate and did the beer and bar thing to excess.
I remember very little after this point, but I believe it wasn’t all in the best possible taste.
Day Seven, Tuesday, Istanbul, Turkey. Zero miles.
The morning in Istanbul jumped on me and battered me about the head, breakfast on the roof terrace was a blur. Then someone mentioned the Haman’s, the Turkish baths. Sounded just the ticket for a worn out body and burned out head. Darkhorse Dave had found one around the corner so a few of us wandered in.
We were given little rooms to get undressed in then shown into the bath area with table cloths wrapped around us. After a suitable time sweating while laid on the hot marble floor we were picked out to be pummelled on the big slab in the middle of the room. Foam, then oil then a head massage. Then back on the floor for another sweat. I felt better already. We were then wrapped in clean table cloths and sat round a stove and got brought apple tea.
Feeling like a new man we went for lunch and then me and Burton did a few bars while the others went to the museums. It started raining and we bought umbrellas. It was just like being on holiday.
Back at the hotel we re-grouped in the hotel bar.
We went out to eat, found the worst restaurant in Istanbul then wandered to our beds or bars depending on how tired we all felt. Tomorrow we would be in Bulgaria.
Day Eight, Wednesday, Istanbul, Turkey to Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria, 296 miles.
We escaped Istanbul in an “every man for himself” kind of way. Meeting up outside the city to find out how we all managed it. It seemed Floyd came out worse, a taxi hit him side on, knocked the back of his bike a foot in the air and a foot across the road.
He stayed on it though. Can’t remember much about the Turkish, Bulgarian border but I’m sure we had some more fecking about with V5’s and insurance papers. The roads were bumpy but good though.
A mate had told me of a nice town he’d spent a dirty weekend in called Veliko Tarnova, so short of any better ideas we headed there. As we rode in another bike followed us down the street and pulled up next to us. It was Henry and Kirsten a couple on a RTW trip we knew off UKGSer.com.
The chances of meeting someone you know of in the UK in a strange town are long but to bump into someone in Bulgaria must be huge.
It also turned out to be Henrys 51st birthday that day as well.
We found a hotel and parked up.
It was basic but ridiculously cheap. We headed for a bar with H&K
The bar fittings caught my eye.
After we’d eaten Kirsten left Henry to have a blokes night out for his birthday, we took him to the Spider Club to see a live band. It was two quid each to get in but after telling the bouncer it was Henry’s birthday he let him in for free.
The band seemed to be stuck in an eighties time warp and played Simple Minds style songs all night, we didn’t mind.
The state of the hotel didn't bother me at all by the time I got back to it.
Day Nine, Thursday, Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria, 22 miles.
Seven of us decided to stay over one more night in Veliko, it was cheap and we needed a rest. The others wanted to be back home for the weekend so left for more Northern locations first thing. I went off in search of a car spares shop to get a replacement alternator belt.
We wandered through the town and came across a large war memorial.
It seemed wise to let sleeping dogs lie.
I found a place near the trolly bus terminus who said he could get me a belt by lunchtime.
Up the road the George Pub did English breakfasts, which seemed like an opportunity not to be missed.
I’d been told about the village of Arbanassi on the hill above the town. I rode up to have a look a Bulgarias most picturesque village. It was nice and I had a very pleasant coffee sat outside a bar.
We met back up in the bar and dined with H&K again, saying our goodbyes. Back on the road the next day I decided on an early night, something a school trip party staying in our hotel thought wasn’t such a good idea. Praise be to earplugs.
Day Ten, Friday, Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria to Majdanpek, Serbia, 395 miles.
We had an idea to head North West into Serbia and maybe get to Novi Sad for the night where another mate had given me a couple of contact phone numbers.
Today’s roads turned out to be the best yet.
We headed for the mountains and a town called Montana, a North West town in Bulgaria that borders Serbia and Romania. The petrol station attendant here took a shine to the bikes and wanted her picture taken on one. Which we obliged.
Shame she had a face like a robbers dog.
The road North out of Montana was stunning, big sweeping bends and I don’t remember seeing more than two or three cars for thirty miles. The border was up in the mountains and we were the only punters using it apart from a German lorry driver called Fast Eddy, we knew his name as it was printed on his tee shirt.
His vocabulary stretched to one word, sheisste. I think this expressed Fast Eddy’s displeasure quite well. Even before we got through he’d been turned back the way he came. Not a happy Eddy.
A couple of the guys hadn’t got insurance for Serbia so a man was called from the next town to dispense worthless bits of green paper for a tidy sum of 90 Euro each. They must have made his day.
A mate had told me about the road that follows the river and border between Serbia and Romania. Good advice this was, a truly awesome biking road.
It was getting on in the day and Brian was running low on fuel. We pulled over for a smoke.
We left the river road and headed over the tops to find a petrol station, a farmer and his daughter pointed us in the direction of the nearest fuel and as it was getting dark we rolled into the town of Majdanpic.
The town seemed to exsist solely to serve the huge open quarry it was built next to. It seemed a tad “down at heel” lets say. We found petrol and a hotel.
The hotel people stressed that we should get our bikes out of public view and opened up what looked like a closed down shop at the side of the hotel for us.
Inside the hotel was decorated in a 1970’s communist chic. We dined in the restaurant on non-descript soup and chicken and chips.
In the morning Blowzorn and Shapshifter planned to leave at six in a dash for home. That would leave five of us.
Day Eleven, Saturday, Majdanpek, Serbia to Krk Island Croatia, 475 miles.
We wanted to see the Croatian coast line, so hatched a plan to get there by this evening. The Lonely Planet guide said good things about the Island of Krk so that’s where we headed. The view from the hotel looked promising at half six when I got up to see Shapeshifter and Blowzorn off.
After dropping down the hill from the town we picked up the autoroute to Beograd and then headed for Zagreb in Croatia. A lot of motorway miles today but we wanted to cover some distance.
We were getting a bit mixed up about countries and money, at one point we came across a toll booth, Burton went to ask what currency they took.
The roads were dry and the sun was out.
I don’t know why but none of us were aware of the huge range of mountains which we needed to cross to get to the Adriatic coast. As we climbed the temperature dropped to 3 degrees, then it started to rain, then it got dark and finally it got foggy, on the descent the wind picked up.
The road itself was great, just the conditions could have been better. Krk turned out to be a gem, we found a big hotel overlooking the bay and settled into the bar, there was an organist playing at one end and we sat at the other, he wasn’t on top form.
Day Twelve, Sunday, Krk Island Croatia to Hallstatt, Austria, 289 miles.
The view from the hotel window was a treat in the morning. A nice town that I’ll definitely be coming back to one day.
We tried to follow the coast as close as possible the next day, avoiding the autoroute but eventually had to succumb to it’s ability to get us North to Slovakia. The roads were quiet and we made good time, only stopping once in Slovakia for a lunch of Bratwurst and chips.
Brian has spent years touring Austria and Germany and knew the roads and towns to see so we went by his recommendations. And good they were too.
On the way to Hallstatt while turning off a single lane road onto a two lane road I had a brain storm and pulled out onto the left side of the road. A Merc coming up the hill took evasive action and shot into a private drive at the side of the road, I shit myself and locked front and back brakes and stalled the engine. I was very lucky.
Hallstatt sits at the side of a lake in the Alps, and very pretty it is too.
We found a family run guest house with views that took your breath away.
In town the chosen restaurant turned out to be run by a special chap, we took a shine to him straight away.
We found a tiny bar for Floyd to try our schnapps, then wandered back to bed. Another good day over.
Day Thirteen, Monday, Hallstatt, Austria to Schwabisch Hall, Germany, 303 miles.
Brian had more roads in mind when he suggested we head for Schwabisch Hall in Germany, plus the hotel there had a salt spa attached which appealed to our aching bodies. We climbed out of Hallstatt with a great view behind us and more good roads in front.
Somewhere around Munich Floyd and I lost Brian and Burton. Knowing which town they were headed for meant it wasn’t such a problem. We took the direct route rather than the Autobahns when we got North of Ulm.
During this part of the ride we were on a long straight stretch of two lane road, I pulled out to overtake a VW Polo who was sat behind a bus. As I drew along side him he decided to pull out to overtake the bus. Floyd, behind us, hit his horn and I moved as far to the left as I could. He only noticed me when he hit my pannier with his driver’s door. I wobbled and he hit the brakes. He locked his wheels up and swerved from one side of the road to another nearly taking Floyd out as well.
Second “life flashing in front of my eyes” moment in as many days.
We found the others in the Hotel Hohenlohe. We were in the salt spa baths within and hour then saunas. We wandered into the town for food and beers.
We spotted this odd thing by the bridge.
The push bike thing was a little odd too.
Another good day.
Day Fourteen, Tuesday, Schwabisch Hall, Germany to Nurburgring, Germany, 250 miles.
Burton wanted another play in the salt spa and the sauna in the morning but he festered in bed instead. I fancied a look at the Nurburgring and Brian knew a good town nearby and good roads to get there. So that’s what we did.
We followed the Rhine valley for a while then over and across to the Mosel Valley.
We dropped the panniers and Burton off at a guest house in Cochem and rode up to the Ring. Burton wanted to go shopping. Cochem is like Skegness By The Mosel, full of shops selling German wampum.
The ride up to the ring was on excellent roads.
We had a look for the girl who drives the Ring taxi but as the track was closed to the public she wasn’t there.
We found a corner to watch the cars being tested on the track, Mercedes, Porsche and Audi seemed to have the track to themselves today.
Back at Cochem we found Burton and then found an Irish bar, you can guees the rest.
Day Fifteen, Wednesday, Nurburgring, Germany to Brugges, Belguim, 230 miles.
The morning was overcast and by the time the bikes were packed it was raining.
Brian and Floyd had booked themselves on the Zeebrugger – Hull ferry for tonight and I wanted to go back to Brugge after visiting a few years ago. We rode some great biking roads in the rain then got on the autoroutes, around the Brussels ring road and onto Brugge. Brian and Floyd followed us to Brugge to take a look.
We had a bite to eat with them then they left for the ferry. Our hotel was right in the city centre in a 14th century building, the owner let us stick the bikes at the side of it under our room.
The Japanese tourists were out in force.
Hidden gems appeared through archways.
I went and bought a clean tee-shirt and a pair of clean jeans and then me and Burton made Brugge our bitch.
Last night of the trip, had to be a big one.
Day Sixteen, Thursday, Brugges, Belguim to Nottinghan, UK, 310 miles.
The bin bags in Brugge said it all, last day of the trip and the end of the holiday, a sad day.
A late breakfast and a steady ride to the tunnel. Straight onto the next train and we were back in the UK. Burton took exception to the tunnel coffee machines efforts
We made it to my house in time for a take away curry and a trip down to my local for the pub quiz.
This was probably one of my favorite trips, the variety of the roads, countries, people and scenery at times overloaded my senses.
The people I rode with and the people I met made it even better. Thanks to all the Trotters for sharing the ride with me.
Hope this encourages more people to get out and have a bash at bike touring without all the pre-planning that seems to go on. Just get out there and see what happens :clap:
70 views and not one comment or question about the trip?
Is it because I didn't sleep in ditches under a poncho or eat road kill in an overlanding traveller kind of way? :mchappy:
I was inspired to say the least - I felt like saying C'ya to the missus and getting on the XT and riding into the sunset. Money and other commitments stopped me (nothing else)!!!
Just a few questions.....
How much did the trip cost - for real not how much you wished it had cost!!!
How many miles did you travel daily?
What would you have packed in hind sight???
I'd like to do a short trip round the Med on my old '84 Tenere but I'd be sh!tt!ng myself that it wouldn't make it!!!
The mileages are shown in the bold titles at the beginning of each day in the write up.
A pair of flip flops would have been nice and a small flask for nicking coffee out of hotel breakfast rooms in the morning to drink later during the day.
Good write up kev.
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