East Europe 2012
With only days left on our Schengen visa we must leave our beloved Switzerland to enter Croatia (which is scheduled to join the Schengen programme July 2013). We had heard many great reports on the Stelvio Pass in the Italian Alps and as it was on route the accent was a must. The switchbacks were so tight that you had to carefully plan your approach to each 160 deg turn and it was to our amazement that we passed a few medium sized motorhomes creeping up and down the slopes! We still dont know how they did it.
A response to our email to the members of the HU community in Croatia came from Goran Radetic in the small town of Porec on the West coast of the Istrian peninsula. He invited us to stay at his house with his new bride Jelena. They were so kind as to escort us around the peninsula showing us and telling us about the Greek and Roman history.
Heading south to the island of Krk we all met up with Nikola Mrakovcic, another HU community member. We had visited Nikola on our first pass through in 2005 and found him a wealth of knowledge on most Slavic countries as he writes motorcycle travel articles for the Croatian Bike Magazine.
Nikola instructed us to make contact with his friend Anton Rozic on the island city of Trogir. He and his wife Marija and daughter Paulina were fabulous hosts and treated us like family! Once again we had a local tour guide in Anton and he really showed us around the mainland on some fantastic roads.
He was kind enough to organise a 5 day inter island boat trip for us and store our bike til our return. One island visited was Korcula, the claimed birth place of our hero Marco Polo.
South of Croatia, along the Adriatic Coast is the magnificent country of Montenegro. We had no idea how beautiful this country really was when we took 24 hours to pass through along the coast in 2007. Having no expectations we were in for many surprises: from the cliff chiseled Monastery of Ostrog to the Pivsko Jezero Canyon with a section of road containing 67 rough tunnels in a 20km stretch leading to Durmitor National Park. This road was made to literally hug the canyon wall. The mountainous interior is dotted with ski areas and associated ski towns. The small windy interconnected roads made for some real "magic carpet rides".
Along the coast was just as jaw dropping with the island Monasteries surrounded by coastal mountains. We were lucky enough to find an apartment just opposite and overlooking these monasteries in Perast and that was enough to stop us in our tracks for over a week! From Perast there were too many spectacular biking roads to mention. Every day we would do day rides, only to return to our apartment on the water at night. The fortified town of Kotor, with its walls stretching for over 2 km's kept us enthralled for 2 days. Our thought was that Montenegro is the Switzerland of Eastern Europe.
Just to the south lies Albania and we were pleasantly surprised at the upgraded condition of the roads compared to our previous ride in 2007. Two worthwhile forts to visit are Rozafa Castle and the UNESCO listed Berat Castle. Fuel in Albania is considerably cheaper than the other European countries that we visited.
Heading east to Macedonia we entered Macedonia at Lake Ohrid and spent the night in a modern guesthouse on the overcrowded shoreline of Ohrid city. Thank goodness we fueled up before the border as Greek fuel prices rate amongst the highest in Europe. We had made arrangements to meet up with our old friend Orestis, the HU member for Athens at the picturesque town of Kastoria.
We celebrated our 3 year reunion with many bottles of wine on our penthouse verandah overlooking the Lake. The windy mountain rides and great Greek food, with great company made for an awesome 3 days. Sadly it all came to an end when we heard from HU community members and our bike partners Csilla and Oli, that a truck had been booked to take the bike back to Oradea, Romania. Upon leaving Greece the Immigration Officer thoroughly checked our passports for Schengen overstay.
Posted by Patrick Peck at November 11, 2012 11:21 AM GMT
Next stop.... Muscat, Oman.