A Spring ride across Europe
Early morning at the Rio-antirrio Bridge that connects Greece mainland with the Peloponnese peninsula.
Why carry a tool kit when riding a S10..? - because you might end up riding with a guy on a Ducati :)
In late April I had 2 weeks off from work and decided to grab the opportunity to take the S10 for a spin. I had an itch that needed scratching after a long winter with no riding.
It was still early spring here in Denmark and I longed for warmer weather. Besides that I have a good friend living in Greece who had invited me to drop by, so why not take him up on his offer and kill two birds with one stone.
There are around 3.000 kilometers and from Denmark to Greece.
I took off Monday morning the 17th and planned on meeting up with my friend in Greece the following Friday. This left me with 5 days to cover the distance. I would be passing through several countries and a wide variety of landscapes en route.
This had the potential of a really nice spring ride!
Day 1: Vordingborg (DK) to Nittenau (D) – 761 km.
Today have been all about covering distance in an attempt to escape a bout of cold weather that affects most of east and central Europe at the moment.
I pulled out of my driveway at 9 am. It was raining and the temperature hovered around 5 degrees C.
The rain soon subsided. When I reached the ferry port in Gedser the sun was peeking through the clouds.
After a pleasant 2 hours crossing I arrived in Rostock/Germany just before 1 pm. I soon hit the Autobahn. I made good time. I hit “stau” several times but it didn’t slow me down much, as the Germans are good at making space for a lane splitting motorcycle. For the next 500 km I enjoyed mostly dry roads and temperatures above 10 degrees C.
Later in the day when the sun started to set, the temperatures dropped significantly and the sky started to leak. Sleet on the visor is never a welcoming sight. At 8.30 pm I arrived at an old gasthof in the small town of Nittenau. After check-in I retired to my room to soak in a steaming hot bath.
When my body temperature was back to normal I sauntered down to the bar to have a couple of cold beers. I’m writing this sitting at a table by the bar.
My intended route was through the Austrian Alps to Slovenia, but the weather in the Alps doesn’t look tempting (-10 degrees C and snow), so I’ll have to figure out an alternative route for tomorrow.
A long cold day in the saddle and a couple of big German beers has made me sleepy, so I’m off to bed.
I’m very excited about tomorrows riding as I have some mountains to cross and the weather remains a joker…
Day 2: Nittenau (D) to Karlovac (HR) – 840 km.
What a day!
The town church was located right behind the hotel in Nittenau and at 6 am I was roused by loudly chiming bells. When the bells fell silent I noticed that the beers the night before had resulted in a slight hangover this morning. All in all a great start to the day.
A couple of hours later when the bike was packed and I had consumed a hearty breakfast things was starting to look better. Then – just as I swung my leg over the saddle – sleet started pouring down. I had a lot of ground to cover today, so the only option was to get going.
I started out on small country roads as I’ve had more than enough of highway riding yesterday. After a short while, the sleet was replaced with heavy snow and the wind picked up. The small twisty roads soon lost their charm as I had zero confidence in the corners and was battling to keep the visor free of snow. I set the GPS for fastest route headed for the nearest highway in an attempt to get the hell out of Dodge.
Not long after I hit the highway I crossed the border to Austria. As I circumvented Vienna the weather finally began to clear up. It was still freezing cold but I was making good time. From Vienna I continued towards Zagreb. The border crossings - first into Slovenia then Croatia – went smoothly. South of Zagreb just before sunset I left the highway in search of a place to spend the night.
I ended up at a nice hotel on the outskirts of Karlovac. The staff made room for the S10 in a storage shed behind the hotel. After a much needed warm shower I enjoyed a well prepared traditional Croatian dinner in the hotel restaurant – accompanied by one (and only one) local beer.
The reward of another grueling day in the saddle is that I’m now within striking distance of the Adriatic Coast where I’m hoping to find more accommodating riding conditions.
Day 3: Karlovac (HR) to Cavtat (HR) – 543 km.
When I looked out the window this morning, I was pleased to see patches of blue sky. Today I intended to stick to the smaller roads! It was still early in the morning when I continued my journey. The roads were dry and I was having a good time. There was still a range of mountains between me and the coast. As I continued south and started to gain altitude the temperature dropped. Before long I was riding through a winter wonderland. Despite the cold and the snow I enjoyed the riding. The roads were still mostly dry, visibility good and the scenery breathtaking.
Despite all that I welcomed the rising temperatures as I descended the mountains towards the Mediterranean Sea. Just before I reached the coast I stopped at a gas station to give the bike a rinse. I like salt on my eggs, not on my bike.
I intercepted the scenic coastal road just south of Split. The road was almost devoid of traffic and I was having a blast as I continued south towards Dubrovnik. It’s a wonder that I avoided a speeding ticket... I made two border crossings today (check out a map of the region). At the first one from Croatia to Bosnia there was a looong line of cars waiting to get across. I did the only sensible thing to do when on a bike. I rode to the front of the line, parked the bike, took off my helmet, dug out my papers and politely asked the people in the second car in line, if it was OK that I jumped in front. 2 minutes later I was on my way. There was no line at the border back into Croatia.
When I reached Dubrovnik I used booking.com to search for a place to stay for the night. Nothing was available in Dubrovnik (?), but I managed to book an apartment in a small town 20 km further south along the coast.
I arrived early in the evening. It’s a very nice place – both the town and the accommodation. I took an evening stroll around town and had a delicious pizza at a restaurant by the harbor, before returning to the apartment to create this post for the RR.
Day 4: Cavtat (HR) to Gjirokaster (AL) – 456 km.
After three long days I was ahead of schedule, so I decided to take it easy this morning. I slept late. When I finally got out of bed, I walked down to the local grocery store to pick up something for breakfast. It was really nice to have a relaxing start to the day – for a change.
It was late in the morning when I finally got back on the bike. The weather was perfect.
I continued south along the coast. Traffic was dense and the going slow. Before long I crossed the border to Montenegro. I then took a ferry across the Bay of Kotor. During the short crossing I had a chat with a German guy travelling in a RV with his wife. He dreamed about replacing the RV with a R1200GS one day.
Early in the afternoon I reached the border to Albania. The last bit of riding through Montenegro had been great with little traffic on beautiful curvy roads. There was a slow moving line of cars at the border. Before I could initiate my usual border crossing procedure, a border officer waved me to the front in the pedestrian lane. While I waited for the officer to check my papers (it took a while) I noticed a sign proclaiming this to be the first joint Balkan border after the war. This meant that instead of two check points separated by a stretch of no man’s land (as is the standard when passing between most Balkan countries), this check point let me out of Montenegro and into Albania in one proceeding. Nice.
This is not my first time in Albania, so I knew what to expect. Along the main roads and around densely populated areas Albania is a sorry sight. Most roads and buildings are in disrepair. There is trash everywhere. Traffic is a nightmare due to a majority of really bad drivers. You constantly see animals being treated badly. It was in this uplifting environment that I spend most of the afternoon. Late in the day I moved inland towards the mountains. Here another side of Albania is revealed. The scenery is nice, some of the small towns are charming and people are more accommodating.
Just before I reached Gjirokaster I noticed a hotel in a cluster of houses a bit off the road. I turned down a gravel road to get there. At first the place looked deserted, but as I shut off the bike and removed my helmet a woman and a man emerged. It turned out that they were the owners of the place. Besides signs and a few words in French, we didn’t share a common language. They managed to explain to me, that the place was open, but there were no guests. She showed me my room and asked if I would like some dinner. After a quick shower I was treated with a nice 3 course dinner (2 of the courses was on the house). As there were no other guests, the heat had been turned off. To remedy that my host placed a LPG heater right next to my table. It worked like a charm. After dinner my hostess brought me a cup of coffee and an ashtray, so I stayed at the table to work on this post. I put the writing on hold when the owners 18 years old son joined me at the table to talk bikes. This is a pretty simple no-star hotel, but I really enjoy staying here.
I have retired to my room. The gates are sealed and the owners have left. I’m now the only on the premises.
Tomorrow evening I’m meeting up with my friend in Nafpaktos in Greece. We will be riding together for 3 days. Don’t expect any updates during that time. In the evenings we’ll be busy catching up, drinking beers and playing Tavli.
Day 5: Gjirokaster (AL) to Nafpaktos (GR) – 447 km.
I woke up to a beautiful morning and started the day with a walk in the area before breakfast.
I was going to meet up with my Greek friend Alex in Nafpaktos late in the afternoon. According to my Zumo I would arrive way early if I took the direct route so I decided on a scenic one instead. Good choice! The riding was great all day and the scenery nice. At some point during the afternoon I discovered that I had entered another time zone. This meant that I had the keep a brisk pace for the last couple of hours to arrive in Nafpaktos as planned.
When I arrived I spotted Alex’ Monster parked at the town square. I parked next to it, and a moment later Alex showed up. It was good to see him again.
I have known Alex for a couple of years. First time we had contact was on advrider, when he send me a pm asking for off road tracks in Romania. He had seen me respond earlier to a thread regarding the subject. He was planning a trip with some friends. A few month later, after he had completed the trip, he wrote me again to tell me the tracks I had share with him, had been a great help in planning the trip and a joy to ride – and if I ever decided to ride in Greece he would be more than happy to help me out in return. As it turn out my girlfriend and I did a trip to Turkey the following year. En route we passed through Greece. We met up with Alex and his wife and spend a couple of great days together. Since then we have kept in touch – we have been to Greece again and they have visited us in Denmark.
Alex and I spend a nice evening together. We strolled around Nafpaktos, had a great dinner and found a cozy bar where we could play a game of Tavli. We have an ongoing battle. I was the reigning champion.
It was late before we got back to the hotel.
Day 6, 7 and 8: The Peloponnese peninsula (GR) – 1.154 km.
Despite the late night we were up early the next day. Alex had a plan. He wanted to show me around the Peloponnese peninsula, and to cover as much as possible in the 3 days we had – showing me the best roads, the most amazing scenery and to explore some of the interesting sites and cities.
The theme of the first day was mountain riding exploring the interior of the peninsula. The weather forecast didn’t look promising. Compared to what I had experienced earlier in the trip, we started out in mild weather, but as we climbed the mountains the temperature started to drop. Late in the morning the first spots of rain hit the visor. The rain then got heavier. When the rain turned into snow around noon, we stopped for a coffee. Alex wasn’t dressed for this kind of weather. He was freezing his ass off. I had become used to this kind of riding weather by now – but still a bit surprised to encounter snow this far south.
During the afternoon the weather cleared up. Everything considered the riding was still very good. Before me returned to the coast we stopped at Olympia and had a short walk. We spend the night in the coastal town of Pilos.
The next day we woke to a clear blue sky. This day we would follow the southern coast (more or less) all the way to Monemvasia in the southeastern part of the peninsula. The temperatures soon started to rise. When we reached the marina in Kalamata it was time for ice cream and ice coffee! The riding was great all day. We pasted through several charming coastal villages. We were making good time. Late in the afternoon we arrived in Monemvasia. It’s a remarkable place.
We checked into a hotel and got out of our riding gear. Then we went exploring. The old part of the town is located on a rock 200 meters off the coast. At a plateau on top of the rock, 100 meters above sea level, you find the ruins of a huge medieval fortress. It is up to 300 meters wide and 1 kilometer long. Alex and I did the climb. It was worth it. We build up a healthy appétit before sunset. We spend the rest of the evening in the old town doing the usual stuff (ate well, drank and played Tavli). Again it was late before we returned to the hotel.
The last day we headed north towards Athens where Alex lives with his wife Despoina. Early in the afternoon we stopped in Nafplio to grab a bite of lunch. We took a stroll around the historic town. It was the first capital of modern Greece – and it was where Alex and Despoina got married a few years ago.
After another great day of riding we arrived in Athens just in time for a quick visit at the annual motorcycle show. It was the final day of the show. All the big brands were present. Especially 2 models caught our interest. KTM 1090 Adventure R and Desert Sled from Ducati. I expected that I would like the KTM but was surprised to find the Desert Sled attractive – and I really did. When we were done drooling at the show, we met up with Despoina at a renowned pizza, burger and pasta restaurant near their apartment. For ones we found our beds at a reasonable hour, as Despoina had to get up for work the next morning.
Day 9: Athens (GR) to Meteora (GR) – 444 km.
When I woke in the morning Despoina had left for work. Alex went shopping for breakfast while I started packing. After breakfast it was time for one final round of Tavli. Up until now it had been a draw, and we needed to crown the 2017 champion. Alex won the last round, and there will be no end to his gloating until we get a chance to play again. It was late in the morning before I was ready to leave.
I had big expectations for this day. It was the only one I had planned prior to the trip. There were two places I wanted to see before leaving Greece. From Athens I took the highway to Lamia. Here I turned inland on smaller roads. I even managed to find some gravel. After a few hours of nice riding I arrived at an old bridge with a waterfall as backdrop. I came to know about it from RTWpaul’s latest RR. It was just as spectacular as I had hoped it would be. It’s located in the middle of nowhere. I had the place all to myself. It was a very special experience.
From the waterfall I continued north to Meteora. When I got there I rode the circuit connecting the Monasteries. It took me a couple of hours. I stopped many times to enjoy the views and walk around a bit. When I’d had my fill of stunning views I check into a guesthouse below one of the monasteries. I had a quick dinner at a tavern in the nearby village, before I returned to the guesthouse, to catch up on the RR after having neglected it for several days. It has been - yet another - great day!
Day 10: Meteora (GR) to Novi Sad (SRB) – 937 km.
As I have an appointment in Czech 2 days from now the plan was to cover some distance today.
I left Meteora early in the morning. I started out on small roads through Northern Greece. Before noon I passed the border to Macedonia (or FYROM as Alex told me it is rightly called). I was following the main roads – a mix of highways and 2 lane roads. It didn’t take me long to pass through the country and soon I entered Serbia. I continued north. Despite taking the main roads the riding wasn’t too bad. The weather was perfect and the traffic mostly light. Early in the evening, after 11 hours of riding I checked in at a guesthouse in a village just south of Novi Sad. It’s a very rustic guesthouse, but the host is very friendly and the rate ridiculously low.
Day 11: Novi Sad (SRB) to Prostejov (CZ) – 662 km.
When I tried to get out of bed this morning the bed collapsed under me. As I said: a very rustic guesthouse. The night before I confirmed, when my host asked me if I wanted meat for my breakfast. I sure got what I had asked for. While having my breakfast I was talking with the hostess. Her and her husband had started the guesthouse 5 years earlier. They also live in the house with 3 kids. To begin with there was only 1 room for guests. Up until now they have spend the income from guests on renovation and expansion of the house. It’s their retirement fund. Besides running the guesthouse, they both have full time jobs. She is a doctor and he works with agriculture. Both their salaries are very low. Fortunately for them, they don’t belong to the 44% of the Serbian workforce that is currently unemployed. She also gave me her view on the political and financial situation in Serbia. She wasn’t optimistic regarding the future of the country. It was an interesting conversation.
The weather was warming up nicely when I left the Guesthouse. I had decided to avoid highways today and continued towards Czech. When I arrived at the border to Hungary the temperature had reached 25 degrees C. This was the last border crossing where I had to show all my papers. From now on I’m back in the Schengen zone. At the Serbian border post the custom officers checked my luggage. It was the first time my luggage got checked during this trip.
As I crossed through Hungary the weather changed. When I reached Slovakia the temperature had drop to 6 degrees C. As I entered Czech it started to drizzle. The riding was good though. Early in the evening I checked in at H-Club in down town Prostejov. It’s a restaurant with rooms upstairs. When I arrived I was freezing, so the first thing I did was to draw a steaming hot bath. I stay in the tub until I was whistling. Now I was ready to enjoy a late dinner in the restaurant downstairs.
Tomorrow I have a 4 hours ride to my friend Oleksii’s place in Liberec. I met Oleksii for the first time back in 2014, when I took him up on his offer in the Tent Space Thread. Since then I’ve visited him a couple of times – both alone and with my girlfriend. Besides looking forward to see him again, I’m also looking forward to pick up a new set of riding gear when I’m there. Oleksii is the guy behind Alburmoto. Among other things he sells KLIM clothing. I can’t wait to get rid of the HELD suit I have been using so far on this journey. The functionality of the suit is great but the quality poor – especially failing zippers have been a constant pain in the ass. Now after 4 years and +100.000 km the suit is worn out. I’m not impressed!
My plan is ride home from Liberec on Saturday. I don’t expect to be able to post any more updates during this trip, but I promise that I won’t leave you hanging. Much can happen before I reach home – and I have some thoughts, stats and not least tracks, that I would like to share with you before I conclude this RR…
Day 12: Prostejov (CZ) to Liberec (CZ) - 260 km.
It had been raining all night and it was still pouring down in the morning as I climbed out of bed. When I was ready to hit the road just a light drizzle remained. I only had a 4 hours ride ahead of me today, so I didn't mind much.
As I left Prostejov I soon started to gain a bit of altitude. When I noticed that the cars going coming towards me was covered in snow I knew what I had in wait. Soon I was riding through yet another winter landscape. It was pretty and there wasn't too much snow on the roads. I was getting used to this kind of conditions by now. I was a bit cautious in the corners, but besides that it was nice riding.
After a while I descended below the altitude where the rain had fallen as snow during the night. The weather got better and the roads started to dry out.
About an hour's ride Oleksii's place I was riding behind a big lorry going downhill through a forest in a long sweeping right hand corner on a 2 lane road. We were doing around 90 km/t. The traffic was pretty dense in both directions.
Suddenly the lorry gives a jolt, slam the brakes and pulls slightly to the right. I grab the breaks as well and swerve a bit to the left (but stay in my lane) to avoid hitting the lorry. My plan was to brake alongside the lorry to avoid getting tailgated by the cars behind me. As I clear the rear of the lorry (still braking hard) I see a car spinning sideways towards me in the middle of the road. The car had been hit by the lorry. I'm now alongside the lorry. I keep as close to the lorry as possible. The car spins past me to the left. It hits my pannier as it passes me (still spinning). The whack from the car makes me bump into the lorry on my right. I hit it with my shoulder, handlebar and mirror. Next moment I'm clear of the lorry.
I pull to the right side of the road and stop the bike. To my surprise the pannier is still attached to the bike, but looking a bit worse for wear. An ambulance coincidentally arrives at the scene within seconds. It pulls up alongside me to see if I'm OK. I give them a thumps up and they continue towards the badly damaged car where the driver is getting out. As I get off the bike, the lorry driver comes up to me. He's clearly happy to see that I'm OK. We shake hands and he returns to his lorry. It seems that the ambulance personal have the situation well in hand regarding the guy in the car. I give my bike a quick check. The pannier is still securely fixed to the rack and I find no other damage. I'm not hurt in any way. I had no idea about where the car came from or how/why the initial accident happened. I can't blame anyone but myself for being involved (if I had kept a proper distance to the lorry, I would have been able to come to a stop behind it), I had no part in the initial accident, there are plenty of other witnesses on the scene and I had no useful info to share, so I decide that I might as well leave. I continue towards Liberec.
At first I'm annoyed by the damaged pannier, but as I go through the incident in my head I soon decide that I had nothing to be annoyed about. Everything considered I had been lucky as hell that only a pannier got damaged.
A little later than planned I pulled up in front of Oleksii's house. When he saw the damage and heard what had happened he concurred that I had been a lucky bastard. When the S10 was parked in his garage he showed me up t my room. Now my mood got even better. There was 2 boxes from KLIM waiting for me on the bed - a Kodiak jacket and a pair of Carlsbad pants.
We spend the rest of the day catching up, while hanging out in downtown Liberec. I got a much needed hair cut and we picked up some parts for Oleksii's 690 Rally Replica before going out for a really nice dinner. In the evening we watched the latest MotoGP race that we both had missed. As always it was great hanging out with the guy.
Day 13: Liberec (CZ) to my home (DK) - 633 km.
I shared a quick breakfast and a cup of coffee with Oleksii before I left in the morning. It was easy to say goodbye as we will be seeing each other soon. I'll be hosting Oleksii and show him around Denmark in a few weeks. I had booked a ferry ticket for later in the afternoon. I let the Zumo decide the fastest route north. It was mostly Autobahn, but some nice 2 lane roads was thrown into the mix. The weather was mostly nice, and the traffic light. I was making good time. I covered 560 kilometers in 5 hours and arrived at the ferry port in time to catch a ferry 2 hours earlier than planned. The ferry was fully book, but the crew allow me to board anyway.
From Gedser on the other side of the water, I had a short ride home. I had calculated that I should be able to make it without refueling. I was halfway home when the bike started to stutter. The fast pace in Germany (combined with a strong head wind) had made the S10 really thirsty. Shortly after the engine died. I pulled the clutch and was able to coast into a gas station. I can now confirm that the S10's tank holds exactly 23 liters.
Late in the afternoon I pulled up in my driveway. I was greeted by my girlfriend and our dog. Both was very happy to see me. It had been a great ride, but it was nice to be home.
I have done similar rides around Europe at this time of year before. This early in the season you have to consider the weather. Usually it's nice riding weather in the south as long as you avoid the high mountain ranges (The Alps, Pyrenees and Carpathians). I have never before encountered weather as cold as this on my previous spring rides. I would have preferred less snow during the ride off cause, but despite the sometimes rather extreme riding conditions, I was having a good time, and the objectives for the trip was achieved - I found both warmer weather and enjoyed the company of good friends
As always I enjoyed travelling through Europe on my bike.
It is interesting to pass through different countries and to experience the diversity the continent has to offer - the scenery, the roads, the people, the smells, the food and so on. It helps me put my own life in perspective. It makes me realize how privileged I am as a Dane. Several things I take for granted in my everyday life is unattainable dreams for many people around Europe. I believe that this realization is a good thing and one of the most important lessons I learn when travelling.
Meeting up with and visiting friends and fellow advriders along the way adds another dimension to my rides. It is always something special to be invited into people's homes. It allows me to get a glimpse of real life and become a guest rather than just a tourist in the countries I visit. Often advrider.com is the place where these contacts is initiated - another reason to love this forum!
The S10 performed flawlessly during the entire trip. There is no other bike I would rather have ridden. It is a very comfortable and relaxing bike to ride and no matter what you throw at it, it gets the job done without missing a beat.
I did a total of 7.137 km on this trip. For that I used 342 liters of fuel. This results in an average fuel consumption of 20.9 km/l (4.8 L/100km or 49 US MPG). The bike didn't use any measurable amount of oil during the trip (it never does between services).
According to my GPS the bike was moving for 85 hours and 33 minutes during the trip. This gives an average speed of 83.5 km/h (51.9 mph). The GPS had clocked a top speed of 214 km/h (133 mph).
When I got home it was time for the 50.000 km service. The bike is now 1½ years old and service have been done according to schedule (and then some). Before servicing it, I gave it a much needed wash. When the bike was clean I inspected it thoroughly for damage after the incident in Czech. The pannier bracket had made 2 small marks in the exhaust cover and there was a tiny scratch on the right hand side mirror... that was it!
The luggage rack seems to be OK. All I need is a new pannier.
That's all for now folks - I hope you enjoyed the ride.
If you have any questions - anything - just shoot, and I will do my best to answer.