Eastern tour 2014

 

Heading out to explore Southeast Europe.

 

Originally written as a RR on Advrider.

 

 

My only plan prior to this trip was that I wanted to explore the Southeastern part of Europe. Especially The Carpathian Mountains and The Balkan beaconed me.

I brought my camping gear along but I expected to spend most nights in hotels, B&B's and the like as I appreciate the comfort of a real bed. Besides that I planned to take advantage of the Tent space offers on Advrider for private accommodation along the way.

The day before taking off I had a 24 hours shift. I arrived at work on a bike packed and ready for adventure, so that I could leave in the morning as soon as I got off.

I did the following RR during the trip and posted it on Advrider as time and internet access allowed.

The GPS track from the trip - colors indicating day stages.

16th of July: Vordingborg, Denmark – Liberec, Czech Republic – 781 km.

I managed to get some sleep during the night so I felt great when I hit the road just before 8 am.

Prior to leaving I had been in contact with Bigboyxl who has a tent space offer on Advrider.

As I wanted to make it to his place on the first day I had some distance to cover. The day was mostly spend on the Autobahn but from time to time I did some shortcuts using secondary roads. It was a good day of riding.

Late in the afternoon I arrived at Bigboy’s place and was greeted by him and his dog.

He has an internet store selling good stuff for advriders and he was busy shipping parts to customers as he had just been away for a few days participating in the Stella Alpina. It sounded like a really cool event.

A short time later a Russian couple showed up. They were on their first ride to Europe and had (like me) decided to take Bigboy up on his tent space offer.

When everyone was ready we headed downtown to get some dinner. Later Bigboy gave us a guided tour around town. Liberec is a really nice place.

It was pretty late before we arrived back at the house.

Finally underway.

17th of July: Liberec, Czech Republic – Rzeszów, Poland – 622 km.

It was still early when I got up. I had some bread, sheep cheese and coffee with Bigdog and his dad before continuing my journey. Bigboy had been a fabulous host and I hope to see him again in the future.

Bigboy had suggested a route through the mountains so the first couple of hours of the day were spend on great roads.

During the day the weather got really hot and thunderclouds were building. In the afternoon the temperature suddenly dropped from 33 to 17 degrees in 5 minutes and the sky opened up. It was so bad that most cars on the freeway pulled over and stopped on the shoulder. I didn’t and had the flooded road almost to myself. I find it to be a kick to ride in the rain when it’s that bad. The shower only lasted 10 minutes and afterwards the temperatures started to rise again.

Late in the afternoon I arrived at losiu’s place – another ADV inmate offering tent space. His house is located in a nice rural area 20 kilometers outside of Rzeszów. He had the house to himself as his wife and kids was away horseback riding in another part of the country.

It didn’t take long to decide that we were going to spend the night out on town in Rzeszów. As we both like beers we took the bus to get there. After a good pizza we visited a bar/micro brewery that produces their own beer. Sometime after midnight one of Losiu’s friends gave us lift back to the house. It was late before I hit the sack and I slept like a dead man.

Leaving The Czech Republic.

18th of July: Rzeszów, Poland – Nyiregyháza, Hungary – 292 km.

For some reason it was difficult to get out of bed in the morning.

After a good breakfast burrito, a lot of orange juice and some coffee I was fit for fight again.

Losiu decided to send me of by showing me a good route from his house. That way he also had an excuse to take the KTM 690 Enduro he picked up a few days ago for a spin. There are some really nice roads in the area. When we split up we talked about him coming to Denmark (maybe later this year) so I can repay his hospitality and show him around the little kingdom up north. It had been a real pleasure to visit him.

I continued south through Slovenia and spend most of the day riding small roads in the northern parts of The Carpathian Mountains. It was a bountiful mix of Forrest and rural areas. The road quality varied a lot from smooth tar to mainly pot holes. It was another very warm day, and the thunderclouds were yet again building. I had dry roads the whole day but the Storm was close all afternoon. Every time I stopped I could hear thunder and see flashes in the dark sky to the east.

It was still early when I arrived at the hotel I had booked in the morning on the computer. It is cheap (like really cheap). The room is small and simple but it is a spa hotel with swimming pool, sauna, steam bath, Jacuzzi etc. - just what I needed.

Tonight I’m drinking soda.

Saying goodbye to Losiu.

19th of July: Nyiregyháza, Hungary – Durau, Romania – 508 km.

The day started flat and fast heading east out of Hungary. It was still late morning when I crossed the border to Romania. Next up was Maramures. I entered the Mara River Valley at Baia Mare and exited at Prislop Pass. It’s a beautiful area with rough roads.  Rough roads were a theme for most of the day. I continued southeast on small roads through the Carpathian Mountains. At 8 pm I was busted after 11 hours of demanding riding and checked in at a hotel in Durau which is situated in the national park “Ceahlau”.

Romania.

20th of July: Durau, Romania – Corbeni, Romania – 435 km.

I got up early and started the day with a walk in the woods before breakfast. At 8.15 I was back on the road following Lake Bicaz south. After I had crossed the dam I hit 60 kilometers of biker heaven: road 12C from Bicaz to Gheorgheni. The first part was narrow canyons and tight hairpins going up the mountain. The second part was wonderful sweeping curves mixed with some more hairpins going down the other side of the mountain - all of it on super smooth tarmac. Perfect, simply perfect!

The rest of the days riding was nice but nowhere nearly as good. Maybe I’ll experience another high tomorrow.

Tonight I’m staying at a boardinghouse in Corbeni where I can see the Transfagarasan from my balcony.

Road 12C.

21st of July: Corbeni, Rumania – Turnu Ruieni, Rumania – 456 km.

At breakfast I shared a table with two guys from New Zealand. They had done The Transfagarasan the day before (Sunday). They were full of praise but complained that the road had been very crowded.

As I pulled out from the boardinghouse I was on the fabled road and it soon started to climb. By chance I hit the road on a Monday morning which meant that I had the road almost to myself– great! The Transfagarasan turned out to be everything I had hoped for.

When I got north of the mountains I headed west to ride another famous road – The Transalpina.

As I got near the town Sebes I noticed that all the signs for Transalpina were crossed out. I just ignored that and let the GPS guide me. When I entered the road I found it almost deserted. The road offered some interesting riding. The surface constantly changed between smooth new tarmac, old tarmac with lots of potholes, broken up concrete slabs and rough gravel. The V-Strom soaked it all up.

In Curtea de Arges I turned right and followed a small river out of the mountains. It turned out to be a scorching hot afternoon.

Late in the afternoon I arrived in the small village Turnu Ruieni at the home of the Ciric family. I have stayed at their house every year for the last 5 years when I was participating in the EnduRomania. It was good to be back. When I told them of the days ride they were very surprised that I had been able to ride the Transalpina. It had been closed for a while due to rockslides and was officially still close. That explained the deserted road and the often very poor riding conditions.

It turned out that I had arrived in Turnu Ruieni on the day of the yearly village fête. In the evening the youngest son of the family showed me around and introduced me to his friends. I shook hands with a lot of people that night. It got late before I hit the sack.

Transfagarasan.

22nd of July: Turnu Ruieni/Caransebes, Rumania – 10 km (on foot).

When I went to bed last night my plan was to continue my journey in the morning. Plans change.

In the morning I was awakened by thunder, lightning and rain hammering down on the roof. It didn’t look like it was going to change anytime soon. I decided to postpone my departure by another day. I spend the morning studying maps and making new plans.

Around noon the rain stopped and the sun broke through the clouds. I had to do a bit of shopping so Bogdan took me in his car to Caransebes the nearby bigger town. Before we headed back he showed me his new apartment in town that was being renovated.

After several long days in the saddle I needed some exercise. I decided to take a hike to the castle ruin above the village. There are two roads/trails leading there. The long one isn’t that steep and in decent shape. The short one is in some places very steep and in a bad shape. I’ve done both several times on a Yamaha WR250R. This time I took the long way up and the short one down. It took me 2 hours on foot. I was soaked with sweat when I got back - just in time for dinner.

I’ll spend the rest of the evening relaxing and hanging out with the family.

Part of the Ciric family.

23rd of July: Turnu Ruieni, Rumania – Zlatibor, Serbia – 456 km.

Last night didn’t end up as relaxing as I had expected. It turned out the village fête was a 2 day event…

I still managed to get an early start today. After 2 hours of really nice riding in Rumania it was time to leave the country. The final stretch of road to the Serbian border was deserted and poorly maintained. As expected I arrived at a very sleepy border crossing. It still took some time to cross. Being used to open borders within the EU it’s easy to forget how cumbersome it can be to cross borders elsewhere.

From the border the road took me to Belgrade. I continued south. Later in the day on road M-21 south of the town Valjevo I stumbled across 30 kilometers of pure joy. It was a roller coaster ride with one superb curve after another going up and down. I scraped the pegs numerous times and was smiling like a lunatic.

As the afternoon progressed the sky kept getting darker and started leaking. That combined with the aftermath of 2 late nights in Caransebes made me decide to call it a day and I checked in at a boardinghouse just outside of Zlatibor. After unpacking the bike I took a stroll into town to get some dinner. I was soaking wet from a downpour when I got back.

Leaving Romania.

24th of July: Zlatibor, Serbia – Zelengora Mountain, Bosnia – 374 km.

The weather was nice in the morning and I was soon back on the road. Nice riding from the word go. After about an hour I crossed the border to Montenegro. Next up was Durmitor National Park. I entered at Mojkovac and follow the Tara river. I had lunch at a restaurant in Zabljak. I exited the park via Sedlo Pass. I then headed north back into Serbia. At around 5 pm I stopped to get fuel  and some supplies. Shortly after I left the tarmac behind and started to ascent the mountains in search of a lake that looks a bit like Africa.

Thanks to Gliga from Advrider for supplying me with a waypoint the night before (his Balkan thread was an inspiration for me when preparing this trip). When I left the tarmac my GPS told me that I had 42 km to my destination. I was in for a challenge – especially due to logging vehicles having destroyed much of the route. The last 42 km of the day ended up taking me almost 2 hours. Just to make things more interesting it started to drizzle when I had a few kilometers left. The destination was worth the trouble. I managed to put up my tent just before it started to rain in earnest. The rain lasted only for an hour. I had a great evening in company of 2 sixty years old hikers from Slovenia who had used the spot as a base camp for the last 3 days. They offered me warm coffee and something a bit stronger – I had brought the beers. I slept like a baby that night.

Intersection inside a mountain.

25th of July: Zelengora Mountain, Bosnia – Stanici, Croatia – 306 km.

I woke at first light and went for a walk in the area. It was a beautiful morning. I took a different route down the mountains. It was half the distance on gravel and the road was in better condition for the most part. It was good to see tarmac again – I know it’s not the most Advrider’ish thing to say but riding a bike like the V-Strom I prefer tarmac and only leave it when necessary to get to where I want to go. Back on firm ground I continued to Mostar: A historic town with a famous bridge but a real tourist trap. From there I aimed for the Adriatic Coast. Before reaching the coast I had to cross the border to Croatia. The first border crossing I got to wouldn’t let me cross, as it was a crossing only for locals. After a short detour I arrived at the international crossing. There were hundreds of cars waiting in line. I rode to the front and was waved through without showing any papers. It’s good to be riding a bike. When I hit the coast I followed it north. Before long the heat was killing me and the ocean beckoned so I decided to call it a day. After a few failed attempts I found a vacant room. 15 minutes later I was splashing in the waves. Later I had dinner at a restaurant on the beach while watching the sunset.

Looking for tarmac.

26th of July: Stanici, Croatia – Duino Aurisina, Italy – 620 km.

I hit the road early. The temperature was pleasant and the traffic light. First I continued north along the coast. Later I turned inland to the mountains to avoid the heat from yesterday and because I wanted to check something out. Around noon I arrived at Zeljava Military Airbase. Twinmike (a fellow Adv-inmate) had provided me with its location. It was really interesting! From there I continued west first through Croatia, then Slovenia and finally I arrived in Italy. I hit a couple of thunderstorms along the way. I was now soaking wet and pretty cold. I found a very nice B&B in the coastal village Duino Aurisina. After a long warm shower the host served me really good coffee and a glass of red wine. Later in the evening I borrowed an umbrella and strolled down to the harbor to get some dinner. It’s dark now and the rain has stopped. I hope it’ll stay dry tomorrow because I have a plan…

Ready for take-off at Zeljava Military Airbase.

27th of July: Duino Aurisina, Italy – Nürnberg, Germany – 651 km.

It was drizzling on and off while I had a nice breakfast on the patio of the B&B (very nice place by the way). After an extra cup of coffee it was time to leave. As I turned north the weather clear up. It was a fine day for riding. Before long I was ascending the Alps on small twisty roads heading for Austria. As I entered Austria the roads were crawling with motorcycles. I soon reached my main destination for today: Großglockner Hochalpenstraße.

The southern part (it’s more than just one road) was great fun as the roads were dry and you could see the views. As I passed through the tunnel at Hochtor the world disappeared. I was now riding inside leaking clouds and visibility was often less than 50 meters. I still decided to take the turnoff to Edelweiß-Spitze also known as “Bikers Point”. It’s the highest vantage point in the area. To get there you have to climb a 2 km steep cobbled hairpin road - REALLY interesting on a bike in the rain. Surprisingly I was the only biker around when I got there. The conditions stay the same most of the way as I descended Großglockner Hochalpenstraße but finally I got below the clouds and found dry tarmac. I then passed through Tirol to get to Germany – great riding. I continued a couple of hours in Germany. Early in the evening I stopped for the night at a hotel on the outskirts of Nürnberg.

Leaving the Alps.

28th of July: Nürnberg, Germany – Vordingborg, Denmark – 850 km.

Early in the day I decided that I wanted to reach home today. The day was mainly spent on the Autobahn. No speed limit is good when you want to cover some distance. To spice the riding up a bit I sometimes did shortcuts on the main roads. I even managed to throw a gravel road into the mix. As I got further north the weather got warmer. The weather has been strange in Europe this summer. It was mid afternoon when I arrived at the port in Puttgarden. From there it was only a 45 minutes ferry crossing and a short ride home. I was greeted in my driveway by a happy girlfriend, a cold beer and a puppy that had grown quite a bit since I saw it last. It was good to be home.

Almost home.

Epilog:

During the trip I covered 6.351 km (3946 miles) and visited 13 countries in the same number of days.
According to my GPS it took me 86 hours and 40 minutes of riding.

A list of the countries:
Germany
Czech Republic
Poland
Slovakia
Romania
Serbia
Montenegro
Bosnia
Croatia
Slovenia
Italy
Austria

- and off cause Denmark.

The V-Strom ran flawlessly the entire trip.
I didn't have to do anything other than add fuel from time to time.
The bike used 255 liters of fuel during the trip. This gives an average fuel consumption of 24,9 km/l (4.02L/100km - 58.6 US MPG).

The bike had 51.750 km/32155 miles on the clock when I started the trip.

Many places in the east I encountered very bad road surfaces. The V-Strom handled them OK but is was often a bumpy ride and several times I could have wished for better suspension.
I spend much time standing on the pegs - both because of the road conditions but also to stretch my legs and relieve my butt.
The design of the V-Strom is not ideal for a standing riding position. The biggest problem is the shape of the side panels as they gnaws at the lower legs when you want to grip the tank with your knees. Besides that I find the handlebars to be a bit too low when standing. I haven't installed raisers at I like the handlebars position while sitting.

The above is something I will take into consideration when I replace the V-Strom.

The more I ride the V-Strom the more I love its engine. For real world riding I never miss more power (when riding solo). It's smooth at all revs and as the revs increases so does the fun factor. With the Akrapovic exhaust on my bike it sounds awesome. That it doesn't use much fuel unless you pin it is another bonus. I actually believe that this is my all time favorite motorcycle engine.

If you have any questions after reading this RR just shoot. You can also check out the original thread on Advrider to view more pictures from the trip.