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Thread: My first Eastern European Bike Tour

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    Really Bored TrickyDicky's Avatar
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    Default My first Eastern European Bike Tour


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    Wasn't sure whether to post this in here or the general bike forum, as its more an experience sort of post rather than any proper knowledge / advice sort of thing of touring, and its probably going to end up as quite a few words so maybe should be a blog, but I've never done one of those, and, well its in here...


    Background to this trip is that I'm one in a bunch of four very good mates (none of the others are on here) who have done lots of biketrips both on and off road, as non-bikey social things together before , all of us have enduro bikes and go off into Wales green laning together now and again, and three of us are also ex-club racers - basically we all love riding bikes, we all love drinking beer, and eating curry too (who doesn't though eh )

    We'd talked about seeing at least of some of eastern Europe together by bike for a couple of years or more now;- we've done various trips through France/Switzerland/Germany/Italy etc and up to the Highlands together before, but none of us have ever really ventured further east in Europe than Austria before, aside from the occasional stag or couples weekend in Prague.

    The plan last year was to do this sort of trip, but, well, we are not that well organized sometimes, left our annual bike euro-tour to the last minute, and only had a max of a week last year which meant it wasn't going to be eastern Europe.
    Anyway, I and one other of our gang were determined to do it this year, so approx 4 months go we hatched a very rough plan, which involved basically agreeing how much time and approx dates we had.
    As part of that we also agreed that we would get the autotrain from Dusseldorf into Austria to give us a head start and chance of at least seeing more than one or two places in the 12 days or so we had, without having to spend every waking hour on a bike, as although we both love the riding aspect, well, there's a lot more to life too eh..

    So we had a rough plan, and managed to book passage for us and our two bikes on the train from Dusseldorf to Innsbruck and back again with 10 days in between, and then normal life intervened for both of us so that was pretty much all we did until a few weeks ago when it all started rushing up and we both realized we needed to have a bit more of a plan, and ideally sorted places to stay for at least most nights .
    So after one or to Webex sessions (my mate is an IT techy nerd) we realized that we'd been wildly over-optimistic originally in terms of all the places we would visit on this trip, (we'd been hoping on Hungary and Czech too) so had cut it back, which we did, and then we had a very approximate route.
    From that, we hence also now had an idea of roughly where we planned to end up each night, so I sorted a few places to stay with good old Booking.com.

    Alongside that, there were a couple of other things I needed to sort;- having absolutely boiled in 2-piece leathers and waterproof boots in 35+ degree Italy last year , I was determined to not to do that again if possible so I got my arse in gear and ordered some draughty silver-grey HELD mesh textiles and white vented boots the week before we left, luckily they fitted reasonably well. They make me look like a Ewan/GSer wannabe or Stormtrooper dependant on your PoV, but were worth their weight in gold on this trip- never again will I suffer the boil-in-the-bag black leathers and waterproof boots!




    I also decided that I really needed a better SatNav- on previous trips I've used a very ancient old car Garmin in a fiver ebay case, and more latterly the non-free version of CoPilot on my phone, but both have left lots to be desired and as fate would have it, TomTom Riders were 50% off on Amazon Prime day, so that was sorted, and I created a few different route options between each intended overnight and saved them onto the TomTom.


    As for the bikes and luggage, we were all set with the trusty Ventura packs, and I got a got a new (S21) rear tyre on the MT10 in good time for the trip.

    The basic plan was to hop across the channel and get to Dusseldorf first eve, overnight train to Innsbruck, and from there through the top of Italy and Slovenia into Croatia, down the Adriatic coast, looping back up round through Montenegro, Serbia, and Bosnia, then Zagreb and back up through Austria to Innsbruck, the train to Dusseldorf and home, and that is basically what we did, albeit with one or two deviations and with plenty of adventures along the way.

    So, day one I arrived at my S1000R riding mate's house nice and early, and we trundled down to Folkestone in perfect weather for our channel crossing.
    Being a Saturday morning in early August the terminal was absolutely jammed with families in cars setting off on their holidays, but we were there in decent time to make our scheduled crossing, checked in and all good- even had time for half a cup of coffee in the terminal building before we were called, and it was then that the first adventure started...
    Jumped on the bikes filtered our way through all the chaos to the border control booth, whipped my passport out, opened it to the photo page, and at that point realized it wasn't my passport in my hand...Oh, how we laughed..... NOT !

    Fuck wank and fucking wang wankity wank wank!

    This was potentially a real problem- it was getting on for midday, we had to be in Dusseldorf by 19:30, (which is 250 odd miles from Calais) and my passport was at that time minimum of 2 1/2 hrs from Folkestone, so 5 hours for a round trip just to get the passport and get back to Folkestone, and if we miss the Dusseldorf train, it fucks the whole trip/hotel booking up.
    I got straight on the phone to the owner of the passport that was in my hand, my eldest son. Thankfully he was at home just milling about with his two young girls, had my passport, and agreed to strap them in the car and hot-foot it down to a service station on the M25 approx halfway between Folkestone and home., so once we'd managed to get escorted out of the Eurotunnel terminal, which took a while, we pinned it as fast as we dared up the M20 and round the M25 to the agreed meeting point. He was waiting there when we got there so we turned straight around and back to Folkestone as quickly as we dared.
    We managed to get on a crossing reasonably quickly, and landed in Calais at just before 16:30, which gave us 3 hours to do the 250 miles to Dusseldorf- was going to be extremely tight, particularly as there was no way we were going to do anything daft in France, after hearing some of the recent horror stories from people for relatively minor (IMO) misdemeanors, so we went fairly steady through France, then it was chin on the tank flat out through Belgium, Holland, and Germany- we had to stop for fuel twice but were screeching into the petrol station, up with the cap, run and pay and back on the bike- literally was flat out all the way, and we made it just under 10 mins before the boarding closed, not having eaten or drunk all day, and both feeling like our arms were going to fall out and our heads weighed a tonne - we are both on naked bikes.


    The important thing was, however, we had made it, and the feeling of elation was immense. We got the bikes loaded ,along with a couple of equally late-comer and madly sweating dutch guys on a KTM 690 and MT09



    And while my Gingsters -loving and slightly less than tip-top fitness mate was sweating for England struggling to get his leathers off and dying from exhaustion in the 30 degree train compartment, I hot-footed it down into the station, bought some beer , wine, sandwiches, crisps , and cake, got out of the biking kit and into shorts and we all had a banquet in our shoe-box sided cabin on the train- spacious and particularly comfy they are not, but it was an excellent start to our Jolly-boys adventure - we even did a little video tour of the cabin before we finished all the beer and wine and settled down for the night




    After a not particularly restful night (the train seems to be constantly going around corners, clanking and generally throwing you about) we eventually stopped in Innsbruck and got the bikes off the train.
    I've been skiing numerous times in various Austrian resorts, but never really driven or ridden through there- what a stunning place it is, just about everywhere. You pay through the nose in tolls for some of the mountain passes, but the surfaces just seemed so much better than most in France/Italy/Switzerland, and it was a brilliant start- there was the usual fantastic scenery, and a lovely variety of roads too and very pleasant and traffic free throughout- completely fabulous.






    from there we made our way down to Trieste for the night, stayed in a great place right on the beach, a good few beers and very nice Pizza and I had what was undoubtedly the deepest and best sleep I'd had in months, woke up 7am-ish feeling brilliant so a very nice 4 mile run along the boardwalk before a great breakfast and we were on our way down through Slovenia into Croatia.
    We then spent the next 4 nights in Croatia, saying in Makarska and Dubroknik, and also spending a day at Grobnik circuit watching the " King of Grobnik" bike races, a fabulous looking circuit that I definitely intend to ride at, and a brilliant very family-oriented near week-long club race event with numerous paddling pools and other activities set up for the kids in the paddock, most people seemed to be staying there, we watching some great racing and despite the 30-35 degree temps, I was honestly wishing I was out there, and if I had not been in textiles, I reckon me and the MT could have been- maybe next time.....




    I loved everything about Croatia- every person we met, every place, food, everything- definitely a country I want to spend more time in. Makarska was lovely, and Dubrovnik I found stunning in places, albeit everything except fuel in Dubrovnik is pretty much double the price of anywhere else in Croatia, including Zagreb which surprised me, Fab place, albeit the old town was as jammed with tourists as Leicester Square typically is, we spent a couple of nights there and had a great day just sitting in a little bar on the rocks and diving in the sea when it got too hot





    From there we made our way up through Montenegro into Serbia. By now we were starting to think about border crossing a bit more, as we'd done a couple- this was something that on reflection, we should have researched a bit more before we left, as there are lots of them between Slovenia/Croatia/Montenegro/Serbia/Bosnia etc, they vary massively in size and in terms of how busy they are, and for us , with Montenegro and Bosnia specifically, insurance considerations - it wasn't possible to buy " Green card" cover for these countries in the UK, so it had to be at the border, and not all the border crossings do have someone flogging insurance
    Last edited by TrickyDicky; 31-08-18 at 06:56.

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    Really Bored TrickyDicky's Avatar
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    Default Re: My firsr Easte European Bike Tour- Part1

    Anyway, with the wonders of the internet and doing a bit of googling, we managed to get through each border ( we each got 9 more stamps in passports on this trip just between these 4 countries) and were so glad we were on bikes- no more so when we crossed from Montenegro into Serbia as we did it on theA2 main road , effectively a motorway and cars were queueing for the border for more than 2km., had tables and chair out, to say it was busy is an understatement.
    We filtered right to the front (in 35+ degree heat), and it still took us a good 30-40 mins to get through when we got to the booth so am pretty sure people at the back of those queues would have taken many many hours to get through, just horrific









    Serbia was beautiful, but very very different to Croatia, in so much of fewer road signs, not much English spoken, and obviously very much less affluent. It reminded me of some African countries in a way with people selling fruit and homemade alcohol from the side of the road in any container they can get hold of on all the main routes, and once you get off the main spine roads, a lot of the roads are no better than sheep-tracks, so a bit like Wales in that respect really





    We also saw no other UK plate bikes or cars there either, and it wasn't a given that restaurants would have English language menus etc either, which meant we ate some very chewy stuff that we're not even sure what it was....
    Dirt cheap compared to most of the rest of Europe though, for everything except fuel, which was the same really.


    Bosnia was similar in that respect albeit Sarajevo particularly notably more western, with big Oracle, Microsoft etc buildings in the centre, but its very obvious the troubles they've had from the amount of half-destroyed buildings and bullet holes in what seemed like most big buildings in Sarajevo and Mostar, stunning countryside again, but also very very noticeably less affluent than Croatia, again.







    And in Bosnia, I also got to meet two quite scary policemen on the main mountain road out of Sarajevo to Mostar- it a great road on a bike, when you're not having to make your way around lorries or other traffic.
    I admittedly was using lots more speed than whatever the limit might be there, I was also overtaking the other side of a solid white line and for part of it through a tunnel too so , yeah, total disregard for traffic laws I guess and banged to rights- my mate was two or three cars behind at the time when I was getting past a couple of lorries, and so saw the bashed up old police Skoda pull out after me.

    He was a fair distance behind me, but apparently put at least three cars off the road into the dirt chasing me (it was a quite dangerous twisty mountain type road)- but as soon as I saw what was going on behind me I backed off and let him catch up with me as quickly as he could, he swerved in front of me and jammed his brakes on- I'm honestly not exaggerating by saying that he had my ABS kicking in, and on other bikes I would have been straight into the back of him.
    Anyway, we managed to pull off the road on a gravelly corner, the two of them got out and starting very aggressively shouting at me in a language I didn't understand.

    I took my lid off and just calmly kept saying I didn't understand, and did they speak English or French (yeah I know but it's the only other language I have half a grasp of), but nothing, just lots of shouting inches from my face
    My mate rolled up on his S1000 and some finger waggings at him as soon as he started talking to me, was all quite confusing and a bit hostile for a while.

    The bigger of the two cops (he was honestly 6'6" or so and a solid lad) then pulled me over towards his car and got his handcuffs off his belt- I put my hands up and tried to be as submissive and wimpy as possible without giving him my wrists just repeating that I didn't understand, he was obviously repeatedly asking me something but I didn't have a clue what. He then held the cuffs out and was saying " Mostar" in amongst the other things, which we were a good hour or two away from- no way I fancied leaving the MT at the side of the road and getting in his car, so I put my hand in y pocket and got a 10 euro note out, which seemed to help as he went to his car, came back and his mate with a notepad started drawing a road, a very basic drawing of a bicycle (meant to be me I think, a tunnel, made a big thick line in the middle of his road, and I said sorry lots.

    Then it started properly- he wrote down a number for the tunnel, a number for the solid line, one for what I think was speeding and then tapped my dark visor and wrote another 50 for that, which I assumed meant having it down in a tunnel, his total number came to 500, and he wrote KM next to it which is the local currency- I didn't have any, so just kept saying " euro" his mate then got on his phone, they had a discussion and wrote 300 and a euro sign down.
    I had 300 euros cash and would have paid it if it came to it, but it seemed a bit expensive to me , and I enjoy a bit of a barter so I said no, in the most non threatening way I could and wrote 100 down- they got a bit cross and animated with that, I put my hands up, dragged another 5 euro note out of my jeans and offered that, which to my surprise, after a discussion, they accepted-, so it seemed that we'd settled on 105 euros......result!

    The joke was, the big one scribbled out a load of stuff (inc my reg no) on a triplicate pad, and got me to sign it, but never asked for my passport, license or insurance, and then after Id signed it, ripped off put all 3 copies in his pocket, smiled waved bye and was gone, and that was that
    We slowed up a little bit after that for a while, as it did bring it home to us a bit , but before long we were off the major Sarajevo-Mostar road, and onto what I guess is the equivalent to our A4 or A12, where there is no fucking chance of seeing a cop, or pretty much anyone else it seemed, we rode for miles and miles without seeing anyone.






    After that we made our way back up through Croatia and spent our last night in Croatia in Zagreb, a lovely city IMO, stayed in a 4 star right in the city centre for half the price of the so-so places we'd stayed at it Dubrovnik, lovely meal , met some great people and got properly wankered.

    From Zagreb, we made our way back up into Austria, just fabulous roads again, and after a great days riding we stopped the night in Salzburg and had one of the best curries sitting outside in a fabulous Indian restaurant. We were the only whities in there, which proved to be a good sign, it was fabulous, and we ended up staying there with the staff after they closed for a sort of lock-in in their garden, fab food, and beer, great night, and err, a bit shit-faced again ...




    The next day was our last day so we spent it bezzing up and down the passes from Salzburg to Innsbruck, and it was the first and only time the wet weather gear had to come out- we got to the top of a mountain pass that escapes me at the moment, and the heavens opened, hail and torrential rain, a massive difference from the 30-35 degrees that we'd had on the rest of the trip, but that didn't last long






    After that, it was back on the train, more beer and wine, and a relatively relaxed ride back home- great trip and fabulous countries that I definitely want to see more of

    Last edited by TrickyDicky; 31-08-18 at 06:58.

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  5. #3
    Should Get Out More DefTrap's Avatar
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    Default Re: My firsr Easte European Bike Tour- Part1

    Great write up. Sounds fab.

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    Should Get Out More Weeksy's Avatar
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    Default Re: My firsr Easte European Bike Tour- Part1

    Top write up that Tricky Most envious ! I see more touring in my future for sure.

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    Should Get Out More Noggin's Avatar
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    Default Re: My firsr Easte European Bike Tour- Part1

    That sounds amazing


    I had a plan to go from here (French Alps) to Croatia, via Austria, then Turkey (via lots of other countries!). Can't do it this year but am going to try very hard to do it next year for sure!!!

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    Should Get Out More Mr OCD's Avatar
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    Default Re: My firsr Easte European Bike Tour- Part1

    Awesome mate - enjoyed that! Especially the coppers in the bashed up Skoda!

    I also want to do some euro touring ... I just don't think the R1 is best suited to the task at hand in all honesty.

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    Default Re: My firsr Easte European Bike Tour- Part1

    Textiles? You massive bender

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    Should Get Out More Taipan's Avatar
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    Default Re: My firsr Easte European Bike Tour- Part1

    Best thing I've read on here for ages, cheers for posting it!

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    Default Re: My firsr Easte European Bike Tour- Part1

    Brilliant write up, sounds excellent and ypu went to some great places.
    I think I’ve met those two plod in Serbia, it cost me 35 euros, that’s all the cash I had in that pocket!! My offence was stopping where I shouldn’t, so they said.
    On the same trip I got stopped at 110mph in Austria and got another 35 Euro fine, unbelievable, in the UK I would still be inside.
    Do you think the train was worth it?? I’ve considered it a few times but I love that ride down so not done it.
    Mick

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    Should Get Out More Tomcat's Avatar
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    Default Re: My firsr Easte European Bike Tour- Part1

    Quote Originally Posted by TrickyDicky View Post
    he swerved in front of me and jammed his brakes on- I'm honestly not exaggerating by saying that he had my ABS kicking in, and on other bikes I would have been straight into the back of him.
    Anyway, we managed to pull off the road on a gravelly corner, the two of them got out and starting very aggressively shouting at me in a language I didn't understand.
    Plodovich was probably upset that his 'crash for cash' ploy hadn't worked. If you'd tail-ended him he'd have been able to get really creative with the fines.

    You're lucky, the "me no understandee" doesn't often work these days as the cops are savvy to google translate.

    Corrupt cops are common out east and overlanders generally carry a decoy wallet with enough local cash for a fill-up plus a few dollars. Duplicate driving licence, a few expired credit cards, doesn't matter too much if it gets nicked or the cops clear it out.

    Sounds like a good trip anyway

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    Should Get Out More GiantPygmy's Avatar
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    Default Re: My firsr Easte European Bike Tour- Part1

    Quote Originally Posted by Taipan View Post
    Best thing I've read on here for ages, cheers for posting it!


    i got the Bosnian cop story from Tricky at Pembrey. Classic!

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    Should Get Out More MrTack's Avatar
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    Default Re: My firsr Easte European Bike Tour- Part1

    Now you know why we chose to come live in croatia.anyone is most welcome at ours plenty camping room and we have a spare room too.right near zagreb.

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    Default Re: My firsr Easte European Bike Tour- Part1

    Thanks all- Tim, that proper made me laugh , that's exactly how I ( still ) feel wearing em- does it ever pass?

    And OCD, yeah, I think you need to stop denying the pull of naked bikes and get yourself a proper bike with mandlebars, like all the cool kids have

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    Default Re: My firsr Easte European Bike Tour- Part1

    Surely leathers are way more ghey than textiles?

    Great write up, sounds like a great trip TD.

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    Default Re: My firsr Easte European Bike Tour- Part1

    I think you were on the same train out of Dusseldorf as I was-Saturday 11th August (Guzzi 1200 Sport).

    I too have suffered from wrong clothing on previous trips to the Balkans (reached 44c on a few days last trip), so purchased a perforated jacket, kevlar lined armoured jeans and shorter boots. Seemed to make a difference.

    Great write up TD. I'll have to sort out doing one for my trip!

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