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Thread: Round 1: Eastern Europe

  1. #17
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    superb keep it coming

  2. #18
    Son of Ah Knah Yee Click here to find out how to Subscribe
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    Great trip.

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  3. #19
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  4. #20
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    Here's a little bit more video of the Easy Motoring on the Dalmatian Highway in Croatia.



    Nice, eh?

  5. #21
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    Bar to Sarande

    Much has been spouted on Albania. I remembered a post on here where some nobber described it as a 'failed state' and you shouldn't go there.
    Well, if you miss it out on account of such a load of old tosh the failure is on your part. It is a a knockout of a place and a very interesting part of the world to be.

    We took roads that were completely unsignposted and reached the border mid-morning. They had a special narrow window that bikes could pass through. How very forward thinking



    The border folks were charming and pleasant. "Are you Rob?" said the man, looking at the passport "Is that a BMW?" or 'Bumvee' as the genial fellow enquired, looking quizically at my logo which had been expertly replaced by a sticker featuring an annoyed hedgehog. "Yes" I said. "Very nice" he says, and with a quick look at the V5 he says "Welcome to Albania, Robert" followed by a big smile.
    David gets more of a questioning. "Where are you going today?" says chappy. David doesn't actually know, and confers for an answer. "Sarande" he eventually responds, but I think the first answer of I don't really have any idea at all was solid enough for the border guard.
    Within a couple or so miles of the border and already the flavour is fantastic. There is a woman ushering a cow across the road; A guy reversing down the road towards us at a rate of speed (I guess he couldn't be bothered to turn around); A guy trotting a horse along, led by a moped.



    .. enormous mobile haystacks on A Roads with carts underneath unseen...

    [

    It is a wonderful place. We love it. We get back onto the main road towards Lezhe, a place I've visited before. It's relatively nice 'A' road stuff, two way traffic, easy overtakes and good pace. Drivers are courteous to motorbikes and more than one bobbles onto the shoulder to let us pass.

    We head through Lezhe and stop for a drink. The waiter, Albert, is very polite and summons up fanta and coke. I have an amount of Albanian funny money which was given to me by a dear friend and forget the denomination, but from the look of the bill compared to what we have we could stay here for weeks. Back to the road and onwards.
    The Road turns into a Motorway, little green motorway sign and everything. There are still mopeds coming up the hard shoulder, people selling fruit, Donkeys, Horses, all kinds of stuff. But the going is fine. It is total food for the eyes, you want to look at everything. Note to self: must ensure to remember I am riding a bike.

    Here's a typical load lugger arrangement..



    We hit sections of roadworks that seem to have a common denominator of being under bridges, where there is no surface, so the traffic streams from 70mph to walking pace as it bobbles twenty feet or so across to the proper tarmac. There's no central reservation at this bit, and one car thinks the surface is better on the opposite carriageway so simply crosses over there into oncoming traffic. eek.



    Here's another little taster of the Albanian Motorway. Signage not their big thing. You can see while the FCO says 'never motor at night'.. Eek



    There's really just too much to say about the variety of roads, amusing roadworks, surfaces, towns and sights. It is just formidable and not at all unpleasant riding. The drivers let you get on with it and there's no hassle.

    One thing to mention, is that Albania is like one giant Petrol Station. Certainly on the main routes, you've no fear of running out. I think I spied a Petrol Station within one of the Petrol Stations at one point.

    We get to Vlore, and then start on the road to Sarande. We wind and climb into the hills and stop for a coca cola. We consult my large scale AA roadmap which has been great. But it seems to quote 70km for what seems like a relatively short distance. It must be wrong, we thought.
    Ah, well now you see it isn't- the road twists and turns up and down, back and forth along the rocky coast. It is epic and memorable riding and the road is in great condition. I make some decent video of it.

    The coastal road is a gem.



    Here's some of the lower section, a little flavour of through the villages.



    After a heavenly couple of hours we descend upon Sarande.

    I had done not much research, only that we wanted to stop at the Hotel Briliant which has been recommended by a few folks on UKGSer. Unfortunately for us, Sarande isn't a one horse town, and Garmin have just simply not bothered to map it, so we're just a cursor moving around not even a base map. Bother.
    After getting no sense we stop and I ask a Motorcycle Policeman who looks pretty fearsome. I observe the international rules of pleasantness and protocol. Rule number one - Take off your hat. He looks for a bit at me but it seemed to work. He has no English, but lightens up once he understands what I'm after. Points the way, up there round a bit and right. The directions are perfect.



    The Hotel is very nice and they get us a prime spot to park up. There will be no problems with the bikes, they say; they have a little man watching out. We have very modern rooms for something like 35 Euros and it is very nice indeed. We go out and have a two course fish dinner with wine for two for the equivalent of 17 quid. The waiter presents us with a spirit sort of ouzo affair and it is the strongest thing ever. Dave decides to light it, and it burns like flamethrower for about 10 minutes. I decide to try and put it out and set light to the table cloth. I blame Dave, conveniently, and tell the waiter he is a fire chief and he should know better. I think he just wants us to go away, so we oblige him.

    Sarande is a top place and at less than half the price of Corfu which you can see from across the bay, for me it would be a no brainer for a beach break. There was a beach bar that served perfect Lowenbrau, too. Retro! It was quite superb, I even broke my domestic beer only rule for it.



    Albania.. we salute you!

  6. #22
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  7. #23
    Son of Ah Knah Yee Click here to find out how to Subscribe
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    Damn you!
    Now I have to go to Albania.

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  8. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr K View Post
    Damn you!
    Now I have to go to Albania.

    I think you'll really like it Chris. I think you liked Romania, no?

  9. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by gr8roberto View Post
    I think you'll really like it Chris. I think you liked Romania, no?
    After Brian persuaded me all the Kamikaze drivers weren't trying to kill me personally I feckin loved it.
    I got rid of a few demons.

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  10. #26
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    Sarande to Lefkada.. for ferry to Kefalonia

    After breakfast it is loading up the wagons again for the journey to Greece. Garmin still has no roads. It looks like it's just given up on Albania. So we have the sea and we know we're going South. I stop and ask a young Girl.. 'Hellas.. Elladas…. Greece.. This way?' pointing. She gives me the thumbs up and a smile. Off we go.
    We hit another bizarre Albanian under construction road. Plenty of Gravel, which I really am now liking. After about ten or so miles we swoop around a river and down to what is a raft ferry. It is just a cable operated lashed together thing. There's a guy in an old Mercedes there who offers a swap for the bike. We have a chuckle. There are a couple of kids who help us, we have a good chat and buy a little bracelet for a few groats. They're happy chappies and we sail across on the rickety contraption. It really is like something from the third world; incredible.



    Later on I find out Clarkson and the Top Gear folks have already been there and filmed a year or so back, so that's my story ruined having already been seen by 10.3 million people.

    We hit more poor roads, one of which is incredibly bad. It is fun. We tentatively bobble through. I ask again for Greece. They say, yes and gesture to keep going, keep going. We hit a wedding party in a little village, with balloons all over the cars and everyone cheering and waving. Some of the roads are not roads anymore, and it is worse in a couple of the villages. But it's all sterling fun.

    We link back up with a main road now, which is probably the one we would have taken if we had have gone back out via the main road from Sarande. It is nice and soon enough we reach the Greek Border. Passing through without issue from the Albanian side. Dave calls back. 'Problem'. The border guard has pointed out his wheel. It has a huge 'V' in the rim. Nasty nasty. Dave reflects hitting a pothole at about 50mph, saying that it was a whopper that went right through the bike. We decide to make for Kefalonia at impulse power and sort it when we're there.



    We cross to the Greek side. Passports all set and then to customs. We chat with the Customs guy, he is an older gent and tells us he has a Honda 500. 'Do you have anything to declare?' He says. No we say. 'Tobacco?' He says. I give up Dave's Golden Virginia and the fella checks it. He gestures as to if there's any funny stuff in the baccy. We say no, we're too old for all that nonsense. He says 'because I will find. I have nose.. Like dog.' That gives us a good giggle.
    We end up repeating that catchphrase for most of the trip.

    In to Greece and the roads towards Ingoumenitsa to make our way to Lefkada for the ferry. All is Ok, the weather beautiful, but the driving standard gets worse.

    We stop for lunch and order two Greek Salads (we think). We get them. All good. About five minutes later we're presented with huge Pork Steaks with chips…
    We dwell for a while and there's no one here.. But within minutes a huge number of people arrive from a funeral. We feel a bit out of place and slip off. The Minister says hello to us and asks if we're Chelsea supporters. We push the bikes away as to not intrude before starting them up. Not so much mine the typical boxer sewing machine, but Dave's KTM without the baffle sounds like a Spitfire, but twice as loud.

    We make the ferry with a lot of time to spare, which is cool, because we're sent off to the wrong town first, Nidri. The Isle of Lefkada is very pretty.



    'Hello matey peeps..'



    We also didn't appreciate we lost an hour when we got into Greece. Very lucky that. So we're on the ferry. Nice little ferry.



    ….and treat ourselves to a cheeky local beer, Mythos.



    We arrive in Fiskardo, Kefalonia an hour later.

    It's very nice there, but we have an hour or so ride to Argostoli. Garmin is at it again, but we negotiate up some very small roads, almost through front gardens of houses, and all of a sudden we’re presented with an impressive wide highway over the mountains. What on earth was this built for? It's lovely though so we won't complain. Somewhat predictably it ends up in a small path and if you don't double back strangely at the end you'll end up in some Greek depot. Odd.

    We get to Argostoli and find the hotel, it's time to link up with some old friends.

    Oh and I say again. Greek drivers are manic and utterly useless. The people on motorcycles there deserve medals. A new low.

  11. #27
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    Kefalonia

    We join up with my Football Team's tour of Greece and are in Kefalonia and are with those guys for 4 days.
    Not a lot of riding done; Dave's KTM is off the road and understandably so. A shame because I quite fancied exploring the island, but then again that's something to do next time eh? So my only riding is to the beach and back. Tough life, innit.
    The other time was spent either on the beach, watching football on the telly, in the bars, having coffee in the square and indulging in 'Shite Patter' (copyright Still Game, BBC TV). Good times.



    In the meantime Dave has managed to get the KTM dealer in Patras to source a second hand wheel and they can sort us on Thursday. Excellent!
    Through the alcohaze we devise a plan to head out to the Greek Islands and then if possible to head to Turkey, to save us doing a pointless loop and back to Istanbul, and gives us small-print validity to 'doing Asia'. Information is sketchy and the Greek websites utter drivel.
    The local tour agent can get us as far as Rhodes, but can't help further from there. Back at the hotel, the head honcho at the Hotel Mirabel and his trusty sidekick Dimitros spend a long time making phone call after phone call to find out the SP. 'Don’t worry, this is how it is in Greece' muses Dimitros jollily. Eventually we have details of the Dodecanese Seaways who can get us to Marmaris from Rhodes. Grand. They won't take any money for calls or effort. 'It would be good if you could leave some nice feedback on Trip Advisor' he says.
    Well, that's a shoe in, because you were going to get that anyway.

    Whilst in Argostoli we run into two friendly lads.. Bikers, one with a GS and the other on a rather cool Ducati. We have a good chat.



    I wrote their names down after but can't find it because I'm a cabbage. One begins with an A.. But sorry lads!



    The Gser occasionally looks in on this parish. Please forgive my rudeness if you do and post to say hello eh… it was good to meet you. The Gser is considering coming to the UK on his GS. Aw c'mon, just do it lad!

  12. #28
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    Argostoli to Napflio (or Nauplia)

    We headed out from the Hotel in Argostoli with an early start to catch the 08:30 ferry from Sami to the mainland. The advice from the hotel was 'as long as you're ahead of the bus, you won't miss the ferry'. After a winding toddle up and over the mountains we descend to Sami. The sun is bright and low and it is not easy so early on, especially after a relatively late night the day before. We catch up the bus just by the ferry. Sorted. The ferry is unventful and more than comfortable. 3 hours. Feet up, nod off and a Danny Baker podcast.

    We find the KTM dealer for Dave's wonky wheel.



    The guy directs us to a tyre place in town so we have to navigate back in to the centre of town. DIY service eh. Ho hum. We find the tyre place and the guy says call us at before 3pm, but to be careful, as they go to lunch from 3-5.
    Patras is, well, how can I put it.. a bit of a dump. There had been problems with a stabbing of a greek man by an immigrant just the day before and the far right was in the ascendancy in town. We saw nothing to alarm us but decided to head out given we had three hours or so to wait, so we trundled down the coast. More dumpness, but eventually, some 10k or so away we found a small taverna right by the sea, where we had lunch and a paddle.

    Service-while-you-wait never seemed so good.



    Back to pick up the bike and we get there at ten past three. There's no one to be seen. Bollocks. Dave tries phones- nothing. Just as we're getting mightily pissed off in the heat the KTM guy arrives on the back of one of the smallest scooters I've ever seen, which is piloted by the tyre guy. Cool!
    We're settled up and on the road to Naplfilo.

    I wanted to head back to Naplfio (or Nauplia), the ancient Greek captial. I had been there some 20 years back and spent some wonderful but brief time there.
    We take the main E route in the interests of time. It is warming up for sure. Pace is fine but I'm really starting to feel the heat. My contact lenses feel dry and my eyes heavy. We stop for petrol and a milkshake and conclude that we're both feeling the effects, but we press on. Later in the heated conditions I discover that it is actually cooler to ride with your visor down in the heat- contrary to what you'd expect at home. Duh. It's an important learning though.

    The E road turns south to a toll motoryway which is beautifully surfaced, worth every penny of the 2 Euros (or groats, as we've nicknamed this particular currency) to breeze along. The toll booth lady is smiley smiley. We resist the Jeremy Clarkson 'we’ve already paid' rubbish joke opportunity.

    One trip to Argos I don't actually mind:



    Into Napflio... and the outskirts seem ominous. Scruffy and looks a very run down. But we're rewarded in the centre, it is very pretty and a cool place to be. We ride inadvertantly through a closed side street, past tavernas with street seating and shop set-up frontages. We're probably not popular and there are a few bemused looks. I smile and wave at everyone and generally try to look stupid, the added benefit of open face. Hopefully that'll do the trick.

    After circling a few times Dave has set his heart on the Hotel Grand Bretagne. It looks like the nicest one in town. Dave likes a bit of luxury. That said, so do I. It's lovely, boutiquey style.



    The rate isn't too bad, and they're friendly people alright. They sort out a discount for us and invite us to park the bikes out front which is a bonus.

    Napflio is quite stunning. Here are a few gratuitous shots. Sorry. Bear with us and think of Tony Hart's 'Gallery' Music, will you.







    I wander around and stumble upon a Finnish registered scooter, all done up for panniers and with all sorts of travel accessories. I feel slightly less rufty-tufty than I did.



    This is definitely rest day territory. So we stay a couple of days in Napflio and it is pure luxury. Dave becomes embedded in this high backed wicker sofa seat with his book. He wears these super-dark Oakleys so you can't see what is going on. I thought he was dead at one point.

    Here’s the view from there. You can't blame him. Interesting Moped delivery of something going on there, too..



    After a splendid day off of the bike, leaping into the sea, strolling round eating Ice cream and taking picturesque photos we resolve to head on.

    I didn't even go near the bike but still manage to nearly get run over. Did I mention Greek drivers were shite at all?

  13. #29
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    Naplfilo to Athens

    Well, Piraeus to be more precise.

    With time to kill for an evening ferry we toddle off to get towards Athens. The going is light, pleasant and easy across winding roads to the east coast of the peninsular. We then head North. We decided to check out the Corinth Canal. The end which is impressive is difficult to stop at. The end which isn't is. I get some footage from the boring end and we head in to Loutraki. Not all that clever. Back to Corinth, where we find a corner spot in the city by the sea and sit in the windy conditions. I have cheeky small 'Mythos', the local brew and worry if Dave's KTM with its freaky upright stand is going to blow over. You can probably get a sense of the wind from this snap..



    We head out and on to the Motorway for Athens. It is a nice enough stretch of road and would have been pleasant riding if it wasn't for the crosswinds, which I gather are not unusual and are horrendous. At 70mph the GSA was a real handful and with mega tankbag, Top Box, panniers and enough camping gear for the Goombay Dance Band it was about as aerodynamic as a chest freezer. I was blown all over the place and so it wasn't remotely relaxing. Bother

    We get into the metropolis and predictably, the driving standard deteriorates. Cars are weaving and dodging and predictably being unpredictable. We reach Piraeus port and find our Ferry, which is one of the Blue Star Ferries fleet. We board and have a cabin for the overnight journey, which actually turns out to be rather nice. I can live with this for a night. Big up for the folks at Blue Star.



    The Ferry departs and it is cool to watch We can see the Acropolis in the distance from the ferry and have a beer. All good. Dinner in the restaurant is fine, the waiter raps with us and is a good fellow. We pass through islands, including one in an orange glow which turns out to be Kithnos which is struggling with wild fires. Out on deck the air is hot and smokey in a strong wind. Odd.



    We retire to watch Greece knock out the Russians in the Euros, to much jolity from the locals on the boat.

    I know I've gone on about the standard of driving here, but it is truly bizarre.
    After a few beers on a previous night I recall our summarising of the motoring situation: 'For a group of people who seem to do feck all, they're desperate to get wherever they're going in the fastest possible time, the main objective of which must be so they can spend more time doing feck all.'

    Some local wine and beer later and I sleep well. We call at several ports overnight, which Dave informs me 'was bloody noisy', with crashing and banging throughout. I don't hear a thing. I like boats

  14. #30
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    Rhodes

    Rhodes was.. How can I put it. Crap. Nothing against Rhodes or anyone that goes there, mind.

    Our plan was to try and find somewhere secluded and find a proper Taverna for a final night of all that is Greek. Our first task has to book the ferry for the following morning. 'You need to book a day in advance. We're open until 9pm' was our instruction. Of course, we turn up and there's no-one there. It's Sunday and it is all closed, making booking for Monday a tad tricky. The guy at the port said 'come at 8am'. With nothing else left to do we set off in search of somewhere to pitch up. We took a quick look round Rhodes town, noting bikes couldn't access the old town, and then decided to stop for a frothy one. We ran into Spiros, at the Top 3 Pub, who was very helpful and completely bonkers. In our brief time he had two Amstels himself so you get the picture. Anyway, a fun guy and a good laugh.

    After a short stop we headed down the East Coast of the Island, but looking to stay fairly close to the port given the early start. We found a lot of resort hotels and egg and chips, which shouldn't have surprised us. We find a bloke in shorts and flip flops with his dolly on the back in just a bikini on a scooter. We passed them at about 50mph, she was clung around his neck in with her arms over his shoulders. Kinda funny.. ah to be young again.

    With this fruitless journey we then decide to somewhere inland, where there was nothing at all. We then went to the west side, where we found the power station, which we christened 'Chernobos'. Back to Rhodes town and we find a hotel, the Hotel Lydia, which is perfectly fine. Out for something to eat and into the old town. I think I classified it as 'Specially Ruined Unesco World Heritage Site'. You couldn't move for people trying to get you to come and drink in their bar, eat in their place, or buy some of their old tat. Sad really as the town itself was awesome.

    I didn't bother with hardly any pictures of Rhodes as I didn’t think much of it. We're not bitter though, as in the bigger scheme of things this'll give us the gateway to Southern Turkey which we're looking forward to.

    I took some video looking back from the front of the bike again and review it that evening. There's some orange bloke riding my bike.

    The GS is giving an indicated 48.7mpg which I'm not unhappy with given what the hell I'm carrying. Pre-Hilltop remap it hovered around indicated 47.

  15. #31
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    Awesome report. It took me over half an hour to read two pages, so I'm going to be spending some time on this one me thinks!

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    Enjoying this

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