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Thread: Round 1: Eastern Europe

  1. #65
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    Uzghorod to Krakow

    It was only a quick dip in to Ukraine, despite a short sortie it has been an experience and good fun.

    An early start without knowing too much what to expect from the biking day ahead, aside from anticipated joy at the border exit which didn't disappoint as predicted and another hour of my life I won't get back. Back at the hotel the little man had looked after our bikes from his eagle eyed caravan position and we had breakfast with the former Soviet influence of service of total indifference. All was good though. It's still hot- 32 degrees by the time we're in the saddle just after 10am.

    Ukraine has a chain of Petrol stations called 'Wog'. Ooh, the chuckles.



    Eventually we cross back in to Slovakia and we're back into the Eurozone with 95 at EUR 1.54 a litre. Should have filled up at Wog. I get chatting to a local guy at the Petrol Station. 'It's so nice to see visitors here' he says 'we never see anyone'. We spend a while and he's a good fellow. I ask him about a good route towards Poland and Krakow; he peers at the GPS and gives me pointers, which turn out splendidly. Excellent fast roads flowing roads as we link up the National Park areas. We pop up in Poland by Lake Czorsztynskie, evidently a keen getaway spot, passing some festival or other and hoardes of flip-flop clad weekend revellers.

    We take another stop and I've not got into the routine of placing a mineral water bottle over my eye and pouring it on to soothe the pain, sort of looking up through a watery telescope. I sure get some odd looks, but it works.

    Shortly after resuming we hit our first traffic jam in 4,000 miles on the Route 47 heading towards Krakow It's all good though, a bit of a novelty actually. The traffic parts and lets us go through, everyone is very happy for us to filter and pass; there's a notable improvement in the driving.



    To Krakow. The route in to town is quick and rapid. Poles, it seems, don't slow down in town. We stay in the Royal Hotel, recommended from this Parish. Bikes shut away in a courtyard and the place is just fine with everyone really friendly and helpful. It's just a stone throw from the old town. We have a few Tyskies punctuated with the odd Lech (the beer, not the activity) and watch Spain batter Italy. There's a group of Italians in, all family together, and they're mortified, can't help feeling sorry for them.
    We find a small place just after midnight for tasty Beef Stroganoff and more Tyskie and retire in a suitable haze.

    Given the surroundings we take a day off and sit in the old town square having a very extended lunch and drinking cocktails. I did buy a 'I love Krakow' sticker but there's not a lot else to tell. High quality me-time, don't you know.

    My left eye didn't open on its own this morning, I sort of had to prise it open. It's very tender. A pharmacy is found and drops recommended. I hope they work, not sure I fancy another 1500 miles on one eye.

    Mileage from home to Krakow now stands at 4,200.

  2. #66
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    Krakow to Bialystock

    We're bound for the Baltic states, so the natural place is towards.. Well that way, innit, up and to the right. We accept that it'll be a day of munching some miles, and so settle in to do some boring motoring. We head out of Krakow Northbound, planning to swerve around Warsaw to the right and see how we go.

    The Polish roads are OK but don't seem terribly well organised. You would find a two lane stretch that would head over a blind summit, into a curve and road narrowing to a single lane, with predictable worries. Not great. Also, there was startlingly little amount of dual carriageway sections between the first and second cities. A lot of drivers seemed bored and distracted on the road towards Warsaw. I followed a guy in an Audi for quite a while, and I think he was just about doing everything else but paying attention to driving.

    We learn new road language such as 'Roboty Drogowe' and 'Uwaga'. Ah, the joys of international road travel.



    It didn't seem so long before we saw the inevitable.



    We stop for lunch at a place called Warka, home to another Polish beer. Sadly that is off limits. We have dumplings and pancakes.

    Back to the road. As we move North East there is a startlingly high volume of HGV traffic and we participate in what feels to be the first national 'Lorry Overtaking Championships'. They're everywhere, but very considerate, moving over to let us pass, indicating to help us get by where we can go. It feels like this is the territory for professional drivers to operate properly.

    We spend a lot of time with this kind of view..



    To Bialystock and we haul up at a Best Western. A good dinner and a cocktail and we conclude todays' dead day of expected boring motoring hadn't been that boring at all. Not exactly stunning roads, but plenty to keep you on your toes, and the compliant nature of the traffic just egged you on to keep going. We reflect on some comments on the Gser site about the bad standard of motoring in Poland. True, in the towns it seems alarming with cars zipping past kiddies on bicycles at 60mph, but compared to where we've been it is blessed relief.

    I catch up with the news. I'm a bit out of date, having deliberately ignored as much as possible. Harry Redknapp has been sacked and now replaced by Andreas Villas-Hatstand. Andy Murray is still a miserable looking git. A Turkish jet has been shot down over Syria. Interesting.. we saw three jets heading east whilst we were back in Bandirma.. but that was a while ago now.

  3. #67
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    Great RR, really enjoying this!

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    'What I'm out for is a good time,

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  4. #68
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    Excellent, Rob.. keep it coming

    If you fancy losing another 3-hours of your life, try cutting the corner and heading into Belarus

    No mossies yet? Look forward to the forests

    ballistic

  5. #69
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    Quote Originally Posted by gr8roberto View Post
    Uzghorod to Krakow

    We stay in the Royal Hotel, recommended from this Parish. Bikes shut away in a courtyard and the place is just fine with everyone really friendly and helpful. .
    You didn't get told you were blocking the bin lorry in the yard then

  6. #70
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    This just gets better and better. Keep up the good work Rob.

  7. #71
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    Thanks again for all of the comments, much appreciated



    Quote Originally Posted by ballistic View Post
    If you fancy losing another 3-hours of your life, try cutting the corner and heading into Belarus
    Well, we didn't bother safe in the knowledge you got thrown out

    Quote Originally Posted by ballistic View Post
    No mossies yet? Look forward to the forests
    Oh, erm, yeah. I forgot. Now where did I put that bite cream?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bryn View Post
    You didn't get told you were blocking the bin lorry in the yard then
    They did shuffle us about there. Funny, I'm glad I checked specifically with the guy at the time and made sure because I could see a 'you'll have to shift it mate' moment coming. Still no problems and we left everything on the bike.

  8. #72
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    Cracking report.


  9. #73
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    Quote Originally Posted by gr8roberto View Post

    Something I'd sent had gotten lost in the post.
    Hi Rob

    Pleased to be a microcosm of the report. It never did turn up....

    Great reading and inspiring stuff. The missus just caught me having a read and stressed "You're stuck here with us!" I think she could see the wonderlust from another room.

    Enjoy!
    Tnx Mike

    ...are you up for the Big Bike Rally Challenge http://rallymoto.co.uk/

    Let me know if I can help with advice on green laning and rallying your 1150 GS/GSA

    - Renthal Fat Bars
    - 21" Front wheels
    - Mods that are REALLY needed


  10. #74
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    great fun reading this

    best £12 I ever spent

    Thats a 1200 that is

  11. #75
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    Great report, cant wait for the rest of it,

  12. #76
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    Come on, stop having a good time and give us an update

  13. #77
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    Cheers again for the comments.. more coming up folks

  14. #78
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    Bialystok to Vilnius

    A relatively short day this. It's a jolly good breakfast at the hotel: Self made bacon roll, much to the bemusement of the staff in me wrecking their ciabatta presentation, requesting ketchup and making a mess.

    The biking day starts as much of the previous day had finished- the good Lorry Overtakers' guide. We get some dual carriageway outside the city and are doing a steady 80 or so when some cabbage on a Honda comes past me in the gap between the armco and me, i.e. not very much at all at a 100 or so. I see him coming and it all panning out so I'm not shocked, otherwise I would have been if I was in a daydream. His name I think is 'Jozef' because he has it stencilled on the back of his Givi top box, the useless fecker. Anyway, he slows to sling a left turn across the other carriageway and crosses over. I give lots of friendly toots to catch his eye, and as he crosses and looks back I turn my friendly wave into a massive wanker gesture. He had a double take and a little wobble. Twat. If I'd have not spied him coming and veered just a little bit it would have been nasty.

    We leave Jozef to ponder his MotoGP career and branch out east to cross over into Lithuania. We hit another scenic spot for Poles up by the lakes in the border and stop for a quick drink before we say goodbye Poland. We have 14 Zlotys/Klopeks to dispose of, so it's go mad time, buying lots of soft drinks and miscellaneous crap. We still can't seem to hit the target, so that's more smash in the tank bag. Dave makes the acquaintance of an ex-professional Polish footballer and his wife who now live in Australia.

    We cross in to Lithuania. Again, no border; the area time past looks to have had a mighty presence, with installations, look out posts, lots of outbuildings, but now there is nothing and everything is rotting away rather sadly. It is raining a little bit so I don’t bother to mess about with the country sign photo.



    In Poland we saw only two active Police on the roads. One bike at an accident, and a stray Volvo, so I can't report a massive presence there. Lots of speed cameras forward facing though, so top tip: Don't write your name and address on the front of your Tour X, and all will be dandy.

    As I am reminded by Lonely Planet, we're now in the back garden of Europe's worst drivers and highest road death rate on the continent. There's a noticable deterioration on the roads, but traffic is too slim to notice.

    It starts to rain heavily as we get in to Vilnius, but thankfully Garmin is playing ball and the run in from the main road is really simple. The traffic becomes erratic and difficult. Luckily I'd booked a hotel outside the old town (tightwad) and it has parking, so all is mellow. We have a tourist wander and install ourselves in Zoe's bar and grill where we eat well and drink a few cocktails. At 9pm we're good for nowt so it is time to collapse.

    Today is only the second day since day 6, Croatia that the tempertature has been below 30 degrees for any length of time whatsoever. Not complaining, mind.
    Total Miles from London to Vilnius stands at 5,219. Eye much better; gearbox clunk has not worsened but watching brief remains.

    Oh.. And one other thing.. 'In Your Pocket' guides are superb. Track them down, they're normally free at hotels or you can download them.

  15. #79
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    Vilnius to Smiltene

    It's an 'It's-a-knockout' mision to dislodge the bikes, get them out of the parking area, through the barrier, on to the main road cobbles before we can get out of here. All works out fine, so we're out of Vilnius to a 'Neste' Petrol Station. We don't like Neste. We like Shell, Lukoil, OMV, BP (Or whatever wobbly Polish name they use, it's like 'Winfieldy' or something), MOL, Statoil, any of the Albanian ones. Not Neste. It has people working in it. Lord only knows what they do. You have to undertake a Krypton Factor style search to find and use the machine to pay and pre-authorise what you need. Net result: I get a full tank from a 100 klopeks, Dave loses patience understandably and ends up with a thimble full.

    We head out. It's raining hard but we're getting on with it, until my Wunderlich crash bar bag decides to do a runner yet again. This time I see it happen. Good grief. It irks me, because I really have been careful to attach it fully after the Romania debacle. The bloody thing has got my disc lock in it though, so I think, I should at least give it a go to try and fetch. It's a decent detour back to where I can cross the dual carriageway back to go even further to where I can do the U turn. I spy it in the middle of the road as I fly past doubling back and thankfully it's still there when I get back around again. Not good though, here's me tap dancing amongst the traffic, in the pissing rain, in Europe's most dangerous motoring territory, to go and get a stupid little bag. You're reading this though, so it works out.
    Note: Wunderlich, I want to talk to you. Before then the cable ties are coming out though.

    Still raining, we cross over into Latvia. We're doing OK. We take a kind of a motorway, which has been repaired so many times the GS at 70mph is vaguely remimniscant of a spacehopper. It kind of works though so on we go.
    We stop off and draw some local funds and go to a deli-coffee shop affair. I've a very good Latvian friend; unfortunately the only phrase she has ever taught me is 'I'm looking for Strawberry Jam', and I can’t imagine that will help. I don't even try it, as the woman behind the counter definitely isn't pleased to see us.

    We're left with a relatively long trawl though middle Latvia. The roads become more minor, until we approach a strange road sign. A black road with a white road at the top of it. What could that mean?



    Ahhhh.. That's what it means, as we hit it at 60. Fu-fu-fu-ffffffff---gravel!!!!



    Latvia. The Gravel Lover's paradise, number one destination in this years edition of 'The Good Gravel Guide'. You lot can forget poncing around in Morocco; go to Latvia, you'll get all the off-piste gravel parlava you want plus a bit more. Fine gravel, heavy gravel, mahoosive gravel, gravel in sand, roads under construction gravel, suicidal sand rutted tracks with a light gravel dressing. You name it, you got it. Oh, and chuck in the odd bulldozer track for that teeth rattling cherry on the cake.

    We must have done 70km on unmade roads. At first it is all good fun, then OK, but as the roads deteriorate it gets harder and harder. You get some light relief through villages, but then it's back with a vengance. I'm no great off roader and it tells, espcially with my bike with all of the shite on it. In the wet sandy parts, where roads are mid-build it gets really tough. We stop and then stop again, the second stop I'm having enough for a bit. Fortunately we do about another 5km and then it's good old concrete all the way, even with all of the crazy patching it's really rather nice.

    We get to Smiltene early in the evening. Why Smiltene? Well, I have a wedding to go to. We're being looked after by locals and it's splendid. The bikes are stowed in the wood shed. Beers, more beer, food, more food. Lovely, and In the company of the lovely Inga.
    What a very nice place indeed.



    The weather has cleared up and we're sitting in the pleasant evening. We realise its nearly midnight, still lovely and light. Stark contrast to the 9pm disappearing light of Bandirma. How far North we've come now, we're sort of UK equivalent Aberdeen'ish.
    I collapse off to bed, really tired, but sleep fabulously.

  16. #80
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    "the lovely Inga"

    My mind is boggling

    ballistic

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