21 August 2013

20 August 2013 - Eastern Europe

I left my friend Minda in Lituania to traverse Poland, which was pretty uneventful except for a Polish motorcyclist that I met in a petrol station, who was going to lead me across Warsaw. I have not met someone who rode ssssooooo ssssllllloooowwww before. He traveled at no more than 45mph/70kph while EVERBODY was going at least 70mph/110kph, including big semi trucks, and were all  whizzing by and making me very nervous. While I have been accused (falsely?) of riding too fast sometimes; that is just too big a differential and we parted company.
I continued across Poland and on into Berlin amazed how everybody was still flying by me, but now I was going 80mph/130kph. I really try to stay under 75mph/120 as the tires will last longer. Made me feel old.
My reception at Roman and Nico's (brand new motorbiker) included a party! I had met the Berlin posse on traveling via a German ship from Colombia to Panama and then to Costa Rica. In Berlin, I was very fortunate to have their help and transport as I had to leave my moto at a shop for maintenance and pannier fitting. The other part of the Berlin group was Patrick and Jana. I enjoyed observing Patrick, a master Olympic Stadium guide. He is truly skillful and effective ... in my professional opinion, even though it was in German. Patrick exemplifies the professional who has continuously improved rather than do the same old routine over and over and over ... The four of you, minus Fred, were so kind and generous to me and saved me a tremendous amount of time and money; I cannot thank you enough.
I then went through the Czech Republic, with the highlights being the track at Brno and staying at funky country hotel that was in the same building as a hockey rink. Got to watch my first sport love. Was reminded of trying out for the Detroit Red Wings hockey team.
Hungary was next after passing through Slovakia, but without much to report. I really do not care for big cities, so I then went east toward Ukaine.
I assumed it would be different, but did realize how bad the roads could be. When the border guys told me that the main route to Lviv was "off road," I thought they were pulling my leg. I was wrong. While it was not really off road for most of it, but the road was in such bad shape, that it took me forever to get there. When I finally did get there, I could not find my hostel. It was way south of the city in an old tenement complex; the stereotype of how I pictured people living under the soviets. Most of the buildings were empty, but what was especially pleasant was to see the nuclear plant across the street. Remember Chernobyl? The hostel was clean and new with a one-person elevator and the manager cleared out a storeroom for secure bike storage and took me in his own car to buy groceries. I have been very fortunate is having met so many kind folks who have been so helpful.
The trip on bad roads to Moldova was arduous and while the roads in Moldova are not in great shape, at least they are patched. Got some good advice from a Russian gas station attendant and then moved on to Romania.
I was looking forward to riding the famous Transfăgărășan Highway, and the new Transalpina Road. Both were spectacular twisty roads; my favorites. The Romania people that I met were consistently nice and pleasant. My learned strategy of asking for a discount on room pricing by offering to  forgo  breakfast and not requiring an official receipt is paying off frequently. 
My next route was through Serbia, Kosovo (bad drivers, many new buildings, and a great new road), Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and into Slovenia. I met a very helpful police officer at the Kosovo border and nice people in Albania. Montenegro was interesting when I got to the border to go into Croatia. There were hundreds (maybe 500) of cars for many kilometers waiting to go through the border. I first passed a few, then realized that I could be there for many hours as the line barely moved. I ended up passing everyone and waited for maybe 20 cars. While in line, a BMW rode up to join me. We met and decided to look for a hotel together when we got near beautiful Dubrovnik.
Italians on vacation had everything booked. We finally found a room for 3 people at one hotel. I was inwardly amazed that Damian and his lady were willing to share a room with someone they had barely just met. Kinky or very trusting? Was probably the latter, but we did not have to find out as the third bed for the tiny room was not to be found. I therefore stayed at another hotel that I had to break/crawl into when I returned late and the outside door was locked.
Traveled up through Croatia into Bosnia, where I stayed at a nice little inn way away from the road that I never would have found if it had not been recommended. Amir and Emir ran a very clean and modern hotel and restaurant. I learned that while Emir is strictly a title in Arabic and not someone's name, in Bosnia it is a fairly common first name. Unfortunately, although both are Muslim, neither spoke Arabic. 
DIC Hostel Gurus
I am now in Ljubljana, Slovenia at a very friendly hostel, trying to get some used tires with enough tread to get to 
Morocco before putting on the new tires I am carrying. I want to start Africa with good dual-purpose tires, but if I cannot get adequate tires here or in Venice, then I will have to put on my new ones. I was able to deal with a wardrobe malfunction, and do some maintenance on both the bike and my gear. Ljub is an interesting city with more nice people like Damian I had met and hung out with traveling to and beyond Dubrovnik.
After Venice, I head to the Italian Alps to do, the "Four Passes" and Stelvio Pass, then on to Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and France before spending September in Spain and Portugal. October 5 is still the target for Tangier to meet folks to start travel around Africa with.
I will try to update this blog in a more timely manner ... and learn how to format this blog and upload and organize my photos on Flickr.

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