Day 2: We finally made it to the Czech Republic. A bit of drizzle and some drops, but beautiful riding none the less. Forests and rivers and lakes in the highlands along the Polish border.
Day 4 had more rain in store for us. Actually a deluge. But as luck would have it, we got to a shelter just in time!!!
Day 5 begins with a loop of the Tatra mountains, then on top the famous city of KOSIČE which will be our last stop before entering UKRAiNE. Here a glance at our happy bikes which were allowed to spend the night on the porch.
Being the smallest high alpine region of Europe was not an overstatement. Hardly were we in, we were out again, and further on our way to KOŠICE.
From the road we spotted another interesting looking little settlement and went to have a look. From a distance it could have been Tuscany... a cluster of red tiled roofs with church spires and towers from the city hall rising above the skyline. It turned out LEVOĆA is one of the many starting points of the vast European network of pilgrimage trails leading to Santiago de Compostella. Accordingly, there is a very significant Cathedral here containing the world's largest all wood carved baroque altar. Very impressive!
Spending a relaxing hour in the cool shade of a little waterside shack, gazing upon the ruins of this impressive fortress, will definitely be remembered as one of our most pleasurable moments of the trip...
To cap the night, a wonderful dinner of goulash, crèpes, roasted duck with red cabbage and salad. Tomorrow should be the day we reach the UKRAINE. The first time I will have set foot or bike into a (former) Soviet country. We don't know what to expect.
The Ukraine was a challenge to our bodies and minds. We met wonderfully friendly people, many however living in conditions that seemed hundreds of years behind the times, juxtaposed to building projects that were hedging on a prosperous future which seemed iconoclastic to the surroundings. One explanation is also a sad reminder of the ignominious nature of man to be a immoral opportunist; just minutes before the border we were boonwaggled twice by police on bogus driving violations (which we settled in cash of course) to the tune of €220! More than double of what we spent on food and lodging and gas for the two days. We would have gladly donated that to a laudable cause that would boost the infrastructure here, but unfortunately it only went into the pockets of corrupt officials. Unfortunately a scenario you see being played out everywhere there is such pitious poverty.
Day 9 will take us from BORSA to PIATRA NEAMT (also known as Kreuzburg an der Bistritz). The following day we will continue through a famous gorge to another of the formerly German named Romanian cities -SCHÄSSBURG - which is actually Sighisoara to the locals.
Day 10 from PIATRA NEAMT to SIGHISOARA will take us through the famous Bicaz Gorge (a chance to be "inside the mountain" as opposed to driving around and past it) then on to the region TRANSYLVANIA - literally "beyond the forest". Known in German speaking regions as SIEBENBÜRGEN, this remote region became internationally renouned as the fictional home of Count Dracula and the land of the vampires. It's remoteness, being snuggled in among the Carpathian mountains makes it a handy target for myths and legends, just as another region of Romania further south, WALLACHEI, is synonimous in German with "the end of the world".
Day 11 will take us through BRASOV - one of Romania's biggest cities with a beautiful old center - then on to the infamous castle in Bran which is purported to have been the model for Bram Stokers monumental tale of dracula We will sleep at the foot of the legendary mountain road TRANSFAGARASAN.
An eventful day that ended peacefully at the foot of the TRANSFAGARASAN which we will conquer tomorrow.
There are names of places in the world of motorcycling that conjure up wild emotions. These places are legendary. They are must-do's in one's life and a reason in-and-of itself to drive carefully enough to live to do the next one. And since we started planning this trip, everyone we mentioned Romania to uttered immediately this magical word: the TRANSFAGARASAN. Well today's the day we do it...
Day 13 we will allow ourselves a little break in the beautiful city of SIGHISOARA - also known as Schässburg - before mounting the "other" infamous TRANS ALPINA route heading south to the border of Serbia.
Day 14. A new dawn, and new horizons... The famous Trans Alpina route.
Not what we expected. Thickly wooded, gently rolling landscape. Not spectacularly mountainous like the Transfagarasan. But challenging at speeds around 70 kmh. We're met two nice Bavarians along the way on BMW's and had a coffee with them. Then a grim reminder of how quickly joy can turn to tragedy. A fatal accident along the way, between a motorcyclist and a local driver in a car made vivid that every moment is a gift and in an instant that can change dramatically. One needs a system for managing risk, and respect for the unexpected. This is also part of what taking on adventure is about.
Serbia was a completely unknown entity for us. We are curious and perhaps just a little bit anxious... having really only recent memories of conflict in this area in recent history. Point of entry: the famous IRON GATE. We don't know why "iron" but "gate" is clear... this is where the mighty Danube narrows to just 150 meters between soaring rocky cliffs.
Day 15 was a thrilling surprise. Great roads, no traffic, good weather and vast landscapes distantly reminiscent of north western Montana. Serbia is a treasure for the wandering spirit.
Day 16 - continuing in Serbia is a true reward for the initiative it took to undertake this adventure. Perhaps the most stunning riding of the trip! And vistas that are just not done justice in a photograph. But here a few impressions anyway.
Shortly after the town of Ivanjica our most harrowing moment of the trip transpired... Susanne missed a turn-off because I had placed myself too inconspicuously. A failed search and rescue effort ended in us taking separate routes to our destination for the night. It was nightfall before we re-connected in NOVA VAROŠ! What a relief. And then some searching to find our lodging... but in the end it all turned out.
On tour we are always a few days behind with processing the pictures. Look back in every now and then to see the latest fotos. And we are always thrilled to receive a comment on the Blog. Thanks.