Welcome to the second Balkan Tour of 2023. We have a small group of 6 riders joining us for the next 14 days to take an amazing adventure through 7 different countries many of which comprise the former Yugoslavia. Its is beautiful and sunny here in Zagreb and with what is looking like another Indian summer here in Europe it looks like we are going to have a real blast.
Good morning Zagreb! It's a glorious sunny day as we exit the underground garage and prepare to leave Zagreb and make our way towards Plitvice. After a quick run down the highway to start we turn off heading towards the Sovenian border we have our first little adventure. The road is closed so we make a quick detour only to find that closed at the end as well. OK so its up over the kerb, across the grass, into a garage froecourt and we are then on our way again. We head into the forest and small winding roads take us up into the small mountains here. The road surface is great and there is nobody around so we make great progress. As we near the top the new road stop, and we are on a gravel section, then on the other side we are onto the old road where the surface is much more "interesting". We have coffee in the sun and then make a quick photo stop at a neo-byzantine greek catholic church. From there it was a mix of villages and traffic until we reached out lunch stop in Slunj, which was very hot and very busy. Afyer a short walk around we decided to head straight to the hotel where we could freshen up and relax for a little before we headed off the the Plitvitce National Park. We had a nice walk around there and then returned to the Hotel for a few well deserved beers and dinner. It's been a great first day and there is lots more to come
Our second day of riding took us into the legendary Bosnia and Herzegovina. The light was right. Oriental yellowish light accompanied us all the way to Sarajevo. A few metres after the quiet border crossing, we could already marvel at the first minaratte. Pretty roads led through the green Unatal. Shortly after, the landscape turned into dry plateau with some spectacular views over the mountains. The Republic of Srpska was ahead of us.
After more than 250km in the morning, the lunch stop came at just the right time. And how beautiful was it here? As if we were eating in a small version of the Plitvice Lakes.
The afternoon held a few more winding passages in store, but the traffic also increased considerably. As did the temperature. Perfect for an ice cream? Correct. In Travnik we recovered once more before the last fast highway stage to Sarajevo. Happy and satisfied, we enjoyed our first cold drink before the shower. A successful arrival!
Today was a restday so we went out to see some of the sights of Sarajevo. First stop the Latin bridge and the location of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, leading to the start of World War 1 - a fairly significant location by anybodys history! From there we visit the eternal flame and we then meander through the streets of Sarajajevo takining in the sights as well as stopping for a bosnian coffee. Afterwards we wandered through to the Sebilj fountain where if you drink the water legend says you will return to Sarajevo one day. A wander through the bazaar where the coppersmiths are busy working and then lastly to visit the pseudo-moorish archtecture of the Town Hall. The afternoon was free to wander around some more, go shopping or just relax. Tonight we all meet up and go for a few drinks and dinner - tomorrow we are heading out again towards Kolasin.......
After the urban impressions and the immersion in the Bosnian culture, we continued today. A beautiful day lay ahead of us. Best weather, winding passages and unparalleled views. But let's take it one step at a time. First we had to get out of Sarajevo. Fortunately, that went quite quickly. The first coffee stop was without coffee. No electricity. So we continued. The border crossing to Montenegro was approaching. Here everything went quickly and smoothly. The roads were much better afterwards. Only the tunnel lighting was not. There was no tunnel lighting. Brilliant gorges and colourful water accompanied us until the lunch break.
In the afternoon, we were a bit more adventurous and drove through several small tunnels and narrow mountain alleys up to the Sedlo in Durmitor National Park. Full concentration was required. The Tara Gorge was a little cloudy, but this did not detract from its imposing beauty.
From here it was a few more hundred bends and we arrived relaxed in Kolaśin.
Wow! What a day! Today we really has Adventure with a capital "A"!!!!! The morning started off cool as we headed out of Kolasin and we made our way immediately into the mountains. Small roads but the surfaces not particularly great, but nonetheless we made our way to the top of Prevoj Tresnjevik. From there we headed into the wilderness and all of a sudden we are on gravel tracks, which then turn into some steep and rocky slippery descents - not exactly what we expected!! But we pushed on, even if slowly, and eventually made our way to Andrejevica, where we stop for a coffee and well deserved break. From there we are back on the tarmac and make our way upwards until we reach the Kosovo border, where we have to buy insurance. But the crossing is quick and we head on and then make a lunch stop. In the afternoon we have a shortish ride to Bajram Curri and from there we head up along the Valbona Valley. The road is quite slick, but there is no traffic and we really make good pace and have fun until the road eventually finishes. The skies are grey so we head back towards the hotel, just encountering a sprinling of rain on the way. Sebastian greets us with a boot beer and then it's smiles all round. It has been a long hard day but in the end one of the best of the tour so far.......
100km curves. That really says it all about our day today. It was a feast. Shortly after Bajram Curri, we started the wild mountain pass that would take us to the Kosovar border. What a dance. In between, we briefly enjoyed a curve-free coffee and then we were off again. At a mild 34° we had a lunch break with a view of the huge reservoir. Adriatic feelings came up. Now it was only a short border crossing and into lively Prizren. The afternoon was used for walks and cold drinks by the river. It was another excellent day!
As we head out of Prizren its another lovely sunny day, but early in the morning still nice and cool. It's a mix of roads as we head towards the North Macedonian border - roadworks, gravel, some new tarmac and some old slippery stuff. We are riding mostly small back roads through the forest and there is not so much traffic about even though its a saturday. We reach the border and cross over no problem, but the van has some paperwork issues and has to go to Skopje. We stop in Tetovo to look at the colourful mosque there and for a quick lunch break. Afterwards some quick toll roads then we are heading up for a loop around Lake Mavrovo. The roads here are much better and we can really have a bit of fun. Late afternoon comes and we have some highway to deal with, some of which is in terrible condition due to all the heavy truck usage. We eventually arrive in Ohrid and finish the day off with a well deserved cold beer on the terrace overlooking the lake.
We started the day with a bit of culture. After some rain overnight, the streets were still wet and so it made sense to go to the old town first. Here we could marvel at some orthodox churches and enjoy the Sunday peace and quiet. Shortly afterwards we drove over to Lake Prespa through the very beautiful national park to our first coffee stop. From here, small roads led through apple orchards.
We found a local lunch stop at now again hot 31° and enjoyed some barbecue specialities in the shade.
The afternoon took us first along country roads and finally, for lack of alternatives, along the highway to Skopje. We had arrived in the Orient. This was now more noticeable than ever before on our journey.
It rained overnight in Skopje and the forecast for the day is not good. Albert puts on his rain gear before we leave and acts as our talisman i.e. if he has it on it won't rain! We take the motorway out of Skopje to miss the morning traffic and after 20 minutes or so we are back riding along the country roads making our way to the Serbian border. Some of the roads are pretty much single tracks but after just over an hour we reach the small border crossing and head into Serbia. After a few kilometers we stop at an Orthodox Monastery to look around and take a quick coffee break. Afterwards we are back onto the country roads and they gradually improve and we have some great riding fun. We stop by Lake Vlasina for lunch and Albert can remove his raingear - no rain apart from a few drops and mission accomplshed After lunch we have more of the same - small back roads twisting their way through the forests, hardly any traffic and only interspersed with a few villages and it really is riding at its best. We head into Nis and celebrate our day in the bar - it really has been another awesome one......
A long day was ahead. Today we went to Belgrade, where the autumn colours of the forests were already noticeable. We got out of Niš quickly and were able to cover some distance in still pleasant temperatures. A relaxed swing to a café stop at a beautiful square with chestnut trees. Typical Serbian.
Then we continued north to the Danube. One part continued to the Iron Gate, the other one had lunch and refuelled.
In the afternoon, we passed the old fortress of Golubac and took the motorway into the rush hour of Belgrade. Skilfully, we didn't get lost and arrived at the hotel in one piece, where a vehicle lift transported our bikes to the secure cellar. adventure tour. The rooftop bar was very welcome and the food was excellent.
Well....today turned out to be a day of 2 halves.....or really 4 quarters! First thing this morning beautiful cloudless sunny day, about 19 degrees, perfect for riding. Motorway out of Belgrade, traffic....lots of traffic......roadworks.....more traffic....eventually we arrive at Petrovardin Fortress....nothing to write home about this mornings ride! Quick coffee break and we head off again, but soon we are in the Fruska Gora National Park and here we are back on what we like - small roads darting through the forest and no traffic. Lunchtime finds us at the Stari Podrum Vineyard where we have a leisurely lunch and some of us buy some wine to take home. After lunch a somewhat torturous ride through the Croatian countryside with not much to see except 50kmh speed limits in the countless towns and villages we pass through. Eventually we stop for coffee at Dakovo and the discussion is whether we stick to the normal route of take the quicker way to the hotel via autobahn. Eventually the normal route wins over and what a great decison the turned out to be! A day saver of great winding roads with nice new EU sponsored tarmac where we wind out the day blowing all the cobwebs away. Big smiles all round and still enough time for a quick beer beofre dinner
Today we started on time. It was still a bit fresh in the morning, but we were rewarded with beautiful morning light. We headed northwest along small roads between fields and vineyards. The first stop was the Lipizaner stud farm. Here we could see some of these beautiful animals. Another half hour later we came to a memorable place. The memorial of the Jasenovac concentration camp. With a slightly dampened mood, we drove on to lunch, where William was already waiting for us.
The afternoon still had some small roads along the Sava River and beautiful villages to offer. We also took a short walk around the Sisak weir. We then quickly made our way to Zagreb and all arrived safely and successfully. An impressive tour is coming to an end.
In the evening, we took a little trip down memory lane and were able to look back on the last 14 days.