Going different directions

Having left Rijeka we were both on our own ways. I was heading direction Italy and Daniel went further East.

My next destination was Arco close to Lago di Garda. To get there I had to pass through Slovenia and was surprised that cars had to cue for a couple of hours due to the border not being open and passport checks had to be done. Good thing with the motorbike I passed all the cars and was up front at the border quickly ready to keep going.

2 days of driving in the mountains ahead of me, visiting long known friends, having tasty pasta, the best homemade Steinpilzen-Risotto and a few good drinks. Italy is always worth a visit! The weather was still at its best and I was able to fully enjoy the many beautiful lakes, parks, huts and tiny roads in little villages and of course catching up with Alessio and his friends to hang out in Arco.

Chilling in the sun at the Refugio San Pedro surrounded by sheep, cows and goats, it was a beautiful moment to recap the many places we have been visiting during the last months of motorbiking and for making plans for the next trip! 😁

After two days and nights in Italy it was time to go to Munich to visit my good friend Ari and his family. Keen to not to pay any toll in Italy and Austria I picked a route without going on any highway which led me to take the old Brenner-route. The higher it got the colder it was. Actually freezing from time to time but the views were amazing. Beautiful curvy roads in nice towns, passing through Bolzano and the fascinating new Brenner highway always in sight, rushing through Austria and later some nice roads through the Bavarian countryside. I enjoyed this 8 hours drive to Munich a lot. Even more as finally I had been able to buy a fleece in Croatia which made me sit even more comfortable on my bike.

Being back in Germany and having arrived at my friends place I was happy that Ari wanted to go to some Persian restaurant. Another backflash to good times and tasty food in Iran 😁.

The next morning I went straight to the autobahn direction North. It was the longest distance I drove during the whole trip: 729km that day but as the sun was shining, the highway wasn’t that crowded I decided to keep going until Hamburg. After 135 days and a total of 21.215km driven on the motorbike without any issues I was back in Hamburg where it all began.

Last days of summer

We made it to Montenegro the next day. Driving in the mountains on perfect roads, passsing a few lakes and got some nice views, heading to the bay of Kotor – a place where nature did an excellent job placing mountains, villages, the sea and beautiful green nature all together in one place.

Even more as we were rewarded with a road to go down to the village with more than 25 tight turns and buena vistas all the way. We didn’t stay in town though but where going further North to spend the night on a camping ground and chill the next morning at the beach and go for a swim in the crystal clear sea in the bay.

We started around midday for the drive into Bosna i Hercegovina where we booked a night in a guesthouse in Mostar to visit the old town and the famous Stari Most bridge area – another site on the UNESCO list. We strolled through the city had a good lunch and enjoyed the relaxed athmosphere even though many of tourist groups where also visiting, the old town is really worth a visit. Our visit to a museum for recent history showed again of what kind of cruelty people are capable of.

Driving through the national park Plitvice and getting back to the EU we entered Croatia. Our last chance to go for a dip in the Mediterranean Sea this year. We reached a campground in Sibenik, close to all the islands ashore of Croatia’s coastline. The campground wasn’t that crowded but full of Germans and all the traditional campground rules all of sudden seem be harshly followed. Anyways a beautiful spot to stay for a night, in our case we decided to stay another night just to relax, go for a swim and enjoy the late summer days.

Following the coastline we were heading to Rijeka our last stop as a team as we had different destinations ahead of our stay in Rijeka. On the way it got darker and darker and a heavy storm showed up which made us have a break in a small town just to wait for the storm to get lighter. It was almost impossible to stay on the bike while being pushed from side to side. Not only us where having a break but every other biker passing by was just happy to find some shelter and enjoy some hot drink and food.

Staying in a nice Airbnb close to downtown we went for a stroll in the city for a bit and later for a couple of drinks. Next day was just to relax and hang out and have our last meal together, typical Croatian Mexican food! Pretty good actually.

Some shared stories and recalling some of the highlights from our trip later, it was time to part ways the next morning at least until we are back in Hamburg. We took it as a sign that for the first time during our trip we had to wait for a couple of hours to start driving as it was heavily raining in Rijeka. Around noon we were good to go.

4 months of intense travelling and many many adventures of all kinds are behind of us. What a fantastic experience. And surely there are still a few kilometers to cover until being back in Hamburg…

Balkans on the fly

How do we get from Greece to Germany by bike? We can tell you there are plenty of ways to get this managed. But what is our way? Poorly prepared as always ;), we decided to travel as many countries of the Balkan region as possible, without biking all day. Not to just scratch out the countries on the map but also to figure out which countries are worth to travel to again – by bike or by plane. And second, to learn about the differences of the countries which were united not long ago and still share culture, language and ethnicity across the borders. First stop, Albania. Albania shares the EU border to Greece and we didn’t really feel like leaving the EU. Nobody asked us to stop or show our passport to leave the EU. Just the procedure at the Albanian immigration was as we expected. They checked the passport and the motorbike papers and we were good to go. No stamp, no customs, no certainty if we supposed to check out of Greece. Who cares? Let’s discover Albania.

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The first riding section wasn’t that long but challenged us off-road already. We aimed for a place called Ksamil that was recommended by Theresa in Patras some days ago. Also the ferry over a small lake pulled by a winch was a start how we like it. The cashier on the boat reminded of some klischee Albanians we know from Germany and put a little smile on our faces. Waist bag, gelled hair, hoodie, shorts, tattoos, and chewing gum.

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Ksamil appeared to be a lovely small town based at a little bay with fine gravel and crystal clear water. The small stretch of beach was packed with umbrellas but still felt charming. The afternoon sun darkened our taint a bit and the dips into the water delivered the refreshments needed. Our credo to try local food in every country becomes a challenge when only one meal can be eaten a day. As we had a kitchen included in our apartment we already broke the rule. We craved for pasta and cooked a truckload of it. Albanian food – tomorrow…

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Made to stay longer we left Ksamil for a place called Vlora. The coastline of Albania indeed is touristic, but not in an Antalyan way. Cosy little hotels, guesthouses and restaurants create a beautiful intimate and hospitable scenery. Due to that fact the traffic doesn’t flow well and the short trip became longer and longer.

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Rewarded for all the Albanian drivers literally carrying their cars across the speed bumps, our little hotel/guesthouse showed perfect seaside location and a stretcher plus umbrella included.

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Maybe not typical Albanian food, but no way around seafood in this place. The calamari and the shrimps were worth every penny and compared to our budget so far it cost a lot of pennies. We had to teach ourselves in the history of the Balkans and figured out that being aware of the history doesn’t mean that we know how it really is today. Sure it’s peaceful, that’s the most important thing, but so many facts are still odd to us. In case of Macedonia, we learnt that we didn’t really visited Macedonia. Sure, we have a stamp in our passports, the night at lake Ohrid and the visit of the city of Struga were beautiful. Macedonia is very liberal when it comes to religion (compared to Turkey and Iran), very friendly when it comes to people and very beautiful, when it comes to nature. But also very confusing when it comes to ethnicity. The entire western part of Macedonia and also the capital Skopje is more or less Albanian. The flags with the black double-headed eagle on red background are everywhere and the people we talked to consider themselves as Albanians. Macedonians supposed to be found in the other parts of Macedonia which are unfortunately not on our route. Next time.

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Skopje showed sides of an modern vibrant capital with numerous fountains and statues but compared to other European capitals delivers sights for just a single day or two.


We don’t have to say that the weather is still perfect for us. It’s not as hot as in Iran or Turkey but still dry and warm and perfect for motorbiking. Though the first signs of fall are visible. Yellowish leafs on the trees and sometimes on the street show that the colder period is unstoppable. Apart from that small sections the roads are in good conditions and it almost doesn’t matter which route we plan in advance the tour usually rocks. It’s no surprise that we meet more and more bikers every day from northern and middle European countries.

If we haven’t had to make some progress on the way to Germany we would have toured a bit more but in that case Kosovo was just a transit without an overnight stay. We double-checked that the border we want to cross to Montenegro is open and German speaking Murat from a Café in Peja reassured that we can take this road to a place that is an alpine ski village in winter and cross to Montenegro there. Perfect road up there but surprisingly offroadish on the last kilometer before the border. For a car hard to pass. And then the border appeared…

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We thought we are not supposed to cross here. On the other hand there is a small gap, wide enough for both of our bikes and perfect road on Montenegro side. And then? What happens when we will be leaving Montenegro? Next border is 80 kilometers away and we had to stay overnight somewhere. Sanity won and we camped in the parking lot of a hotel as they were fully booked. Kosovarian food actually. Skanderbeg is a hero in several countries of the Balkans. In the 15th century he defended parts of his homeland against the Osmans and this meal is named after him. Cheese defended by meat, defended by deep fried dough in one roll – delicious.

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After breakfast we were ready for border crossing. The Kosovo border came quickly, but for the Montenegro immigration we waited almost 10 kilometers of beautiful curves and Austrian-like fauna up there. Afterwards we found out that there is still contention about the territory around the border. Maybe a reason for the planned crossing point that never opened we didn’t cross a day before. So Montenegro was next on our agenda…

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Kalimera! 🇬🇷

Taking the ferry to Piräus in Greece we were able to get a bit of sleep placing our iso mat on the ground between the seats on the big ferry. It worked quite ok. Waking up around 6 in the morning hoping for our bikes were still upright in the deck as we didn’t get to tow them but the ferry guys promised they would. They did well and we were good to go, heading straight to the first coffee shop and to the landmark and UNESCO world heritage site of the Akropolis. We parked the bikes right in front of the stairs leading up the hill. That’s another fun fact, traveling with motorbikes: there is always a parking spot right in front of everything for you 😀

We were one of the first people on top before all the tourist busses arrived. Witnessing the huge line on front of the ticket office when we were coming down around 8:30am one can only imagine how crowded it would be later that day.

Starting to drive west bound, we had our next stop planned in Olimpia the ancient city and another UNESCO world heritage site in Greece. We went for a hotel and a good sleep after the long but stunning ride straight through the most western of the Greek main islands and the rather short night on the boat. Beautiful windy roads passing through little cosy villages and very rarely a car has been seen. So nice and now we realised so green nature and agriculture everywhere.

During our lunch break we met two other bikers, Spyros and Nikos with their Hondas who gave us valuable tips for riding the motorbike in Greece and showed us nice routes. Always good to meet local people and inside hints. Was great chatting with these dudes and further they told us there are good shops for servicing our bikes in Patra as we urgently need to get the oil changed.

Visiting Olimpia and the museums around was the first thing to do the next morning and of course we had to do some exercises in the one and only Olimpic stadium.

Around midday we left and drove off, again via beautiful roads and a few off-road adventures to Patras, found the garage of drag-bike who immediately got the right oil for our bikes and did the change too. Thanks lads!

Perfectly set we drove off to spent the night at a camp spot near the bridge connecting to the Greek mainland. A beer at the beach and a dip in the sea, first rain during our trip with heavy thunderstorms in the evening, meeting two other well traveled bikers and sharing some stories at dinner later, summarises the rest of the evening.

Another swim in the sea in the morning, another great ride through Greece (we have to say, it doesn’t matter where you drive the motorbike in Greece, it is always fantastic – we will be back some day) to Kanali, passing a few stunning lakes in the mountains, another campground, another Tavern, a huge turtle in the sea and again typical Greek dishes in the evening. So tasty.

The next day our Greek adventure was about to expire as the border crossing to Albania was due. We made it fairly smooth and chilled to the 16th country during our trip.

Follow our route here.

Cappadocia laid back

Alive and not shot by a pheasant hunter at night we started early for one of Turkey’s most famous sights. The fairy chimneys supposed to be magical and turned our to really be stunning. Not only that these softly shaped stone formations and caves indeed look like from a fairy tale, these attraction is exactly how we like sightseeing. Sure, tourists everywhere but the chance for us to enjoy everything without lining up, obstacle running through sluggish Brits, posing Italians or photographing Japanese or without being asked by a „take-a-picture-with-a-parrot-on-your-shoulder“ guy. Sure we could have gone into a museum but honestly, these pictures show everything.

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The ride away from this area was also brilliant. The highlight on our way to Konya was our mandatory watermelon-break. This time we switched to a honey melon and it was worth it. We’ll miss that so badly, even though we don’t know how long we can keep this tradition alive. Food, laundry and a stroll over the bazaar of Konya.

We didn’t do much as we just looked forward to what we had planned next. After 30 consecutive nights in 30 different places we just wanted to park the bikes for 2 nights and come down. Alanya seemed to be a good place for that. Direct way over a beautiful mountain road the Mediterranean Sea appeared ahead of us. Our plan to walk in to any random hotel and get a room for three nights didn’t work out that well. On the paper already in low season we didn’t expect to get only one room for one night in the fifth hotel we asked. At least our Russian skills helped us when talking to the hotel staff and guests as they were almost entirely Russians. Already after dinner we stated that we couldn’t stand such all inclusive hotels for longer than a day our two. Not our style of vacation. Lessons learned. We booked a more cosy hotel for two nights in 130 kilometers away Antalya in advance but had to move the bikes again the next day. It would have been a short trip, if we haven’t met Arif. A 55 years old Turk on his brand new Honda African Twin. He used to ride Daniel’s Super Tenere for 26 years and over 500.000 kilometers. The mileage of Daniel’s bike is 47.000 kilometers. We could easily extends our trip – or better our bikes could 😉

The two days really gave us what we needed. Beach and pool time and some beers more than the one we usually just have maximum an evening.

And surely enough time to think about the route out of Turkey. Afraid of rain or the weather getting worse we decided to stay in the south as long as possible and take the ferry to Greece. Luckily the direct way to Cesme let us pass Pamukkale, an astonishing formation of pools caved into white limestone that really looks like snow covered hills from certain points of view. Unfortunately we weren’t able to avoid the Japanese, Italians, Brits, Germans, Turks, Americans, French, etc.

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One last stop overnight before taking the ferry was on a wonderful campground near Selçuk. A randomly chosen spot revealed to have a beautiful castle, several old buildings and also hosted a „music and dance festival“ that night. The two stages even let us hear every single word and tone one kilometer away on the camp ground. Unfortunately the muezzin of the nearby mosque didn’t visit the festival and created a hideous mix of sounds with his prayer.

The further we travelled west, the greener the environment became and the several bays along the cost to Cesme were tempting to stay longer. But maybe Greece also offers such opportunities to us. Ferry tickets booked and the return to the European Union was sealed. Exiting Turkey here was equally confusing than exiting Iran but finally the small ferry took us and the bikes to Chios where we transferred to a huge overnight ferry to Piräus.

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Merhaba Turkey 🇹🇷

The bordercrossing from Iran into Turkey was quite easy. Many people but no big hussle and super welcoming border police guys who pointed us the way. We didn’t even need to buy the obligatory insurance for our bikes, as nobody asked for it, we let it go. Driving for around 20 minutes in Turkey we got stopped by heavily armed men. We weren’t sure what’s going on but a few words later and checking our passports we were good to go. No worries this time and we drove direction to the city of Van in the Turkish part of Kurdistan.

Nice riding on very good roads lead us to a cosy city. We were going to look for a hotel after we stopped, again a police guy on a motorbike approached us. Again we didn’t know what to expect. Super friendly he greeted us and told us to wait. Wait? For what? His friend „Rambo“ – also a cop on motorbike arrived, small talk and suddenly we got a police escort to the hotel the cops had picked for us. It was fully booked, so they escorted us with sirenes on to the next hotel… super service, super nice!

The evening in Van we decided to chill out and to go for some different food after all these tasty kebabs in Iran. We found both and our first beer since 21 days too, as in Iran alcohol is forbidden.

The next morning, after a good night of sleep we went to get Daniels luggage holder fixed which was loose after all these off road adventures. A local smith fixed it for him – handmade. And didn’t even wanted a penny for his work. Daniel is still super satisfied with the work, much more stability!

We stayed for a bit of chatting and chai. Around noon we took off for some extremely nice riding on and off roads in the mountains. We decided to take this route to stay as far as possible away from potential danger on roads in the South due to the war in Syria. So far every village and city has had heavily armed outposts and checkpoints which we passed most of the times without being checked. Most of the times…

Daniel planend the route this day which included a 60km off road track. By far our most difficult but also most exciting track so far. Up and down, sand, stones, tiny ways and incredible views. We figured that not too many people drove this way yet.

It took us more than 2 hours to cover these 60km and we were glad to see some paved road again. Sweeting, a bit tired we went to find a place to pit up our tent. Only 2 minutes driving on road again an armed outpost appeared. A soldier and a few other guys came to us with strong looks at their faces. Needing a break anyways we explained we dont understand them but we are German tourists and come in peace to rest. It calmed down a bit and the soldiers offered chai to us and asked us to sit with them. Munition and firearms everywhere around us and the boss of the guys on the phone. A few moments later we were asked for our passports, no problem. The boss took pictures of them and sent them to what they called „Gendarmes“. Telephone calls, busy talking on the phone, another chai, another call, we wanted to leave but they wouldn’t let us go, why is that? As it started to get dark and we didn’t know how the roads would be we were getting a bit nervous but been told to sit down and wait. Wait? For what? More calls, grim looks, on the other hand nice talking and with the help of google translate some kind of conversation telling them we just want to go to the city of Siirt to a hotel now. Another call and a Gendarme who spoke English. We explained the situation and what we are doing here, which obviously led everyone to relax. After one hour we gave everyone the hand and were finally „released“. All 10 soldiers who had gathered by now saluted us when we drove off. In the end another funny story, during the whole event a bit strange not to be free to go and again not knowing why.

We arrived in Siirt safely, checked in to the hotel Erdef, recommended by a group of seniors we met during our stop for refuelling, went for nice kebab and wanted to start early the next morning to Elazig, to go camping at a lake. However just right after we switched on the bikes Jendrik discovered a puncture in the rear tyre of his BMW. Good thing was, that Daniel went this morning already to buy some grease for the chains of the bikes at a local motorbike shop so we knew already where to go to fix the tyre conveniently. The guys, Ramzi and his father immediately started to dismount the tyre and fixed it, telling us to relax as we are their guest. This kindness and hospitality accompanied us through all Turkey. Thanks again! We stayed for a while, had another chai and chatted with them about many things. Our plan to start early had vanished but we were another wonderful human encounter richer. When Jendrik wanted to pay, no chance, they wouldn’t except any money from us but Ramzi has a Germany jersey now for his son!

We followed our plan and still drove the more than 450km that day mostly through the mountains to find this beautiful camp spot at Lake Hazar Gölü where we went for a dip as well…

We covered a lot of distance every 24 hours. The next day brought us to the Sultansazligi national park near Devili. Another 400km driving on good roads, some mountains and a bit of off road passing through Elbistan – as people from Hamburg we just had to have a look here.

We stopped for dinner in the city of Develi, had a Döner and later drove into the national park to set up camp. We never expected to meet someone here but all of a sudden a motorbike crossed our path, wondering what we were doing here. Well, we tried to explain we were looking for a quite spot to camp but he didn’t understand and insisted that we follow him back to the lake we had seen before. We followed and finally found this sport in the nature. Nobody around only a snake and a guy with a gun, trying to shoot some ducks. After a salad, super fresh bred we bought in Devili and a few gun shots later we went to bed.

4 days of all kind of beautiful and exciting motorbiking where behind us. Good food and meeting only super friendly and welcoming people.

Very good start for us in Turkey!

Wrestling in Kurdistan

Leaving Dezful also meant leaving the heat literally with every kilometer we drove towards Kermanshah. Not that we haven’t had the chance to stay overnight at the house of one of the friendly Iranians in almost every city, but this couldn’t be scheduled in advance. To take the chance to experience an Iranian home we used Couchsurfing. A website where people can offer their couch (in this case the carpet) or request anyone’s couch to surf (sleep) on. This usually exceeds the „service“ of just sleeping, we really took part of the hosts life. That is totally up to the host and as it’s free, nothing is a must – just the honesty and integrity of the guests. Hadi accepted or request within minutes a day before our arrival and we got the whole package. The urge to show his country from the best side possible and maybe also a small protest against what happens in his country, drives Hadi to host people over and over again. Most Iranians we have met do not agree with the government’s work and maybe these kind of contacts are a short but also a short-term way out of it. Hadi is a hard working shop owner, but we know that we should take him as an example to also show more hospitality to people visiting Germany. He and his brother showed us around in Kermanshah with insight to places we never would have access to if we were on our owns.

Have you ever heard of Varzeš-e pahlavāni. A very traditional workout that has been performed in Iran way before the Islam was present. It’s a combination of physical workout and prayers. Kermanshah is a traditional center and we visited a Zokhaneh, this is Persian and means Powerhouse.

 

The huge stone carving monuments and supper until way after midnight will be unforgettable.

 

Also unforgettable is the fact that Modern Talking is still a big thing in Iran, even for the young generation. This one was a chartbreaker not long ago (click on the picture).

We can’t say how happy we are and what Hadi had given us. Thanks again.

There was only one thing to do. Since we arrived in Iran we saw people with very comfortable wide pants and figured out that these are Kurdish pants. Our mission was clear. Get these pants somewhere. Again Hadi told us where to get it. So Javanrud was the next stop. Already late we arrived in Javanrud and we saw many many Kurdish pants. But not for sale. Worn by many Kurds who honestly annoyed us for the first time. Their approach was different to what we experienced so far and that bothered us. They weren’t not just interested they were kind of pushy. They made us escaping from the inner city to find a place for our tent on one of the camping spots in the periphery of Javanrud. No pants and no interest to get back to this town to find some.

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On that day we got the news that an earthquake 30 kilometers south of Javanrud cost 3 people their lifes and more than 300 were injured. And we were a little bit worried of the proximity to the Iraq border and lucky not getting into this catastrophe. Instead we had a wonderful view to „the other side“ from the Iranian mountains at 2600 meters altitude. Later we reached our goal for the day. Merivan. Afraid of what could happen in Merivan after the „Javanrud affair“ when stopping for some groceries turned out to get us our Kurdish pants. We’ve chosen our textile, walked to the sewer, who took some measurements and were told to pick it up at 7 pm. Easy 🙂 img-20180923-wa0019214372187.jpgIn the meantime we set up our tent in a location that was quite busy in the afternoon. Iranian families had picnic and get togethers in the park around. Away for 1,5 hours the scene had completely changed. Traffic chaos, parked cars everywhere – LED’s and music entering the scene. No joke, it was a party until 4 o’clock in the morning. Thank god we have earplugs. That guaranteed an early start though. Along the Iraq border the beautifully shaped roads took is out of the mountains in direction of Urmia, a big city at the equally named lake. Home to pelicans and flamingos. It used to be such a paradies as the lake is entirely dried out due to climate change or the unusually long drought this year. Daniel thought it might be a good idea to drive a bit into the waterless lake for a nice picture. It wasn’t that dry…

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Urmia isn’t worth to be mentioned as we just stayed in the hotel. Only thing to say. We craved for a burger and good fries after all the rice and kebab and fortunately we’ve been rewarded – in a Café. 20 year old Mohammed from Munich translated 🙂

Now we were ready for the border crossing to Turkey. A country we heard a lot about and we could easily spend 3 month in. But also a country which is in war with Syria which is also not far away from where we are. Actually Pawel and Beate advised us not to cross the border at Yüksekova, as they felt like in the middle of a battlefield. We listened to them and crossed further north. Smart as we are we filled up our tanks with the cheap benzin from Iran. Smart as the Iranians are they charge an oil fee at the border for what is remaining in the tank. We paid 6 dollars each, still cheaper as in Turkey, but not exactly as we planned…this fact cost us 1 hour and confusion but finally we made it to Turkey

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