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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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…