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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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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Time to say goodbye

A wonderful time of motorbiking, exploring, suffering from heat, storytelling and good comradeship was about to end that morning at Khersaan river. Pawel and Beate need to get to the Turkish border soon and still have a good chunk of distance to cover. Safe travels and see you in Aachen.

We decided to head in direction of Shiraz but without leaving out the Lost Paradies and the beautiful Doroudzan lake. Lost Paradies is a poorly paved 2 kilomter pathway alongside a small creek, where Iranians spend their afternoon and evening. Trash everywhere, tents, noise, souvenir shops and motorbikes, also using this pathway are all over the place. Maybe it used to be a lost paradies, now there is nothing what reminds of paradies.

The camp spot instead totally blown us away. The dried out lake banks were a perfect off-road track and offered some unique and deserted spots for camping and swimming. We dipped into the water the second time that day and prepared the salad for dinner. Iranians obviously like company and so we got some neighbors after our tent was perfectly built up. For the chai in the morning and a funny extended typical „Iranian2German“ chat we happily tolerated it.

As we got a taste for remote places and the fact that getting stuck in city traffic at 37 degrees we avoided the metropolis since Tabriz. Shiraz should be an exception. It was always on our itinerary and after 15 consecutive days of riding we decided to take a two days break. But not before we haven’t seen Persepolis, the ancient palace of the Persian kings, 60 kilometers east of Shiraz. As always at such old monumental places: Impressive what people were able to build in the past without the technology we have nowadays. We limited our time here as the 42 degrees really made us suffer in our motorbike pants.

We preferred to get to Shiraz to hang out in the little and beautiful Boutique Hotel in the center of the city close to the Holy Shrine of Shah-e-Sherag. A must go for us as temporary neighbours. Feels odd as not muslim being in such a holy place for Iranians, but people didn’t feel really bothered. It had more the atmosphere of a big place to hang out together. Family and friends together in a perfectly illuminated „campus“ under Mohammed’s surveillance…

We didn’t really feel like doing anything the next day but the city seemed to be worth going out, despite the heat. Unfortunately – or fortunately, the city was more or less empty. It was Friday and we were forced to do nothing. For our purposes Shiraz gave us everything we needed but we’re sure that there’s more in this beautiful city.

The amenities of a hotel made us being unsuccessful in starting early to escape from the heat. Daniel spotted a curvy road eastbound but getting out of the city of Shiraz already cost us energy and loads of sweat. Frankly, we felt kinda proud how we maneuvered through city traffic. There are more or less no rules, but magically it works that nobody crashes and nobody is upset. We transformed to Iranians when it comes to traffic 😉 The heat was unbearable and even the mandatory watermelon break didn’t satisfy. Then we drove through fields of date palms and entered a road to an area obviously nobody goes to. The next three hours we didn’t see any car and exactly three people. Two of them after one hour of perfect asphalt and beautiful curves.

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A wooden barrier made us stop and we were sure to must go back the road we just came. One guy wore an uniform – apparently for a long time already and haven’t been brushing his teeth for even longer. Even though his smile wasn’t nice to look at, it kinda comforted us a bit. We don’t know what he and the other guy who obviously just handled the barrier, protected but we were happy that they let us pass. The beauty of the roads kept staying but our feeling of uncertainty in what kind of area we were in, too. All the villages we passed were abandoned. Some looked as if people still lived there the day before, some villages showed rotten and destroyed houses. As we reached a road with a „do not pass“ and several other Farsi signs, as only road shown by our GPS, we were happy that we found the third person who helped us find the new road to the city we wanted to go to. The day became longer and longer and short after the sunset we arrived at a hotel in Behbahan. That the temperatures reached 45 degrees that day wasn’t in our minds the entire day but 38 degrees after 11pm made us realizing it. The forecast didn’t say anything differently for the next day…

This next two days are pretty easy to summarize. Cover distance and drink, drink, drink. We never experienced 47 degrees before in our life.

Everything we touched that day was incredibly hot and the worries about men and machine grew every minute. We didn’t search for campsites or lakes (these are dried out anyway) but for hotels with aircon.
The forecast told us that Kermanshah supposed to have decent temperatures. The next destination was set and we tried something new in Kermanshah.

As you may have noticed we are heading in opposite direction of India now. Our GPS is still working properly but some issues made us reroute a bit and unfortunately we had to let go the final destination India. Though the webpage’s name isn’t 100 percent accurate anymore we have some other beautiful countries ahead of us.

Maybe our route reveals which country might be our next 😉

Heading further South in Iran

We started early in Quom just as we wanted to leave and as we knew we had to cover some distance. Driving out of the city and on to the highway direction South. Another advantage of starting early – it won’t be so hot so quickly. So we drove, the landscape got more deserted and dry, the heat increased. It was just straight forward, only thing kept us entertained were the many old Mercedes trucks in colourful appearance and the crazy driving, honking and thumbs up from the Iranians passing by or standing at the side of the road.

We were heading to a lake to relax outside and enjoy nature after our hotel night due to given – police – circumstances from the day before.

Our lunch break in the outskirts of Isfahan surprised us with excellent tasty kebab, fresh bread and for the first time in Iran real coffee.

We finalised the plan pinpointing a lake around Zayanderud dam. It is a holiday location for the city people of Isfahan and we were told that overnight camping is not possible in this protected and secured area… what a bummer. After our experience with these areas from the day before we weren’t 100% confident for the wild camping however drove around to find a spot and chatted with a few people and finally a younger guy assured us there are nice spots a bit up North at he lake. As he couldn’t explain the directions he told us to follow him, he will show us the spot. So glad we did… it was an incredible spot to set up camp!

The young guy even returned 2 hours later to check if everything was fine and we are good. What an effort and again showed the caring Iranian nature.

We enjoyed a good night of sleep, had a good breakfast with scrambled eggs, coffee, lavash and salad. Good start for the next stop down south. Again we were prepared to just cover distance and figured to go again to find a nice location for camping at a river between the mountains hoping for some water to get a dip and refresh.

Driving, driving, driving. Not much around, a few stops, a dip in a river under a bridge was the highlight – so refreshing!

Some smaller mountains finally appeared after all this paved straight highways and we arrived late afternoon around city of Fars. A smaller typical highway city:

We passed through to check the river bank and saw a few people at the river. As we didn’t eat yet and this smaller village didn’t have a shop or restaurant we went back to 20 minute again Fars city and had a very tasty dinner again, typically served on the ground.

Getting back to the river for spotting for a place to put up camp a car pulled up next to us and the usual chatting started. As we were talking one guy advised us to head up the river for a much nicer place to camp. We followed his advise and found again a fantastic quite option with the possibility to go for a swim. Only downside – mosquitos. Didn’t matter as some very kind and funny fisherman showed up, gave us some chai and lit up a bonfire. Nice atmosphere!

The next day it was time to say good bye to Beate and Pawel….