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Old 10-10-2018, 02:17 PM   #1
glitch
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Default Balkans_2018...You Only Live Once!

Here it goes then...and I'm still lost for words and thoughts of how to make any sense at all of the last 3 weeks.

It's a jumble,
it's a mess...and a hell of a mess at that.

The contrasts are stark and raw!!

Filthily rich next to tear-jerkingly poor.
Audi A8s next to packs of boney stray dogs/pigs/goats/cats/chooks/ horses/ old men and women scouring the local tip, right at the main roads' edge....not even a rusty fencing wire in between.

Fights over life-prolonging scraps at the top of the rubbish heap.


Whole families huddled, jam-packed on the back of horse-drawn carriage on canvassed tyres on their way into the next town, covered in filthy blankets full of holes....with a brandnew concrete+ glass Office building as a backdrop.

The crumbling grandeur of neo-gothic, ex-communist Government Palaces of 1100+ rooms, the rendering sliding off in 10x15m sheets overnight around the back-walls.

The cable-TV guy with all his gear (and monitor!) in the front basket of the old, rusted pushie with its squared and wobbling wheels, leisurely cutting through all oncoming traffic at the wrong side of the road....waving at a young mum going the same way pushing her pram.

The perfectly smooth singlelaner band of tar snaking its way across the bare, alpine mountainsides of the Dormitor National Park, the skyline choked with incongruously shaped Montenegrin mountain peaks and deep, sheer valleys....or the blind lefthander ending in a subsided road section you can hide a cement truck in (not a SINGLE warning sign!!)....or the patch of old roadwork spanning the whole lane mid-corner, marked off by some loose, concrete curbing stones 6" high, laid in a square on top of the remaining asphalt around the gravelly patch.

"Working girls" all dolled up and painted, spruiking for business along lonely country roads....

Wrap the above into a single 30 second snapshot...
....and multiply by 3 solid weeks.

Then try to make ANY sense of ANY of it...

Those...and many, many more....are coming your way in words and pics.




Balkans...don't forget the Essentials!


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Old 10-10-2018, 02:57 PM   #2
glitch
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Default Re: Balkans_2018...You Only Live Once!

A couple of quick + dirties first...


General area:
The old Yugoslavia of Slovenia in the North (now full EU compliant incl. currency)
Croatia with that long, thin coastal strip past Dubrovnik to the Montenegrin border
(the narrow 5km coastal corridor at Neum is Bosnia's only sea-access)
Montenegro (now full EU compliant incl. currency).
Serbia (and Kosovo) and Macedonia further inland and south.
Romania, Albania and Bulgaria have been standalone ex-Iron Curtain countries long before the Balkans Wars of the 1990's...mostly last occupied during the Austro-Hungarian period 1870 to the end of WW1






The ~4500km base loop from/ to Bucharest.
The total includes daily loop/ side-trips.





Bucharest offered a one-stop flight ex-Melbourne with Qatar Air via Doha....with good 2-3hr. connections in the Gulf and only 4.5hrs from Doha to Bucharest.
Add the choice of 2 Bike-Hire places with BMW GS style bikes and it made for a perfect base.


The initial planning placed the main areas of interest at the Carpathian Mountains in Romania and along the Dalmation Coast/ Islands as well as the general Coastal Ranges
of Croatia/Montenegro and Albania.








The 3 weeks really should have been 5 or 6....just to cover those fairly small areas in the way it was intended.
I certainly got my time/distance calculations totally wrong planning a 250km/ day average.

Things simply take time...A LOT MORE TIME!
Roads are rough and highly intense to ride due to all the extra perils and surprises, border crossings can easily take an hour or more....lots of local traffic on often single-lane roads slow things down even more, as does the wandering livestock and endless strays of all sorts and shapes.

A 370km day with 2 border-crossings turned into an 12hr ride, at the end of which everyone was glad to finally slide off that damn seat.
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Old 10-10-2018, 03:23 PM   #3
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Default Re: Balkans_2018...You Only Live Once!

And as the question is always one of the first...
the flights were around A$1600 return (or thereabouts)
the bikes around the same again incl. all bits/extras/extra insurance etc
Accom/ eat/drink/fuel @ A$2.20+ per liter and the rest of it was organized via the group-pot and came to around A$1800 total per head for the 22 days total.

Add around A$500 for personal bits and bobs and the ledger closes at about A$ 5.5k for the 3 week jaunt.

Most expensive night were two luxury holiday-apartments on a Croatian Island for the 6 of us @ A$ 280 total (under A$50/ head).
Most other accom ran at about A$ 18-25 per head, mostly incl. some humongous breakfasts.

In general, the most expensive places were Montenegro and Croatia (in that order), with Albania and Romania leveling the scales at the low end.
Food mostly comes in huge portions, beer in half-liter mugs and local vino at around A$5-10 per liter (restaurant prices).

Ferries
were A$12-25 for man+machine each way (depending on distance).
The Lake Komani Ferry in Albania ( 3.5hr cruise) was ~A$45 (25Euro).

There's a great preference for cash, cards are often not accepted (even if the signs on the door say otherwise).
Using small denomination Euro-Cash as a general back-up currency proved a smart move.
ATM's are often hard to find as they are not attached to some bank-branch, but stand-alones at ferry or info kiosks around the tourist areas (check for tampered machines etc).

As usual, payment in Euro/ US$ is accepted, but change given in local currency.
All toll-roads/ freeways accepted Euro as well at the tollbooths.


Licenses, vehicle-docs and border crossings:

Any EU-registered vehicle needs the ORIGINAL registration-slip and the compulsory 3.party insurance documents (aka Green Card/ Carta Verde etc)
to be taken across borders. The Green Card HAS to be valid for the country entered into (which is up to the issuing insurer to list the covered countries on the document).
Additional or specific cover can be bought at many border stations....familiarize yourself thoroughly with which countries are covered/ not-covered before attempting
to cross a border. It could turn out a lengthy and expensive song+ dance otherwise. We watched a group of Germans crossing from Croatia into Bosnia and one of them
didn't have Bosnia endorsed on their Green Card.
An hour later the group of bikes was still milling about after paying 120Euro/ A$200 for their Bosnian insurance cover!

An international drivers license (IDP) is also HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!! (as Goodie found out!)

Not so much for the Rental-company, but for the local officials in case of any involvement in an accident/ traffic ticket or such.



Communications:
Turn to anyone below the age 35 for at least a working knowledge of English.... often the replies are fluent and way beyond adequate.
Many older Albanians speak some basic Italian...and many Above-50s will have at least a smattering of German (also being the key tourist-language).
Nearly all restaurant menus come in at least 3 languages (incl. English).


World/Euro/Balkans Travel SIM cards:
Decided on the Belgian-based http://www.tellinkroaming.com/ Travel-SIM for our mobile phone backup after reading extensive reviews and the Tellinkroaming offering worked exceptionally well
in all but a very, very few places. If their data component works as well as the phone part, this one is near unbeatable for universal usage.
Credits also carry over indefinitely without time-outs or top-ups to keep it alive.



For the Smartphoners:
MUST-HAVE APPS all around Europe (incl. the Balkans ) are
1) WhatsApp
2) Viber



WIFI:
Good and fast WiFi was available nearly anywhere, even in the more remote areas, most cafes, service stations, restaurants etc

GPS?
Hire one from the Bike-Rental guys for Euro10/ day...max-charge Euro80. This can include pre-loaded local or loop tours at a small extra charge.
Check with the rental firm.
Most of the Cyrillic names in Bulgaria/Macedonia/ Bosnia/ Northern Montenegro + Albania will be a major challenge on a GPS as well as the posted road-signs though...

....which sort of makes a half-decent set of maps essential.

The Pete-GPS...











So much for the base-info + intro...


Let's hit the Balkans


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Old 11-10-2018, 09:48 AM   #4
robbieb
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Default Re: Balkans_2018...You Only Live Once!

Quote:
Originally Posted by glitch View Post
Let's hit the Balkans


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Old 11-10-2018, 11:23 AM   #5
glitch
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Default Re: Balkans_2018...You Only Live Once!

Quote:
Originally Posted by robbieb View Post

Once I finally get that obnoxious and all-pervading Diesel-stink out of my system....The Balkans are Europe's Diesel-Cemetery

Every Diesel ever built since the 1920's belches its black poison all over the joint ... every dirty VW, Peugeot, Citroen, Fiat, Dacia (Renault), Russian stinker-trucks, old MANs and Merc Trucks and buses, every old European garbage truck and delivery van (near all of them with their original markings, liveries, signage in German, Dutch, French, where-ever they were first registered)...
...its incredible.

1.+2.gen Golfs and W123 Mercs from the 80'+90s are the new status symbol...never knew so many of them were ever built!

95% of all vehicles are Diesels of some sort and background....which makes an hour wait at a border-crossing a total knockout
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