* * * * * * Summer 2011 Trip Report * * * * * *
(--The Biffer tackles Stelvio, Timmelsjoch and a few more--)
For those of you who anticipate reading a great travelling adventure, in exotic countries, this years trip report will be disappointing. We (me, my wife as pillion and of course the “mighty” CBF) had a great time, but there was nothing adventurous this year. We rode in 6 countries, all very much “civilized”. The bike was superb.
Before actually starting this trip report, I must write that after returning from this years trip, the bike has more than 151000kms. This year the bike had a fresh set of Bridgestone tires (BT023s). I was quite curious how they would wear under load especially in comparison to the Michelins I had on the bike on previous years.
Last year, returning from Scandinavia, the dual compound Michelins were deteriorating in quite an unusual manner. Quite a lot of wear on the sides, but plenty of groove in the middle. I had started a topic regarding this issue and a lot of members (and thank you for that) did actually talk to Michelin UK distributors, who proposed that with load maybe using 10% more psi on the rear would make things better.
This year I bought a set of BT023s (plainly because they were cheaper) which is also dual compound so I decide to inflate them to 46-47psi (instead of the 42psi). So I was quite curious how they would behave and what kind of wear they’d show.
Now let’s get back to the main course.
I started riding abroad at 2006 when I bought the bike. Those years, our usual route was to start around midnight and ride from home to the Greek-FYROM border some 5 hours away. We’d pass through FYROM (that took normally around 2 hours) and then we’d reach the FYROM-Kosovo border crossing. Around noon we were at the Kosovo-Montenegro border crossing and from there through the (fabulous) Tara gorge down to Podgorica (the capital of Montenegro). From there we normally entered Bosnia for a few kms and we’d reach Cavtat or Dubrovnik late in the evening.
That was around 16-18 hours riding time with only stops for fuel and a couple of coffees. It also involved a lot of border crossing.
This year I had made ferry ticket reservations from Greece (Patras) to Italy (Venice) on a nice cabin with sea view so this initial part was like a walk in the park. From Venice our first stop was Rovinj (in the Istria province) in Croatia some 270kms away from Venice.
July 17 and we are on our way to Patras, the port from which we’d take the ferry. The only problem was the heat, 39C, and dressed with motorcycle leathers it was a bit annoying.
The ferry was a couple of hours late but eventually we boarded and went to our cabin. This was the 2nd year we took the ferry to Italy. From 2006-2010 we drove through the Balkan states. 2010 we took the ferry from Greece to Ancona.
This cabin, to be honest was so much better than the one we had last year (and which was supposedly with the same rating), Double bed, Fridge (with two sealed cold bottles of water inside), Led TV, a small table with a couple of chairs. That was a nice surprise (it was well worth the 452€ I had paid – 452€ including the return tickets double bed cabin with sea view and the bike). The other nice “gadget” was that on a certain tv channel you could see the actual position (and travelling data) of the ship on google maps. “Cool”
The point is that the trip to Venice was more like a cruise and nothing “special” compared to previous years.
It was really nice, and we enjoyed it a lot. Early in the morning of the 19th of July we reached Venice. My wife had visited Venice and had spent a few days there when she was younger. It was the first time for me.
It was amazing!!!!
The ship coasts slowly in front of the city, so you are quite high and you can see the canals and the city as you pass slowly by. It was truly awesome. I must admit I was overwhelmed by the view. Apart from anything else, it’s worth taking the ferry to Venice just to see this magnificent view as the ship passes so close to shore.
The ship had the “customary” 1.5hours delay to reach the port but this time noone cared. The view was so beautiful I wouldn’t mind staying another couple of days (LOL) on board.
Accodring to my Qstarz GPS logger from the port of Patras to Venice the ferry had covered 1250kms and it’s average speed was 40km/h.
We disembarked and took the Autostrada towards Croatia. We had decide to enter Croatia not at the usual (normal) border crossing near Koper , but instead to ride to the border crossing near Buzet. This is generally a good idea if you want to visit Croatia mid summer. Usually near Koper there are HUGE traffic jams, which is quite normal if you take in account the number of tourists passing from Slovenia to Croatia.
Near Buzet, there is a small border crossing which is mainly used by locals so no congestion there. Add to that, that we’d ride on small roads with minimal traffic through the beautiful Croatian countryside. It was a fast and beautiful ride to Buzet.
I’d like to open a small parenthesis here. This year we were not planning to visit any non EU countries, and since our passports had “expired” in June we didn’t renew them (as it costs 180 euro to renew the passport without including the cost of the photos). We had called the Croatian(which is not EU yet) embassy in Greece and we were told that valid ID cards were ok for Croatia. We already new, that our ID cards were supposed to be valid in EU countries. A few years ago we had all replaced our national ID cards with new ones (of course paying extra money) EU official ones.
All these years, travelling through FYROM, Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Croatia, Kosovo, Slovenia e.t.c. we have never had any problem on border crossings. Normally we didn’t even have to take the helmets off.
This time we reached the Slovenian part of the border crossing, and amazingly the Slovenian officer asks for passports. This is quite unusual, I’d expect the Croatians to examine the papers to enter the country and not the Slovenians to examine the papers while exiting. Anyway, I hand her the ID cards and she goes ballistic. It’s obvious she has never seen a Greek ID card, and she really doesn’t know what to do about it. She muffles a couple of “what’s this?” along with “What do you expect from Greeks”. This was a sign of things to come. By the end of our trip it had become quite obvious that many Europeans were not very fond of Greeks.
I tried to tell her that it was an official document and that her government should have given her a demo photocopy of all EU official id cards so that she could check what she should check. But of course she knew that. She had to let us out of the country, so after a few more “Greeks bliahhhh” she let us pass. And of course as there are always two side of a coin, our stupid government could have just copied the German or French id card pattern, so that all Europeans could have something similar and thus help people working in border crossings.
The funny part is that a few days later we passed once more from the same border crossing and she was once more the one to check us, but this time she was obviously in a better mood” she recognized us and we all laughed and she let us pass without even looking at the Id cards.
After the small incident on the Slovenian part, I was afraid we’d have the same on the Croatian side, but we didn’t have any problems there, they looked ( a bit baffled ) at the id cards but and waved us to ride on.
We were soon in Rovinj. Rovinj is a very beautiful place. It can be a bit crowded by tourists during the summer period but is one of the most beautiful towns in Croatia.
The old town is a great place to wonder around, up the hill to the Church of St. Euphemia the place to be to witness a magnificent sunset.
I am not an expert in photography so I cannot explain why Rovinj is one of the most photogenic places I have ever visited. Even with the simplest camera the photos are superb. I don’t’ know if it’s the orientation of the city, or the directions of the clouds but the fact is that you just can’t take a “bad” photo of Rovinj.
If a relatively cheap automatic camera can take these pictures, just imagine what a professional photographer with a good camera could do.
What impresses me (as a Greek – probably what I write seems nonsense to you), in countries like Slovenia or Croatia is how “user friendly” they are.
In Greece even the simplest everyday choirs can become a difficult task.
Let’s say, for example, you are trying to reach the other side of the street, on a main street inside a town. This can be a nightmare especially for old or handicapped people, but it’s even quite dangerous for everyone. There are pedestrian crossings, but they don’t mean anything to most drivers. You could be waiting for hours in front of one and none will stop. Ramps for handicapped people are always taken over by parked cars and motorcycles.
These just don’t apply in Croatia. You reach the pedestrian crossing and it’s sure that someone will stop immediately. For us Greeks it’s something we’d expect to see in Germany or Austria but seeing it in Croatia is something that makes me sad for my country.
Things are so much simpler. Going to the grocery shop, or just walking around, any time of day or night is completely safe. I parked the bike on the street for a long time with no extra lock. I wouldn’t dare do that in Athens (or even smaller towns).
And of course everything is so much cheaper than Greece. The Croatian currency is the kuna. (1€=7.5kn).
A cappuccino (for example) is up to 10kn (max), which is the equivalent of 1.4€, while in Greece we’re talking about 3.5€ to even up to 6€ depending on the place.
My wife has teeth braces (I hope I’m writing it correctly), and she encountered a small problem with them. She went to the local hospital, she closed an appointment and she had the problem fixed. There she learned that up to 18years old all Croatians have any orthodontic treatment for free.
In Greece no public hospital provides orthodontic treatment, so you have to go to a private clinic and the cost is from 2-5 thousand euros depending on the treatment. You’d be lucky if your health insurance would cover 500-1000euros of this cost.
How do they manage? Why have they achieved this and we cannot? It’s sad, truly sad.
Anyway, we stayed in Rovinj for a few weeks, we walked, did a lot of sea swimming, drunk a lot of beer and we enjoyed it.
Right beside the town, there is a park (Zlatni Rt. Forest Park), it’s only for pedestrian and cyclists, and it’s huge. You can walk for hours beside the sea, it’s amazing. The beaches are rocky,
The weather is quite cooler than an average Greek summer. At 25-27C, with a few showers it’s a lot cooler than Greece where in most places it doesn’t rain for months during the summer and the temperatures are over 31-32C all the time. I know 31-32C seem nice to you, but it’s really not nice to have these temperatures day after day after day for more than 2 months.
One of these rainy days we took the bike to visit the islands of Cres and Losinj. There is a ferry from Brestova (in Istria) to the island of Cres.
There is a ferry every 1.5hour and the cost is 74kn (10€) for a 20 minute ferry trip to Porozina (island Cres).
The islands of Cres and Losinj are very close to one another so to pass from Cres to Losinj there is a small bridge. The road from Porozina to Veli Losinj which is at the other end is at parts very narrow and bumpy with a lot of traffic, but the view is amazing.
The islands were very beautiful. There a lot of trails that lead to beautiful beaches and places. Lake Vrana on the island of Cres is one of the deepest fresh water lakes in Eastern Europe, with a maximum depth of 75m. Of course there is a local myth that explains this geological paradox. For more info http://www.island-cres.net
We took the road all the way down to Veli Losinj. We parked and walked around a bit. Magnificent!!
At the end of the day we were back to Rovinj. We stayed a few more days in Rovinj. We weren’t sure what our next goal would be. I wanted to visit Scandinavia again, but it really didn’t make sense. Too much money for fuel, I’d have to change the chain on the way down along with a rear tyre, so we’d have to be on a tight budget. But then again it would be adventurous and I liked the idea.
* . * . * Part 2 * . * . *
Anyway we decided to head up to the Grossglockner stay there a few days and we’d see from there. So after a lot of days of laziness in Rovinj, we loaded the bike and we took the way up to Austria, again through Buzet.
In Croatia we had noticed that most German tourists that lived on rooms and studios in the same building were not so friendly when they learned that we were Greeks. In most cases they’d just ignore us, but on one occasion I had a German woman swearing at us, while passing by on the way to her room (obviously not knowing that I also speak a few German).
Anyway I hadn’t given it a second thought at that moment but things would clear a lot during days to come.
Usually riding north, I choose the Karavankel tunnel to enter Austria, so this time I decided to take the Wurtzen Pass. It would be the second time, but the first time it was at 2 in the morning 4-5 years ago returning from Austria and heading to Dubrovnik. It was cold, windy, foggy and wild. So I was curious what it looked like at daytime.
We filled up near the Karavankel tunnel (fuel price in Slovenia 1.27€/lt, cheaper than this in Austria) and a few kilometers down the road we started ascending. It was a narrow road with up to 18% gradient, through a beautiful pine forest. There was very little traffic, as most traffic goes through the tunnel, and we enjoyed it. It would be well worth stopping and visiting the Bunker museum. I saw the parked cars and the sign but I didn’t know what it was. Now that I am writing this report, after googling around a bit, I think it’s a pity we didn’t stop to visit it.
I copy from the museums web site :
A Top-Secret Facility for Decades – Now Open for Everyone!
Cold War between East and West: Austria installs a secret network of Bunkers, field fortifications and barrages. They are meant to save the small and neutral Alpine Republic from attacks and marching throughs.
It was also on the Wurzenpass in Carinthia that decade-long and intensive war preparations were taking place – for the protection of the Austrian state border and the defense of the military key area of Arnoldstein/Villach. In 1968 (Prague Spring) and 1991 (Civil War in Yugoslavia) the Austrian Armed Forces were put on alert and soldiers occupied their positions ….
The “Bunker Museum Wurzenpass/Carinthia” offers for the first time the possibility to get an impression of those original bunkers prepared during the Cold War. This is the place where you can have a look at a comprehensive documentation and exhibition dealing with the – until now – secret and unknown history of the Austrian Field Fortifications and their “Barrage Troops” (1955-2005).
Set off for an impressive recce tour in our large, fenced-in museum area of more than 11,000 m2 where you can discover, across a spacious trench system, the bunker station itself, fitted with:
• two bunkered 105 mm Centurion tank turrets (including camouflage huts and dummy positions)
• an antiaircraft position with a cal .50 heavy machine gun
• covered fighting positions and communications trenches
• command and control as well as supply compartments
• fortified positions with overhead cover
Constructed between 1963 and 1995, this – until 2002 fully operational – fortification, fitted with original equipment, produces a particular effect on its own. Audio-visual media, posters and additional assets convey information and impressions in a very specific way.
You can also see, among others, four formerly bunkered tank turrets and their main guns (M24, T34, M47 and Charioteer), various types of anti-personnel and anti-vehicle obstacles as well as a patrol boat of the “Danube Barrage Regiment”. This part of the exhibition will be enlarged.
For more info www.bunkermuseum.at
Once in Austria we took the road to the Grossglockner high alp road. It’s a toll road and the tolls were significantly raised from last year. The road is open only a few months during the year. The highest point is the Hochtor tunnel (2504m) but with a small deviation (from the main road that leads to Fusch) you can ride up to the bikers point (2571m). From there you can see more than 30 peaks that are higher than 3000m. The view is amazing.
This is probably my favorite mountain route. The tolls are expensive (35€ for 30 days or 19€ for 1 pass) but the road is “magic”. The scenery amazing, the small museums on the side of the road very nice and the bends full of pleasure…….
For more info on the road http://www.grossglockner.at
We did our customary stop up on the bikers point and the Edelweisspitze hut, which had fresh snow (August 10 !!) to catch a bite. http://www.edelweissspitze.at/
A few kms down the road and near the Ferleiten toll station, is the village “Fusch an der Grossglockner” and the guesthouse “Pension Andrea”. Last year the CBF had burnt the stator here and they had helped me a lot. It’s the 4rth time we stay at this guesthouse, and the service they provide is always superb. www.alpenchalet.at It’s always nice seeing people you know, we were very happy to see the owners.
Next day, after a great breakfast we took the bike up the Grossglockner road. We rode up to the Franz Josefs Hohe and it was crowded with tourists. The weather was superb and the parking lot was full of bikes and cars. To be honest everything up there is a bit overrated in terms of prices, the souvenir shop, the cafeteria and the restaurant are a bit expensive, but on the other hand with a magnificent view to the Grossglockner(3798m) and the Pasterze glacier, which is the longest glacier in the eastern Alps, one could say that the prices are justified.
Another highlight is the marmots that hang around. It was a sunny warm weather and everyone, people and marmots were having a nice time!! We’ve been there a lot of times, it’s the first time I see the place being so crowded.
From the Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe we took the Gamsgrubenweg, a panorama trail high above the impressive glacier tongue of the Pasterze. At first the trail passes through several tunnels, where you are invited to experience the mystical world of the mountain(water, ice, crystals e.t.c.). After about an hour we reached the “Wasserfallwinkel”. Our goal was to reach the Oberwalder hutte, but unfortunately we found a large snow crossing area, and being with motorcycle outfit (and boots) we decided to turn back. Add to that, the fact that we had forgotten to take any sun cream with us and we were already turning red.
Austrian and German mountain are crowded with huts. These provide food and accommodation (in most cases) and it’s really nice having a place to rest and enjoy a nice meal after some mountain hiking. In Greece we also have several mount refuges that provide basic accommodation facilities and some of them also provide food, but nothing as well organized as in Germany and Austria. It was a great day, as was the next also in and out of the small roadside museums along with some “Kaffee mit Kuchen” testing to see which cafeteria provides the best (I’ll let you know the results later).
As you can see we were suffering… the place was totally pathetic
…in the meantime the weather had changed, clouds were gathering but we got back to our cozy guesthouse just in time. ….
Next day, we visited the Liechtensteinklamm (klamm = gorge in German) and one of the most beautiful towns I have ever seen, Hallstatt. The day started with rain, so we wore the raingear and left for Liechtensteinklamm. Since it was only 40kms away we got there quite early, paid the 4€ per person entry ticket and here is what we witnessed:
It was quite amazing, in some parts the walls of the gorge are so tall and so close together that you can barely see the sky. It was worth the rain. The only thing that spilt the fun (a bit) was that we entered the gorge along with a group of Chinese tourists and it was quite crowded (at times) with all these open umbrellas. The end of the trail leads to a majestic waterfall and then you return back from the same route.
I copy from www.liechtensteinklamm.at regarding the name of the klamm.
After several failed attempts, a handful of members of the local Alpine Association succeeded in 1875 in making the wild and romantic gorge accessible to the public. Unfortunately, the valiant pioneers soon ran out of money. Not knowing where else to turn for help, they approached Johann II, Prince of Liechtenstein, who owned a hunting ground in the nearby town of Großarl. With his donation of 600 guilders the project was finished in 1876. And in the process, a name was found for the most significant canyon in the Austrian Alps –Liechtensteinklamm, or Prince Liechtenstein’s Gorge.
It was a nice walk and by the time we exited clouds had given way to a nice bright sun. I programmed the satnav to lead us to Hallstatt, avoiding central roads as much possible. I really don’t know if there is another route or not, but we passed through some very beautiful villages, forests and countryside. So there we were. Halsstatt, a town famous for the salt mines. It is possible to visit the world's first known salt mine, just above the city, which unfortunately didn’t do.
Supposedly an exact replica of Hallstatt has been constructed in China, so maybe that can explain the hordes of Chinese tourists wandering around. The town is absolutely magnificent!! Photos are better than words in some cases……
It’s obvious that some Roosters are “luckier” than others
<font en-us"="" size="2 </font><span lang=">
The view was rewarding. The trail was well marked and there were some beautiful small streams and wooden bridges along the way.y.
A couple of hours from the village you come along some deserted huts and ruins from the “gold rush” era and then the path evens as you reach a prairie with happy cows, and a lot of streams.
You have the opportunity to catch your breath and start for the final ascend which is quite steep. But again once you reach the hut, the view from up there is rewarding.
Moments of absolute authentic pleasure, as you become a part of nature, the sun, the scents from flowers, the sound of the wind and the water, the refreshing breeze, the goal. It was one of those times you’re glad you’re alive to have lived these.
Mountain hiking is not so "easy" in Greece, in many cases trails and paths are not well marked (if at all). Most Greeks don’t hike up the mountains, so you can be wandering around and not seeing anyone for hours. There are a lot of herds of sheep on the mountain prairies and along with the sheep come the sheep dogs. These are normally huge and dislike tourists and hikers. Everyone going hiking (sooner or later)has a dreadful experience from these dogs. Some hikers, tourist and cyclist get bitten by them every year. And of course there is also a general feeling of insecurity up in the mountains. You really cannot be sure whom you’re going to come across. Especially in non mainstream mountains near the border you should have your eyes open.
It was so much different in Austria and Germany. We soon reached the Gleiwitzerhutte, we sat on a small wooden bench just on the edge, enjoying the splendid view and…….
It was one of the most wonderful days of this summer’s trip. And we enjoyed every minute of it.
(This reminds me a tourist from UK a few years ago. We were in Cavtat Croatia, and coming out of the guesthouse there was this man with sweating cold bottle of beer looking at the sunset towards Dubrovnik. I said “hello, how is it going?”, he smiled and said “I’m suffering here – I’m suffering”. It was his face, he was enjoying every second of it. You really don’t need much, when things add up even the smallest thing can be absolute pleasure.)
The time had come for us to get back to Fusch. We decided to take the long way back, taking the trail to Bruck. It was a bit longer but it was an opportunity to prolong the “suffering” .
The view towards Zell am See was astonishing
A lot of happy cows
IMF personel blocking the way, demanding more taxes…..
A few hours later after a “miserable” day we were back to the village of Fusch.
There was one thing we hadn’t done until that day, we had avoided to take the decision as to where to head after Fusch. Would we ride to Finland or not?
Next day was a rainy day so we put our stuff back to the cases and took the big decision to leave for Sweden early in the next day. So after the big decision we took the bike and went up the mountain to the Franz Josefs Hohe. It was cold, foggy and rainy but it was nice.
During the night I was so anxious about the trip (it’s obvious I’m getting old), that I merely managed to sleep for an hour, so in the morning I announced to my wife that instead of Sweden we’d ride to Germany (Bavaria). We’d stay in a guesthouse near Pfronten owned by Gunther and Sylvia, with whom we have become friends over the years. It would be nice to see them again, and maybe we would do some trips down to Italy and Switzerland.
I knew that a friend of hours from Greece would be in the Italian alps region so maybe we would meet him too.
Third time in guesthouse “Engels” and we looked forward to seeing the owners.
The breakfast in “Engels” guesthouse is unbelievable, there is no way a normal person can eat all of it, so every day we ended up with some extra sandwitches from breakfast time.
And I haven’t mentioned the Bier Garten yet. Under the wild kastanien tree (220 years old as is the main building of the guesthouse), we have enjoyed some of the best beer ever. (Take in mind Greece doesn’t have any special beer tradition so most of our beer is below average). But “Ludwig Konig Bier” was another story. Last year we ended up in Pfrontent after a frightful ride from the Denmark-Sweden Bridge and southwards. The bike was a mess and my spirit down, but this was a miracle beer, more like a magic potion. A few days rest and a lot of beer and my spirit was up again, so we continued our trip (just to break down 30kms down the road but that was another story) So we get to the guesthouse but no one is there. Fortunately, they arrive soon, they were out shopping, it was “Ruhe Tag”. She doesn’t recognise us at first, but when my wife takes the helmet off, Sylvia recognises her and gives her a big hug. I’ll say it again it’s nice seeing people you know after along a time.
( . . . to be continued)
~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ P a r t 4 ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
So there we were in Bavaria. We had planned to stay in Pfronten for 4-5 days but we extended our visit to 10 days as we had a lot of fun.
Some of you may find these next paragraphs (in italics) a bit offending or inappropriate for the forum, but I feel I must write these thoughts and events. Trips are not only nature and scenery, trips also involve hanging around with people and seeing their perspective on things, their culture and the “politics” involved.
If moderators judge that what follows is inappropriate, please feel free to alter or erase any parts you choose.
Here I go.
As I have mentioned earlier on my report, my wife and I have been travelling abroad (by bike) since 2006, and we have visited many countries. Germany and Austria have been 2 of our favorite destinations as we like how well organized and “in order” these countries are. We have always felt safe and welcomed there. The services provided were always what one would expect. Last year, we had a problem with the bike passing through Germany and had to find a workshop to get the bike repaired. The people were all very helpful and friendly trying to make our life easier.
Since last year, it became obvious things have changed. From the very first day during breakfast (or whenever we socialized with people) when they learned we were Greeks, we had a bad time. It could be just ironic comment: “what are you doing here? Aren’t you out of money?” “Don’t bother we’ll keep lending you so that you can keep on going on holidays”.
Many of them just ignored us. I really cannot forget a couple from Hamburg (the cars license plates were from Hamburg), who had driven to Bavaria with 2 Yamaha Vmax on a trailer in order to tour around the Dolomites with the bikes. 3 times I greeted them saying “Guten Morgen” during breakfast, and I was thoroughly ignored receiving only a grin of dislike. It was the last thing I’d expect from some fellow riders.
Some of them tried to discuss the matter with us. Most of them were angry and aggressive (on the way they spoke) right from the start. From the start I was trying to tell them that they were right in thinking that it’s not fair for them to have to pay more in order to help my country which managed to do almost everything wrong.
But I could not agree with the oversimplified statement that “You Greeks are lazy, thieves, frauds that only sit under the sun drinking frappe and beer”. I tried to tell them that most Greeks do 2 (and some times 3) jobs to make ends meet. Maybe their work is not as sufficient as it should but nevertheless many Greeks work more than 10 hours a day, including weekends.
My father in law until he retired (at the age of 67 with a pension of 550€/month), had never been on holidays. He even worked on Saturday and Sunday, from dusk to dawn. He worked hard to raise his 2 daughters; he struggled to earn the money to pay for the expenses of sending my wife to study in a University. He never had a private family car, only vehicles he needed for his work. Only now, after retirement, he has bought a DACIA.
And there are many like him…..
I also tried to tell the Germans, that they were right in one thing; some Greeks (but not the majority) did get extremely wealthy. Especially the ones “related” with political parties. By now this money is well out of the country and safe in banks overseas.
Didn’t the German chancellor know that Greece had a huge debt, just a few years ago, when she signed a contract with our government for hundreds of German Leopard tanks and 2-3 submarines? Doesn’t the German chancellor know that these contracts are said to involve huge amounts of “black” money to Greek officials? Even now the French are trying to persuade our government to buy 4 French frigates, doesn’t the French president know that Greece is way over it’s head on debts? Of course they knew, and of course this loan money did eventually go back to Germany and France and the UK and the US, as payments for consumer products. So the chancellor can brag how efficient her German state is, since it lends countries who in return buy German products, and therefore funding German economy.......
Didn’t the chancellor know that Siemens, had a habit of bribing state officials to get some of the Athens 2004 contracts? Greeks were ok then and now they are thieves?
Let’s face it, Greece did almost everything wrong. This is true. But which of the European countries (including the wealthiest ones) could manage if for some “insane reason” world funds decided to lend them with the interest rate they lend Greece?
Have a look here http://www.economist.com/content/global_debt_clock
I’ll say it once more. I wouldn’t want to pay more taxes to “bail out” another country, but of course I Vlassis was not the one responsible for this situation, to have to apologize on behalf of my country for this. For all I care, Greece should stop begging around for money. My country should have declared bankruptcy, in the first place. We should have been decent enough to pay the consequences of the political choices we have done all these years, at whatever cost. For all I know it’s better being poor in a dignified way, then begging around and eventually ending up in poverty with an undignified way as will surely happen the way we’re heading. It’s better to go down fighting than begging.
Anyway, in general we had a rough time during breakfast or diner. And it was mainly the Germans who had this attitude. These people seem to have very “short term” memory, they have too easily forgotten …..
I’ll leave it here……
Next day we had planned to visit Stelvio.
The route I had chosen was Reutte-Weisenbach-Bach-Steeg-Warth. From there we’d pass the Flexen Pass(1784m) and head towards the Arlberg Pass (1802m) and towards Landeck-Funds. From Funds up the Reschen Pass (1504m) and from there Trafoi and Stelvio.
There is also another way we could reach Stelvio, passing through Switzerland and up the Umbrail Pass (2501m), but we left it for another day.
The road after Reutte is right next to the river Lech. It was a fantastic day, sunny and warm, so this part was magnificent. The Flexen and Arlberg passes were also nice.
After a while we reached lake Resia and the Malles Venosta region in Italy. What a fantastic place.!!
We started ascending towards Stelvio. Soon we came to the cascading hairpin bends. The road was narrow and with a lot of traffic, tens of motorbikes, cars, caravans, bicycles. It was hot and it was a constant ascend from 900m up to 2760m. Well, I don’t know about the top gear chaps, but I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it. Too much heat, too much traffic a lot of tension, it was quite unique, nothing similar to any road I’ve done so far but I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it. There are 48 bends, ascending from the North side of the Stelvio. The coolant temp gauge got up to 103C. I don’t know if that’s normal or not, but I stopped a few kms from the summit to let it cool down a bit.
There were hundreds of bikes up on top. I didn’t enjoy it but nevertheless Stelvio is a biking landmark and we were very happy. We had a cup of coffee, we bought some souvenirs and we were walking towards the bike to take the way back, when I saw an old VFR750 (the Canadian model) park on the side of the road. It caught my eye, because a friend of mine has one in Greece, and to my surprise it really was my friend Takis . I knew he would be in the region, but I didn’t know he’d be up there that day. One minute later and I would have missed him. What a coincidence!!
Talking with him, he mentioned that he had heard from a biker on the ferry to Italy of a (tax free) town called Livigno nearby. So I followed him there up and down the Passo di Foscagno (2291m) and the Passo d’Eira(2208m).
Believe it or not the price of fuel was 1.075€/lt
By the time we fuelled up it had started to rain (a bit) and we had a long way home, so we said goodbye and started the way back. We were going to return through the Munt la Schera tunnel. A few kms after Livigno I came across a toll station, I paid 10€ for the tunnel and as it started to rain hard I came in front of a red traffic light a few meters from a left tight bend (so I couldn’t see what was ahead). It must have been at least 10 minutes till the light turned green and it was raining a lot so I was eager to get inside the tunnel. And then I entered the narrowest tunnel I have ever seen. It was just one lane-one way and completely straight as far as the eye could see. It was cold 8.5C, just like the tunnel to the underworld and to the ancient god Hades.
That was interesting. Munt la Schera Tunnel
Next day we’d go hiking in the region.
…once more, well marked paths and very beautiful scenery….
….and a nice meal under the wild kastanien tree…..
After Stelvio, it was Timmelsjoch (2509m) turn. So next day early in the morning we took the route Nesselwang-Leermoos-Fern Pass (1209m) and then headed towards Solden. From there we’d go up the Timmelsjoch pass (2509m) and descend down the Italian side . One way ticket was 10euro. The road up from the Austrian side was ok but nothing special, I’d say it’s not worth the 10€ we paid. At least we got a sticker.
Now the descent down the Italian side was quite a different ballgame. So if you don’t want to end up in the Austrian side, I’d recommend you get up to the summit from Italy and once again down from Italy so you don’t have to pay the Austrian tolls. On the way down, but quite near the summit (right after a tunnel) there was a small wooden kiosk, where a happy Italian woman was selling local cheese and ham and apple juice e.t.c. We stopped for some cappuccinos and a couple of sandwiches.
…..while we were enjoying the view and the sandwiches I had the “unfortunate” idea of explaining to my wife the “art” of minimal fuel consumption. So I told her that there is no sense in opening the throttle full just to bite hard on the brakes on the oncoming bend. I told her that it’s better to close the throttle early and let the engine break reduce your speed before the oncoming bend and similar “politically correct” stuff. Further down the post you’ll see why I write these….
Soon we were on our way towards San Leonardo.
San Leonardo was quite nice, but also quite hot so we were glad to start ascending towards the Jaufen Pass(2094m). Still there was too much traffic on a narrow road, and it was extremely hot, so we were making much progress. I also had a BMW K1200S two up right behind me.
As I said we weren’t making progress until a small FIAT diesel pick up passed me. It was local (probably Italian), it had “Holz Konstructor” written on it, and this guy was going like a madman. He was opening the road, so I stayed right behind him. He was “flying” we were scratching pegs all the way up to the summit. We got there in no time. The BMW was right behind, on the top I stopped, he also stopped, we looked at each other smiling we took our helmets off and we got what we deserved from our pillions. It’s quite probable his pillion is still at him. Mine took it a bit lighter ( ), she even accepted to take a photo of me.
I know it wasn’t “politically correct” but it was fun…..
The descent was calm and civilized.
was a lot of traffic and along with the heat, we didn’t enjoy it at all.
It was one of those really hot weeks in Bavaria, and next day it was even hotter, and to make things worse it was Saturday. And weekends in Germany and Austria equals traffic jams, huge traffic jams. So we decided to go somewhere near, Eibsee, just below the Zugspitze.
It’s a nice place but it was so hot and so crowded we didn’t enjoy it at all. Eventually we ended up on the shore of the Planseee, where it was a bit less crowded.
At least the Kaiserschmarrn pancake was delicious. Kaiserschmarrn
Next day the weather was once more very hot, and it was Sunday. There is no way we’d take the bike. So went to the Flakenstein ruins nearby. I copy from HERE
Situated at 1268 meters above the sea level and the highest castle ruin of Germany. The castle was built in 1059 as fortress for the bishop of Augsburg. The smallness of the construction and the naming could possibly explained that it was built by the bishop for the hunt around the mountain Falkenstein. With the establishment of the "Vogtei" Falkenstein in 1310 it was used as an office for the installed functionary and ended the utilization as summer residence. Since the end of the 16th century no functionary was present and the castle has fallen into disrepair.
With King Ludwig II purchase of the building it was again paid attention. The romantic beauty interested him. In moonlit nights he enjoyed alone the dreamy and extensive view over his country from the ruin. A new castle should be built here and in 1885 the construction of water pipes started. The castle remained a dream after the death of king Ludwig in 1886.
King Ludwig II obviously had a thing with castles; he built the Neuschwanstein and a few more. Although he used his family’s fortune to pay for the construction, German economy at the time wasn’t going so well so eventually he was removed from power. One of his last projects was the renovation of Falkenstein, which never occurred.
It’s quite ironic that 100 years later, these castles are no1 tourist attractions in Germany…
It was a nice walk up (despite the hot weather).
The last part was steep but once on the hill the view was amazing!!
The walk back to the guesthouse from a different route was nice as well.
Talking with Sylvia and Gunther we had told them that we had first tasted Spaetzle a few years ago during a trip in the Black Forest region. We had tried making them in Greece, but not with much success. So Gunther offered to show us the recipe. Next day was “Ruhe Tag” for the guesthouse so it would be a good opportunity for our “cooking lessons”.
In Greece I often order bike stuff from Louis.de, and I was curiousto visit an actual Louis shop. We decided to go to Ulm walk in the old town and also visit a Louis shop. So early in the morning we rode to Ulm. The shop was nice and my wife was very happy as she ended up with a new Helmet.
Unfortunately it was so hot that it was impossible to walk around the old town in our leather outfit. The ride back was to Pfronten was unpleasant with the temperature being around 40C. But once we were back and after some freezing cold beer it was time for the cooking lessons. We all wore our aprons and followed Gunther to the kitchen. We prepared some cheese spaetzle, (which tasted great); which we ate along with a few more beer out in the garden. We had the opportunity to talk a lot about the situation in Europe, about the history of the guesthouse (which by the way was 220 years old). It was quite fun. I always like to hear other people’s perspective of things, as long as it’s during a calm conversation. We invited them to visit Greece, so maybe next summer we could be as good hosts as they were. And we’ve got a lot of Greek recipes they could try.
The morning after, we set off to Stelvio once more.
We reached Lake Resia once more. What a beautiful place. At an altitude of 1500m it’s a very beautiful place.
I copy from HERE
The Lago di Resia is an artificial reservoir in the west of South Tyrol, to be precise at Curon in Val Venosta. Its striking landmark - a steeple towering from the lake - does not only individuate this lake, but is in fact symbol of the entire valley. Directly at the lakeshore there are the villages of Curon, Resia as well as the hamlets of Casone and Spin.
Up to the year 1950, there were three lakes in this area: Lago di Resia, “Mittersee” (also known as Lago di Curon) and Lago della Muta. In 1950, however, when the reservoir was dammed, the locality of Curon as well as much of Resia were flooded and destroyed. The only remnant of old Curon is the steeple, which still towers out of the waters. There are several narrations and sagas around this historical happening and the steeple.
By the way: it is said that sometimes you can hear the bells ring from the depths of the lake…
A few kms down the road we turned right towards Taufers and Mustair. Once more we passed through some amazingly beautiful villages…
…..and soon we started ascending the Umbrail Pass (2501m). This road meets the Stelvio road just a couple of kms from the summit on the south side. I must admit I liked this pass much better than the north side of the Stelvio.
Soon we were up in Stelvio again
Just a small stop for some photos and we were back on the road towards Livigno for refueling. I must say I liked the Livigno region a lot. I copy from Wikipedia:
Livigno is located 1,816 metres above sea level. Livigno's main river is called Aqua Granda or Spöl. Trepalle, a frazione in the municipality of Livigno, is considered Europe's highest inhabited parish. Livigno was once a traditional and cultural village. Livigno is one of the few Italian villages which do not belong to the drainage basin of the Mediterranean Sea but to the Black Sea basin. A part of the old village was completely destroyed in the 1960s by the creation of a reservoir, the Lago di Livigno.
Today, only three roads lead to the town, two from Switzerland, through the Forcola di Livigno (2,315 m, open in summer only) and the Munt La Schera tunnel, and one from Italy, through the Foscagno Pass (2,291 m).
Livigno enjoys a special tax status as a duty-free area. Italian VAT (Value Added Tax) is not paid. Although tax advantages for Livigno were recorded as far back as the sixteenth century, the current tax exemption was first introduced by the Austrian Empire around 1840. It was then confirmed by the Kingdom of Italy around 1910, then by the Italian Republic and the European Economic Community in 1960.
After refuelling and a couple of cappuccinos in a nice café, we were on the bike again and we entered Switzerland by the Forcola di Livigno (2315m).
Beautiful prairies, people hiking, cycling, wandering around havimg fun!!
We also rode the Passo di Bernina (2330m) and headed to St. Moritz.
I must admit rich people do have a nice taste as to where to have their holidays. St. Moritz was very nice, but we didn’t have time to spare so we kept on. We had planned to take a detour. At La Punt we turned left up the Albula Pass (2315m).
I liked this a lot. It was riding through a quarry. Rocks, Boulders, more boulders and more rocks on both sides and you’re riding in the middle on a paved road. Quite fascinating. On the way down the other side the road was unbelievably narrow and bumpy. Nothing better than many Greek mountain roads. I’d expect something different in Switzerland. The scenery was amazing though.
Eventually we reached Davos. From there we headed towards the Fluela Pass (2383m) and from there towards Zernez and up and and down the Ofen Pass(2149m)
From Ofen Pass, back to Malles Venosta and from there the fastest route back to the guesthouse. It was getting dark so there are no photos of the passes, but both were very nice and scenic with minimal traffic.
We reached the guesthouse around midnight and to our great surprise Gunther was waiting for us with some fantastic hot Spaetzle with Goulash. It was the best ending to a beautiful day.
Next few days went walking around nearby, shooting photos, buying souvenirs for the family and drinking beer.
We loaded the bike and left for Fusch an der Grossglockner once more.
It was another extremely hot day.
Approaching Fusch the temperature was 35-36C.
The weather forecast for next day was not good. Despite the forecast we took the bike and rode up the high alp road. It was raining and with a lot of fog. We reached the café at the Hochtor tunnel with the temperature falling to around 10C. We went in for a coffee and when we got out again the temperature was down to 7C. About 20 minutes later we stopped at the parking lot on the Edelweisspitze and went inside the hut. The temperature was 4C (!) We got out a half an hour later only to find everything frozen, it was snowing everything wet on the bike had frozen, the key couldn’t get inside the lock, the brakes were frozen and the temperature was 0.5C (!!!). Well that’s something we southerners don’t see very often. Even the raindrops on the mirrors had frozen on the spot, and I couldn’t see anything on them.
We slowly started down the mountain as things were getting rough.
Next day was quite different, the weather was fantastic, we went on foot to Bruck to take some photos….
……and up the high alp road afterwards. It’s about time I reveal my “Kaffee und Kuchen” test results.
Just after the 14th turn, where there is junction towards Edelweisspitze, I tasted the best Haustorte. There is also a huge parking lot there, you can’t miss it.
The view was once more astonishing…..
At that special moment, once more, everything added up. The cool mountain breeze along with the warmth of the sun, the astonishing view, the fantastic torte, the hot coffee and being with someone who enjoyed it as I did with whom I have shared so much , it felt great, too good to be true!!!
Even the bike was enjoying it. It was purring with pleasure all the way back down. I’ve done so many kms with it, that by know I can sense when its having a good time or not….
Another great day!!!!
Next day was foggy early in the morning, but soon it cleared up and we were up the mountains hiking…
...... Zell am See....
….the days passed having a nice time walking around….
Why is he looking at me like that ? (LOL)
….and it was time to visit the Kitzlochklamm….
It was another beautiful klamm (gorge), with a safe parking lot right at the entrance, and a nice walk on secure and safe paths. Entrance ticket cost 4€ per person but was well worth it.
At the end of the trail, there is a small monument in remembrance to 8 students that died here in 1974 during a school visit to the gorge. They all gathered on the bridge to take a group photo and the bridge collapsed.
The return route passes by a former hermitage of the klamm.
.... some more Kaffe und Kuchen testing at the exit......
September 1st we once again loaded the bike and took the way back to Croatia. We would stay a few more days in Rovinj before taking the ferry back to Greece from Venice.
Of course we had decided to take the long way around to get to Croatia.
We passed over the Grossglockner high alpine road once more heading towards Lienz. From there we headed towards the Nassfeld Pass (1530m). Now this was a nice surprise. Especially the Italian part was very nice. The road was narrow and bumpy at parts but there was absolutely no traffic and the scenery was beautiful. The weather was very cloudy and maybe that added to the “wild” feeling.
From Tarvisio we took the road that enters Slovenia through the Passo del Predil (1156m).
Absolutely fantastic route, but it had become clear that we wouldn’t avoid the rain. We soon reached the Italian Slovenian border crossing kai the ruins of Predilsattel.
From there we followed the following route. Bovec, Kobarid, Tolmin. Slovenia is a magnificent country and the Triglavski National Park absolutely amazing. The road was nothing better than what we’d expect from a Greek mountain road, but the scenery amazing. The rain that started on us was also amazing, heavy rain from Bovec on. Soon after Logatec we entered the Slovenian highway and as we were getting souther the rain stopped. We once more entered Croatia from the border crossing near Buzet. This time it was the Croatians turn to stare at our ids not knowing what to do with them. Eventually the let us pass and soon we were back to Rovinj and our friends.
There is really nothing to add to what I have already said about Rovinj and Istria. The place is magnificent.
We had a wonderful time in Rovinj, but it was soon time to leave for Greece. There was only a “slight” problem. We had way too many stuff to fit in the cases and once the bike was loaded it felt like a huge battleship. I was quite sure it was overloaded as I have never had this bizarre handling feeling.
When I finally got back home, the total weight on the bike (the 2 of us along with the luggage) was 216kg with maximum load (according to the manual) of 195kg. The maximum cargo weight is according to the manual 33kg, while the weight of the luggage was in fact 73kg. More on that later.
The day we should leave for Venice had come (unfortunately). We said goodbye to our friends and took the road to Venice. There was a lot of fog on the way, which made things a bit weird but eventually we got to the port.
…..and along with us the small wild kastanien tree Gunther had given us to plant to our garden…
The ferry was not full, quite the contrary, so I still cannot understand why they packed us like that, right beside a ramp. Thank god fellow riders helped and I managed to get the “Biffer boat” on central stand. And of course they helped back the bike up to get out of that spot once we reached Greece. Once again there was no way I would have managed to push the bike backwards with that entire load and such a tight spot.
We got off the ferry in Igoumenitsa instead of Patras. We had decided to stop for a few days and visit the Zagoria village region in Central Greece. It was a good opportunity to walk the Vikos Gorge and do some hiking in the region.
We had forgotten how hot Greek summer is. It was very hot. We took the “Egnatia highway” which is a relatively new and well constructed highway and soon we arrived at our guesthouse in the village of Monodendri. (http://www.ladiasmonodendri.com. ) It’s a guesthouse we prefer, the hosts are always very friendly and the services superb.
Thank fully it started to rain in the afternoon so it cooled a bit.
Next day we took the bike and rode to the village of Vikos (some 25kms away), parked the bike and took the trail that leads to the springs of the river Voidomatis. It’s quite amazing as you actually see a river being “born” on the spot as water emerges from the ground. We had a nice cool swimm. (The water temp is around 10C).
The day ended with a small walk to the Agia Paraskevi monastery which is situated right on the edge of Vikos gorge. The view to the gorge from there is amazing.
We were very glad to see that the village of Monodendri still had a lot of (foreign) tourists. The people there have built nice guesthouses, the services are good, hiking paths are well marked. There is a dense black cloud of misery over Greece these past 12+ months, everything seems to be deteriorating fast. It’s nice seeing these people struggling but managing. It’s a good sign, people who are making special tourist offers struggling to survive this crisis, providing good services and a hope this country will manage to crawl out of its misery. If only our ridiculous politicians would at least show the right way, instead of just looking after their own.
On the following day we took the bike and rode to the famous village of Metsovo and from there to the artificial lake of Aoos springs.
On the way back I saw I road sign to an old stone bridge, so I took that road. I ended up doing some gravel road, finding a newly under construction bridge but never found the old one. I must have turned wrong somewhere.
Eventually we got back to the guesthouse.
Next day we’d walk the Vikos Gorge. I copy from Wikipedia:
The Vikos Gorge (Greek: Φαράγγι του Βίκου) is a gorge in the Pindus Mountains of northern Greece. It lies on the southern slopes of Mount Tymfi, with a length of about 20 km, depth ranging from 450 m to 1600 m and width from 400 m to some meters at its narrowest part.
Vikos is listed as the deepest gorge in the world by the Guinness Book of Records among others. This follows a somewhat arbitrary definition of a gorge that excludes deeper features such as Colca Canyon because of their greater width:depth ratio.
There is a “slight” problem regarding “long” gorges. Entering and exiting points are far away. So either you return all the way back or you must have arranged for someone to pick you up at the exit point in order to get you back.
Our host had offered to pick us up at the exit of the gorge on the village of Vikos as we would enter from Monodendri. This gorge, and I’m not saying this because I’m Greek, is one of the most beautiful hiking trails you can take. It’s 4-7 hours from one end to the other and its very scenic.
It took us 4hours and 10 minutes to reach the Voidomatis springs (near the other end of the gorge). It was such a nice and beautiful hike that we decided to walk it back again. So we had a refreshing swimm and we were on our way back to Monodendri.
It took us in total around 8.5 hours, to reach the springs and back and we enjoyed every minute of it.
On the next day we took the bike, once again to the vilaage of Vikos, we hiked down to the Voidomatis springs and up the hiking path to the village of Mikro Papigo. It was the first time we followed this path.
From Mikro Papigo we once took the same path back down to the springs, and from there back to the bike in Vikos. Around 4,5 hours in total. Absolutely superb.
Next day we returned home. Of course once again I chose the longest way back, up and down several mountains, with the bike overloaded. It took us around 9 hours to cover those 590kms, but it was worth it.
The weight of the cases
left Givi E41 side case :14.1kgr
right Givi E41 side case: 15.3 kgr
Givi E55 Maxia top case :15,9 Maxia
Louis bag (It was tied over the top case) :12.1 kg
Tank bag :14.6 kgr
The bike, once more, made this trip easy. It was reliable, always easy to load, safe and predictable even when overloaded. With an average 5.03lt/100kms fuel consumption, 2 up and loaded most of the time, it was quite economic too. Let’s not forget it’s a 1000cc bike.
My CBF has now a bit more than 151000kms. It didn't seem to consume any significant amount of oil during this trip despite the mileage. It was full on the sight glass when I left, it's still full now.
The BT023s were superb, even with the bike overloaded, the were predictible and quite sticky. I was running the rear at 45-47psi instead of 42. That seemed to do the trick, I didn't have any uneven wear like my last years Michelin PRII. But I was running the Mich at 42psi.
What is trully amazing with this bike is the fact that although it could be thought as a budget bike, it can really cope with anything you ask it to do. Even overloaded, the brakes are more than capable to stopping it fast and safe. Even overloaded the torque will have you overpassing in no time. The subframe is good enough to have managed with more than 151000kms, most of them touring 2 up. It really is a bike you can trust to tour around. By now, most of us know the weaknesses (basically the stator issue) so you know the worst case scenario and how to deal with it. I read here in this forum a lot of talk about this and that regarding the bike. The only thing I can say based on experience is that this bike is as capable as you want it to be. You just have to try it, take the risk, go to that long trip you might be thinking about. It will not let you down.
We could have done this trip with the car. And maybe it would have been "easier" more "relaxed" and "practical". We wouldn't have to worry about how many stuff to take with us or if it would rain. But the car is nothing near to what the bike has to offer. The car is like a flight simulator game, you see the same things, but it's nothing near actual flying.
And a few thoughts regarding the trip.
It was a great trip, away from the black cloud hanging over Greece. Apart from the fantastic natural beauty and the pleasure of biking, it’s always a pleasure socialising with people of different nationalities, listening to what they have to say even if it’s “unfair”. I understand that what could seem unfair to me could be quite fair from another perspective, but this comes from where I am standing. I really hope (against all odds) that things will go better and we'll be able to do such a trip next summer.
( T * H * E ~ E * N * D )