Turkey, Ukraine and Back

Where you've been and what you done
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Turkey, Ukraine and Back

Post by gbags » Sat Jun 13, 2015 3:58 pm

Turkey, Ukraine and Back

My wife and I decided to ride to Istanbul and back at the end of April and had about six weeks to play with.
It was our first trip using a SatNav and we grew to love it but I still bought maps in every country because I love maps and I need them to plot a route. Each night we'd choose the next day's likely destinations or directions, then I'd put them in the Zumo and mix and match whichever took our fancy through the day. The Zumo was also great for finding MacD's anywhere we wanted to stop, then pile in and use the wifi to check booking.com for campsites or hotels.
We aimed to camp when the sun was out and B and B/hotel/pension when it rained.

So off down through France, then the Alps to Italy and down the Appian way outside Rome, which was great. A road built two thousand or more years ago running for 50 odd miles with a watercourse right beside it that flowed all the way. The Romans marched to war on that very road, watered by the canal and shaded by trees every thirty feet or so. I grant you the trees may not be originals but I'm sure the trees have been there since the road was built.

We caught the ferry from Bari over to Bar in Montenegro then crossed into Albania and rode the fantastic piney, mountain Puke road past Rrape, something Curri to Kosovo. Yes, I know. Bar,
Puke , Rape, Curry. Make up your own joke. Anyway, go to Albania, it's great.

Kosovo was good but Serbia wouldn't let us in as they didn't recognise Kosovo. They told us to go back to Macedonia and come in that way. We went to Macedonia and forgot about Serbia, then the lakes in northern Greece and on to Turkey and Istanbul, where it was 34 degrees and I ditched all bike kit and gloves and just rode in day clothes.

North next into Bulgaria and Romania. Bulgaria was nice-ish but dour. They make the Scottish look skittish and jolly. We had a competition to see if we could get a grin out of a Bulgarian...and failed.
I went to that Biker Camp and was the only one there. Good spot in lovely countryside though.
Romania was a great surprise. Bucharest had a lively pub 'n' grub scene in the Old Town and everyone was slim, cosmopolitan and happy. We might actually go there to live. The countryside in the south was pretty poor but in a good way. Bulgaria had shit thrown down on every available space; Romania was entirely rubbish free and once over the Caucasus the villages seemed almost German but in a nice way. Not squeaky clean and touristy but Germanic churches that needed a coat of paint.
We went half way up the Transfagarasan from the South but it was blocked so we went around to the north, jinked through the barriers telling us that it was closed, and rode up about three or four hundred feet from the lake where we came across an eight foot tall wall of snow. And that ended our Transfagarasan adventure. Fantastic day's riding, as were all the days in Romania.
image_2015-06-13.jpg (75.03 KiB) Viewed 535 times
We hadn't planned it but looked at the map, saw Ukraine and thought, 'What the Heck?' The border had a line of maybe five hundred trucks but, like every border, we just slipped up to the front and were led straight in. They took me off and politely tried to ask why I wanted to go in and where I wanted to go. The great thing was they couldn't even speak English, nor could the truckers. It was brilliant with bits of French, Spanish, German all mangled together with hand signals and smiles. I've also found that with our being 50 (ish) makes everyone much friendlier towards us.

The road in to Lviv was very pitted but Lviv was great, a lively city I'll definitely go back to. Again, it was a city filled with happy, leggy, pretty girls. Very few speak English but they're a very friendly bunch. Ordering food written in what looked like Russian script was a hoot. Point at things on the menu and wait to see which animal noise they made. Another great country.
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Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and started back to the Alps. Austria, Germany and Switzerland were all pristine and gorgeous and we kept popping in and out to get good roads and passes. Then a predicted week of rain drove us home early.

We travelled through 18 countries, over the Alps, Apennines, Carpathians, Tatras, and some smaller ranges.
The bike, a BMW 800 GS, was great and suffered only one puncture and the chain loosened a bit.
Metal panniers, tank bag, roll bag over a rack and us two = 165 kg.
I used a Scottoiler and Garmin 390 and rode 6500 miles without any problems.
We wore standard bike clobber and one piece bike over plastic things when it rained. I used walking boots so got wet feet every time it rained, which was a pain, but was dry, neck to ankles.
Forget camping in Eastern Europe or the Balkans as hotels are literally cheaper.
We generally ate bread and coffee for brekkie, baguette sandwich for lunch and bought hot grub in the evening.
A brew kit and small flask make stopping for a hot drink easy peasy, wherever you are.
We tried not to ride on motorways if the sun was shining. The view could be any country. Get off and you'll notice how different they all are. If it was going to rain for a few days though we'd hop on a motorway and flog off somewhere else.
Planning is not for us. We undoubtedly missed some good stuff but we also serendipitously bumped into other good stuff. I'm no culture vulture and have would rather see a mountain range than another temple.

Next trip may be India, north of the Rotang Pass or the Indochina bunch of countries.

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Re: Turkey, Ukraine and Back

Post by JonnyBravo » Sat Jun 13, 2015 4:21 pm

Tremendous - well done you the two of you
When nothing is going right - go left

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Re: Turkey, Ukraine and Back

Post by jackdaw » Sat Jun 13, 2015 4:28 pm

Sounds like brilliant trip. Thanks for posting.

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Re: Turkey, Ukraine and Back

Post by shed » Sat Jun 13, 2015 5:09 pm

What a great trip , (thumbs) a real adventure

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Re: Turkey, Ukraine and Back

Post by DaleC » Sat Jun 13, 2015 6:31 pm

Nice trip! (thumbs)

I'm currently sitting a stone's throw from Ukraine in Romania 2 up on a 800GS and contemplating crossing the border for laughs :)

Romania, what a great surprise!
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Re: Turkey, Ukraine and Back

Post by rodyorkabr » Sat Jun 13, 2015 7:15 pm

...envy reigns here- great partners are everything!....I really enjoyed Bulgaria as much as Romania
"We might actually go there to live"- more info please!

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Re: Turkey, Ukraine and Back

Post by milly1964 » Sat Jun 13, 2015 8:17 pm

Beautiful scenery in Romania & Bulgaria.... But this time last year, we found Romania to be full of trash, even in the mountain streams amongst the pines.... Never seen so many plastic bottles floating in rivers, campsites full of empty beer cans.... Dead dogs.... Bulgaria was a lot cleaner on our route. We stared clear of major city's in Romania, apart from Sibiu, had a very nice McD's, with a ragged collection of beggars outside. Don't start me on Istanbul....

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Re: Turkey, Ukraine and Back

Post by gbags » Sat Jun 13, 2015 9:44 pm

rodyorkabr wrote:Beautiful!
...envy reigns here- great partners are everything!....I really enjoyed Bulgaria as much as Romania
"We might actually go there to live"- more info please!
My wife's from over seas and I lived in her country for 16 years, then we came back here to put our kids through school and she's been here 15 years. The kids have now flown the nest, we're solvent and for the first time can push off for months at a time. She's a lovely lady and we know that we'll end up in England if the children have children here so I promised her we'd have some time back out in the world before we settled down. We're looking for another country to spend some time in - or a few countries to spend a few months in - and Romania inside the Carpathian bend or Lviv looked like a cool base to explore outwards.

If this photo comes out it's an anti- Russian Ukrainian T shirt that says Victory or Death.

My boy will love it as it also kind of looks like Boner or Death.

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Re: Turkey, Ukraine and Back

Post by gbags » Sat Jun 13, 2015 9:53 pm


image_2015-06-13-3.jpg (51.07 KiB) Viewed 535 times
If this doesn't work you'll have to take my word for it.

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Re: Turkey, Ukraine and Back

Post by boristhebold » Sun Jun 14, 2015 8:08 am

Great report, enjoyed reading that. Any more pics ?

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