25 July 2015

New Territory

SUNDAY, 28 JUN 2015

I'd been busy on a project through the spring, so hadn't been able to make my usual trip to Europe in late March or April; in fact, I couldn't get away until late June.

I'd left my moto in Nice after the regatta, and contacted the place that was storing it and told them I'd pick it up the morning of Monday, June 29; they said OK.  I have a friend who just bought a place outside of Nice, and he was also in town, so he invited me to spend the night on Sunday.  Cool!  Everything went fine with the flight, and I took a taxi to my friend's place; here is the amazing view from his terrace:
It was a beautiful place!  Evgeny had just bought a barbeque pit, so we had a great barbeque with his neighbors--it was really good.

During the barbeque, at about 20:00, I got a message from the guy storing my moto, saying that I couldn't pick up my bike Monday morning!  Supposedly my bike was in an underground parking lot, and the elevator was broken, so they couldn't get it out...they would have to get a worker to fix the elevator, etc.  I texted him back and forth a few times and by 22:00 told him that I would come by at 09:30 the next morning to discuss--I was pretty pissed, as I had a few hotel reservations and a fairly tight schedule.

MONDAY, 29 JUN 2015
So I show up at the shop the next morning at 09:45 and lo and behold, my moto is parked in front of the shop!  When I asked the guy, he said that it had been "really hard" but they'd gotten someone to fix the elevator between 10pm Sunday and 09:30 Monday morning...  Very odd, but I was glad to have my bike, so I packed up as quickly as possible and left.  I didn't have any particular destination that evening--I was thinking about Grenoble--but after asking at the bike shop I decided to go to Gap, a town in the mountains in France.

The road to Gap--the Route Napoleon--was nice, through some smallish mountains.  I stopped after a couple of hours to mess with my helmet, and realized what had really happened with the bike shop--they had broken my helmet, and fixed it in a half-ass way; I assume they made up the story about the elevator to buy themselves some time.  I was definitely not impressed.

Anyway, I reached Gap in the evening; it was a bigger town than I thought, actually a small city, and I had a bit of trouble finding a hotel, but then found an Ibis just outside the center.  The hotel was nothing special, and I discovered as I walked around town that the town was nothing special either.  Everything was closed by 6, and the place was pretty dreary.  So no pix...

TUESDAY, 30 JUN 2015
Left Gap pretty early, heading for Bellagio.  There was a mountainous road to roughly Turin, and then highway to near Como, then the usual Como road to Bellagio.  The ride was pretty standard, not much to report.  Bellagio was nice as usual:

WEDNESDAY, 1 JUL 2015
This morning I bumped into a Scottish guy on a moto staying at the same hotel; he said that my bike (which is kind of distinctive) was there last time he stayed at the hotel as well.  Nice guy, on his way back to Scotland.

From Bellagio I was riding to Trieste, where I'd never been.  Unfortunately, the only practicable way to get there was via the highway, very boring.  I got a late start and didn't get into Trieste until 17:00 or so.  I found a hotel quickly enough, and it suited the city perfectly--formerly rather grand and now rather shabby; I think it was called the Novo Impero or something like that.  Anyway, I walked around the city quite a bit, and a few kilometers from my hotel it was a bit nicer, but still nothing special, so no pictures here either...

THURSDAY, 2 JUL 2015
Today I figured I would ride towards Split and either stay there or in Markarska, Croatia, where another friend has a house.  I would ride along the coast and if I heard back from Garth would go to Makarska, otherwise stay in Split.  Just outside of Trieste, there is a border post with Slovenia, but I just showed my passport (didn't take off my helmet).  Rode through Slovenia quickly, into Croatia near Rijeka, and got on to the coast road.

The coast road was nice, but it was getting hot, and the sun off the water was very hot.  Moreover, some suntan lotion I'd applied was running down into my eyes, so it was very hard to see anything.  By the time  I got to Split my eyes had had it, so I decided to stop there; moreover I hadn't heard back from Garth, so I didn't know what was going on there...

I found another shabby hotel near the center of Split and walked around a bit, went to Diocletian's palace, which is full of tourist shops.  There is also kind of a square/small amphitheater where they have live music and you can get beer, so that was OK.  I had an awesome dinner, gnocchi with pistachio sauce, yum!

I also finally heard back from Garth, he'd never gotten my SMS messages, but he was at Makarska and I could come by any time, so I would go there tomorrow.

There was also some kind of music festival in town, with a free concert in the park.  Here are some pix from around the festival:




After having a few beers at the concert I walked around town a bit more.  Split is a nice town, but after seeing a couple dozen "ancient walled cities" they tend to kind of blur together.  Here are a few more pix:




FRIDAY, 3 JUL 2015
It's only about 90 km along the coast from Split to Makarska, so it should be a short, pleasant, ride.  And so it was...  I arrive at Markarska by about 11:00, although it took me a while to find Garth's place because I screwed up the directions.  Anyway, by noon I was parked in Garth's driveway and was having a cold beer.

Markarska's a nice town at the foot of a big rocky mountain:
 Here is the main town square, it is much nicer in the evening, when the cafes are full of people drinking wine, etc:
 We went down to the beach later in the day, here are some pix:


 Here is Garth and me on his roof terrace:
 And here is the view from the roof terrace:

SATURDAY, 4 JUL 2015
I kind of wanted a day off the bike, so decided to stay at Garth's and celebrate the 4th of July.  His wife had a friend coming in from Texas, so we planned a big barbeque feast--it was great.

SUNDAY, 5 JUL 2015
Today I was heading towards Dubrovnik, which is on the coast at the southern tip of Croatia, about 150 km from Makarska, so another short ride along the coast.

I arrived in Dubrovnik around noon and found a cheap hotel near the old town with secure parking.  Dubrovnik is nice enough, but the "ancient walled city" thing has lost much of its allure.  I hadn't known, but apparently they filmed parts of Game of Thrones in Dubrovnik, so there was lots of related tourism and gift shops.  Overall, too touristy for me...

But here are some pix:
















And that's all I have to say about that...

SUNDAY, 6 JUL 2015
Before I got there, I was torn between staying in Dubrovnik for two nights or going on to Sarajevo the second night.  After one night in Dubrovnik, the decision was pretty easy:  I  would go to Sarajevo!  

There were a few different potential routes to Sarajevo, but the most interesting-looking route started a bit south of Dubrovnik, near the Montenegran border, and ran up along the Montenegran border to Sarajevo.   My Garmin GPS, however, wanted absolutely nothing to do with that route and refused to take me that way.  You've got to know when to turn off the GPS, though, so I turned it off and headed towards the border.

The Bosnian border was easy enough, although I had to pay 30 euro for insurance, which I suspect was a rip-off.  In any event, the border guy (who also sold me the insurance) was friendly enough, and soon I was on my way.  Since my GPS wasn't leading the way, I memorized a couple of town names along the way and hoped I'd see signs along the way to guide me.

And so it was...along an amazingly beautiful road with almost no vehicle traffic (but a few herds of sheep and cattle).  I didn't know anything about Bosnia before I went there, but it is much greener and more beautiful than I expected.  By afternoon I was in an alpine-like area with towering mountains and rushing mountain streams, really nice.

I got to Sarajevo by early evening and wanted to stay near the place where Archduke Franz-Ferdinand was assassinated; I had picked out the name of a nearby hotel on the internet and though I didn't know where it was, hoped that I'd see some signs for it in the city.  Although it took me a little while, I finally found some signs and then the hotel (Europa or something), which also had underground parking.

It was kind of hot, but I walked around a bit; Sarajevo is very different from Croatia, more eastern and exotic.  The food kind of sucked though, in the evening all of the restaurants were full, and when I finally sat down at an open table, the food was not good--greasy meat and rice...  Even an after-dinner ice-cream tasted awful.

But the city is very cool.  I went to the assassination spot, here it is, right where the crowd of people is standing on the left side of the street:
The assassination was a total screw-up, it should never had happened...and because it did, how many millions died?  WWI, Russian Revolution, WWII, and all that flowed from them.  Wow!  The building in front of which the assassination took  place is now a musuem, where they have the pistol the assassin used--it is tiny, it looks like a toy!  Here are a few more shots of this cursed place:

Here is a shot of the river, from the same spot:
MONDAY, 7 JUL 2015
This evening I had booked a ferry from Split to Ancona, Italy, so I had to get back to Split.  The ride through Bosnia was very nice, but there was more traffic than on the way in, and it was very hot (about 38 celsius, or 100 fahrenheit).  I had planned to stop off at Mostar to see the famous bridge, but I missed the turn off and it was so hot I decided to save it for the next trip...

I got to Ancona by about 15:00 and then waited around until 18:30, when the ferry would start to load.  Gradually several other bikers arrived, all but one riding R1200GSs, like mine (and the other one riding an older BMW GS...).

Finally we loaded up and about 20:00 we headed out, here are some pix:



 Here is a shot of the ferry at night, I thought it looked cool, like outer space:
TUESDAY, 8 JUL 2015
We arrived at about 07:00, and it was already 85 degrees--it was gonna be a hot one!  I was headed towards Bellagio for the night, but decided to visit San Marino along the way--the smallest country in the world AFAIK.

I needed some gas as I headed up the coast, so I pulled in to fill up.  As soon as a got off my bike an Italian policeman pulled up behind me, got out of his car, and approached me.  Had I been speeding?  Or worse?  The policeman said hello and was joined by his partner.  They pointed at my bike and asked "What is that bolt down on the final drive?  My partner and I both have GSs, and we don't have such a bolt?"  I was relieved that it was about the bike, so got into a discussion with them.  They ended up taking a picture, as did an elderly couple from New Zealand which was also at the gas station.  Before they left, I asked the policemen how to get to San Marino; they said "Get off at the next exit, and then head up there!", pointing to a massive mountain in the near distance.

Anyway, I filled up and headed up to San Marino.  When you see it, you can see why it remained independent--the countryside is generally fairly flat, with rolling hills, with one giant rocky mountain sticking out of it--San Marino...  The road too there was pretty easy, not too many tight hairpins, and soon I was parked in downtown San Marino:

 A couple of these guys were walking around, not sure what their function was:
 I wandered into town for a bit:
Here is the view of the surrounding countryside:


Even up here it was really hot, so after a little break I set off for Bellagio.

The ride to Bellagio was through heavily-congested Northern Italy, so it kind of sucked in the heat.  Finally, though, I reach Bellagio, checked into my favorite hotel, and was able to relax.  A few of the traditional shots of Bellagio:





 The last night ferry...when will I see the next?

Oops, almost forgot, here is a map of the overall trip: