I am the original 'Uneasy Rider' .. not especially blessed with much natural motorcycling talent, nor am I a particularly courageous motorcycle rider.
Nevertheless I went 'Right Way Round' New Zealand (at least twice) followed by a wonderful ride around Australia.

Then it was up to southeast Asia, around Indo-China, across southern Central Asia to the Middle East, Asia Minor .. and finally into Europe.

Right Way Round - all the way home .. from New Zealand to England, 2-up on a Honda Transalp.

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PROGRESS SO FAR - Distance covered across Western Europe: 6,411 km [3,984 miles] - as at Thursday, October-22nd, 2015

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Acropolis Now

Tuesday, 19th May

With the bike's Australian battery - still going strong - fully re-charged, essential liquids and lubricants (radiator coolent, brake fluid, engine crank-case oil and 95-octane fuel) replaced, replenished and topped-up; it was then simply a case a pumping a few pounds of air into the tyres to get them back up to a little over their recommended working pressures (psi: 30 front & 35 rear); lubricating the still relatively new Tbilisi (Georgia)-fitted drive chain .. and we would be good to go.

An idyllic rural view (above) right outside the entrance of MotoCamp, a real 'home from home' for international bikers; superbly well-managed by a trio of biking enthusiasts, namely: Ivo, Polly and Doug.

If you're a biker and need a temporary escape from your normal hum-drum routine, then I suggest you go and pay a visit to MotoCamp, Idilevo, northern Bulgaria. Roll-on the throttle, step-up the pace, and you'll find it just over your normal biking horizon .. no more than 3-4 days riding away from most places in western Europe, including the United Kingdom.

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By late morning, on a typical warm and sunny Bulgarian early summer day, we hugged our splendid eastern European hosts, maybe for the last time (although I hope it's not.)

We then got going. That sublimely familiar feeling once again. After a seven months' absence, it all fell into place .. within seconds. I was grinning from ear to ear.
 
We travelled our initial 75 km [47 mi] accompanied by Bob, from Arizona USA, who was riding a classic BMW K75. 90 minutes later we pulled-up at the base of an historic peak high in the Balkan Mountains.

Can you spot 'Er Indoor (wearing her helmet) at the bottom of the picture?

Standing 1,400 metres [4,600 ft] above sea level, the Buzludzha Monument is the biggest ideological building in Bulgaria.

Built by by civil engineering troops from the Bulgarian army (plus a few loony volunteers) as a tribute to the creation of the Bulgarian Social Democratic Party in 1891 (a fore-runner of the Bulgarian Communist Party.) It was finally completed in 1981.


Since the political changes that occurred in Bulgaria from 1989, the condition of the monument has been deteriorating from bad to worse.


Some of the widespread contemporary grafiti (above 'Communism' imitates the 'Coca-Cola' logo) brought back memories of the early 1970s to me:

"I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)"

"Buy the World a Coke" - A groundbreaking 1971 television "Hilltop" [very appropriate in view of my location at the time] commercial for Coca-Cola. If you were born later than say 1980 then you probably won't have a clue what I'm talking about. To put you in the picture, here's the restored version of that original famous TV ad:



"IT'S THE REAL THING" you know.




In summary, the  Buzludzha Monument is a magnificently depressing edifice, which Bob and I decided to privately re-name, "The Commie Folly!"

Nuff said.

Another 212 km [132 mi] that afternoon, westwards along Route 6 (E871) brought us into Sofia, the capital city of Bulgaria.

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Wednesday-20th

A 2-hour 'free' - which means 'Please tip generously!' - walking tour of Sofia's city centre included the usual sights ..


..such as the President's Palace ..


.. where we, by luck of timing, witnessed the changing of the guard.


My attention was captured by a flowing meadow, quite out of place, so it occured to me, right in the centre of this bustling city centre. Two little sisters holding hands. Quite charming. As a new grandfather to a new granddaughter .. I tend to notice these cute things much more nowadays.

An Italian member of our walking group. I still notice and admire these things too (from a distance, sadly!)

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Thursday-21st

Border crossing #1 of this leg of the trip.

It wasn't too far from Sophia to the Bulgaria-Macedonia border. No more than 115 km [72 mi] .. although I did manage to lose my bearings, which diverted us south and added about 30 minutes to what should have been no more than a couple of hours riding.

The border crossing was relatively straightforward, apart from getting stung for 50 Euros [GB£36] - the price of temporary Macedonian third-part motorcycle insurance. My green card cover-note wasn't valid in this enigmatic country, right in the heart of 'proper' Balkans territory.

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The Republic of Macedonia - accepted in the UN under the provisional reference of: the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)


'One of Europe’s last undiscovered countries: a natural paradise of mountains, lakes and rivers, where life moves to a different rhythm. 

The country represents the Balkans in the truest sense, consisting of a fascinating mix of Macedonian, Albanian, Turkish, and Mediterranean influences.'


Capital: Skopje
Government: Parliamentary Democracy
Currency: Macedonian Denar (MKD) - although the Euro is widely accepted
Area: 25,333 sq km
Population: 2,022,547 (July 2007 est.)
Language: Macedonian 58%, Albanian 33%, Turkish 3%, Serbian 2%, other 4%
Religion: Macedonian Orthodox 65%, Muslim 33%, other 2%
 
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Despite the financial setback - which I was partially expecting in any case - we pushed-on, by-passing Skopje (capital city of Macedonia), for a further 305 km [190 mi] and eventually arrived in the lakeside township of Ohrid by early evening .. and I have to admit, quite knackered.

The following day - Friday 22nd - was grey and overcast. Frankly, we didn't feel like doing much at all, apart from wander aimlessly around the narrow cobbled stone streets ..



.. and alleyways of the old town of Ohrid.

By late afternoon, predictably, the rain fell .. and we finished the day watching endless loops of CNN and France 24 newsreel footage, plus some aussie TV dramas - the only english-speaking channels available - in our nicely appointed lodgings, the Villa Dislieski-Maki Hotel, which I highly recommended if you ever find yourself in Ohrid, Macedonia.

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Saturday-23rd

Ohrid is the jewel in Macedonia's crown.
 
King Samuil's Fortress high above the old town.

There was once 365 churches and temples in Ohrid - one for each day of the year.

The ones that remain are extremely well maintained.

We wound around, and up and down, the narrow twisting cobbled streets of the old town, until finally reached the cliff-top 13th-century Church of Saint John (Sveti Jovan) at Kaneo.

I parked the bike as close as I could possibly get to the Church; a proximity completely out of bounds for all cars, vans and trucks because of the restrictive nature of the narrow tracks and pathways.

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The picture above reminded me of something I once read [I can't re-call when nor where]:

"A travelling motorcyclist is someone who rides thousands of miles so he[or she] can be photographed standing in front of his[or her] bike."

How true is that?!

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Just above the Church, looking-out across Lake Ohrid to the shores of a neighbouring country, Albania .. to the southwest.

My eyes followed the passenger ferry you see (above), around the headland ..

.. and as I peered down into the crystal clear azure waters below I easily understood why medieval monks found spiritual inspiration here.

Lake Ohrid, 300 metres [nearly 1,000 ft] deep and three million years old. Amongst Europe's deepest and oldest.

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Sunday-24th


Border crossing #2. Macedonia - into northern Greece. Carrying European passports, immigration was childishly simple. A quick flash of my insurance green card to the Greek Customs official and we were through. 20 minutes (tops) for the whole procedure.

European standard roads. Finely graded smooth ashphalt, lined with poppies in full bloom. An absolute delight. Cruising at speeds well in excess of 100 km/h would be the norm for the next few days. 

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Meteora - literally "middle of the sky", "suspended in the air" or "in the heavens above" - is one of Greece's gems, and one of the largest and most important religious complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in this region of the world.




Meteora consists of a number of immense rock pinnacles topped with a total of 24 monasteries built from the 14th until the 16th century. Six of them remain in full use today.




... a closer look





Unsurpisingly, the Meteora monasteries have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

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From Ellen's journal: click on this link →  The Next Leg - The Balkans

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And even more importantly .. it's beer o'clock time!

The two local brews I've cottoned onto are:
  • The Mythos brand. 5.0% ABV. The company (Mythos), has been a subsidiary of Carlsberg since 2008; and
  • Fix Greek lager beer. Also 5.0% ABV.
Both good beers, partcularly after the second or third bottle!

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Tuesday-26th and Wed-27th

The City of Athens 

I mentioned in the previous post that I had pre-arranged to have a new seat made for the Transalp.

The highly regarded seat manufacturer, Moto.K, happens to be based in Athens.

Midday Tuesday-26th I visited their factory - located about 4½ km from our hotel - to discuss my requirements.

24 hours later the deal was complete ..

.. and I'm now the pleased owner of a brand new custom-made 'Comfort Seat' from Moto.K.

Thanks guys. My patched and rapidly perishing Airhawk cushion is now consigned to rubbish bin.

Most of Wednesday-26th was spent doing the 'touristy' stuff you would expect to do in Athens.

Boy, was it hot?! 

The Acropolis - needless to say is a 'must see.' The ancient citadel is located on a high rocky outcrop about 150 metres (490 ft) above the city. The cool breeze up there was very welcome.

[Panorama - click to enlarge]

The Theatre of Dionysus, nearing full restoration.


Great views from up there overlooking the city ..


The Parthenon, dedicated to the goddess Athena, is the big draw for visiting foreigners lke us.

Still under constant renovation, which may never get finished in view of the Greek financial crisis. But who knows? - maybe UNESCO are helping to foot the bill. After all,the Acropolis site is on the World Heritage list.

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Tomorrow morning, Thursday-28th, we will head northwest to Delphi, which in the Greek world is considered to be the centre of the universe.



.. then afterwards, onward to the Island of Corfu.

It's a tough life!

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1 comment:

  1. Great to see you at places I have been. Also places that I have been you and you not! The Peloponnese was a sure nice quiet neck of the woods.

    ReplyDelete