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

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Serendipity

Tuesday 2nd & Wednesday 3rd June

Albania

So backward was my thoughts about Albania. The fact is that this once poorest relation of Europe, has, over the last 20 years, emerged blinking into the bright light of freedom from its communist slumber and isolation.

We found Tirana, the country's capital, an interesting and charming place, full of iPhone-toting well-dressed youngsters hanging out in bars. The city is definitely not full of thieves and mobsters, which is often the portrayal in western media. Its 'café culture' rivals, and even surpasses, anything I've ever seen anywhere around the world.

We took an Austrian-built express cable car ride up Mount Dajti on the northern outskirts of the city. The silence of the sweeping cable car ride over the forest and shrubs was deafening, broken only by the songs of the odd skylark or tree pipit.

[Panorama - click to enlarge]

A hazy view over the City of Tirana - from 1,612 m [5,290 ft]

It was a nice change to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a couple of hours and get some cool fresh mountain air. 

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 Thursday-4th & Friday-5th

An easy 100 km [63 mi] 2-hour ride to the border with neighbouring Montenegro during the morning of Thursday-4th.

The border crossing was simple, to the point of confusion.

See, there is no 'No man's land' separating the two states; instead a single border control acts for both countries. We found this out 3 km into Montenegro and had to turn around and head back to the bipartisan crossing to buy insurance (€10), as my green card also didn't include cover for Montenegro.

How many red-roof buildings can you erect on an island? - the Montenegro coastline has the answer.

A further 100 km that day and we reached our destination of Kotor, in its stunning natural setting at the very edge of the mountain-rimmed Kotor Bay.

Blink, and you might have thought you were in a Norwegian Fjord.

Cruise ships plying the Adriatic Sea call-in daily at Kotor. During the Friday (5th), we counted three funnelling their passengers onto the port's pier; the Old Town of Kotor just five minutes walk away.

We took a ride up to the top of the high eastern surrounding cliffs and enjoyed some lunch at the top ..

.. an amazing experience with a stunning view! [Panorama - click to enlarge]

Kotor, a dramatically beautiful town is perfectly at one with its setting. Highly recommended.

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Saturday-6th

Onward to Croatia.

Bloody hell, the sweeping coastline and its vistas is/are sensational around this corner of the world.

It wasn't long before we reached Dubrovnik, nicknamed "Pearl of the Adriatic."

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The intact walled Old City was where we spent the rest of the afternoon that Saturday (6th).




A reflective 'selfie' in a fancy wrought iron-protected glass doorway whilst ..

.. getting a little pleasurably lost in a maze of narrow cobbled side streets, which reminded me of Venice .. with little prospect of getting your feet wet - therefore surely better than Venice?!

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Victuals

Foodie pics:

As hardened adventurers [sarc/], grub is something never far from mind, especially when you're sat on your arses for a good portion of the day. We often end-up 'making do' with whatever local protein might stray our way, like ..

dry-aged meat barbecued over an open wood-chip fire ..

.. or unfamiliar griddled sea fare, line-caught that morning ..

.. all washed down with whatever is safe to drink nearby.

Yep, we're feckin' hard core travellers!

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Sunday-7th

I had messed-up the next night's hotel reservation in Dubrovnik; booking what should have been Sunday night's accommodation somewhere around the city of Split a day later, on Monday-8th, which meant we had an unexpected 24 hours in hand to travel the 230 km [143mi] from Dubrov to Split.

Some quick-thinking [always difficult?] .. and a change of strategy was therefore required.

The answer: we would catch another ferry - How many ferries has it been now? Frankly, I've lost count - to the outlying island of Hvar. YAY! Pure bloody genius.

It's 90 minutes of very easy-going riding - hardly any traffic and no more than 80 km [50 mi] - from Sućuraj on the eastern end of Hvar Island to the township of Hvar located at the western end.

Countless dry stone walls, almost never ending, built by a long list of past invaders, skirt both sides of the largely narrow, twisting hilly roadway ..

Lush vineyards, gorgeous beaches with tiny inlets and secluded coves, lead to the township of Hvar.

We were greeted by our hosts at the 'Apartments Dobrila' with not one but two bottles of homemade white wine. 


Finding Hvar, by a happy mistake, re-defined the meaning of the word 'serendipity' for me.

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Monday-8th

The 2-hour north-bound ferry crossing from Stari Grad, Hvar Island to mainland Split, Croatia's second city, by midday. Whereafter disembarking the ferry, we turned right and rode the short 11km [20 minutes] distance to the nearby town of Podstrana, where ..

I sat on a beach .. earning 20% [I wish!] .. and

.. went for my first swim of the year - without getting my hair wet, mind you. That was not entirely a case of instantly turning plums into prunes when the sea temperature is 22°C.

Did some 'people watching' and

got proper p!ssed .. in doing so temporarily lost a camera as a result ..


.. ate some pizza, with side dishes of salad and chips - and viewed the sun slowly sink into the western horizon.

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Tuesday-9th

Along the way to Zagreb in the north of the country, I wanted to visit a Croatian national park .. with waterfalls.

There are two choices from Podstrana: (a) Plitvice Lakes, 250 km [155mi] and somewhat off the beaten track, or (b) Krka National Park, near Šibenik, around 85 km [53 mi] and only slightly off the beaten track.

We chose the softer option, Krka NP.

But unlike many of our co-visitors, passed on the swim .. and ate two large whippy ice-creams (each) instead.

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Wednesday-10th and Thursday-11th

Another day, a very fast sprint for 325 km [202 mi] up the A1 motorway to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, which is where I'm finishing this latest blog post.

Visually, Zagreb, at first view, appears to be a mixture of Austro-Hungarian architecture .. a bit rough around the edges.

It has the usual churches and religious monuments that you would expect to see ..

.. and statues to the country's historic heroes; like the one above in Ban Jelačić Square .. named after the the 19th century Count.

It would be nice to spend another day or so here in Zagreb, but we must move on as our flight home to England is now booked. We return from Wroclaw, Poland, on July-2nd.

Just three weeks remaining. Better get a move on then, as we're barely halfway through my planned itinerary.

Tomorrow, Friday-12th, we head south again, and east into the 1990s war-ravaged country of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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From Ellen's journal: click on this link →  Montenegro and beyond

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