From Trieste it was only a short ride to the Slovenian border. We passed through Slovenia, country No. 4 on the list, quite quickly and entered Croatia where we found a camping site in Selce. We set up our tent and finally got to test all our camping equipment we didn’t test before due to lack of time.
Surprise, surprise: it all worked fine! The tent did not collapse. The sleeping bags were warm. The sleeping pads didn’t deflate and even the cooker functioned just like it should: the next morning we made our first self-brewed espresso.
After we hit the road, the beauty of the Croatian coast made us stop every once in a while. The nicest thing about it: it’s quite steep, so the hills pretty much start at the coastline. That means spectacular views and it makes the coastal roads really curvy.
We chose not take the coastal roads further south. Instead we found our way into the Croatian hinterland. This was riding at its best. Tiny roads and almost no traffic. But at some point we felt like something was wrong. The landscape was weirdly deserted, the very few people in the streets were looking sceptical.
We realized we were in the middle of a region called Kraijna that had a very violent history in the Yugoslav wars and saw lots of military activity before its peaceful reintegration into Croatia in 1998.
The atmosphere was ghostly and slightly discomforting. Despite the blue skies.
We stopped for a day in a small village at the shore. Not too pretty actually, the picture below is a bit misleading. But it was nice no to be on a bike for a day. We plan to do that once again some day!
After crossing the Neum gap and riding through Bosnia for 5 kilometers, we arrived in the Middle Ages also known as Dubrovnik. It's a spectacular town but not exactly motorcycle ready. There's stairs everywhere. Its builders could have been a bit more visionary.
Picture postcards where ever you look in Dubronik.
Since it’s off season, we thought we might have a chance to see Dubrovnik in a less crowded version than usual. But there’s an extreme exception to off season. It’s called Easter. For those who forget, Dubrovnik installed a friendly reminder.
After leaving Dubrovnik we found out that you cannot cross the Croatian-Bosnian border near Dubravka. We found out by showing up there - glad to live in world where Google doesn't know everything... The signs spoke a clear language and the locals didn't recommend crossing here either. Nice trip anyway.
But Goolgle couldn't stop us. We found a way into Montenegro. And we're happy we did. Montenegro instantly joins Norway, Italy and Georgia among the best countries to ride a motorcycle in. They have it all: the coast, beautiful mountains, good roads and friendly people. If you’re riding the main roads you have to watch the speed limits carefully. But then again: who wants to ride main roads anyway? Plus there’s always someone warning you with their headlights if the police is waiting after the next curve.
This Austro-Hungarian fortress we saw along the way looked a bit like a hobbit home. Good for a pause. Because the highlight was yet to come. And it demanded full concentration. The Lovcen Road winds up the mountain in 25 hairpin curves.
After crossing the National Park on roads that Google doesn't know either, we made our way back down to the lowlands to another National Park: Skadarsko Jederzo. It was already late in the day and light was almost magical, it hardly shows in the picture.
The next day gave us an opportunity to talk about the weather. Ever since we had crossed the Alps, it was the same: 20 degrees and sunny. Perfect riding weather. We knew it would stop sometime, the question was when. The rain came sudden but with perfect timing: right when we got in line at the border to Albania. There were about 30 cars in front of us but we were invited to pass them all, get under the roof and enter Albania straight away. They know how to welcome bikers there! The rain stayed for an hour, afterwards we were spoilt by views like the following.
We crossed northern Albania in one day and spent the night by chance in a town that seemed to a have a very special Easter ritual. The place smelled like there was a huge pile of rotten eggs somewhere. It was the sweet smell of sulfur. People there praised its healing power. Fair enough. We carried on to Ohrid, the holy lake.
We stopped to go south and will head east for a while now. Our next stop will somewhere in Northern Greece. Ready for more bends.