Istanbul-Innsbruck 13

Turkey – Bulgaria – Macedonia – Albania – Montenegro – Croatia – Slovenia – Austria

Extra detour by bus
This time, in the summer of 2013, we will go for a 4 weeks journey with all the equipment, including tent and stove. Having arrived in Istanbul, we loaded our two very large bicycle boxes into a bus which takes us to Edrin in the north of Turkey. The Turks are very helpful and since our hotel is not directly on the bus line, the driver even makes a detour and takes us directly to our hotel. The next morning we are assembling our touring bikes in the lobby of the hotel and are being watched by interested spectators. Our project is very impressive.

Beautiful Bulgaria
After a short drive we leave Turkey and cross a short corner of Greece until we arrive in Bulgaria. In the next few days, our path will take us through the Bulgarian mountains. We like Bulgaria from the beginning and dive into another world. A world in which people are still traveling with donkeys and wagons. These are not surprising when we overtake them. The roads are amazingly good, would also be great for road cycling, and there are always water wells with fresh water. Most of the water wells even have soap for washing and drinking cups, but we had cups ourselves. In the mountain villages, communication with the locals is very difficult since they can not speak English. But they are patient with us and in the little shops, which are open from the morning till late at night, we usually get what we need. Nice spots to to pitch our tent we find everywhere, so we always camp outside.

At a beautiful lake we have to make break for three days, Andi apparently picked up something at the airport and needs some rest. A stray dog becomes our guard dog. Every night he is closer to our tent. Obviously in the free nature the regeneration time is much faster and Andi is fit again after three days.

In Macedonia we notice already in the first village that the living standard is again much higher than in Bulgaria and the houses are fenced again. We meet many people who speak German. We are told that 90% of the village population was already living in Switzerland. The fact that we traveled well through Bulgaria amazed the Macedonians, they would never go to Bulgaria because they do not trust their neighbors. The Macedonians are very communicative, hospitable and also very helpful.

The next 160 kilometers we travel by bus to gain some time. After a  hair-raising ride, we are happy to be back on the bike.

Albania we like a lot and also here the people are incredibly friendly. In a river, we join some bathing boys and jump with them into the river and let us carry along with the currents. As we leave Albania we are amazed about the huge traffic jam at the border and that almost all cars have a Swiss number plate. A french guy, whom we met in an exceptionally delicious fish restaurant, was also very astonished and said he had not known that so many Swiss people live in Albania. On the other hand, we are astonished how many Albanians live in Switzerland and travel to Albania through the summer holidays.

Short stay in Montenegro, touristic Croatia
In Montenegro we enjoy a two-day break and enjoy the independence in the open countryside. This will change quickly in Croatia. It is very hot and most people lie like dead flies on the beaches. We marvel at each other and do not want to exchange. They can not understand how we can ride the bike in this glowing heat. However,what they do not know that the driving breeze is very refreshing and we can hardly stop, as it nearly kills us when we stop.

Homecoming and Conclusion
In Split, we again have to get on a bus to gain some time, which brings us to Zagreb. Here it got even hotter and so we are glad that Slovenia is very wooded. We are accustomed to camp outdoors and the closer we get to Switzerland, the more populated and hilly it becomes. This makes it very difficult for us to find nice places for the night. So we finally decided in Innsbruck to jump on a train  and a few hours later we arrived at home. Here we relax from the tour before we return to work. Even after this tour, we are looking forward to more. Our conclusion is that travel with the touring bike is better outside of Europe, in countries less populated.