Balkans part 1 – Prague to Athens

Journey from Prague to Athens in 9 days on a BMW f800gs, around 3300km.

Travel

The only item on my itinerary upon departure was to be in Athens by next Saturday. Around 3000km to cover in 8 days, or just under 400km per day.

Link to the detailed route on mapy.cz

Day 1 | Prague > Zagreb (751km, ~9h)

A quick and dirty journey from Prague to Zagreb on the highway to get through the areas I’ve seen many times. I promised myself no more highways from Zagreb onwards.

Of course, I went the wrong way a few times, that’s what happens when your navigation is only via audio and you forget to add the Austrian and Slovenian vignettes to your route settings…

Day 2 | Zagreb > Crikvenica (259km, 4h)

After spending a nice evening and breakfast with a friend kind enough to host me and show me around Zagreb, I head out to Crikvenica, where a friend from work is vacationing. I take the old route instead of the highway, which is a wonderful great curvy road through the mountains popular with bikers. As I had a few hours to spare, I take a detour to the island of Krk and found a nice secluded little beach. I must admit I dropped the bike here and broke my right mirror when I slowed down to check if I hadn’t punctured my front tire going over some rough rocks. Good thing I have extended crash bars.

Day 3 | Crikvenica > Zadar (259km, 7h)

From Crikvenica, I head out through the North Velebit national park where I had hoped to do a small hike to Veliki Zavižan, but due to the low visibility and rainy weather, I decided to continue on my journey south through the national park. In the end, I managed to hike up Alancic where a great view of the sea and nearby islands opened up.

From there I take the Alan road down to the sea and enjoy the famous D8 route along the coast until my next detour up into the mountains. This route takes me up to Alanac and Tulove Grede through a rougher back route that didn’t have a soul on it, only stunning views.

Day 4 | Zadar > Kotor (446km, 6h)

Great road along the Croatian coast, fast turns with smooth asphalt and fantastic views of the sea. On the way, I met another friend from work vacationing in Brela, which just so happens to have some of the best beaches along this coast. So, of course, we went for a swim and lunch!

The UNESCO city of Kotor was magnificent, although I was not happy to hear that my accommodation was not accessible by bike, and had to carry all my gear through the maze of an old town. The city has a mesmerizing atmosphere that takes you back hundreds of years, especially in the night hours!

Day 5 | Kotor > Piva lake (210km, 7h)

In the early morning, I did a quick run/hike up to the cliffs behind the city, where the city walls stretch for several kilometers. The views of the bay were definitely worth the sweat, but I don’t stay long and run back down to get back on the bike and drive inland and try to make it to Durmitor national park.

Day 6 | Piva lake > Podgorica (250km, 7h)

After a beautifully clear night with the stars above me, I head out through the eastern side of Montenegro and see how I progress and where I end up. The goal was to cross into Albania, but in the end I decided to return to Podgorica for two reasons. First, the impassable mountain range in Albania meant that I had to go through the east anyway, and also my bike started acting up in the Montengrin mountains. Probably something with fuel pump, as the fuel supply started cutting out.

Day 7 | Podgorica > Llogara Pass (260km, 4h)

It was my tradition to spend my dinner and evening planning the route for the next day (or at least the route for the morning). My stay in Montenegro got prolonged by a day (because it was just so damn impressive) and after seeing the length and remoteness of the paths in the Albanian mountains, I thought it would not do it justice to spend just a day or two there. Also, I lost a bit of confidence in the bike with the issues I had the day before, I did not want to risk having it break down on a remote mountain road with no signal. Therefore, I planned to cross all of Albania in one day and get to Greece, where I could spend time exploring the north and visit the Vikos national park.

I wasn’t sure how fast I can move through Albania, so I set my destination to Llogara Pass, where I found some potential places to camp overnight on Park4Night, or plan the rest of the path to Greece, depending on the arrival time.

Crossing the border into Albania was easier than I had expected, only a passport and bike documents were required. Although the queue did move pretty slow, and I was roasting in full gear in 39C heat.

Turns out the heat was too much to handle for the bike’s fuel system too, and the bike could not make it up the last mountain. Luckily I had purchased extended insurance, which turned out to a real blessing. They arrange for the bike to be towed to the nearest town (Vlore), the third largest city in Albania and a great beach/party town.

Day 8 | Tirana > Ioannina (317km, 5h)

Finding a mechanic in Albania turned out to be nearly impossible. It seemed there was only one man fit for the job in Tirana, a good 3 hour drive back north. We therefore loaded the bike back up in the morning and headed to Tirana, where we met the expert who had a look at the bike, cleaned the gas valve, but would not be able to fix the fuel pump before Monday.

That wasn’t an option. I decided to take the bike and continue my journey, but taking breaks to cool the bike and driving at night. I spent the afternoon in Tirana in a vegan restaurant charging my devices and waiting for the weather to get cooler.

I spent some failing to fall asleep in the hammock on a river bank, and ended up getting a hotel at 3am in Greece (actually 2am, but the time zone shifted..)

Day 9 | Ioannina > Athens (500km, 6h)

After a lovely hotel breakfast, head out in the heat of the day to Athens, I broke the rule here and went on the highway briefly, but the fuel pump started acting up again, and the last thing you want is for your bike to stall on the highway. So after about 160km, I get off the highway and take the path north of the Bay of Corinth. This prolongs the rest of the journey from 3h to about 5h. Of course with a quick swim to cool down along the way!

4 Comments on “Balkans part 1 – Prague to Athens”

  1. Ahoj Vojto, ted jsem se s tátou prohlédla Tvé cestování. Máš můj obdiv. Nádherné fotky mi připomněly můj cyklozájezd do Černé hory v 2015 – kdy jsem sama odjela (zakoupila mi Libka) do neznáma s cizími lidmi. Takže Žabljak a Durmitor – jsem také poznávala. Moc se mi to vydařilo, ale to jsem ještě hoooodně jezdila na kole. Teď jsem slaboch. Přeji Ti aby motorka poslouchala a užívej si v době volného času mezi prací nádhery Řecka.
    Zdravím Líba
    PS
    Mně každé ráno (mimo víkendu) probouzí pohled na Tvůj obraz a odcházím do práce hezky naladěná, i když vím, že mě tam čeká vopruz. Zkomplikoval se mi odchod do důchodu. Nová ekonomka, která měla nastoupit na 150 % ,NENASTOUPÍ. Oznámila to ve čtvrtek a v pátek jsem s skoro zhroucenou ředitelkou řešila co dál. Tak ode mě dostala příslib, že jí v tom nenechám. Trochu tedy (asi o měsíc, či dva) s důchodem musím počkat. Ale vyjde mi ve všem, co budu chtít vstříc.
    Drž se.

  2. Ahoj Vojto, zdravím tě do Athen, přeji hezké léto I zajímavou cestu zpáteční. Heda

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