A nice bright sunny Saturday in September found a group of motor-bikers waiting excitedly for our final member to arrive before we departed to catch our train under the Channel to begin our trip to the Balkans for the Magellan 2017 tour… Although Dave’s alarm didn’t go off and he arrived a bit late we all made our booking time at the check-in!
It turns out that transitioning through tolls with wet tickets is a little tough and the French toll system is frustrating, but with a bit of patience we even managed to help a German driver whose credit card had been eaten by the pay machine. We arrived at the lovely hotel in Heudicourt-sous-les-Côtes got warm and dry and had some excellent grub leaving us all full, sleepy and content.
The following day was bright sunny day for our ride to Verdun to see the war memorial. I have found that every time I visit this amazing place I somehow seem to get dust in my eyes, (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it). While it’s a sobering place to visit the setting is wonderful and it’s nice just to sit in the quiet for a while before jumping back on the bikes for the ride to Baden Baden.
GPS’s continue to surprise us all with different routes across the Rhine being found by some from bridges to ferries but all arrived safely at Gasthause Auerhahn. Cold beers in the garden followed by big plates of local German food was very welcome and the following day everyone was ready for the B500 ride.
Ah, the weather, the weather can be a fickle mistress and for our ride along the B500 she decided to shroud the whole area in thick mist and fog with a very healthy does of rain for good measure. No photographs of this iconic road due to the rivers running down the road but I can assure you, it’s a bloody fabulous ride.
Continuing on to to Zell am See and the amazing scenery of Austria was breath taking with the rain stopping for the final leg into Saalbach. We arrived at the Hotel Glemmtalerhoff a little damp, but in good spirits.
Now the story gets a bit complicated… we awoke to a foot of snow blanketing the beautiful Austrian countryside. This was day we were supposed to ride the famous Grossglockner Pass but it was only open to vehicles fitted with snow chains and however hard we tried we couldn’t disguise the bikes as 4x4s. So we detoured around the mountain through Mittersill and the Felbertauern Tunnel before joining our route again at Lienz.
Then we had a welcome chocolate drink stop just after the tunnel to warm us up, as the temperature had dropped to 3° just before we entered the tunnel. I’m not so sure the lady who ran the coffee shop was that pleased to have 16 soggy bikers pile into her shop but we were certainly glad to see the huge fire that was chugging away in the corner.
Our arrival in Postojna was welcome and thankfully the heating was on and the fires were blazing, which allowed our kit to be dried out ready for the morning. A hot drink and a good meal set us up for our next days ride.
A brief trip around the Postojna Caves or the castle at Predjama in lovely warm sunshine helped with the drying out process and was a welcome break from numb bums for the pillions! Dave J was happy as Larry (whoever Larry is?) because he managed to pick up a DVD of the caves for his parents who had taken him to visit them when he was twelve.
Plitvice was our next stop so we could visit the lakes and a well-earned day off the bikes. Mo, Chris, Pete and Helena couldn’t keep off their bikes and spent the day riding around the local area exploring while everyone else spent the day wandering the national park, which is only ten minutes up the road from the hotel by bus.
Plitvice was followed by another two night stay but this time in Sarajevo staying in the ETN hotel which is slap bang in the middle of the older part of the city with parking both on the roof and underground. The highlight of the stay was the tour of the city by a local guide (Nemo) who lived below ground in the city with his family and neighbour’s throughout the war. His insights offered us a unique view of the war which most of us had only heard about while watching it unfold on TV in the mid nineties.
Next stop on this cracking tour was Dubrovnik, via a visit to the Tunnel musuem and the Bridge at Mostar.
Dubrovnik is the jewel in crown of Croatia many would say. The old town proved a brilliant day out in fantastically hot sunshine. Tours of the wall and the Game of Thrones tours can be purchased in the hotel lobby and Old Town is only a 15-minute ride by bus from the hotel. To finish off the day a swim in the sea off the hotel beach rounds off a great day.
The following day Chris Edwards took off on his own along the Dalmatian coast and strangely found himself on a ferry while everyone else avoided the perilous sea crossing (it wasnt really perilous but we have to give some artistic license here). What an amazing days riding along the coast to just outside Zadar. The sun was brilliant but there was a very strong wind, which made riding interesting. That said the views more than made up for it coupled with the wonderful BBQ provided by Marcus and his family. Unfortunately the long awaited apple crumble and custard didn’t arrive much to Mr Mo’s chagrin… below is the person who raised the spectre of pudding without following through.
Breakfast was the usual feast of cold meats, cheese and eggs with lots of coffee then we were off heading north through Slovenia into Austria and our hotel for the evening just outside Villach. A loud introduction to the local umpah band in the form of one man and a computer in the tent behind the hotel was the cultural highlight of the day.
The weather dawned bright and warm for the trip up either the Brenner Pass or the Timmerelsjoch Pass depending on how you felt at the lunch stop.
I’m happy to say that most people took the Timmelsjoch option although Dave S and myself missed everything after a minor GPS hitch. Terry G took full advantage of the motorways at the insistence of the police after a small landslide closed the road. It was heart breaking to see his face after he recounted the 9€ cost of riding for less than 500m on the motorway. A Yorkshire man as well as an accountant makes for a heady mix where money is concerned, apparently…
Day fourteen took us through the Vosges mountains in France before stopping at the remote Logis le Rouge Gazon ski lodge high in the hills for our last evening together.
I’ve had a great time on this trip and have met some wonderful people who share my passion for touring and motorbikes. Hopefully they will return for more tours with us next year!!