I really like the Croatia tour, and this is my fourth time of guiding it for Magellan Motorcycle Tours.
My ride up to Folkestone was uneventful, until I met Rich Edwards the Support rider – an old navy friend of mine just as I joined the M25. What are the chances of meeting up like that?

An evening spent eating Nepalese food in a restaurant in Hythe gave us ample opportunity to catch up and prepare for the trip the next day. After a good night’s sleep, we made our way to the Stop24 Services just off the M20, an ideal place to meet up with our troop before making our way to the tunnel. Normally arriving at 6.30 in the morning I’m the first on site, but on this occasion almost everyone else had already arrived before me. Big smiley faces and sturdy handshakes with lots of banter immediately set the tone for the trip and with the last few of the group arriving, a quick morning brief and introductions, we were off to the tunnel and onto our 8.20 train.

No delays and we are very quickly on the French motorway system riding as a group to the first coffee stop with Andre leading. The weather was awesome, brilliant sunshine and a nice breeze what more could we ask for?

The end of day one finds us arriving at the Hotel les Tuileries which is situated on the edge of the Lorraine Regional Park. That evening they were hosting two parties – a wedding and a 50th birthday. Everyone cheered the happy couple as they walked off hand in hand to their reception. Somehow Rich managed to get a photo with the bride and groom! …. He couldn’t talk his way into an invite though!

Day two means a visit to the Ossuary at Verdun, which is always an emotional experience and I also find it really dusty because something makes my eyes water every time I visit. The museum was also hosting a memorial to the D Day Landings, which was also very poignant considering the main celebrations would be held all over France in four days time.

Leaving Verdun we head south east across the wide expanse of France towards the German border and our overnight hotel in Baden Baden. Sitting outside the hotel having our evening meal in the warm sunshine helped the cool beer slip down! After two days of being together it was becoming clear who the characters were, with Mr Paul leading the way with his funny stories!!

By now everyone had split up into smaller riding groups during the day with Rich, Paul, Trevor and Dave G in one group and Dave S, Sheena and Jim in another, while Andre and I brought up the rear.

The following day saw more sunshine, dry roads and the B500 on the horizon to look forward to! I took this opportunity to get ahead of the group to film them on this iconic road. The B500 didn’t disappoint and although it was a Monday, it was incredibly quiet which of course suited us fine! After zooming around on the twisties, it was unfortunately time to get on the motorway to get us around Munich and down into Austria for our two night stay at the marvellous Hotel Glemmtalerhof in Saalbach. This is reached after an afternoon coffee stop at the lakeside cafe in Walchsee, which is truly spectacular in both its servings of massive ice creams and the views of the surrounding mountains.

Day four is a rideout/rest day with plenty of options for a fun filled day on offer. There’s a visit to Berchtesgaden (Adolf Hitler’s summer retreat), or the ice caves of EIS Reisen Welt – which are the largest ice caves in the world. If more bike time is what you want, there’s the Grossglockner pass to ride – but we would be riding that the next day, so if you just fancied just chilling out there is always the hotels facilities to use, whether it’s swimming in the pool or having a well deserved massage in the hotel spa. You also get a free pass to use any of the ski lifts, that will take you to the highest mountains in the local area for some spectacular views. You can’t fail to have a great day! Whatever your interests are, there’s something for everyone!

Leaving Saalbach the next day to ride the Grossglockner pass is no hardship, add to that the Plocken Pass and the day is filled with amazing views, twisty roads, coffee stops and cakes. Before we know it we arrive in Postojna, Slovenia for another great night of relaxing, food and drinks together in the hotel restaurant.

An earlier start the following day came with the option to visit either the quirky Predjama Castle or the stunning Postojna Caves. The vote was in favour of the caves, so off we went to explore the 24,340 metre limestone web of tunnels and passages. The incredible visit to the caves complete, we jumped on the bikes and headed for Croatia which is only a few miles away. With smooth roads and more baking hot weather the ride to Plitvice was great! Long sweeping bends kept the faster riders very happy, while those that liked to relax and take in the views had many opportunities to do so with the scenery being stunning!

Our next hotel is on the edge of the UNESCO world heritage site of the beautiful Plitvice Lakes. Luckily for us the bus to explore the park leaves from right outside the hotel for a short twenty minute drive to the entrance. Boarding a ‘land train’ in the park you are dropped off at the start of a magical walk through mineral rich lakes on raised wooden walkways to the main lake where an electric boat whisks you quickly and quietly to an area where there are a few cafes for refreshments before making the walk back up the hill to the gate, after passing Croatia’s largest waterfall at 78m high. Leaving the incredible lakes behind, everyone jumped in the minibus for the journey back to the hotel. Once in, it was time for a dip in the pool as temperatures were now up into the mid 30’s!!

Bosnia is next up on our list of countries to visit. One of the first towns we ride through is Bihac which is one of those places you may of heard of during the Balkans war, the destruction is still very visible with bomb craters and partially destroyed houses lining the landscape all the way into the city of Sarajevo for our next two night stop.

The Hotel Europe is situated right on the edge of the older part of the city, which means you are very quickly in the thick of a bustling busy area filled with cafes, bars and many different types of shops from clothing shops to carpet shops to jewellers and of course the ice cream parlours that are everywhere here. For our evening meal we ate in the Sarajevo Brewery which is about fifteen minutes walk from the hotel and what a venue. Famous during the war for being the only constant supply of fresh drinking water, the brewery now hosts a great restaurant where there is live music and of course local beer.

On day nine we meet Neno our guide for a walking tour of the city, which takes about two and a half hours but is not to be missed. With his sobering descriptions of life in the city while it was under siege I think everyone felt very moved. You cannot help but feel for the people of Sarajevo, as they appear to have been central to all of Europe’s recent troubles. For our evening meal we ate at the famous Pod LiPom restaurant in the old town, where we were served by Sarajevo’s very own Manuel (the waiter from Fawlty Towers), who struggled with everything from the menu to ordering a beer. We decided he may not have actually been a waiter… Sorting out the bill was another herculean effort for Google translate! What a laugh we had!! His smile as we walked away was a picture! He was obviously happy with his night’s work.

Leaving Sarajevo behind we were a bit late to visit the tunnels near the airport and were unfortunately beaten to the visitors centre by bus loads of tourists, so we decided to head straight for Mostar. The heat today was very high and ice creams where consumed at record rate! The bridge at Mostar is spectacular, almost as spectacular as the wait for one of the local divers to dive off the bridge into the river. In four trips I still haven’t seen any of the divers perform. I believe they will jump for anything over €100, Paul said he would do it for €80 and Rich said he would do it for €50 but even that couldn’t be raised… Disappointingly.

From Mostar we headed to Dubrovnik on what was possibly the hottest day of the trip so far. Our entrance to Dubrovnik always makes me smile as we follow the stunning Dalmatian coast towards the city. Then suddenly we round a bend and there is the iconic bridge with the cruise liners below it and the sprawling city laid out in front of us. Hotel Viz is on the edge of the area known as Lapad and has its very own beach which most people quickly made use of! Soaking in the warm water of the Adriatic is definitely much better than the cold sea I was swimming in a week or so ago in Cornwall!!!

Our day off in Dubrovnik gives us the chance to have a look around the beautiful Old Town. Some of this may be familiar to you from the TV series Game of Thrones, as many parts of it have been filmed there. You can even go on a Game of Thrones tour. We instead took the option to walk around the city walks which in itself takes about two hours and in glorious sunshine. Most of the group spent the afternoon relaxing on the beach back at the hotel or swimming in the sea, lovely. That’s what rest days are for!

Day twelve and we are now on the way back north to Zadar. You can either take the coast road back through Bosnia and continue back in to Croatia or take the ferry from Trpanj to Ploce by riding along the Croatian peninsula. This is my choice, although as the group was split on which route to take I stayed with the group who road through Bosnia again. Rich, Andre and Paul all took the ferry and soon caught us up. Our hotel in Zadar was a resort hotel which as part of the deal include free wine and beer!!! A buffet to please a king, and rooms that could sleep a family meant that everyone was happy.

Leaving Zadar we then make our way to Austria and the stunning hotel Pension Melcher perched next to the lake, overlooked by snow capped mountains near Villach. Heading slightly northwest the next day, there are the two passes to choose from; either the Brenner Pass or the Timmelsjoch. Dave, Sheena and I rode the Brenner, while everyone else elected to do the longer Timmelsjoch. The pass had only been reopened four days earlier, so there were snow banks 5m high near the top. Gasthof Zur Rose in Oberammergau provided beds for the night before we set off for the Vosges Mountains of France the next day.

Our last night was spent in a massive thunderstorm in the mountains but it would not affect our last meal together. Speeches made, hands shaken and the odd small drink consumed, then off to bed before our early departure for the tunnel. The day was misty to start our journey back across France, but that didn’t dampen our spirits as there are some lovely roads to be ridden in the hills. We had deer jumping out of the forest and buzzards flying past us as we climbed into the low cloud before descending into bright sunshine. The route takes you right back to the tunnel using the French motorway system and surprisingly enough even though we had not seen each other all day we made it to the tunnel around the same time and all booked on to the train together.

So that’s it, the first Croatia tour of 2019 done and dusted. Everyone had a good time, all got a bit of sunshine and everyone had a laugh. Now that’s a Magellan tour!

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