Thumbs Up – vol.5 (final)

Thumbs Up – vol.5 (final)

Albania
There are four things, which identify each Albanian. Those are; the language (impossible to learn), Mercedes Benz (everyone wants to own one) Skenderberg (a national hero – once the commander in the Ottoman Empire, later fighting against it) and a traditional alcoholic drink rakia (often consumed in the morning). Albania is beautiful and worth of your visit. The people are friendly, the food is good and the climate is guaranteed.

Overall Experience 🚴‍♀️🚴‍♀️🚴‍♀️🚴‍♀️ out of FIVE

ROADS  one of the best in Balkans. Mind you, this applies to the main roads only. The secondary roads? That’s another story.
ACCOMMODATIONS – generally, the staff is friendly, most speak English. D1 Hostelconveniently located in the centre of Tirana. The Backpacker Hostel in Elbasan very basic, but very hospitable
AFFORDABILITY – quite affordable

ADDITIONAL NOTES
– The Cold War bunkers, over 170,000 built. Make an effort to at least visit one
– The coastal city of Durrës with the largest ever amphitheater built in Balkan Peninsula (2nd century AD). Since you’re there, claim to the top of Venetian Tower where you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful view on a coastline. It is also a good spot to treat yourself with a cold beverage on a hot day.
– Unfortunately rubbish filling up the ditches or back allies
– Homeless dogs are everywhere
– Worth to take a free walking tour in Tirana
– If you are visiting Shkodër (oldest and most historic town in Albania) make sure to go for an easy hike to the Rozafa Castle located 130 metres above sea level.

The bunkers were built during the communist regime of Enver Hoxha
Ebu Bekr Mosque in Shkodër 
Your safety is our concern

Montenegro 
My understanding is, that the coastal town of Kotor or the majestic island village of Sveti Stefan are the places to visit. Instead, my B17 Brooks saddle carried me all the way to the capital city of Podgorica thru the least exciting part of the country.

Overall Experience 🚴‍♀️🚴‍♀️🚴‍♀️ out of FIVE

ROADS  are good, but not as good as in Albania.
ACCOMMODATIONS – the Hostel Maria was okay, but nothing outstanding.

ADDITIONAL NOTES
– Montenegro is not the European Union member, but their official currency is Euro. Figure this one out 🙂
– Have a breakfast at the Pekara Montenegro. Darn good!
– Visit the St. George Church, is over a thousand years old and it is located at the foot of Gorica hill.
– If you’re looking for a good refreshing beverage get yourself a 1.5L bottle of Jelen beer, a good bargain.
– Go check the Clock Tower at the Bećir Beg Osmanagić square, in the Stara Varoš neighborhood. In the same area you will find the Džamija Mosque. It wasn’t open to visitors though.

The Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ  (Saborni Hram Hristovog Vaskrsenja )
The Star of David shaped fountain in Podgorica
The Millennium Bridge – Podgorica, Montenegro

Bosnia-Herzegovina 
The Ilino Brdo Border Crossing on M6 is pretty basic and not too busy. Right after you cross the border be ready for a 5 KM downhill ride. Just make sure your brakes are good, mine failed. Luckily, my surviving instinct kicked in and I preformed an emergency stop at one of the small hillocks. In short, I prevented a nasty crash. The Dinaric Alps separate the continental Balkan Peninsula from the Adriatic Sea. It is very scenic and green ride.

Overall Experience 🚴‍♀️🚴‍♀️🚴‍♀️ out of FIVE

ROADS  pretty hilly at the border crossings, fairly flat between. The road surface very inconsistent.
ACCOMMODATIONS – n/a

ADDITIONAL NOTES
– The currency is so called convertible mark and if you here for a day only (heading to Croatia) then don’t bother with an exchange, use the credit card instead.
– Generally, I felt safe…well except when I lost my brakes
– There are many roadside memorials. Stay alert when pedalling

Welcome to Bosnia & Herzegovina
The Dinaric Alps
One of many roadside memorials

Croatia
My plan to explore the beautiful coastline of Croatia had to be aborted after my bicycle problems occurred in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Shortly after I arrived to Dubrovnik I learned that there is no single bike service in the city. If it wouldn’t be ‘lets ask the stranger’ approach most likely I would have to abort my entire adventure. Ivan turned out to be a bike genius. Once the owner of the bike-shop in Zagreb now the scuba diver instructor at one of the high end hotels. Next eights days I was a tourist in Dubrovnik while waiting for the bicycle replacement parts.

Overall Experience 🚴‍♀️🚴‍♀️🚴‍♀️🚴‍♀️🚴‍♀️ out of FIVE

ROADS  extremely hilly, not much of the bicycle infrastructure
ACCOMMODATIONS – no campgrounds around, the hostels available but can be pricey.
AFFORDABILITY – expensive

ADDITIONAL NOTES
– No bike service in the entire city.
– The Old Town of Dubrovnik is spotless and packed with tens of thousands of tourists every single day.
– The best view of the city is from the local Srđ Mountain (cable car access) or simply hike to the top. An alternative option is to rent a kayak and absorb the walls of Dubrovnik from the Adriatic Sea level. Quite unique experience.
– Watch for the scooter riders. They are everywhere and they ride fast.
– Endless dining options, but pricey. If you’re on the budget visit the Panto Pita where the locals eat. The Bosnian dish Sarajevski Ćevapi is worth of your taste.
– There are many cliffs along the coast. Pick one and got for a refreshing dip. There are two cool beaches to consider; the Bellevue and the Lapad beach.

Dubrovnik, Croatia
The Bellevue Beach
The Lapad Beach

Vatican City State
This is the smallest country in the world, almost 120 times smaller than the island of Manhattan. In fact, Vatican is even smaller than the Central Park in New York. It is governed as an absolute monarchy with the pope at its head, who is guarded by the Pontifical Swiss Guard military for more than 500 years.

Overall Experience 🚴‍♀️🚴‍♀️🚴‍♀️🚴‍♀️🚴‍♀️ out of FIVE

ROADS  No bicycle infrastructure. There are mainly pedestrians, security and delivery vehicles.
ACCOMMODATIONS – N/A

ADDITIONAL NOTES
– The Michael Angelo’s masterpiece the Sistine Chapel (€17)
– The St. Peter’s Basilica (no entrance fee), the largest church in the world.
– The Vatican Library and museums
– An espresso costs €1, less than in Poland €1.17

The Swiss Guard
Sub lege libertas
“Freedom under the law”
St.Peter’s Basilica

Italy
After 32 years I’m back… Crossing the border in Menton, France and Italy was, if not surreal, definitely emotional. After all, the homeland of 17th century drink known as the cappuccino was the gateway to my freedom from the communist regime. Often known as the Bel Paese or the Beautiful Country Italy is hard not to like. The history, geography, dining or the dynamics of the Italian body language is so unique and characteristic to the passionate Italians. If you have never visited this part of the world make sure you do, before is too late.

Overall Experience 🚴‍♀️🚴‍♀️🚴‍♀️🚴‍♀️🚴‍♀️ out of FIVE

ROADS  few bad spots, but overall not bad, some areas are excellent. When crossing tunnels, stay alert. Don’t insist or riding your bicycle in Rome. It is insanely busy on the streets.
ACCOMMODATIONS – mix and match. It really depends, which part of the country you are visiting. You can choose to off road camp, but make sure to be aware of surroundings.

ADDITIONAL NOTES
– The McDonald’s cappuccino is drinkable. The WiFi however can be weak or not working at all.
– The picturesque ride along the Lago Maggiore, the longest lake (>64 KM) in the country. The area is beautiful and make an effort to stop for a night there. The campground Lido Cannero in Cannero Riviera will be a memorable experience for years to come.
– Most of the campgrounds shutdown at the end of September.
– The northern access to Rome (S15a) is horrible. The road quality pretty bad plus the ‘working girls’ are everywhere along.
– The traffic in Rome is a nightmare. Park your bike, use a transit!
– The San Silvestro tunnel (Adriatic Sea coastline) is not the longest, but long enough (3623 m) too increase your heart beat during your ride thru.
– Forget a distance road signs. You’ll be better off to use the paper map or simply the GPS.

The Italian kitchen at its very best
Menton, France border crossing
The Colosseum in Rome from 70-80 AD
Cannero Riviera on the Lago Maggiore
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2019-01-19T20:42:21-08:00 December 30th, 2018|Freewheel|0 Comments

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