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map eastern-europe 2008

4 weeks

7,916 km

4,948 miles

 

 

 

 

At end of August 2008 Jayne and I drove from Sinzig, Germany to Krakow, Poland, from where we visited the city and the concentration camp in Auschwitz/Birkenau. From there we went through Slovakia to the Puzta in Hungary, then east through Romania to the Black Sea.  We drove west through Bulgaria and Macedonia to Albania. There we drove north along the coast through Montenegro and Bosnia. After we visited Mostar, we drove through Croatia, Slovenia and Austria back to Germany.

General information

Stefan Dietz on his Africa Twin in Romania

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The best time for a trip to Eastern Europe is May and September, because it is (with a little luck) not too hot anymore, but still nice and warm. It also is off-season and, therefore, there won't be large tourist crowds while visiting a city or the beach.

Camping is still rather underdeveloped in Eastern Europe. Especially in Romania, Bulgaria and Albania there are few camp sites, and some of these close already in early/mid September. In Eastern Europe, camping usually means to rent a cabin, like in Scandinavia. Camping rough is not really forbidden, but for safety reasons, not always recommended.

The road conditions in the individual countries of Eastern Europe are very different, even within one country. By far the worst roads are in Romania and, especially, Albania! For these countries I recommend a Dual Sport Bike / Enduro. But in the other countries you can as well come across a bad road, e.g. there are often very deep tracks in towns at bus stops and traffic lights. When passing, you need to be aware that a car or truck might suddenly drive to the left side to avoid a pot hole. On very bad roads one often feels like in the Dakar Race: several cars and trucks drive next to each other, and in a zigzag. Everybody tries to find their own best line, with as few as possible pot holes.

Language is, ofcourse, an issue on a trip like this. English doesn't really help, but German is surprisingly widely-spoken. Russian would probably help too. Then in Bulgaria, Macedonia and in the Serbian part of Bosnia, one can't even read signs or the menu, because they use Cyrillic letters. But the locals are very helpful, and so you can get through with sign language. I highly recommend the WithoutWordsBook from Langenscheidt, 500 point- to- pictures for globetrotters

About safety: always lock the bike and the luggage, e.g. with a break disc lock and, in addition, lock the bike to something stationary if at all possible. The locals are very helpful, but there are plenty of thieves too, and I don't only mean the many Roma kids. Hotels and guest houses usually have a place in the back to park the bike safely, but you have to ask for it. In Bosnia and in the back country of Croatia there are still minefields, and unfortunately there are plenty of idiots that take the minefield warning signs as a souvenir with them.

There are no traffic rules in Albania, or at least it seem this way. One way streets are always used in both directions and a red traffic light is no reason to stop. If you stop at a pedestrian crossing, you will cause an accident, because nobody expects you to stop there.
I read that the police in Albania has order not to stop tourists, and it is obviously true. A traffic control, all vehicles get stopped, but we get waved on. A speed trap, the police men look in the opposite direction, thanks god ;-). Wherever we drive, the policemen look away!
On nearly all roads in all of the countries you have to expect cows, sheep, dogs and horse drawn carriages without any lights. Because of this, and because of the pot holes, I advise you not to drive at night.

I don't want to scare you, or to only say how bad it is there, because we had a wonderful trip! But be aware of the risks. This trip is definitely not a trip for a traveling or motorcycle novice.

Wieliczka Salt Mine in Krakow, Poland The Wieliczka Salt Mine in Krakow, Poland is a bit kitschy at parts, but still worth a visit. They suggest to wear warm clothing even in summer, but I don't think that it is necessary.
Krakow has a very nice old town with lots of good restaurants and bars. It is definitely worth a visit!
Auschwitz
Auschwitz (left photo) and Auschwitz-Birkenau (right photo) are a must see. They are near Owiecim, about 50 km east of Krakow (GPS: N50 02.034 E19 10.872). You should try to prepare yourself before you go, because what you will see is quite disturbing. Auschwitz-Birkenau
Tatra Mountains We drove on beautiful roads south through the Tatra Mountains towards the border of Slovakia.
Puszta in Hungary
The Puszta in Hungary is absolutely flat and there isn't much to see other than grass, but this has its own fascination. Puszta in Hungary
camping Smok in Krakow, Poland

 

We camped when we could find camp sites. Two places we recommend are:
Camping "Smok" in Krakow, Poland (left photo). It's a bit noisy, but only 15 minutes by bus to downtown, plus lots of information on local sites. (GPS: N50 02.886 E19 52.837)
Camping "Aurel Vlaicu" (right photo) in Aurel Vlaicu in Romania, with pool in the back. Run by a Dutch couple (GPS: N45 54.925 E23 16.771)

 

camping Aurel Vlaicu in Romania