Bicycle trip across Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia and Hercegovina and Slovenia
3,253 km bicycle travelling from northern Croatia along the Adriatic Coast to Montenegro, Albania and Greece, back to Albania, across Macedonia and with a few kilometers in Serbia to Kosovo. Through Montenegro´s mountains to Bosnia and Hercegovina via Mostar northwards back to Croatia, looping through eastern Slovenia to Zagreb in Croatia.
15 July - 25 August 2010 / 42 days
29,252 metres in altitude
Highest cycled point: 1,733 m
Unfortunately no travel report in English available yet. Below the German report translated by Google Translate. Sorry for the partly weird and bizarre English! Proper translation is coming within the year 2018!
(611 km, 5,615 metres in altitude) I landed at the small airport Rijeka on the island of Krk, which was located in front of the city of Rijeka in the Mediterranean, in the north on the coast of Croatia. I built my bike, saddled up the bags and at 13.00 clock I cycled on the small bridge to the mainland. At the intersection, I turned south, because that should be my direction for more or less almost half of my journey!
It was relatively hot at 36 degrees, but I liked those temperatures. On the main road 8 I drove with relatively much traffic always along the coast. After some deliberation, I decided not to turn east into the interior to the Plitvice Lakes, as I did not know to what extent I would be able to swim alone without accommodation in the lakes without leaving my bike unattended. So I saved the rise in the heat. But uphill and downhill it was also near the coast.
With the ferry I drove to the island of Pag, where it also went hot uphill and downhill. Back on the mainland I drove on Zadar with its beautiful old town further south. The slopes decreased slightly. In the evenings, I usually pitched my tent somewhere on a more secluded stretch of coast overlooking the sea or in one of the many olive groves.
In dense traffic, I drove in to Split, drove around in and around the palace, but there were just too many tourists running around, so I continued to pedal south. On the way I went swimming again and again in the clear waters of the Mediterranean. It went up and down again and again hilly along the coast. Since Bosnia-Herzegovina had a small access to the sea, I crossed the border and after 9 km I returned to Croatia. I cycled strenuously uphill to above Dubrovnik before heading down to the old town. I cycled through the beautiful narrow streets, but even here it was just too crowded.
I rode strenuously in the heat back to the main road and it went uphill and downhill along the coast south to the border of Montenegro.
(195 km, 1,620 metres in altitude) In Herceg Novi everything was packed with tourists, so I drove a bit further and even before the Bay of Kotor on a campsite opened my camp. I washed my clothes and walked around a bit.
The next day I started cycling again. After everyone had turned to the ferry to the south, it was really nice! So I cycled around the impressive bay of Kotor, which was surrounded by high mountains, always close to the water on a flat stretch.
From Tivat it was very busy due to the traffic from the ferry. Budva and the next bay were totally overcrowded. Only in Buljarica I went back down to the sea and camped on a campsite. It was very nice here in Montenegro, but it was just too crowded on the coast. So the next morning I jumped into the sea again, before I drove further south to the very nice, but again very full Ulcinj. On a small, winding and beautiful road I turned inland to the border of Albania.
(524 km, 4,528 metres in altitude) Suddenly people greeted me nicely, I had escaped the tourist bustle and I felt right at home! In Shkoder, I moved into a finally affordable room and walked around a bit. Before that, I had the feeling that I had caught something, and that came out in the truest sense of the word. So it was a bad night and the next morning I thought for a long time, if I should start driving. The track to the south seemed to be flat, so I set off. There was little traffic and a good road, but I felt very weak and struggled in small stages of 10 km from break to break.
So I managed the 84 km to the capital Tirana, where the accommodations were not so cheap, but still affordable. For 20.00 Euro I got for two nights a nice and above all quiet room, walked a bit through the city and felt better in the evening. I still slept twelve hours and after a breakfast I was fine again. I walked through the city, to the Heroes' Cemetery and in the evening through the Blloku district.
The next morning after 8 km I got the first rain of the journey, but after half an hour of downpour everything was over again. I drove over Durres to the coast, but then the road led back inland and in Lushnje I turned inland and drove with tailwind to Berat. I ran up to the Kalasa and walked for a long time through the narrow streets between the small white houses of the so-called City of a thousand windows, protected as a museum city and UNESCO World Heritage Site. From the top you also had a great view of the surrounding countryside.
The next day I drove the same way back to Poshnje and then turned on a bumpy road to the southwest. Behind Fier it went over a likewise bumpy, but also narrow road with heavy traffic exhausting uphill and downhill to Vlore. After a thunderstorm night at the end of the bay south of Vlore, it was slow, then very steep and exhausting over the Llogaraja Pass at 1,043 m, where the view was great. It went downhill again and then eternally steep and strenuous uphill and downhill to Himari, where I spent the rest of the day lying on the beach and swimming in the sea.
The next day we continued strenuous, steep and hilly to Sarande. There I drove to the Blue Eye, a magnificent turquoise-blue karst spring, the richest in Albania. A whole river flowed out of the blue hole in the earth, the depth of which still could not be determined. At the source, Radio Kosova interviewed me about my trip.
Then it went steeply and long up to 546 m, downhill again and then I turned in strong headwind north and cycled to Gjirokaster, where it went steeply up to the center. I took a room, ran up to and through the castle and went to the barber.
The next morning I drove back the same way and turned south to the border to Greece.
(237 km, 3,371 metres in altitude) Here the road was again in great condition. Although it went uphill and downhill, but not so steep and with very little traffic. I finally strolled through a real supermarket again. In good weather I turned north of Ioannina to the northeast and cycled through beautiful countryside through the Ioannina province. I camped at 630 m and for the first time on this trip I needed my sleeping bag because the night was a bit cooler.
It continued uphill to 1,335 m and only moderately steep uphill and downhill through picturesque countryside. I drove north over Kastoria the next day, then turned west to the Albanian border.
(64 km, 311 metres in altitude) Back in Albania, I drove via Bilisht to the northwest, turned on a gravel road and drove over Pogori to Pogradec on Ohrid Lake at almost 700 m altitude. After a restaurant visit I drove on the south shore of the lake to Tushemisht just before the Macedonian border. I walked around the beach and in town for a while before spending my last Albanian money in a kiosk and going back to my room.
(302 km, 2,455 metres in altitude) I cycled the remaining 2 km in Albania and crossed the border to Macedonia. There it went steeply up and down again to holiday resorts on the lake shore, which were packed with holiday and weekend guests. I drove along the shore to Ohrid, where I searched for a spare room for two hours. The few free rooms you did not want to rent for just one night. Annoyed, I drove on to Struga, where it was exactly the same, but with less choice. After an eternity, I finally found a room for 15.00 euros. With the bus I went to Ohrid, ran through the village and along the beach. It was very nice, but also very crowded. With the shared taxi I drove back to Struga and ran around there a bit in the village and on the beach.
The next morning I started at 8.00 o'clock over a very nice branch line from Struga to the north. After Debar I climbed a few switchbacks up to the remarkable Sveti Jovan Bigorski Monastery. Then it went through the Radika Gorge long uphill to 1,283 m, before it went downhill to Gostivar. There I drove because of time constraints, because I wanted to make it to the darkness before Tetovo, but on the highway, which unfortunately had no shoulder. Fortunately, there was virtually no truck traffic and so I managed the 20 km fast and undamaged.
The next morning I was left with only the highway to the capital. Luckily, with a wide shoulder, I drove the 36 km to Skopje, drove something back and forth through the old town, went to eat something and then continued on a small side road exhausting on Aracinovo to Kumanovo and then the last piece again on a highway to Border to Serbia.
(41 km, 214 metres in altitude) Another 7 km I stayed after entering the highway, before I turned on the parallel side road. In Bujanovac I found a suitable room after some search. It was a bit annoying at the front desk, because you wanted to make some funny registration or allegedly had and therefore did not want to give me my passport. I also had to connect my bike outside, which I generally hated to do. After dinner I finally got my passport again.
Unfortunately, there was no breakfast. So I cycled the few miles west to the border with Kosovo. Two checkpoints later I had left Serbia again.
(208 km, 2,803 metres in altitude) First flat, then with a longer ascent to 857 m, it was over Gjilan in the afternoon in the capital Pristina. I went for some food, drove a bit through the pedestrian zone and waited in a cafe for Maria, who worked here in Pristina and with whom I had arranged to meet. When she was finished, she picked me up and we went to eat something.
The next two days she still had some work to do, I did some stuff, we went out to eat together, walked across the markets, went swimming in a public pool, prepared her bike for the tour and packed everything together.
The following day we started together on the west on a relatively busy road to Peje at 510 m altitude, where we stayed two nights.
We took a taxi to the Rugova Valley, where we took a short hike through the beautiful gorge. The rest of the day we spent in Peje.
The next day we went north from the city over beautiful track up to 1,733 m to the border with Montenegro.
(227 km, 2,719 metres in altitude) In Montenegro we continued uphill, on Rozaje on a beautiful route to the west and through a long tunnel to Berane, where we took a room. We walked to Durdevi Stupovi Monastery and went for some food.
After a hearty breakfast in a bakery, we started north the next day on bearable traffic. It went up to 978 m and down again to 200 m. In Mojkovac we turned northwest into the Tara Valley, where we found a perfect place to camp with great views at 860 m.
We paid a visit to Dobrilovina Monastery and drove through beautiful scenery along the Tara River through the gorge. The road led to 1,223 m, before we moved into a room in Pljevlja.
The next day we went slowly but steadily uphill after a long breakfast. In Boljanici we were invited for coffee and traditional pastries, before we continue pedaling at an altitude of 1,321 meters to the border with Bosnia-Herzegovina.
(457 km, 2,670 metres in altitude) In Cajnice we found no hotel, so we cycled another 20 km to Gorazde. The place was only 360 m and so it was much warmer than in the last days.
The next day we cycled north along the main road before turning off to the west on a very nice, small gravel road after 24 km. It led through countless narrow, dark and long tunnels along the river Praca through a very beautiful, narrow gorge. Often we pushed the wheels through deep black tunnels, lit only by our headlamps. Already in Praca we took a room and only the next day we cycled the remaining 40 km to Sarajevo.
Here we wanted to stay three nights. And so we rushed in the evening in Sarajevo's nightlife, which we escaped shortly before dawn. The following day we slept well and then explored on foot the city.
The next day we took the bus for two and a half hours to Mostar, which otherwise would have been very unfavorable on the way, but we absolutely wanted to see it. We walked to and over the famous Stari Most and explored the rest of the city. In the evening we went by bus and train back to Sarajevo.
The next day, because of the traffic, it was a bit stressful to get out of Sarajevo to the west. After Ilidza we turned to the northwest on a side street, but there was also a lot of traffic and there was not much to see. In Travnik we took another room.
On the next day we went on the main road from slightly uphill and downhill over Donji Vakuf to Jajce, where we stayed two nights. We explored the local catacombs, ran to the fort and the waterfalls, and cycled to the beautiful Plivsko Jezero Lake, where we lay in the sun. We went to the sauna, had a good meal and had a nice last evening together.
The next day I took Maria to the bus station. She drove from here by bus back to Pristina. So for me it started again alone. So I cycled on a beautiful track quickly to Banja Luka and on a flat stretch further northwest to Prijedor at only 85 m altitude. There was not much to see and so I just walked around the place and went out to eat.
I cycled to the Bosanski Novi border and returned to Croatia.
(153 km, 1,148 metres in altitude) On the Croatian side, there was surprisingly little traffic this time and so I cycled pleasantly further northwest. Since I had a little more time than originally thought, I wanted to make a little detour through Slovenia. And so I drove over Glina and Karlovac and crossed the very narrow part of Croatia at this point to the border at Metlika.
(97 km, 1,161 metres in altitude) At noon I crossed the border and cycled uphill to 625 m to Novo mesto. There I turned east on a small side street and cycled along the border neat uphill and downhill. Before Krsko I came back on a main road, which I followed for several kilometers, before I turned again at Krsko on a small road to the northeast. Halfway to the border, I built my tent on a meadow at 300 m altitude.
Actually, I had wanted to drive further north over Celje, but unfortunately the time until departure was too short. So I started early for the remaining kilometers to the border and then my short time in Slovenia was already over.
(107 km, 574 metres in altitude) In a wide arc I cycled over Zabok, Bedekovcina and Sesvete around the capital Zagreb and drove from the east again up to 424 m height and then into the city.
I took a room, got a wheel cart in a bike shop, walked a little through the city and in the evening across Tkalciceva Street, which was full of cafes and restaurants, and where life pulsed with countless bars in the evenings.
The following day, I walked around the city and across the markets, prepared my luggage, went for a beer outside in the evening, and the next day I drove the bike and the wheel cart across the back of my bags to the airport. There I packed everything in and at 1 pm the plane took off.
At the airport Cologne / Bonn I built everything together again and cycled 29 km comfortably home.