Macedonian patchwork

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Macedonia is a land full of surprises and unexpected combinations. As we love discovering new types of cultures and having new backgrounds for cycling, this is ideal. Due to occupations and migrations through the ages and apart from the Slavic and Orthodox majority, it is not rare to find muslims Albaneses and Roms in some regions but also see some turkish influence.

We left Skopje behind, cycled 20 km and we can already appreciate the nature around us. We’re gaining elevation, the sun is gently kissing our faces as we admire this majestic landscape made of colourful trees covering the mountainsides. We’re now on a secondary road where there is almost no traffic, what else could we wish for…I am not sure!

Getting closer to the end of the afternoon, the idea of setting camp for some outdoor experience at night in the middle of October rose up. Well, the temperature is actually quite good for the season, we’re still aware the sun is a big factor but as soon as we turned that corner and saw the lake below it became obvious we’d give it a try. We just need to find a spot before the daylight is completely gone.

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That’s it! The tent is set in a little pine tree forest near the lake. We’ve got some supplies from a restaurant, some wine to keep us warm! Indeed, since the sun is gone, the temperature dropped sharply and in order to enjoy the evening, we quickly improvised a campfire! This was a pretty cool moment, Yves kept the fire alive following the diner until we’d finish the wine and get comfy in our sleeping bags.

We left the next morning, made a stop in the scenic town of Veles, located on the Vardar river. Got something to eat and went back on our favourite road, the R1102! Again, there is almost no traffic, we start seeing some wine fields as we keep going south. Negotino is the next stop, we don’t know it yet but instead of having just a good meal, we will end up spending 3 nights there. After all it’s Friday, the weekend is starting!

Negotino

Negotino is a small town on the Vardar river, mostly known for its wine. While having a late afternoon lunch, Niko (the owner of the restaurant we’re at) told us we should stay for the night and come back later as there will be live music in the evening. We were easy to convince, he also mentioned a cheap place we could stay at, a monastery close to town that offers rooms for 10 euros a night, great deal right? It is not big luxury but that will do. Niko showed us the way and when we arrived, there was a wedding celebration starting.

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Well, it’s time for a nap in order to be in good shape for a long night. 2 hrs later we were good to go back to town. When we arrived at Niko’s restaurant we understand it is pretty packed and people seem to be in good mood. Some guys are sticking notes on the front head of the clarinetist, the local tradition. Niko is there as well busy but making sure we’d have everything we’d need like a good host. The rakija is flowing and the fun is just about to begin.

After the band packed up and most of the clients were gone, we asked for the bill but Niko was already gone. He left some instructions to his crew that there would be no bill for us. This was unexpected and greatly appreciated.

2nd day

The day after was less fun, I got up with a sore throat probably due to the night spent in the tent. It is pretty annoying as it also brings violent coughing! That simply means I have to stay in bed and cure myself with a lot of vitamins in order to recover as quickly as possible. In the shared kitchen we got introduced to some workers and later on, met with Monika who’s an accountant at the second biggest Macedonian wine producer “Povardarie”! The factory is our neighbour and never sleeps these days. We are at that time of the year when trucks keep coming in with massive amount of grapes freshly picked. Monika is inviting us for diner in the canteen at the winery . Well, I am not in the best shape but food will probably do me good!

Right after diner I am going back to bed, Yves is in the mood of going out, taking his bike for a ride back to town, apparently there is another live music gig at Niko’s restaurant 🙂

3rd day

Alright! I am feeling better but not to the point of hitting the road yet. My condition is still fragile, so better to stay an extra day. Yves came back last night with a flat tire. The first one on this trip. Let’s start the day fixing it!

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Once we were done with the tire, we went to town for lunch at Niko’s, that’s for sure our headquarter in Negotino. We also bought some supplies in prevision of the coming days and before going back to the monastery we enjoyed doing some drifts on the main square. The surface was perfect for that 🙂

The sun is reminding us of the end of the afternoon, this is the moment to go and explore the nature around the monastery. Being sick the last days did not help but the region is truly beautiful. There is a path next to the spring which is located behind the lavatory unit, let’s follow it until we’d find a way to cross the bushes and get over the hill so we’d enjoy the scenery around.

On the way down we stopped at the Povardarie winery. We knew Monika and her friend Vlatko would be happy to show us all the steps of the wine process. We met at the entrance, dozens of trucks were queuing in order to drop the grapes in big containers. Some of the tanks can contain up to half million litres. At the end of the visit we got offered a collection of the local wines they make.

It didn’t take long until we opened the first bottle as we’ve met again in the kitchen with the workers. We shouldn’t go crazy though as tomorrow we plan on cycling 84 km to the edge of the country.

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Back on the road

This morning we said goodbye to Negotino and the nice people we’ve met there at the monastery. I am now almost fully recovered from coughing. I just need to be careful not forcing too much today. The day will be mostly about following the river on our favourite road, the R1102 until it becomes a new road 🙂 the R1105 where some small hills look like the only challenge of the day until we get to Dojran lake at the border with Greece.

The first kilometres are very pleasant especially considering we didn’t cycle for 3 days. we just have to follow the river. After about 20 km we entered some sort of gorges. At that point it became a dirt road. We didn’t expect that and even though it brings more difficulties (some parts would be clearly muddy) it is still great though. The major inconvenient in this situation is being slowed down and we really want to reach Dojran today.

It is now clear we’ll have to cycle the last 25 km in the darkness and by the time we will arrive in Dojran it will be completely dark. We got there, the little town doesn’t seem to be out of interest but it just started raining and that doesn’t help. Anyway, at least it was easy to find accommodation and a cheap one. Overall it was a pretty good day and we can’t wait crossing the border tomorrow. After being for so long in the slavic countries, being exposed to a new language and a new culture will be fantastic.

Good morning! Greece is just there on the other side…Stay tuned

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Crossing the line to Shutka

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I have been on the road for over 2 months now, cycled more than 3000 km. First along the Danube river in Hungary then in Romania, leaving it in Bulgaria to enter the Balkans. After Macedonia and some steep climbs in Albania, I crossed Monte Negro to finally reach the island of Vis in Croatia where the Goulash Disko festival was taking place. This was supposed to be the end of the trip but things turned out a different way and I embarked on a new adventure with 2 friends. From Zagreb cycling down Serbia, through Kosovo Macedonia and then Greece. We are now getting closer to the crossing point I passed on the first journey and this will be in Skopje (Macedonia).

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In Pristina (Kosovo) we said goodbye to Julien, he’s going back to Zagreb by bus as he needs to sort things out that can’t really wait. It was great cycling these 1000 km together though.

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We didn’t see much of Pristina, bad weather kept us chilling in the hostel one more day, having conversations with other adventurous travellers. On the next morning Yves and I went to pick up our clean clothes at the laundry store and we were back on the road.

Skopje is only 80km away and we’ve been told we’d find some nicer temperatures down there. The first part of the day was made of traffic and slight rain and if we didn’t meet some great folks in Kaçanik before reaching the border, this is probably what we’d remember from Kosovo.

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As soon as we got closer to the mountain range that separates Kosovo from Macedonia the scenery became way nicer as well.

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Skopje  “the crossing point of the 2 trips”

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There is a feeling of late summer as soon as we crossed the border. We gained 5 degrees since we left Pristina in just one day and believe me this is more than welcome! The weather conditions play a big part in how much you enjoy a bicycle journey.

This is the second time I find myself in Skopje, tonight we’ll be staying at Kotcho’s, we found his contact through the couch surfing community. On the way, we’ve been greeted by 2 kids from Shutka singing their own version of Ederlezi, a gypsy song that our portable speakers have been playing a lot since we started the journey and that will be remembered as the song of the trip. No doubt we are in the right place. Tomorrow we’ll take our bikes to Shutka trying to find some of the characters and places where “The book of records“another great master piece movie was filmed.

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After we met with our super friendly host Kotcho, we went back to the Old bazar in Skopje city center for some drinks and ended up in a bar where blues men would jam all night long. Skopje music scene seems quite diversified and for us it is good to be back in a big city that offers more possibilities in term of nightlife.

Shutka

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It’s a beautiful day to go to Shutka and we are excited about what we gonna find in the biggest Roma town in the world. As soon as we arrived we’re not disappointed. We were expecting some kind of organised chaos and this is what we found. But beyond coming to take some good shots we actually got shaken by some poor living conditions and this is when we met Boban!

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People seems quite happy in Shutka, some have good cars or pretty houses, it is not only about living in the middle of some sort of trash but for a part of the population being poor is an everyday reality and Boban is one of them. After he took us apart in the street and brought us to his place, we understood that Shutka is not only about a movie that made the town famous 10 years ago. Boban has no electricity, just a room in a basement, no water and a hole digged that will make it for the big job. He invited us to take pictures and of course, asked for a bit of money to help him until the next need will come.

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We were feeling a bit awkward that we only had a big note and not really comfortable to give it away but still we would be happy to give him something, so let’s go make some change. On the way instead of finding smaller notes, we went to the Super market and ended up buying food with him for an entire week. 🙂 At that point it didn’t matter how much we spent but we had the feeling this was the right thing to do. We made Boban very happy that day and somehow the fact we didn’t ignore him and took action made us feel also good. When you help a stranger he is no longer a stranger.

We said good bye to Boban and found ourselves around the outdoor market area that was about to close, at the time the sun light filtering between the metal sheet roofs allowed us to take some beautiful photographs of some locals strolling around.

We left the market area and got deeper into the tiny streets, letting ourselves being led randomly by some non existent voices. There, every street corner offers to witness a movie scene done in one take. We love what we see, we also understand that one afternoon in Shutka lets you only explore the surface of the town.

At some point the sound of the geese came tickling our ears. After we turned another corner, we discovered a big grass area where the geese trainers train them to fight. This is one of the particularity of Shutka “The geese fights” and also a key scene in the movie. Without hesitating we cycled toward the people there, and of course asking them who is the champion of Shutka! They would all tell you they are the Champion 😉

On the way back and until we reached the edge of Shutka, we were given a lot of smiles along the way and for that we will have to come back! Thank you Shutka for being so welcoming, this moment will remain as one of the highlights of the trip!

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We found a car wash cycling back to Skopje and decided our bikes deserved a proper clean up as we didn’t do it for a while now.

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The rest of the evening was quiet as we’d need to be in a good shape to hit the road again tomorrow. We still managed to go to “Toto” a restaurant owned by Niko’s family, Niko is a good friend of Yves and I and we actually met in Skopje a month ago. He is not around this time but the food is still very good and the place has a nice atmosphere.

When we came back home, Kotcho was still awake, he’s been a great host, we’ve had good conversations the 2 nights we stayed there. Kotcho is an activist involved in the LGBT community working on the field, also in Shutka and I really hope we will meet again.

So, thank you Kotcho and let’s keep going South!

 

Winter is coming on the way to Kosovo

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We left Kraljevo under a grey sky. Passing through villages on the way to Krusevac, a city 60km away. Stopping from time to time just to watch the way people live. Some old ladies are pilling the beans, old man storing his corn and others chopping the wood as winter is at their door.

But on the way we had to compose with the rain. It became quite heavy and in order not to freeze we just had to keep on cycling with the single idea of reaching the city where we would stop for the day. The rain is just too strong and we’re completely soaked.

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Arriving in Krusevac, we quickly found a hostel we’re we would stay for the night and maybe longer as the weather doesn’t seems promising tomorrow either. The first mission is to dry our clothes and shoes, and for that we have the technology 🙂

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We enjoy watching some soccer on TV and chill, chips and sodas are at the program. The day after we faced as expected the same weather conditions all day which made the decision of staying for another night very easy. Again, chips and football were on the “to do list”. I would also take advantage of being stuck here to catch up a bit with the blog.

We didn’t see much of Krusevac but that is ok. The rain is now behind and the sun is back! At least for today and we want to get as close as possible to the border of Kosovo to be crossed the day after. We’ve read about a little thermal town 85km away which would be perfect to say goodbye to Serbia.

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The day is very enjoyable, tasting some berries next to the road which resulted of  meeting with a rakija maker before lunch. Passing next to a lake, talking to locals and even finding out the exact weight of our bike when founding a huge scale. The afternoon is great with enough sun to reveal all the Autumn colours.

Before sunset we arrived in Kursumlija, the main town before the border of Kosovo. We understand we are only 12 km away from the little thermal city. It is clearly getting very cold as the sun is now almost gone and we’d like to treat ourselves with some hot bathing time. After we ask the locals what was the best route to get there we proceeded and even though we are cold and tired the idea of getting to a spa keeps us going.

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We arrived and it is now totally dark. The place looks weird. Getting closer the building we saw on internet we understand something is wrong. It looks totally abandoned and the only hot stream we see comes from a broken pipe ending in the little river. Damned! This is a ghost town with no one living here, except for a guy that keeps an eye on the site and a police officer that prevents people to go any further on the road to Kosovo as passing from this road is illegal and we need to get to an official crossing point.

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We are obviously a bit confused, wondering why the locals back in Kursumlija didn’t tell us about what we would find. Adding to that, it is super cold now (around 5 degrees). We have no other option than cycle back to the city but that’s ok cause we’ll have some fun tonight, we just don’t know it yet 🙂

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It is now 94 km on the counter and we just got the key of our room. There is heated floor and that’s a great addition to our previous condition. After the warm shower we went to a nice local restaurant. We already noticed this little city is full of life, even though there are only 8000 people living here. Tons of young lads are on the streets and in one hour all the clubs and bars will be full. There will be some live band performing in one of them and we have our table booked (that’s the way it goes).

It’s been a long day and a long night! We had a lot of fun but we need to put ourselves  back together this morning, find the road and say goodbye to Serbia.

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New addition to the crew

The sun is gone but at least no rain should compromise the plan for the day. We aim for Pristina, the capital city of Kosovo. Passing through the border was very easy despite we’ve got some different advices about going or avoiding Kosovo. The sky is packed with thick clouds and make the scenery on the way quite ugly and the roads look even more chaotic. Well this is Kosovo.

We made it to Pristina 70 km later. There is a huge piece of art that says “Newborn” not to forget the price of their liberty. We’ll be staying here for 2 nights before going to Skopje Macedonia and hopefully get to higher temperatures as we go south.

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Serbian lifestyle

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Today we are invited by Killo Killo for some lamb roasting afternoon in Karlovci, a lovely village close to Novi Sad. Being already in Belgrade we took the bus to go backward from where we came. There, we met with all the family and their friends. A bunch of cool people. We had the chance to see how they make wine, listen to a punk hardcore band from some of the guys and drink a lot of wine until the lamb was ready…6hrs later 😉

Around 7pm we said goodbye and made our way to the bus stop heading toward Novi Sad. Killo Killo and Sofjia made us feel like home and we even had the time to take a nap before going to the party where David, Filip and Yves are mixing later on. We don’t need to walk far as it is happening close to where we stay.

We woke up from the nap quite late but this resting time was really needed (third night in a row we’re doing this). The party just started and it is good to meet up with people we already know. David is behind the decks and next to him there is a cello player which brings a nice colour to the music. I also have my Quena flute with me, so let’s go and jam together.

We ended up watching the sunrise from David’s window before we crashed being so tired. Anyway to party was worth it, so no regret!

The next day we didn’t do much. Killo Killo made a tasty goulash and we were good to go back to Belgrade where we left our bikes. That night we (finally) went to bed earlier. Belgrade and Novi Sad kept us awake at night but tomorrow it’s time to hit the road again away from big cities and their crazyness.

Sopot and Kabinet

The weather suddenly changed. The last days were quite warm and sunny for the season but now the sky is grey with some drops and the temperature is barely over 10 degrees. The destination of the day is “Kabinet brewery” the place Yves made some beer at 2 years ago. It is not too far, maybe 50 km which is good for a start.  The road is also more hilly as we left the flat lands of Vojvodina. At 3pm we arrived and met with Alex and the other lads that work there. We enjoyed beer tasting of the last beer batches. Some of them were really nice.

2 litters later, we cycled back down to Sopot and stayed at Alex. Being still very tired from the weekend it didn’t take long before we went to bed. Alex also mentioned a place 70km south where a guy (Bosko) created a kind of eco camp away from modern constraints and we understood travellers can just go and stay for free.

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The next morning the sun is shinning but still the air is cold. We enjoy a lot the scenery. Sometimes when taking some elevation the view is just breath taking. We also like to stop for some rakija when we see a villager in the process of making it.

At the end of the afternoon we faced a challenging steep uphill to reach the little town of Rudnik and again it was worth the pain. After we turned the edge of that climb, we got rewarded by another great view. Bosko house is now just a stone throw away.

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We made it to the eco camp after struggling a bit at finding it. It looks very nice, old houses, wooden table and outdoor kitchen but no one seems to be there. After half hour Gunes showed up. Gunes is a Turkish guy that walked a lot around the globe (hiking), he liked it so much here that he decided to stay and started writing a book. He told us Bosko was in another town be we could spend the night over and maybe share some rakija together.

During the evening we talked a lot about how is life in Serbia when you are from another country and also how cheap it is to buy some land with a house on it. I am not gonna tell the price cause there is limited capacity ;).

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The morning is rainy, after having opened one eye and understood we couldn’t cycle, we fell asleep for 2 more hours. At 11 the forecast seemed to be better, at least the rain has stopped and we have to cover some distance. We said goodbye to Gunes after we had breakfast together and got ready. The weather actually got better and better even though we feel winter is not that far. Today we go to Karljevo …

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Kraljevo

Cycling Vojvodina to Belgrade

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Vojvodina is the region in North Serbia, Novi Sad is the main city and it looks like a miniature Budapest with bridges connecting the city over the Danube. Our ride is made of flat landscapes, fields and some forest.

We follow the Danube for about 50km until we get to Novi Sad where we’ll meet with some friends and enjoy the first break after 6 days cycling. While having coke next to the river we dicovered we could hop on a boat to cross instead of using the bridge that is further away. Let’s do it, it’s always fun to go for a boat ride.

Just before we entered Novi Sad, we tried to help some gypsies that where having some issues with the wheel of the little carriage they use to collect all sort of things. We had to give up at some point when we realised there was too much work and that would take too long to fix, but we still wanted to help and gave the 50 Kuna note (7 euros) that Josip the priest back in Dakovo insisted we’d take for the road even though we didn’t need it.

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We arrived in Novi Sad in the afternoon and met with David and his dog Compa. Super nice guy hosting us for the next 2 nights in his apartment before we go to Belgrade. Time to go now for some beers, some sight seeing and enjoy a well deserved time off.

On our day off we went up the citadelle and after we found a sauna where we chilled before meeting with other friends in a bar. Having celebrated the night before we took it easy. Tomorrow is a big day, 111 km to Belgrade but we agreed on coming back to Novi Sad with the bus on friday as David and Filip are performing a Dj set, also Yves will be behind the decks.

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Belgrade

Time to go back on saddles, a long cycling day is ahead of us. The morning is pretty cool, following a cycling path along the river that becomes a dirt road quite quickly but still very easy to cycle. We pass by fishermen and shepherds also seeing funny cyclists on the way. The second half of the day is more like busy road with trucks and head wind until we entered Belgrade but we made it before sunset.

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Entering Belgrade

In Belgrade, we couldn’t find anyone that would have room to host us there even though we know people in here. The only option was to check in in a little hostel before Katarina (A friend I met in Komiza 2 weeks ago) took us to “Diagonala” to the most fancy restaurant in town. The food was truly amazing, we even tried some beef tongue. After a certain hour the restaurant becomes a club with Dj’s. Katarina introduced us to Vladimir, who’s the owner. This is when Yves saw there was some beer tab labeled “Kabinet”. Yves was there to brew 3 beers he created couple of years ago and he appeared Vladimir is the brother of the guy that owns the brewery (what a small world). Their father also used to be the chef for Tito back then.

We spent together a very nice evening but we have to save ourselves for tomorrow. There should be an interesting party to attempt to, that’s what we heard from Katarina.

The next day, we first went to meet with Marko (another friend originally from Zagreb) We had lunch together before I took the trolley bus to go to the barber. His name is Sava and he was recommended by Vladimir to me when last night I asked him where I could have my beard trimmed and get a haircut. I arrived and he was waiting for me. The communication was simple due too language barrier but the guy was very funny in many ways, a real character I would say and he did a great job.

In the evening we had no other choice to check in in another hostel as ours was fully booked that day. Still hoping someone we know would be able to host us and again, we had no luck. No bother, the new hostel is 5 minutes away and nice with a little terrace on the top floor which we took advantage of, having dinner with Eric, a Canadian guy that moved to Belgrade, plays music and owns a little IT business that seems to work pretty well. He performed at Goulash disko with his band last year and this is how Yves knows him.

Eric left early as he was tired from having taken a plane with no much sleep and the 3 of us headed to the party Katarina told us about last night.

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It is very dark here, there are some red lamps in a narrow corridor, people sitting next to the walls listening to some noise with no beat and a bar at the end that is facing some sort of cinema rows. Katarina showed up with Vladi and we understood we were in an ancient slaughter house. We could see the line on the floor were the blood was drained back then. Slowly the music would change implementing some beats to would finally bring some life in these zombies corps. I know it sounds a bit crazy but believe me we had another great night. Tomorrow we go back to Novi Sad. Our Serbian friend Killo Killo has invited us for a Lamb roasting afternoon and we shouldn’t miss that.

From Sava to Danube

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Slavonia is the flat part of Croatia and also very different from the rest of the country. Marks from the Yougoslavian civil war that took place 20 years ago are clearly visible. Due to it’s proximity with Serbia and Bosnia, there is a strong military presence but it has a charm for sure, no mass tourism here, only realness and ages ago lifestyle.

The weather is perfect during the day but colder at night, I enjoy a lot not sweating like I was during the summer under 35 degrees but I have to admit it makes it rather difficult to camp. Julien and Yves are pretty good with Croatian language for having lived long enough in Zagreb. When getting dark, we don’t hesitate to go knocking on doors asking for a shelter, like a garage to set up the tent avoiding humid conditions. And it works pretty well.

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Cycling the Sava river is pretty nice after I faced more or less 3 weeks going up and down in the Balkans, here the terrain is totally flat. It reminds me of when we started with Cedric in Hungary early August.

Between Jasenovac and Vukovar, it happens often we see some war wounds on the houses facades as well thanks on the road and memorials, reminding us that not that long ago terrible things happened in the region.

After 3 days cycling along the Sava river we made it to Dakovo, getting closer to the Serbian border and the Danube river. There, we first struggled at finding a place to spend the night. While asking a priest if we could sleep next to the church, a templar night showed up stating hosting us was his mission and fate brought us to him. We accepted the offer. Vlad, that’s his name, did a great job at making us laughing to the point I had to keep myself together not to be seen seen as a mocking bird which wasn’t my intention anyway. Haha!

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Vlad and himself dressed up for the occasion.

The morning after, we said good bye to Vlad on his way to school as he is a history teacher. Went for a quick look inside the beautiful cathedral before hitting the road.

Vukovar and its surroundings

We made it to Vukovar for lunch time. I found my old friend, the Danube river back after I left it 5 weeks ago in between the Romanian and Bulgarian border. Good feeling!

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Back to Danube

In Vukovar, you can clearly see how devastating it has been during the war. The city was destroyed at about 90% and even though almost everything is rebuilt, they kept some of the landmarks in bad shape not to forget.

After the lunch and some war wound sight seeing, we cycled toward Ilok, a beautiful little town known for its wine. The ride was quite magical on the way, late afternoon sun revealing the beauty of the fields and vineyards as well the Danube lush forest when entering Ilok. Check that out!

We made it to Ilok after a good 97 km and first stopped by the local wine factory for some wine tasting. A good way to say good bye to Slavonia as we’ll be crossing the border to Serbia tomorrow. We bought one more bottle for the road but we didn’t go far, The church was very close and we used our connection with Josip (the priest of Dakovo) to ask for a dry place to set the tent behind the church. There was a garage and the priest didn’t even ask questions before he said yes!

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Last diner in Slavonia, these 5 days have been awesome, tomorrow we’ll enter Serbia a brand new world…I’ll keep you posted!

A new beginning

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Summer time is over and that was awesome what we did. Cycling 2000k around the Balkans was a big thing but didn’t fill up my thirst of adventure far enough. I Just want it to continue. My friend Yves is about to start a journey from Zagreb to Athens and so I am joining him and Julien another fellow cyclist. They both live in Zagreb, this is why we’ll start from here.

First thing you need to do is to take care of your bike. I went to the bike shop to get it serviced as well as Yves did with his. We want to start cycling on the first day of Fall, that leaves me 2 days in Zagreb to sort my things out, making sure I am prepared for colder weather conditions.

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Jolly Jumper getting some polishing surgery

Yves being a bit sick after all the goulash work in Komiza needs one more day to be fully recovered, we therefore decided to postpone the departure for one extra rest day. On the other hand, it allows us for a proper goodbye party at “Vintage” with a beautiful “Antenat” gig, which really rocked out the night, gathering with all the friends. Tomorrow we start for good!

The D day

It is 2 pm and we are all set! Coming back late last night didn’t help to wake up early but we know the first day is just about to leave, no matter the time rather then pushing to cover a big distance. After a proper polaroid photo shooting we said goodbye to our friends Anna Maria and Matic and go hit the road toward the edge of Zagreb direction East and the Slavonian region.

Bye bye Zagreb! Hello Sava river, you’ll be our guide for the next days.

The final show

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The sky is tormented, I just finished writing a post when I realise there is a thunder storm coming up over Zadar. It is 3 am when I decide to go the beach to watch the show and maybe I can get some good shots.

Earlier that day I first said goodbye to Anna, she took a flight to Greece going to a wedding before making her way back to Dublin and a couple hours after she left, a cab came to pick up Cedric who’s also leaving today, going back to Belgium.  So after saying goodbye to them…I am alone for the first time since over a month which is a nice feeling. I’ll be able to rest, catch up with writing the blog, which I haven’t done for about 10 days as I was quite busy discovering hidden spots in Croatia.

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I slept a lot, went to the shop, made myself some kind of cheese and ham platter and locked myself in working on the blog all afternoon and night until the show began.

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After a quick hesitation, I made my way to the beach at 3.30 am, what I saw was truly stunning. I spent a good hour, looking at the sky, what a spectacular thunder storm and the setting is perfect.

Not bad right? I am glad I went and I could have stayed for hours if the storm didn’t make its way toward my direction. There was a quick warning of rain drops, so I started walking back to the apartment. As soon as I stepped in, the heavy rain was over me and it didn’t stop until I woke up.

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Sun is back late afternoon

This is my last day in Zadar, I am supposed to take a flight to Belgium tomorrow morning. But the plan has changed while I was in Komiza. I knew my friend Yves was planning a bike trip from Zagreb to Greece with Julien. Once they finished with sorting everything after the festival was over, we agreed on meeting in Zagreb where they both currently live and start cycling Slavonjia (flat part of Croatia) along the Sava river toward the Serbian border.

So it seems I am embarked on a new adventure. I won’t go to the airport tomorrow…I am going to Zagreb. The fun is far from being over.

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Zadar and the Kornati islands

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The Kornati islands are from a different planet and you can’t compare it to anything else. The legend says that Zeus got his heart broken and with his tears he created the Kornati Islands.

We arrived in Zadar early afternoon with the bus. Cedric went to the bike shop to search for a box he’d need to pack up his bike on the plane back to Belgium. I’ll explain why I am not going with him 😉 . We are staying at Dario in a very nice neighbourhood close to the beach. Last year we stayed here with Cedric after kayaking in the Kornati Islands. I loved it so much that I want to take Anna to witness the beauty of these Islands tomorrow and stay over night. But tonight we’ll do a barbecue after we go to the beach of course.

While eating, we discussed how we’d get to the Kornati. Cedric is not coming as he needs to start sorting and packing all his stuff. It is also nice to be just the 2 of us with Anna and I have my idea how I am gonna surprise her tomorrow.

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Sali

We took the boat to Sali on Dugi Island (the closest starting point to Kornati National park) We arrived around noon after we saw some dolphins during the crossing. I made my way to the tourist office where I arranged to rent a kayak last year. This time, I have a clear idea of what I want. We first took care of finding a nice room with sea view. Once this was done we went back to the little office.

-“Ok, so this is what I need”: A boat and a skipper to go to Levrnaka bay, Swim, watch the sunset from the top of the hill and then come back in the evening.” Levrnaka is 25 km away and I need that boat for 6 hrs, I believe it is not going to be cheap.

-“We can arrange that but it will cost you 100 euro” that’s what she said.

-“Ok, how many people can fit on the boat” I asked.

-“4 or 5 plus the skipper”

At this moment there was a Canadian couple listening to our conversation and the deal was made, we’d go the 4 of us.

On the way to Levrnaka

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It takes about 1.30 hr to get there by boat and the sea is a little shaky this afternoon. Our skipper, Jerko doesn’t seem very friendly at first see but he is actually lovely. While sailing to Levrnaka, I explain to Anna, Mathis and Marie-Anne how we paddled last year and how difficult it was when being on the open sea.

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We arrived late afternoon, the sky is a bit cloudy but that doesn’t affect the beauty of the bay. Jerko dropped us next to some rocks before going to the other side of the island to fish, we also agreed there would be the pick up point after the sunset. We went straight to the water,  it is just us and the fish 🙂 there are so many and it is beautiful. Levrnaka is also sandy which is quite rare in Croatia.

At around 6 pm we started walking uphill where you get the best view over all the little islands. There is a rocky path that leads up there, last year I couldn’t believe my eyes, I hope the guys will feel the same. Well I am sure they will.

Even though the sun is covered by clouds, I am still amazed by the beauty of the Kornati islands. We stayed until it started getting dark and made our way down looking at the moon rising, chasing the clouds away.

Jerko was waiting for us next to the little pier on the other side. We hopped on the boat and started the journey back to Sali. The sea is now very calm and at night with the moon shining, the water looks like silk. This is the highlight, sailing at night. To make sure we would be entirely satisfied. Jerko even dropped the fishing line getting closer to the shore and catched a calamari in front of us. This was the cherry on the top of the cake. What a day!

Everybody is tired now but super happy with everything we saw today. We went to a nice little restaurant before saying goodbye to our Canadian friends back to our room enjoying the view over the harbour at night.

 

2000 in oasis

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Goulash Disko is over. We had a lot of fun but now it is time to hit the road again. Nothing to crazy though. We have one week before flying back to Belgium from Zadar and it’s only 175 km. We thought we’d first go to Krka National park to admire the waterfalls but also you can swim there and that’s cool.

We spent the day in Komiza, went for a last dip in the sea at the nearby beach. Tonight we sleep in Vis town on the other side of the island where the ferries come and go. As we have to take the one at 5:30 am and because we are with the bikes, it is much easier to stay somewhere close to the harbour.

Anna went ahead to Vis with the bus while Cedric and I cycled the costal road which is twice as long than the other one but offers a lot of great vista, plus it is sunset time again. We enjoy being back on the bikes after 6 days. By taking this road, we made a stop in “Belotovo” to say hello to Ines. Another place where I go every time I’m on the Island. Ines is a fantastic person, always smiling and full of energy. With her husband they make wine, rakjia and they also cook for you on request. We always feel welcome in Belotovo.

We said goodbye to Ines and cycled the last 7 km in the darkness, met with Anna who found a place to sleep in the meantime. That night I fell asleep very quickly, I guess I was tired from the last days. The ferry leaves before dawn, so better to get as many hours of sleep as possible. Tomorrow is going to be a long day.

On the way to Skradin and the waterfalls

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Denis watching the sunrise on the Ferry to Split

We arrived at 8 am in Split and got lucky to hop on a bus to Sibenik (a city 20 km away from the waterfalls). As being with Anna, it doesn’t make sense to cycle all day and have only evening time together, this is the reason why we put the bikes on the bus. We arrived in Sibenik, had lunch, then Anna went back to the bus station while Cedric and I cycled the last 20km to Skradin.

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Skradin

Skradin is a beautiful little town enclaved between hills, sea and rivers. It took us only one hour to cycle there to meet with Anna. After we found our accommodation for the day, Anna rented a bicycle and the 3 of us cycled the 4km to the National park using the cycling track along the river.

As soon as we entered the National park the counter switched to 2000 km! Well this is actually the perfect place for that as this might be the last ride of the trip and we actually aimed for 2000 km when we started from Budapest. Mission in now complete 🙂 🙂

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We spent the all afternoon swimming and walking around the park going from a waterfall to another. I actually like Krka more than Plitvice as it is less crowded and you are allowed to swim, it makes a big difference.

We picked up our bikes at the entrance around 6 pm and made our way back to Skradin enjoying the light filtering to the tree leaves.

We had a very nice diner in Skradin to celebrate the 2000k before going home. There we enjoyed a beer on the terrace and that was it for today. Tomorrow we go to Zadar the final destination where we’ll be staying for 5 days.