Published: May 11th 2009
April 27th 2009
Great Company in Turkey
Thanks for some great home cooking Rosie....it was ou first break from rice...
We left India in 37*C heat and clear blue skies.....................
We landed at Istanbul, Turkey in 5*C, cold, wet and grey..................
Welcome back to Europe..........................
Our first visit was to Ankara as we went to see Rosie and Kaan for the week, where we had a relaxing week with them both and visited some of the sights and sounds of Ankara. Thankfully they had good central heating and we had a weeks intensive course climatising as we had -*C temps, lots of rain, snow and thankfully sun by the end of the week!!!!
Our next adjustment was to the "modern western world" as we could not believe how fast cars went, having the choice of foods, super markets, clean & tidy streets, general ease & organisation and finally an increase in prices!!!!!
We did a 1 day tour of Istanbul and we checked the different markets, souks, mosques, and palaces. Unfortunately we only had 1 day as we had a time schedule to keep to and the weather dramatically improved, so we hit the road and headed west. With no map........... well it started at Thessaloniki, Greece.
week was full on as we got use to riding the fully laden touring bikes, camping again!! and pasta for tea every night!!! The camping was made especially easier on the first night as we met a Barbara & Dave from Oldham, who cooked us a mega meal, gave us their comfy chairs for the night and where fantastic company. We made our way west along the coast and then cut inland to the Turkey/Greece border before hitting the coast again. The weather kept improving as we had good coastal scenery with the sharpe dramatic landscape crashing into the ever blue Mediterranean and we even saw some dolphins. The hospitality we got along the way was mega, as petrol attendents gave us tea and bread, a shop girl gave us big "tester" perfume and 2 old women gave us pizza, water and oranges as we did a rough camp on their beach!!!!! These are just a few....
Once we made it to Thessaloniki we headed inland towards the mountains and up to the Greece/Macadonian border. Many of the farmers were getting their vineyard's and orchid's ready for the spring and summer. The snow capped mountains started to loom
infront of us and the weather kept on improving as we climbed, which was fantastic as we knew we had stunning Lake Orhid ahead of us and the Albanian mountains to cross. The scenery became more green as forests started to thicken and lakes glistened. Lake Orhid is a lovely setting in the mountains, which is great for cycling and walking. The town was a major stop of on the "Via Egnatia", with its own amphitheater, castle and mega old churches. For the last 2 weeks we had been following the Via Egnatia, which was the major trade route for the Romans from Durres (Albania) to Istanbul (Turkey)and then onto the Asian Silk Roads. The cross over into Albania was very easy and spectacular as we lost 1200m down a lovely river valley, with the mishaped concrete bunkers hiding here and there. We had a last 800m+ climb to Tirane the capital and all the fancy cafes, resturants and street cruising Mercedes Benz... It looks like that every single car in Albania is a Mercedes Benz, both old and new. However they get their cars from Germany, Britian and Italy, but they like to keep the old number plates on...
or there were a lot of Brits on holiday in Albania!!!!
We headed north and entered Montenegro, seeing our first glimpse of the Adriatic Sea, which would be our view and cycling territory for the next week or so. It was here that we met an American couple called Barbara & Bill who made Carl and I look like amateurs!!! They have been cycle touring & hiking around Europe for the last 8 years!!! There is still pleanty of exploring left in them and good luck with the rest of your adventures.
The major tourist spots are Bar and Budva that have little old towns and expensive yachts in their harbours. We were lucky to see this in the 'off' season as you could see the potential for mayhem in these small towns and twisty coastal roads. Montenegro can boast about having the most southern fjord in Europe at Kotor. The scenery is spectacular as steep sided mountains drop down to the water, which is crystal clear with a impressive cliff side castle and a nice old town. The ride along the lake was lovely and quiet as we took B-roads to catch the free ferry
and head towards Croatia.
Still blessed with mega weather and lots of sun we headed north into Croatia and Dubrovnik, which is the no.1 tourist destination on the Adriatic coast as large cruise ships were docked in the harbour, the very impressive, large 'old town' was heaving (mainly Americans......right on!!!) and the prices were 3 times as much!!!! (Don't ask Carl about the campsite!!!)
Next large stop was Split & Trogir, with both having, yes you guessed it... 'old town's. Truthfully you do start to get 'old towned' out ... however they are still very impressive and very nice, especially with the spring sun. It was at Trogir we had a couple of days off the bike and relaxed with fellow Northerners Sean, Sarah, Daniel & Lucy from Chorley, who were a lovely family having a year out exploring Europe in their camper van. It was great as we had the campsite to ourselves and their children had the camp ground and the local dog as their play ground.
We headed north with the road following the coast, swepping inland with coves and bays and heading out around bluffs and cliff's. The terrain was
ever changing and made good cycling as we had a good few climbs here and there. However there were areas where the scenery felt barren and luna like, especially on the section between Starigrad and Rijeka as the road cut across the steep mountains. At Starigrad we were treated to a mega fich curry and good company by Jason & Caroline, who were..... yes you guessed it more Brits having a year out!!!!
Our last section of Croatia brought rain!!!!! However thankfully we only had it for one day as we said "goodbye" to the coast and cut inland heading to Slovenia.
Slovenia is definately a place we would return to as the scenery was stunning. We made our way over to the Soca Valley that hugs the Slovenian/Italian border all the way into the Julian Alpes. The valley was one of the key frontiers of the First World War, with lots of history and fortress's. Plus it is a haven for walkers, cyclists, canoist's and skier's. The valley starts with you following the emerald green Soca River with large lush green hills giving way to 2000m plus mountains still topped with snow. Spectacular!!!
The cross over into Italy and Austria was a "COLD ONE" and amazingly our 3rd day of rain since Istanbul. It was time to step into our first cafe and have a hot mug of cappuccino... as the weather was to bad for even Carl to brew up on his stove. It did hurt him having to pay a full 1.20 Euro for a large mug. (I don't think Carl is going to adjust well back to Blighty life ... do not be surprised if you see him walking around with his flask when we get home)
It was in Austria that we had to make a big decision. Our friends Jose & Ulli from Germany (Black Dog Gang from Argentina) had a holiday and we really wanted to spend time with them and explore their area. Unfortunately time was not on our side, so we research the internet and found a great weekend deal that cost 37 Euro's and enables 5 people to travel anywhere in Germany using regional trains.
We therefore got the train from Vallach to Marburg and had a fantastic reunion with Jose & Ulli. However little did we know that Jose's mother was
in town and we were about to meet the famous, legendary, mother of 11 Isobella Garcia Domingo... now she is a blog entry in her self!!!!
We spent a good week with Jose & Ulli, relaxing, riding, eating brilliant homemade food, great company and seeing the sights and sounds of Marburg and finished of with a night of Yoga!!!! We then headed north west to Holland, via the Rhine and have spent a few days investigating Amstardam.
With only a week left we will catch the ferry to Newcastle and will for the first time in nealry 19 months set foot on British soil. Heading home through our cycling playground of the Pennines and Yorkshire Dales and a definate stop at Ingleton Cafe!!!!
It is amazing how varied our trip has been. We have gained so many memories and experiences that it is so hard to say which is the best. As a whole experience it has been the best thing we have ever done and we are not "the lucky ones" as everyone keeps calling us. More or less everyone has the chance to do something different and have their own journey. We
feel we still have lots of energy and have surprised ourselves at how long we have carried on. We think the secret has been to take each country at a time, take one day at a time and let the experince and culture absorb you. The simplicity of our life has been wonderful as we opted not to carry mobile phones, Ipods & laptaps that you see many other travellers using. Leaving these at home has made us realise how simple life can be. It was only the other day that Carl realised that our bicycle's are everything... our home, our transport, our wardrobe, our kitchen, our bathroom etc ... all balanced on 35mm of rubber... Amazing
To all the wonderful people we have met on our travels and have opened their homes, campervans and tents to us a BIG THANK YOU. Your hospitality has been fantastic and you are all welcome to come and visit us in the UK...
Unfortunately this will probably be our last blog as the reality of us finishing the blog off when we get home is slim (pulling our finger out etc )....
However the photos will be
loaded when we get home!!!!!
Love Sarah & Carlos xxxx
There are more photos below