Tuesday 25.08.2015 Countries:10 502km Total:4539km
This is moving day. We have a very long day ahead of us since we've decided to try and transit through all of Greece in just one day and a half to get the afternoon in Sofia the day after.
A pretty uneventful day with some really nice riding, especially in the afternoon when we're riding a long the coast of the Aegean sea.
When we arrive at the hotel for the day it turns out it's by far the worst stay of the entire trip.
The first thing that happens is that they claim they haven't received any booking but out of the goodness of their harts they can still give us a couple of rooms.
Hardly an achievement since it's evening, the hotel has more than 50 rooms and there isn't a single person in sight anywhere.
When I get to my room the stench hits me like a punch in the teeth, it really smells like someone has died in there.
I talk to the reception about a possible switch to a room that doesn't smell like the inside of a garbage disposal but with normal Greek nonchalance but completely lacking both humour and charm he explains that they don't have any non smoking rooms and thus they all have the odour of unsanitized ax-homicide (ok, so that might not have been his exact words).
Opening the balcony door was not a very viable option due to the scorching heat and the fact that a bird had occupied the balcony which meant it was pretty much covered in birdshit.
Considering how few between the backfires are to booking non refundable rooms at bargain rates I guess I can put up with this, after all it's just for one night.
While I had taken a shower the bear had asked about getting some supper and yes for a small amount of just one million euros (a slight exaggeration) they could offer us something from a ridiculously limited menu but we would of course have to wait until a newly arrived busload of Poles had been fed.
But that was to be expected, we were after all only paying them eighty euros to sleep in a four star latrine.
My spontaneous reaction to this news was that I'd rather chew of my own arm than pay this place one single cent more than what's absolutely necessary, we head out on a quest for food.
It was a pretty uncertain bet that we would find anything since we had chosen to stay outside of town to get the cost down.
The fact that reception had said that there was nowhere else was definitely not something I took as the absolute truth, that this place had some skeletons in the closet was pretty obvious by the smell.
We get to a soccer field with a few kids playing ball so I ask them about getting some food and they point us in the right direction which by the way is the only direction, but at least we now know that there is food to be had.
Bingo! Just a hundred meter down the road we find a kebab-shop. The Greeks can call them Gyros as much as they like.
Was it not Shakespeare who said: What is in a name? That which we call a kebab by any other name would smell as sweet?
Despite some language difficulties we manage to get a round of Kebyros and due to the fact that it was my stubbornness that had gotten us here I gratuitously paid for what could very well be a triple food poisoning.
Back at the hotel we remount my aux light while drinking beer and getting completely massacred by mosquitoes.
Wednesday 26.8.2015 Countries:13 305km Total:4844km
A pretty uneventful transport to one of the trips more pleasant surprises. Sofia was without a doubt a place where I would have liked to spend more time than we could.
Even if the touristy stuff flew past pretty quick with the highlights being The Alexander Nevski Cathedral, The Saint Sofia church and a monument to Soviet warheros (which they savagely had converted into a skatepark, Stalin is probably spinning in his grave) the city gave a very nice impression.
We got some coffee at a café just behind the cathedral, after Milano probably the best view I've ever had over a cup and eventhough it was horribly expensive by Bulgarian standards it was worth every penny.
We had supper at a place called Krechme Divaka, I don't rember what it was called but it was some kind of beef stew with mashed potatoes.
It was alright but admittedly not a very memorable national dish.
All the more memorable on the other hand was the national drink of Mastika which is a Bulgarian variant of Ouzo.
It could be had as two different kinds, with anise or mint. We obviously got both (it's a dirty job...)
The mint one tasted of mouthwash but oh my god, the anise-variant was a real treat, it was like having the inside of your mouth tickled by a licorise-feather.
Thursday 27.8.2015 Countries:14 397km Total:5241km
The border passade into Serbie turns out to be the slowest yet with completely endless lines.
The only conclusion I can draw from this since most of the vehicles where foreign (Germany, France, Belgium etc.) they thought it was worth the wait to get to Serbias motoway A1 with a 140km/h speed limit.
I really don't see that this would save any time though. We did get through most of the country pretty quickly but that was just to end up at a complete standstill at the toll outside Belgrade.
I took us an hour in cremating sun to get a thousand metres to pay a €6.5 toll.
A German gentleman noted my predicament (the sweat was probably pouring from my scorched face at this point) and offered me kallt trinkwasser which I politely declined, after all I had plenty of water in the hydration bladder... I thought.
The German had just disappeared out of sight when I gurgling sound announced that the hydration bladder wasn't going to hydrate anything until it got a refill and the tollbooths where still far in the distance.
Pride. What a stupid an useless trait it is. Lesson learned: when someone offers you a drink, take it.
When we finally get through the tolls we park up to get back our strength and replenish our fluids.
It's obvious that something isn't quite right with the bear since he kind of pours of the bike instead of getting of proper. He looks pretty shaken when he and after he's gotten some water he's actually felt himself go when approaching the tolls and thinks it would have just been a matter of minutes more in the line before blacking out completely.
We drive the last stretch into Belgrade and park on the sidewalk outside the hotel and unload our gear before being referred to the hotels secure parking which is the "City garage".
Arriving at the garage we're met by an old witch who points here finger at us like a preschool teacher reprimanding a bad child.
I wonder what the problem is they tell us that we're not going to park our bikes in their garage. The fact that we offer to pay the same fee as for cars makes no difference, they just want us to go away.
By now a guy has turned up who at least speaks a few words of English and he says that it would be illegal for them to let us park our bikes in their garage but he refers us to another garage where he thinks bikes might be allowed.
I misunderstood the directions somewhat which led me to stroll into what was one of the city's impound lots and as far as I could see, business was booming.
On the actual parking up the street we are even more briskly rejected then at the first.
It was the same resentful wave but along with it came some sort of Serbian insult which felt like "take your ridiculous toys and f#*k off".
By now my patience has come to an abrupt halt so I dismount and ask what the damn problem is with parking bikes in this godforsaken town since as far as I'm aware motorcycles are not illegal in either the country or town.
True, she concurs but alas her parking does not allow motorbikes and as far as she knows none of the others do either which in affect then does the exact same thing since parking on the sidewalk was a guaranteed tow.
We ride back to the hotel and the receptionist starts up an extensive telephone chain which includes "Belgrade central parking service" which confirms what we already know: there are no garages or lots that will take motorcycles in the entire city of Belgrade.
The problem is eventually solved with the help of her sister who work reception at a different hotel who has their own garage.
We're somewhat overcharged 2x€10 to park the bikes but at this point it was either that or load up and leave town.
Before we got the bikes parked and walked back to the hotel we spent two hours on parking alone. In between that, 1.5 hour border passage and the one hour toll it is now so late that any form of sightseeing is completely out of the question.
I must admit that I had some prejudices beforehand about the Serbs (mostly from the Norwegian author Asne Seirstads book: With their backs against the world) but I must say that the not only met but exceeded my prejudices by an astronomical margin.
As an obvious foreigner (nobody in this region rides in protective gear) you are sometimes met with curiosity and in major cities for the most part with complete indifference.
During our 2km walk back we were met with suspicion, contempt and what can only be described as undisguised hatred.
In between the people on the street and the teller in the supermarket there was not as much as smile to be had.
The impression you got from the entire populace was "what are you doing here? get out as fast as you can" with the hotel sisters as an extreme exception.
One of the sisters, I think she was called Daniela even knew a few phrases in Swedish because "she had been to Sweden a few days".
It's stuff like that that really makes you feel pretty ignorant, we've been travelling for three weeks now and I haven't learned a single foreign word in any of the languages we've come across.
So we didn't really get to see anything of Belgrade at all but without even discussing it we were in complete agreement that it wasn't really a loss.
Spending any of our "extra days" wasn't up for discussion either since it was obvious that the Serbs didn't want either us or our despicable motorcycles there we mere more than happy to humour them.