Balkans and Western Europe Route Information
3,200 kilometers April & May 2009 Greece » Bulgaria » Serbia » Kosovo » Macedonia » Albania » Montenegro » Croatia » Bosnia » Slovenia » Italy » Switzerland » France » Germany
Cycling in Greece was but a flash, less than 50 kilometers and we crossed into Bulgaria, with its busy highways lined with rubbish. We passed through many derelict towns and cities but at least the road was flat as we cycled to historical Plovdiv, for us the
We passed through many derelict towns and cities but at least the road was flat as we cycled to historical Plovdiv, for us the high point of Bulgaria. On the way to Sophia, we saw fewer empty factories and deserted villages and more of the beautiful nature Bulgaria is renowned for.
Crossing into Serbia was a pleasant surprise. Just across the border are charming villages, the friendly town of Pirot and lovely green countryside, and oh so clean compared with Bulgaria. From Nis we headed into Kosovo where we were met with more busy highways and unrelenting traffic.
Luckily the cycling improved vastly once we got to beautiful Macedonia, one of our favorite Balkan countries. The area surrounding Lake Ohrid is simply stunning and offers excellent cycling along quiet scenic roads.
Next, it was on to Albania, another country that could benefit from modern trashing collecting technologies. Heading out of Elbasan we were faced with a steep climb before reaching funky Tirana--Albania's fast-changing capital's not a bad place to hang out for a few days. Our next Balkan country was mountainous
Montenegro, an ideal spot for a short cycling holiday if you don't mind the climbs. The ride up over the mountains before reaching Kotor was a tough one, but well worth the effort for the spectacular views afforded on the way down. Then we toured around the bay before climbing again around Lake Shkoder-magnificent cycling on almost traffic free roads. It just doesn't get any better.
Our next country, Croatia, is a current hot spot on the tourist trail, which translates into high prices and busy roads. Even in mid-April the caravans and motorcyclists were out in full force. Beautiful though the coastal road may be, it's far from peaceful and I'd recommend keeping your helmet on your head rather than latching it on to your rear rack (I'm sure I'm not the only one who does that). There's a lot to visit and each village is more beautiful than the last, one does become rather blasé after a while. We zipped across the border to get a taste of Bosnia and weren't disappointed. A much quieter country without all the tourist hustle and bustle you find next door in Croatia. And of course you'll want to catch a glimpse of some brave young man jumping off the bridge at Mostar, which is in fact quite a tourist infested place, but worth a visit nevertheless. After leaving Mostar we again began climbing , those Balkans are killers on the calves. Once back in Croatia we followed one of the loveliest stretches of the coastal road before reaching Split.
It wasn't long before we found ourselves in Slovenia, a little gem of a country that certainly deserves more time for exploration. Cool pine forests and quiet roads made biking there a dream.
Then came Italy and boy were we out of place on our heavily-laden touring bikes, all the Lycra guys were whizzing by on racing bikes. Although Italy is famous for cycling, the northern part of the country is heavily populated and the mega-highways cyclists are sometimes forced to ride on hardly do the sport justice. City, after city, after endless city gets old fast. The best cycling we found in Italy was near Lake Garda.
Switzerland has an excellent network of bike paths, and after the stress of congested Italy, it was pure joy to take a break from busy highways. Cycling-wise, you probably can't go wrong in a country blessed with such natural beauty. We can highly recommend the route from the Slovenia to Lugano, heading towards Luzern and then to Basel all the way to the French border. Note that passes close during the winter months and some don't re-open until June.
The last few kilometers of our epic Africa biking tour were in France on the wonderfully flat plain of Alsace before reaching Obernai, our original point of departure in June 2006. The Africa chapter of our tour officially came to an end on 14 May 2009 at 5:05 PM. Two years, eleven months and seven days on the road. 55, 236 kilometers pedaled and 55 countries visited.