On the road of the Balkans

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Our adventure in the Balkans started under the rain with our reflective rain suits.

reach the beautiful coastline and seaside city of Sarandë. Upon our arrival, there was only a drizzle. We headed to the North and used the SH8 road winding between the cliffs and the beaches. The coast was beautiful. This road, overlooking the blue-turquoise water and the surrounding mountains, shaped the nice coves.

Kilometre after kilometre, we rode along the seaside cities and crossed nice and outside of time villages with narrow and paved streets. After the Dhermi city, the road was going up and crossed the Thanasit mount symbolising the end of this Riviera. At the opposite side of this summit, the road was winding. In the shadow of the deep forest of the Llogara national park we went down carefully due to the smell of burn form our engines. We managed to stop at the end of a loop to finally understand the front break have overheated. Therefore, we were not able to break properly. To cool down the breaks, we poured a full water tank and continued the road. Luckily, after three loops we were back on a straight and flat road, nearby the Vlora city.

In Montenegro, after the border, we left the main road to ride in the mountains and reached the viewpoint overlooking the Skadar lake. The lake was the most important one of the Balkan peninsula and is a natural border between Montenegro and Albania.

After the viewpoint, the road was winding between the lake and the mountain following the uneven road around the lake and crossing the leaning villages. It was tough to cross cars on this road. On each side there were low walls to delimit the fields with the donkeys and sheep. But by using this road, it was like the time was stopped. There was no one around, just the four of us, the lake and the mountains.

At the end of the P16 road, we arrived in a nice medieval city of Godinje. The houses made of stones were leaning towards the next house. With an architectural cacophony attractive. The Virparaz city was along the lake. We crossed several tunnels on this highly frequented main road going towards the famous Kotor bay.

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, after the medieval city of Mostar, we were charmed by the little sinuous road along the Neretva river offering breathtaking landscapes with the warm lights of the end of the day.  

In the bottom, the Jablanicko lake and the unbelievable colours were between the mountains of the Dinaric Alps in the middle of a breathtaking nature shaped by the natural park of Blidinje and the mount of Prenj named the Bosniac Himalaya. At the North of the lake, the river was shaping a furrow and the impressive gorges in which little cities were built with old factories around from the Soviet period. A return in history highlighted by the stone tablets along the road in tribute of the soldiers dead during the Yugoslavia war at the end of the 90’s.

Towards Croatia, there were old Volkswagen vehicles: Golf, Polo and Transporter. We crossed the wide fields. As it was Summer, it was time for harvesting the hay. In the fields, there were the modern technics mixed with the ancient ones. There were only stacks of straw around a wooden stick.


After visiting the lakes of Plitvice and before to ride towards Slovenia, it was our turn to have an issue with our sidecar. While Julien was checking the wheel of his sidecar due to a noise from the break disk, it was finally on our sidecar there was a crack on the frame. We drew a mark to see the evolution and to evaluate the distance we can do before to stop for finding a welder.

We continued slowly our trip towards North and did a break every 20 kilometres to see the evolution of the crack. But 100 kilometres further, in the city of Karlovac, we made the decision to stop for the day and to repair the crack on the following day in a welder shop.

Located in the industrial area of the North of the city, we were in the welder’s garage at the back of a house. On the little parking, an old Zastava car looking like an old Fiat 500, perfectly renovated, a proof of seriousness and professionalism of the welder. Things were going fast, the young welder looked our crack and asked to take the Ural sidecar in his garage and to start the cleaning of the crack before to weld it. The repair was done in a couple of minutes for a few euros. After looking more deeply, the repair was not done properly. But it was enough to ride hundreds of kilometres and the hope to reach the Ural shop in Austria, the most important!

We were back on the road, but the issues continued. A hundred of kilometres further, it was for Marie and Julien’s sidecar to have an issue. We sent a message to Marina, the importer agent of the pieces in the factory of Irbit. She gave us advice but the diagnostic was the same: we needed to change the injector. Luckily, the Ural team gave us a spare injector before our departure. Finally, it was after 34,000 kilometres, in Croatia, that we needed to change it. Julien did it at a service station, where we stopped.

At the end of the afternoon, we reached a little border post to enter in Slovenia and to end this adventure in the Balkans.

Encounter in the Balkans

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Anne, Régis and their red Volkswagen

In Croatia, we experienced some mechanical issues. A crack appeared on the frame of one of our sidecars. This problem forced us to stop and to find a welder. As it was Sunday, we had to wait the next day for getting a workshop nearby open.

Therefore, we started the quest to find a place for pitching up the tent  and we founded the “Autocamp Radjonj” in Tusilovic. We were not welcomed by the owner, but by Anne and Régis, a retired couple from Lyon (East of France). They were traveling with a beautiful brand new red Volkswagen Transporter.

Once the greetings done, Régis, an experienced traveler, coaxed us by offering a chilled Pastis (a traditional alcohol from South of France). His technic worked perfectly. As he said : “I have travelled for a long time, I know we are not missing a lot of things, but you cannot resist to ta good Pastis because this treasure is only from our place.”

We passed our afternoon doing some services on the sidecars and tightening some bolts. Then we tried to find, without success, a swimming spot at the river nearby. Unfortunately, the grass was too high and restricted the access.

The camping owner arrived at the beginning of the night. Absent due to the hospitalisation of his son, he offered some shots of a homemade spirit for celebrating his good medical results. 

A storm appeared at the pre-dinner drink time, we found refuge under a shelter where we shared some peanuts and beers on the picnic table. A fox came around, looking for some food and a dry place to stay. Once the torrential rain ended, Anne and Regis joined us for sharing another drink. We spent the night sharing our respective travel stories and our favorite spots.

The next morning, the grass was still covered with dew, we shared the breakfast with Anne and Régis. We enjoyed their homemade jam and they showed us proudly their traveling toaster working on their gas camping stove. The apogee of this lush breakfast was the salted butter from their fridge. Some stuff that can only been acquired after many years spent on the road…

Night spots in the Balkans

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Jalaë & the beach of Gjiri i Akuariumit

During the first day on the Albanian roads, we arrived at its Riviera. In the South of the country, from the morning to the evening, there was a heavy rain. After weeks with a hot weather, the road became slippery and the air had a nice smell of wet asphalt.

We rode along the Adriatic coast on 60 kilometres. Then we left the main road of the SH8 road and headed to the seaside city of Jalë. On our left, the beach with a fine sand. We rode on the path which became very muddy with the rain. Metre after metre, we were not sure anymore that we will be able to make it. We decided to continue.

At the end, it was worth it! We reached the little beach of Gjiri i Akuariumit surrounded by rocks in a little wild cove.

To respect our traditions, we ended this day on the road with a chill beer on the rocks while watching the sea and the indigo sky full of clouds due to the rain coming.

We pitched up the tents, a bit away from the beach and its rocks, on the only area without a stone but with the foots in the clay!

When we woke up, we packed the tents and did everything to avoid stains from the clay. Then, a quick dive in the clear waters of the Adriatic Sea to clean the clay.

The sunshine was back from the beginning of the morning and helped to dry the path helping us going back on the road towards North.

Alongside the river of Drini in Shkoder

We arrived at the border city of Shkoder at the end of the afternoon. Before arriving in this city, we noticed on our sat nav a nice green area alongside the river Drini. But during this first ride, we didn’t find the path to reach the riverside. We went back on the road and finally found a path between two little shops. We had the feeling to be in the city but behind the houses there were fields of cereals, as far as we can see. Very surprising! We followed the uneven path and reached a clearing next to the river where  we decided to pitch up the tent. The scenery was similar to the one you would have on a postcard! The sunset with beautiful piking colours was highlighting the Rozafa citadel, the historic symbol of the city.

After a chilly night, the river next to the tent was a perfect bathroom! With the sunrise, the shower was invigorating.

During the breakfast, while the coffee was heating, a farmer was walking his cow. As many other times, chatting was impossible due to our lack of skills in his language. We did a few gestures but quickly the silence arrived. The man was surprised to see us and the sidecars. It was very poetic to see this old man walking his loyal cow. A routine which has been changed by seeing 4 young travellers. He will probably tell this improbable story to his friends.

But we will never know. We can only imagine while continuing our trip towards North !