In 2014, I took my mother on a motorcycle trip to Balkan. Read the background story here.
The day of our departure had finally arrived. My mother had been staying with us a few days prior, so we got up early to ride to the first stop on the trip; the ferry from Gedser, Denmark to Rostock, Germany. It is an short trip, takes a little less than 2 hours, so we had time to get lunch on board.
We took the train from Hamburg to Villach, Austria. It’s a very convenient way of getting through Germany. We literally got to eat and drink, and sleep while being on the move. We left Hamburg in the late afternoon, and arrived at Villach in the morning the following day.
Villach is extremely convenient, as it is just an hour from the Triglav National Park in Slovenia, and the Alps.
Fun fact: the train used to be operated by DB (Deutche Bahn), but they shut the route down a few years earlier. The route Hamburg/Villach had reopened, operated by Train4You/Urlaubs-Express and we happened to be on the first arrival at Villach for 3 years. They had made a little happening on that occasion, so we were greeted by the mayor and a couple of other local VIPs. How awesome is that?
Shortly after arriving and offloading the motorcycle, we met with Thonny. He had been riding the day before all the way from Denmark. He stayed the night close to Villach. We continued towards Slovenia, into the Triglav National Park, having a a break at Lake Bohinj.
After the break, and after a photo of a young lady who just had to show herself off right there, where everyone was taking pictures, we continued south. Crossing the border to Croatia is easy. Though Croatia is a member of the European Union, it is not (yet) a Schengen member, so there is passport control. But it was very easy, and done in a couple of minutes (as we all held an EU passport).
Just a few kilometers after the border, we stopped at a memorial commemorating partisans who attacked Italian invaders om April 19th 1942.
At the time I didn’t really know much about the memorial except is was something relating to the second World War.
It was getting into the late afternoon, and it was time to find a place to sleep. At first, we looked at the GPS for hotels and the like, but the ones in the vicinity either didn’t exist anymore, or was only open during the winter. We didn’t really understand what they said, but it was clear the the map data was old and inaccurate. So, we ended up riding to a town little larger, and found an okay place in the town of Delnice.
The following morning we packed our gear and continued our adventure south, towards the Plitvice National Park, which is famous for its beautiful lakes and waterfalls.
Once we left the traveled roads, and used the backroads, it was clear that Croatia was part of the conflict taking place on the Balkan peninsula 25 years ago. Ruins scarred with bombshell fragments, and signs warning you to stay on the track.
After a while – and after countless times having my GPS crash on me (most likely due to using OpenStreetMaps on a Garmin device), we arrived at Plitvice National Park. In 1989, shortly after I met my wife, we had all been invited to Croatia by my parents, to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. On of the things we did back then, was visiting Plitvice National Park, at a time when Yugoslavia still existed.
Visiting the site again, brought back memories, so it was bit emotional. But it was good feelings. It is often quite relieving having those feelings.
Having walked for a little while, we returned to the entrance to find a restaurant. It was noon and we were getting hungry. Prices were steep and food below average. Plitvice is indeed a tourist site with all the bells and whistles. It is very beautiful, so I wouldn’t call it a trap per se, but everything is overpriced. We didn’t stay long before we wanted to continue our adventure. I dislike these overrun tourists sites where it’s all about making as much money off the tourists as possible. No service, no friendliness.
We quickly continued into Bosnia with its border close by. Technically, the country is called Bosnia & Herzegovina, but for the sake of simplicity, I will call it Bosnia. I’m sure I will be offending someone, as it seems to be be impossible not to, these days.
What I really like about Bosnia, is its apparent authenticity. Where Croatia has been invaded by tourists, Bosnia still haven’t. Mostar, with its fair share of visitors, still have some authenticity to it.