Having ventured all around Central Europe and then having travelled much further afield The Balkans was not somewhere I had thought of visiting really. Not close enough and not too far away it is quite overlooked and has a tarnished reputation due to War in recent times. Although the Bosnian war ended over 20 years ago it is still in the minds of people who saw the nightly news reports of the fighting and bloodshed and this is a contributing factor to its reputation. However as we found out the Balkans is a stunning and tourist friendly place with great weather and scenery!
We began in Croatia by visiting the Nuclear bunkers at Zeljava near the Plitvice lakes up in the mountains near the Bosnian Border. It is lovely up there but quite remote. There are only small villages so it is a great place to take in some nature. We spent a couple of days in the mountains and then headed back to the city of Zadar on the coast. The road heading down to to Zadar was simply stunning and the scenery is not like anywhere else I have been in Europe. With stark rocky mountains and outcrops and then the beautiful blue Adriatic sea in the background. From my experience I would say that for the most part Croatia is about the coastal areas and towns.
Using the booking.com app we found a really nice little hotel in a small coastal town called Bibinje just south of Zadar. Bibinje is a little tourist town consisting of mainly hotels, beaches and sun loungers which meant it was pretty cheap in the off season and just a short taxi ride from the city. Our hotel had a great little courtyard that the rooms led off and they let us keep all three bikes inside away from prying eyes which is always a great relief!
For April it was particularly sunny and warm. The sea looked lovely, blue and inviting. Don’t be fooled though as Jenny’s Dad encouraged me to go for a swim with him and I can safely tell you that it was extremely cold! In fact so cold I struggled breathing the whole short time i was in the water!
Zadar is a very attractive harbour city and is great for good food and drink! It isn’t huge though so doesn’t need more than a couple of nights. Croatia is a long narrow country and we needed to ride the length to reach Greece. However it is split by a small section of Bosnia that must be crossed by road or you can do as we did and take the short ferry across part of the Adriatic. It is a great way to break up the ride and provides a short rest.
Croatia has good roads and stretches of quiet motorway that make travelling the length quite easily. However as you enter Montenegro the roads narrow and the main road south travels through every small town so the going is very slow with lots of traffic. Luckily there are plenty seaside cafes to stop at for refreshments!
From Montenegro you enter Albania. Albania is brilliant. It is completely bonkers but great fun! The roads are half finished with cattle roaming around on the freeway and glitzy casino style hotels get ever more cheesy the closer you drive towards the capital. It is unlike any country in Europe I have been to as it is quite undeveloped and has a quite a raw feel that makes it feel just a little wild and untamed.
It took us a little less than two days to cross Albania before arriving in Greece, and we welcomed the wide fast motorways devoid of cars and livestock. It was still a little cool in Greece so we headed to the big city of Thessaloniki for a couple of days and then took a little trip down to the seaside town of Neos Marmaras where we enjoyed a lot of local Greek Food before heading East again to the border with Turkey!
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