Cycling to Greece through the Balkans. (1 Viewer)

Ignatius

Pilgrim
Joined
Jun 4, 2016
Messages
16
Location
Strasbourg, France
So this summer I cycled from Passau in Germany, some town near the Austrian border and next to the Danube river, to Greece and in the process went through Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Croatia.

This is a bit how it went.

I already had done a couple of cycling trips this year, 10 days from Strasbourg (France) to Berlin in february (sehr cold!) on my own, and another week in the Netherlands in may with a buddy of mine. Back home, I was trying to cycle as much as possible, regularly getting to the city by bike, which is a 35km ride to get there and the same to get back. So I was in reasonable shape and pretty eager to do more.
My initial plan was to go Morocco, cycle through France, Spain, Portugal, with the intention of cycling, eating, drinking and getting high as much as possible. Money was scarce though, and instead of looking for a job like I was supposed to, I was just obsessing all day long about my recent break up, playing the story over and over in my head pointlessly instead of getting shit done. I had made a friend recently, some 25 y/o Australian guy that was touring through my town Strasbourg in France last summer, I smoked him out and met him later on in Berlin where he was staying for a bit, making deliveries with his bike for cash. I contacted him to see what he was up to and he planned to cycle from Germany to Greece for summer, riding through the Balkans. I had never thought of it before, never had any particular interest in any of those countries, I knew nothing about that region apart from a few pictures in the news at the end of the 90's when they were all killing each other, never understood why because I was an uninterested teenager. So riding with my buddy through the unknown sounded like adventure, I was in.
I started a month later than him because my passport was running out end of june and I procrastinated applying for a new one way too much so now I had to wait for them to issue me a new one. Also, my savings were just...inexistant and I felt I should try to get a some before leaving so I did.
On the 22nd of june, I took a bus to Passau for 20€, easy and cheap, they even have bike racks on flixbus buses in Germany during summer time so it's really no headache. I figured I could catch up with him if I smashed it out along the Danube, it has cycling lanes all along and it's flat. I was going pretty fast, from 130 to 160 km a day, the sun set really late at this time of the year so I could power through for 8 or 9 hours every day. Austria was nice, weather was good. I found myself with fields of cannabis around me at some point. I'm not sure it was the type that gets you high though and it was too early for buds anyway. I also had 6 punctures one sunday morning near Vienna, I wasn't getting anywhere so I visited the capital and hung out at a big festival, the "Donauinselfest" were all the city was partying.

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Austrian fields of Ganja !

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Burn the pagan !


I kept on going, not stopping much, a few pauses to inhale some cannabinoïds and swallow some calories. It was pretty easy to stealth camp, I would find a nice spot in no time, fix myself some dinner, vape, stare into space for a bit and fall asleep.

Slovakia was rather uneventful, other than I broke my front rack when smashing it into a wall like a retard. It also ripped open one of my waterproof saddles so I was pretty pissed at myself.

My first stay was in Budapest. Beautiful imperial city, pretty vibrant with hot girls all over. I stayed at a bike pension for a few days and drank a whole lot of cold beers. I chatted up a local 30 y/o in a park, went on a night out with her and we hooked up. She crammed my bike in her tiny Suzuki and took me to her nice posh apartment. She was nice but loaded on meds so not really there. I stayed another couple of days to be nice but always found an excuse to not stay for the night, it was all a bit too depressing and she liked to watch football on TV which I don't care much for. She took me to one of those beautiful thermal baths, they have a lot of them in Budapest, we were naked and so were a whole lot of other amazing looking women all around, it was taking all my concentration not to stare and drool or get....well...you know. I assessed the situation and decided to move on the next day.
The ride was nice and easy. Hungarians have those small private decks along the Danube where they like to fish, barbecue, drink, party or just chill. I would find one that wasn't used to stay for a break, drink in the good vibes and vape some herb. On a sunday I broke my gear cable and didn't have any parts or a proper tool to fix them. Some guy my age passing by invited me to his place to fix it, went out of his way to help me, taking parts off his own bike as there was no shops open on sunday. Him and his gorgeous girlfriend offered me coffee and cakes, invited me to stay for the night but I didn't.
The first border where they checked my passport was in Serbia. I previously changed clothes, put away my rastafari garments, hid my stash and tried to look like a respectable cycle tourer. He checked me out from head to toe and stamped my passport without a word, no sweat.
I arrived in Novi Sad, Serbia. I stayed at a bike messenger club that I found on warmshowers.org. I planned to go to a "rainbow gathering" that was 25km away from the city in some forest, still along the Danube. I stayed for a couple of days, strolled around, made a few bike repairs which were cheap, drank some "Jelen" beers with my buddies. I tried several times to pick up but got mostly rejected, politely but rejected, my mojo was pretty low. I did earn my Serbian buddies' respect though, who would never go so boldly talk to random girls like I would and thought that I was living up to the french's reputation. I managed to make out with a nice 24 y/o that I met in a bike repair shop, where the owners got me drunk on homemade "rakija" (prune spirit) while fixing my ride. She was quite taller than me and good looking, I felt like a king parading around with my student model looking like girlfriend. We didn't get too kinky though, not that I didn't try, but she wouldn't come back to where I was staying and wouldn't take me to her apartment. The Balkans in general are a bit more conservative than the west that way so I knew it would take more time and I didn't have it.

I bailed and went to the Rainbow Gathering not far away. It's pretty much a happy bunch of hippies coming from different countries, with a few principles like no booze, no drugs, no electronics, no meat around the main fire. I was staying in the punk division of the rainbow which was an abandoned building that used to be a hotel. It was a good spot because there were less mosquitoes over there, otherwise there were millions of them and it was pretty hellish, a lot of people came and left straight away because of them, others like me were having such a good time that we just toughened up and got over it. We could get out of the forest and walk to a beach along the Danube river where there was a shower, a volleyball net where we played, and an "unhealing café" where we boozed. Everybody was gentle, peaceful and beautiful. A Serbian girl called Dajana (Diana) was one of the most gorgeous girls I have ever met. 32, flawless and outrageous body, magnificent smiling face and always looking out for everyone, giving out fruits and drinks all the time. She had only been eating raw fruits for 6 years and it was obviously really working well on her, she was a super sexy angel. We were all chanting innocent songs around the fire, waking up with beautiful flute tunes floating in the jungle, sharing our deepest emotions with people that were strangers the day before, it was pretty idyllic and well spirited. And healing.
I met a 22 y/o who was from Belgrade. He came there by chance, was cycling towards some town near the hungarian border (Subotica) where he intended to attend a silent retreat (Vipassana) for 5 days. He was going to go to a theatre festival that was supposed to take place around there but it was cancelled, he then saw a sign "welcome home" in the forest leading to the gathering and there he was. I asked him if he knew a place where I could stay in Belgrade and he offered me to stay at his parent's while he was away.

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The punk squat at the rainbow

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Punk camp

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Primitive art

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Meal for the food circle


So I did. I stayed in the Serbian capital for a few days, cycling around, getting pampered by his really hospitable folks who were looking out after me like their own. The mother Sanja cooked me capsicum delights. The father, who didn't speak any english, would fix me a nice breakfast that I could have on the balcony ovelooking the city. He always made sure I had everything, opened a new bottle of fizzy water everyday for me, with coffee, milk, yogurt, cheese, bread, pastry, homemade cake, burek...They were making perfume for extra cash with flower essences that they would import from Grasse in Provence (France). The level of girl's hotness in the city was just through the roof, model looking like stunners everywhere, short sexy clothing, cat's eyes, high heels and all that. I tried quite a few approaches but wasn't getting any results whatsoever, nothing panned out, I felt pretty unsecure about myself, more of a drifter than a cool french traveller so I guess I wasn't sending the right vibe. I'm sure vaping weed all day wasn't helping. There were so many girls who were physically out of this world, Belgrade really lived up to its reputation in that matter. I just wish I didn't feel like a useless ugly piece of shit at the time, I'm sure Belgrade would have been way more epic then.
Still, I had some fun, there was a lot of cheap alcohol and that never lets you down. Some friends of the guy who hosted me took me out and we had some good laughs. Serbians and Balkan people in general are really cool, generous and warmhearted if you are not muslim, black or gay. They suffer from a bad genocidal reputation and are quite keen to show you they are in fact good people.A lot of them also HAVE to talk about the war, which left deep scars and they have strong distrust for America.
When I left, my hosts gave me a bottle of perfume, food, and actually thanked me for coming. The best people.

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Maybe not grab the electric wires while hoping on trains ?

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That's how you eat burgers in Belgrade

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Young people gathering every evening at the fort in Belgrade

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Some palestininan refugees I met in Belgrade. Spoke no english, had no clue about what was going on where they were. They weren't used to all these hot sexy chicks around, thought they were all prostiutes and whistled them to come like they were dogs. The kid taking the picture smelt real foul, I told him to bathe in the river but apparently he didn't think he needed to. He did. Badly. Their idea of the western world was so biased. They are so fucked.

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A queue of refugees wainting for food in Belgrade. Fights break up. People physically and mentally exhausted. A whole highly civilized nation (Syria) turned into beggars. Sad sad sight.

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I caught up with my buddy Lucas in Nis. Nothing special about that town. He'd made friends on his way there in a bus he took from Bulgaria. He had this big argument with the driver who wanted to overcharge him for his bike and some cool guy with his girlfriend rescued him. They took us out, we pounded some drinks together, I gave them shit about their homophobia and racism and the girl was happy I did, she studied in Italy and felt frustrated by this backwards bullshit now. We got invited to their parent's countryside house where they grew all fruits and veggies and made all kinds of alcoholic drinks from it. We ate a lot of delicious homegrown homemade food, drank even more and they gave us bottles of their wine to take away. we headed off the next day. I now had a cycling buddy, he told me how he almost got busted at the Bulgarian border where they went through all his stuff, except where he kept his shit. I told him that maybe next border he should take of his bob marley shirt if he didn't want to end up getting ass raped in some fucked up central european jail. The advice was taken.

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First free camping spot with Lucas.

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No asphalt !

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Our buddies in Nis. Good times!

We were quite eager to get to Greece so we rushed through Macedonia with a nice tail wind. It was starting to get pretty mountainous. Actually it was just mountains and hills after that. Just up & down up & down up and down. Our asses were getting pretty tight, climbing day after day and zipping down all those hills. Sometimes there was no asphalt as we chose the back country roads and we had to push our way up, for hours on end. Exhaustion made us laugh about the fact that we actually chose to do this. I have never eaten such vast quantities of food in my life, mostly vegetables who were all delicious and organic in this part of the world, but the weight was just melting off me, I couldn't stop it. I guess you can't get fat when you're climbing hours on end with a loaded bike under the scorching sun. It has it's perrks, as I do love eating!

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Puncture. One of many.

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Drying the tents in Macedonia

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Tail wind

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Made it !

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First camp in Greece

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Heat

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Once in Thessaloniki (Greece), we were quite disappointed to find out there was no beach nearby despite the fact that it's on the coast. The city was crowded and hectic and the heat was draining all my patience, my friend couldn't really figure out what he wanted to do, I got annoyed and wanted to get the hell out so we parted ways.

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Thessaloniki chemistry university. I was waiting for a dealer.

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I coasted down south a little bit but wasn't impressed at all, so I decided to go cross country to the west coast. The ride was hard, but trully amazing. Beautiful mountains, isolated villages where time has stopped, old-school shepherds, basins made out of rock in the middle of nowhere, retaining fresh spring water for the kettle to drink.

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Water fountains in Greece

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Word!


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Water for kettle.
Incredible vistas. Monasteries hanging on rocks. Old drinkable water fountains in every village. Churches, churches and more churches. And shrines. Simple traditional life. I camped near a lake one night, no one was around and some fucking bird stole the handle from my cooking pots. That cunt. I had no clue about the topography, the sights to see, just chose the roads that looked like the shortest way and let them surprise me. I started drinking "ouzo" pretty much every day and was enjoying the buzz from it.

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Meteora, Greece

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Dj Boobies ! Classy !

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Greek mountains

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Pretty awesome washing machine

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The lake where the bird that stole my handle.

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Had a lot this! Too much ? Nah...

I chose to go to Lefkadas, an island that was connected to the continent by an underwater tunnel, because I didn't want to pay for a ferry. I found a hidden camping spot not far from the main town and close to a beach, where I could leave my stuff during the day to explore the island. Some figs were getting ripe so I feasted on them and drinked ouzo like a sponge. Lucas was on his way so I waited a few days, chilled, rested, got drunk, got high, got tan.

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Paradise in Lefkadas

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Lefkadas, Greece

Lucas arrived and we were happy to reunite. I found a freshwater tap in a cemetery nearby and washed my junk sitting on graves a few times, I didn't think the dead would mind. After a day drinking on a family beach, I spotted a couple of girls hitchhiking on our way back. If offered them to take them wherever on my bike rack but the fucker let me down and punctured at that exact moment. Some BMW driving guy took them away but I knew where they were going. We went the next day at the beach where I knew they were staying, looked for them and found them. I got my way with this beautiful 21 year greek, she was leaving the next day, we got naughty in the narrow streets and patios of Lefkadas town and I still get horny just thinking about it.

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Greek mermaids in Lefkadas.

We coasted north to get to Corfu island. The vistas were amazing. It was steep and hot but so worth it. Just the typical greek postcard. We camped on a pristine beach just by ourselves, with a row of trees behind to protect us from the morning sun. we squatted some buildings overlooking bays, ports, mountains diving in the sea. These were the circumstances we had put ourselves in, and we were having it large. On Corfu, I found an abandoned hotel with about 50 rooms, some mattresses and a private beach access. It makes you feel sorry for all the suckers working all year round for this one or two weeks that they will save up for and who won't even have an experience that can amount to a fraction of mine. Oh well, they consider I'm a freak anyway so let them slave away.

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Deserted beach.

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another perfect squat for the night

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30% uphill. Yep.

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Our own hotel in Corfu

We got a tip for a free party on the other side of the island and decided to leave our hotel to get to it. We never found the party. What we did is climb some mountains to find it in the dark, after midnight as if doing this all day long wasn't enough. Legs were getting seriously rock hard, but not party. no psychedelics nor hot friendly young women. bummer.

We took a ferry to Albania. We were not impressed by Albanians who seemed to be arguing loudly all the time. Coast was beautiful, but roads were narrow and busy with murderous drivers. Lucas had yet another puncture and we went to a service station to use the air and some water to repair it, we were behind the shop minding our own business but the owner still urged us to fuck off. I insulted him in french with all I had and dozed off, climbing the steepest road I have ever climbed, where even pushing the bike up was close to impossible. The sun was just blasting, I was exhausted, when I looked backwards down the road I couldn't stop myself laughing, it was so unbelievably steep, what kind of fucked up engineer designed that road anyways ? Obviously not a bike friendly one. Drivers were brushing us, choking us with their disgusting diesel fumes from their old second hand Mercedes cars from the 90's. I stopped at a gas station where I saw a tap, I asked the owner if I could fill in my bottles, he nodded, I emptied the warm water from my bottles on my way there but the tap wasn't working. I looked at him and he told me I had to pay. What kind of human being refuses water to an obviously very thirsty foreign traveller? I vowed that if I saw his grave someday, I would piss on it, for free.
After that we decided the hell with Albania. We jumped on a bus to Tirana and enquired there to get a bus to Shkodër, the last Albanian city before the Montenegrin border. It was too late so it had to be the next day, we stealth camped in a park in the city center, near a lake. We woke up and packed early because it was the city so we didn't want problems. Once everything was packed, we chilled for a bit and witnessed some old dudes gathering right in front of us, all undressing and then exercising and sunbathing in blue speedos, so random and so funny! Some guy with a flashy yellow "I love Pattaya" (the biggest Thai fuck platform) T-shirt came to us and started ranting about terrorists when he found out I was french (the killing in Nice had just happened). He said he was a proud fashist, that Hitler was a good man and that he had posters of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco back home. I told him that where I lived, people were forced to enroll in the waffen SS and then sent to the Russian front to die, and they would hate to hear that nazis were cool. Different perspectives I guess. Funny dude though, never thought a fashist could make me laugh as much.

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My bitch holding my ride in Albania.

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Albania was steep. And hot.

In Shköder, while waiting for the sun to get cooler, we chilled in a park where some skinny dude asked me if I was looking for weed. I was, so I stocked up, it was cheap as Albania is famous in the Balkans and Greece for supplying all the bud. At the border, they didn't even check our passports and waved us to get lost. I wished I bought more.

Once in Montenegro we went to a place called Ada Bojana. It is a quite large and long beach where Serbian youth takes its vacation. There is kite surf going on so quite a few chillers there. My friend from Belgrade was there and we were happy to see each other again. I didn't want to camp on the beach, sand is bullshit for pitching a tent, no protection from the wind, nor the sun, no water and nowhere to take a shit. So we found some camp spot near the Bojana river, it was pretty amazing and better than anything we could have paid for, we could use a porch that was right next to the river with a table and benches, there was freshwater, it was perfect. I ripped my big toe nail moving a table and didn't even cry, my friend was grossed out but impressed.

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5€ for a biatch taking a selfie ? And it's Halal ? That's a bargain !

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Rastafahrrad on Ada beach in Montenegro. If you want hot young girls to turn up and hang out at your place every day without having to do anything, just build yourself one of those cool caravan shacks and put it on a beach during summertime.

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Bojana river

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Bojana river squat.

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We kept on coasting north but despite the vistas, the road was narrow and hellish with way too many stinky cars and buses oozing by so we decided to go east into the mountains. I was feeling a bit sick and my energy level was depleted so we decided to rest near a town called Zabljak for a couple of days. There was a national park with two pristine lakes, so we chilled there, did laundry and chewed up some mushrooms. They weren't potent unfortunately, wich was disappointing, but it was still nice to stay there, enjoying some Pink Floyd on the phone's speaker, sipping rakija and rhum, looking like freaks with our laundry drying on branches while tourists were passing by and taking selfies. The nights were way cooler, like 0° celsius as it was about 1600m high, it was quite refreshing.

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Squat on Kotor bay

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Black lake

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Tara River Canyon

On the 30th of august, we arrived in a village in the Montenegrin hills about 30km from the Bosnian border. I asked for some water to some guys who were already on rakija at 10 am, they invited us to sit and have some drinks and when I told them it was my birthday, they got more bottles out and some cake. A guy called Drago who was apparently a well known figure in the region invited us to his place to have food because I was starving. He apparently was a bandit, took out some guns and a scorpio assault riffle and offered me to shoot some rounds as it was tradition for a birthday. He then insisted to take us to Bosnia in his car so we stuffed the bike and our gear in the Golf's trunk and Lucas and I were sharing the passenger seat while he was driving in the mountains, completely pissed, in the dark with no headlights on. Terrible driving too. Drago spoke no english, only German so my friend couldn't understand him. He went on an on about his big love Chantale who was a french woman he met in Germany, said because I was french he would look after us like his own, in her memory. On and on, on and on he went about Chantale, starting all his sentences by "weisst du was ?", asking me to light his cigarettes that he was chain smoking which made me feel quite nauseous. The crossing of the border was somewhat stressful because we had the scorpio (sort of uzi) in the glove compartment and our narcotics weren't properly hidden. It took ages, the customs were thoroughly checking our passports for a very long time, the custom guard was such a cliché with his huge gut and the sense of importance he was trying to convey. It was all so absurd and random, we just couldn't stop laughing. When we arrived in the next Bosnian town, after 60km of the worst nauseating driving through dark wild mountains, it was friday night and there was a little bit of action going on. Drago stopped in front of a bar and ordered a shot of rakija without stepping out of his car. He didn't pay for it because apparently when your name is Drago something, you don't pay for anything here. Badass ! He knocked it down right in front of a cop's car who saw us, parked right next to them and started talking shit. Apparently it wasn't a problem to be absolutely pissed in front of the wheel there because they didn't even bother to stop us. He burped and drove off. We crashed at one of his friend's place where I shared a dirty room with Lucas while two young dogs attached next to the house were relentlessly barking all night long. I was 33.

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Playing with guns

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Rakija!

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The two big guys were vets. They were managing a company with 10 employees.

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Cuddling with gunny

Off to Sarajevo, climbing some more mountains on the way, we spent a whole day trying to work out an airbnb there to rest some and repair stuff, but after a whole day geeking on smartphones, always looking for wifi, we weren't working it out, we ended up waiting until 10 pm in front of the Slovakian embassy for some woman to turn up but she never did, my buddy got upset and dozed off so I looked around for about an hour for some place to stealth camp and found one, I even had free wifi! The next day he sent me a message, he was sorry and so was I, somebody offered him to stay at his place so we met later on that day. Our host was a awesome, eager to please and to be helpful, when we were about to leave after 3 days spent there, he prepared us some breakfast, gave us some raisins and when we were about to pay, he said we didn't owe him anything. What a legend.

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Sarajevo

We took a train to Banja Luka in the north of Bosnia because the weather sucked. It was nice to enjoy a train ride, vaping and boozing in our own compartment, watching the sceneries go by effortlessly. We found a warmshowers host over there, a cool french girl about my age who had been living there for 13 years and who was preparing a cycling trip through central Asia. After that Lucas took a train to Zagreb (Croatia) because he had to get back to Berlin, find a place to live and sort things out before a new year at uni.
I was a bit sad to see him leave, but also happy to cycle again at my own pace.

I found myself an abandoned house in a village for my first night in Croatia, and camped in the yard. It had bullet holes all over the walls.The next morning I was chilling, reading a book and some old guy popped his head in my tent and asked :"schnapps?" I hesitated a split second and accepted of course, after all it was already 9 a.m, I was an unemployed drifter in the Balkans so why the fuck not? I cycled to Zagreb where I had booked a room, which turned out to be a pretty cool independent studio. I rented something because this student girl from Novi Sad arranged to meet me there, and my chances of getting some with her were pretty good this time. The owner of the apartment in Zagreb turned out to be a knock-out (of course). Single, my age, had just broken up with her boyfriend who had moved out and she had to rent out her office to pay for the rent since she had to pay for it all by herself now. I felt so attracted to her I could barely look at her. Acting normal was difficult. While she was talking to me in the cutest broken english, I was concentrating so hard not to stare at her beautiful green eyes, her lush lips, not to look down at her perky breasts, her flat stomach or her ass that matched the ensemble. She looked delicious and tempting, but in these conditions there was no way I could pull it off and not creep her out. She must have felt my lust anyways despite my efforts and it was a little awkward. Then my Serbian girlfriend arrived but I wasn't into it anymore. But she came all that way, 6 hour bus ride, which was a pretty bold move for her as she said she never did something as adventurous before, meeting a french guy she barely knew in a place she was unfamiliar with. So I didn't feel I could dodge the situation without being an absolute prick and I went on with it even though I didn't really want to. When she left, I apologized for being weird but she said she didn't notice anything, so I guess I got away with it.

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Croatian Lager

My plan was then to get to the Croatian coast and explore beautiful island Cres. I wanted then to go up north through Slovenia to Austria, and was pretty excited about a road there which is the highest of the country, something like 2000m with summits along it. I felt physically ready and thought it would be great to end the trip that way. I had spent some time and some money to get a good tire to replace the one that was fucked, changed my break cables and felt the bike was good for it. But on my way to Rijeka, my back wheel broke and also fucked up my brand new tire in the process. I managed to get a train to Rijeka and arrived just 10 min before the closest bike shop closed. The guy wasn't willing at all to leave after his working hours, even to help a cycle tourer who was in a bit of a situation, he pressed me to buy this expensive replacement wheel that wasn't even that good and left me outside the shop to repair it myself with my own tools. It got pretty dark, it was raining and I had no choice but to get a hostel. There, I met a french guy who was a bit weird, probably coked up and obviously uneasy about something. He was so happy I smoked him out that he payed for pizzas and drinks and wanted to take me on a night out but I was way too tired so I declined. He arrived the next morning in the hostel room and about ten minutes later some cops came and arrested him while I was pretending to sleep.

It was raining hard when I got out of Rijeka, the weather was definitely getting more autumn like. Once on Cres island, I found a nice camp spot amongst olive trees. During the night there was a storm and it poured . I had left my bags outside the tent and wasn't too worried about it because there are good waterproof bags. Only I hadn’t closed one of them properly and of course it was the one with the electronics and valuables who remained a whole night immersed in a bag full of water. Everything was fucked, I was so bummed. The season was over, the weather wasn't too great and I went to town to buy some booze to get shit-faced. When I went to retrieve some cash, the machine announced "insufficient funds". Fuck. I guess that german D.U.I caught up to me. So this was it I guess.

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My camp spot on Cres where my valuables got drowned.

I had a 100€ note folded in my belt, so I played it safe, went back to Zagreb and took a bus home from there, I didn't want to risk it and break something on my bike again that I couldn't afford to repair. It had been three months anyway, I had a bag full of broken electronic gear, money was running out. Once in Zagreb, I tried to vape all my stash before taking the bus but rapidly gave up because it was too much. I couldn't resolve myself to throw it away so I just packed it, hoped for the best and crossed my tenth border with illegal substances on this trip, which is a very silly thing to do but I feel pride from it anyways !

Voilà guys, this is it, I hope you enjoyed it!
 
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Matt Derrick

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cool story/pictures man, if you spread out the pics between the paragraphs of your story this would probably be 'featured thread' material :)
 

Ignatius

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cool story/pictures man, if you spread out the pics between the paragraphs of your story this would probably be 'featured thread' material :)
Thanks man, it was my intention but I didn"t manage to work it out. Can you explain me how to ?

By the way that "squat the planet" tag was found in Belgrade (Serbia). I hope you're proud ;-)
 

Mankini

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So this summer I cycled from Passau in Germany, some town near the Austrian border and next to the Danube river, to Greece and in the process went through Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Croatia.

This is a bit how it went.

I already had done a couple of cycling trips this year, 10 days from Strasbourg (France) to Berlin in february (sehr cold!) on my own and another week in the Netherlands in may with a buddy of mine. Back home, I was trying to cycle as much as possible, regularly getting to the city by bike which is a 35km ride to get there and same to get back. So I was in a reasonable shape and pretty keen to do more.
My initial plan was to go Morocco, cycle through France, Spain, Portugal with the intention of cycling, eating and getting high as much as possible. Money was scarce though, and instead of looking for a job like I should have, I was just obsessing all day long about my recent break up, playing the story over and over in my head pointlessly instead of getting shit done. I had made a friend recently, some 25 y/o Australian dude that was touring through my town in France last summer, I smoked him out and met him later on a few times in Berlin where he was staying for a bit, making deliveries with his bike for cash. I contacted him to see what he was up to and he planned to cycle from Germany to Greece for summer, riding through the Balkans. I had never thought of it before, never had any particular interest in any of those countries, I knew nothing about it apart from a few pictures in the news at the end of the 90's when they were all killing each other, never understood why because I was an uninterested teenager. So riding with my buddy through the unknown sounded like adventure and I was in.
I started a month later than him because my passport was running out end of june and I procrastinated applying for a new one way too much so now I had to wait for them to issue me a new one. Also, my savings were just ridiculous and I felt I should try to get a bit more before leaving so I did.
So on the 22nd of june, I took a bus to Passau for 20€, easy and cheap, they even have bike racks on flixbus buses in Germany during summer so it's really no headache. I figured I could catch up with him if I smashed it out along the Danube, it has cycling lanes all along and it's flat. I was going pretty fast, from 130 to 160 km a day, the sun set really late at this time of the year so I could power through for 8 or 9 hours a day. Austria was nice, weather was good. I found myself with fields of cannabis around me at some point. I'm not sure it was the type that gets you high and it was too early for buds anyway. I also had 6 punctures in one sunday morning near Vienna, I wasn't getting anywhere so I visited the capital and hung out at a big festival, the "Donauinselfest" were all the city was gathered.
I went on my way, not stopping much, a few pauses to suck on my vape and swallow some calories. It was pretty easy to camp out, I would find a nice spot in no time, fix myself some dinner, vape, stare into space for a bit and fall asleep straight away.
Slovakia was rather uneventful, other than I broke my front rack when smashing it into a wall like a retard. It also ripped open one of my waterproof saddle so I was pretty pissed at myself. I fixed it and kept on moving.

My first stay was in Budapest. Nice city, pretty vibrant, hot girls all over. I stayed at a bike pension for a few days and drank a whole lot of cold beers when I was awake. I chatted up a local 30 y/o in a park, went on a night out with her and we hooked up. She crammed my bike in her tiny Suzuki and took me to her nice posh apartment. She was nice but loaded on meds so not really there. I stayed another couple of days to be nice but always found an excuse to not stay for the night, it was all a bit too depressing and she liked to watch football on TV which I don't care much for. She took me to one of those beautiful thermal baths, they have a lot of them in Budapest, we were naked and so were a whole lot of other amazing looking broads all around, it was taking all my concentration not to stare and drool. I assessed the situation and decided to move on.
The ride was nice and easy. Hungarians have those small private decks along the Danube where they like to fish, barbecue, drink, party or just chill. I would find one that wasn't used to stay for a break, drink in the good vibes and vape some pot. On a sunday I broke my gear cable and didn't have any parts or a proper tool to fix eat. Some guy my age passing by invited me to his place to fix it, went out of his way to help me out, taking parts of his own bike as there was no shops open on sunday. Him and his gorgeous girlfriend offered me coffee and cakes and I went on my way.
The first border where they checked my passport was in Serbia. I previously changed clothes, put away my rastafari garments, hid my stash and tried to look like a respectable sportsman. He stamped my passport without a word.
I arrived in Novi Sad, Serbia. I stayed at a bike messenger club that I found on warmshowers.org. I planned to go to a "rainbow gathering" that was 25km away from the city in some forest, still along the Danube. I stayed for a couple of days, strolled around, made a few bike repairs for dead cheap, drank some "Jelen" beers with my buddies. I tried several times to pick up but got mostly rejected, my mojo was pretty low. I did earn my Serbian buddies respect though, who would never go so boldly talk to random girls like that and thought they I was living up to the french reputation. I managed to make out with a nice 24 y/o that I met in a bike repair shop where the owners got me drunk on homemade "rakija" while fixing my ride. She was quite taller than me and good looking, I felt like a king parading around with my student model looking like girlfriend. We didn't get too kinky though, she wouldn't come back to where I was staying and wouldn't take me to her apartment, the Balkans in general are a bit more conservative that way so I knew it would take more time and I didn't have it.

I bailed and moved on to the Rainbow Gathering not far away. It's pretty much a gathering of hippies coming from different countries, with a few principles like no booze, no drugs, no electronics, no meat around the main fire. I was staying in the punk division of the rainbow which was an abandoned building that used to be a hotel. It was a good spot because there were less mosquitoes over there, otherwise there were millions of them and it was pretty hellish, a lot of people came and left straight away because of them, but others like me were having such a good time that we just toughened up and got over it. We could get out of the forest and go to a beach along the Danube where there was a shower, a volleyball net where we played, and an "unhealing café" where we boozed. Everybody was nice peaceful and beautiful. A Serbian girl called Dajana was one of the most gorgeous girls I have ever met. 32, flawless and outrageous body, magnificent smiling face and always looking out for everyone, giving out food and drinks all the time. She had only been eating raw fruits for 6 years and it was obviously really working well on her. We were all chanting innocent songs around the fire, waking up with beautiful flute tunes floating in the jungle, sharing our deepest emotions with people that were strangers the day before, it was pretty idyllic and well spirited.
I met a 22 y/o there who was from Belgrade. He came there by chance, was cycling to some town near the border where he intended to go to a silent retreat (Vipassana) for 5 days. He was going to go to a theatre festival that was supposed to take place around there but it was cancelled, he then saw a sign "welcome home" in the forest leading to the gathering and there he was. I asked him if he knew a place where I could stay in Belgrade and he offered me to stay at his parent's while he was away.
So I did. I stayed in the Serbian capital for a few days, cycling around, getting pampered by his really hospitable folks who were looking out after me like their own. The level of girl's hotness in the city was just through the roof, model looking like girls everywhere, short sexy clothing and high heels and all that. I tried quite a few approaches but wasn't getting any results whatsoever, nothing panned out, I felt pretty unsecure about myself, more of a drifter than a cool french traveller so I guess I wasn't sending the right vibe. I'm sure vaping weed all day wasn't helping. There were so many girls who were physically out of this world, Belgrade really lived to its reputation in that matter. I just wish I didn't feel like a useless ugly piece of shit at the time, I'm sure Belgrade would have been way more epic then.
Still, I had some fun, there was a lot of cheap alcohol and that never lets you down. Some friends of the guy who hosted me took me out and we had some laughs. I would say that Serbians and Balkan people in general are really cool, generous and warmhearted if you're not muslim, black or gay. They suffer from a bad genocidal reputation and are quite keen to show you they are in fact good people.They also HAVE to talk about the war, and dislike America.
When I left, my hosts gave me gifts, food, and thanked me. Nice.

Continued my trip. Caught up with my ozzy buddy Lucas in Nis. Nothing special about that town. He'd made friends on his way there in a bus from Bulgaria. He had this big argument with the driver who wanted to overcharge him for his bike and some cool guy with his girlfriend rescued him. They took us out, we pounded some drinks together, I gave them shit about their homophobia and racism. We got invited to their parent's countryside house where they grew all fruits and veggies and made all kinds of booze from it. We ate a lot, drank even more, they gave us bottles of wine and we headed off. I now had a cycling buddy, he told me how he almost got busted at the Bulgarian border where they went through all his shit, except where his shit actually was. I told him that maybe next border he should take of his bob marley shirt if he didn't want to end up getting ass raped in some fucked up central european jail. The advice was followed.

We were quite eager to get to Greece so we pounded through Macedonia. It was starting to get pretty mountainous. Actually it was just mountains and hills after that. Just up & down up & down up and down. Our asses were getting pretty tight, climbing day after day and zipping down all those hills. Sometimes there was no asphalt as we chose the back country roads and we had to push our way up, for ours. Exhaustion made us laugh, we actually chose to do this. I have never eaten such vast quantities of food all my life, mostly vegetables who were all delicious and organic in this part of the world, but the weight was just melting off me. I guess you can't get fat when you're climbing hours on end with a loaded bike under the scorching sun. Gets you fit.

Once in Thessaloniki (Greece), we were quite disappointed to find out there was no beach nearby despite the fact that it's on the coast. The city was crowded and hectic and the heat was draining all my patience down, my friend couldn't really figure out what he wanted to do so we parted ways.

I coasted south a little bit but wasn't impressed at all, so I decided to go cross country to the west coast. The ride was well hard, but amazing. Beautiful mountains, isolated villages where time has stopped, old-school shepherds, basins made out of rock in the middle of nowhere, retaining fresh spring water for the kettle to drink.
Incredible vistas. Monasteries hanging on rocks. Water fountains in every village. Churches, churches and more churches. And shrines. Simple traditional life. I camped near a lake one night, no one was around and some fucking bird stole the handle for my cooking pots. Cunt. I had no clue about the topography, the sights to see, just chose the roads that looked like the shortest way and let them surprise me. I started drinking "ouzo" pretty much every day and enjoyed the buzz from it.

I chose to go to Lefkadas, an island that was connected to the continent by an underwater tunnel, because I didn't want to pay for a ferry. I found a hidden camping spot not far from the main town and close to a beach where I could leave my stuff during the day to explore the island. Some figs were getting ripe so I feasted on them while drinking ouzo. Lucas was on his way so I waited a few days, chilled, rested, got drunk, got high, got tan.
Lucas arrived and we were happy to reunite. I found a freshwater tap in a cemetery nearby and washed my junk sitting on graves a few times. After a day drinking session on a family beach, I spotted a couple of girls hitchhiking on our way back. If offered them to take them wherever on my bike rack but the fucker let me down and punctured at that exact moment. Some BMW driving guy took them away but I knew where they were going. We went the next day at the beach where I knew they were staying, looked for them and found them. I got my way with this beautiful 21 year greek, she was leaving the next day, we got naughty in the narrow streets and patios of Lefkadas town and now I get super horny just thinking about it.

We coasted north to get to Corfu island. The vistas were amazing. It was steep and hot but well worth it. Just the typical greek postcard. We camped on a pristine beach just by ourselves. we squatted some buildings overlooking bays, ports, mountains diving in the sea. These were the circumstances we had put ourselves in, and we were having it large. On Corfu, I found an abandoned hotel with about 50 rooms, some mattresses and a private beach access. It makes you feel sorry for all the suckers working all year round for this one or two weeks that they will save up for and who won't even have an experience that can amount to a fraction of mine. Oh well, they consider I'm a freak anyway so let them slave away.
We got a tip for a free party on the other side of the island and decided to leave our hotel to get to it. We never found the party. What we did is climb some mountains to find it in the dark, after midnight as if doing this all day long wasn't enough. Legs were getting seriously rock hard.

We took a ferry to Albania. We were not impressed by Albanians who seemed to be arguing loudly all the time. Coast was beautiful, but roads were narrow and busy with murderous drivers. Lucas had yet another puncture and we went to a service station to use the air and some water to repair it, we were behind the shop minding our own business but the owner still urged us to fuck off. I insulted him in french with all I had and dozed up, climbing the steepest road I have ever climbed, where even pushing the bike up was close to impossible. The sun was just blasting, I was exhausted, when I looked backwards down the road I couldn't stop myself laughing, it was so unbelievably steep, what kind of fucked up engineer designed that road ? Obviously not a bike friendly one. Drivers were brushing us, choking us with their disgusting diesel fumes from their old second hand Mercedes cars. I stopped at a gas station where I saw a tap, I asked the owner if I could fill in my bottles, he nodded, I emptied the warm water from my bottles on my way there and it wasn't working. I looked at him and he told me I had to pay. What kind of human being refuses water to an obviously very thirsty foreign traveller? I vowed that if I saw his grave someday, I would piss on it, for free.
After that we decided fuck Albania. We jumped on a bus to Tirana and enquired to get a bus to Shkodër, the last Albanian city before the Montenegrin border. It was too late so it had to be the next day, we stealth camped in a park near a lake. We woke up and packed early because it was the city so we didn't want problems. Once it was packed, we chilled for a bit and witnessed some old dudes gathering right in front of us, all undressing and then exercising and sunbathing in blue speedos. Some guy with a flashy yellow "I love Pattaya" (the biggest Thai fuck platform) T-shirt came to us and started ranting about terrorists when he found out I was french (the killing in Nice had just happened). He said he was a proud fashist, that Hitler was a good man and that he had posters of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco back home. I told him that where I lived, people were forced to enroll in the waffen SS and then sent to the Russian front, so they were definitely not nazi sympathizers. We laughed.

In Shköder, while waiting for the sun to take it easy, we chilled in a park where some skinny dude asked me if I was looking for weed. I was, so I stocked up, it was cheap as Albania is famous in the Balkans and Greece for supplying all the bud. At the border, they didn't even check our passports and waved us to get lost.

Once in Montenegro we went to think place called Ada Bojana. It is a quite large and long beach where Serbian youth takes its vacation. There is kite surf going on so quite a few chillers there. My friend from Belgrade was there and we were happy to see each other again. I didn't want to camp on the beach, sand is bullshit for pitching a tent, no protection from the wind, nor the sun, no water and nowhere to take a shit. So we found some camp spot near the Bojana river, it was pretty amazing and better than anything we could have paid for, we could use a porch that was right next to the river with a table and benches, there was freshwater, it was perfect. I ripped my big toe nail moving a table and didn't even cry, my friend was grossed out but impressed.

We kept on coasting north but despite the amazing vistas, the road was narrow and hellish, narrow with way too many stinky cars and buses oozing by so we decided to get to the mountains. I was feeling a bit sick and my energy level was depleted so we decided to rest near a town called Zabljak for a couple of days. There was a national park with two pristine lakes, so we decided to chill there, make some laundry and chew up some mushrooms. They weren't potent but it was still nice to stay there, enjoying some Pink Floyd on the phone's speaker, looking like freaks with our laundry drying on branches while tourists were passing by. The nights were way cooler as it was about 1600m high, it was refreshing.

On the 30th of august, we arrived in a village in the Montenegrin hills about 30km from the Bosnian border. I asked for some water to some guys who were already pounding rakija at 10 am, they invited us to sit and have some drinks and when I told them it was my 33rd birthday, they got more bottles out and some cake. A guy called Drago who was apparently a well known figure in the region invited us to his place to have food because I was starving. He apparently was a bandit, took out some guns and an assault riffle and offered me to shoot some rounds as it was tradition for a birthday. He then insisted to take us to Bosnia in his car so we stuffed the bike and our gear in the Golf's trunk and Lucas and I were sharing the passenger seat while he was driving in the mountains, absolutely pissed, in the dark with no headlights on. Terrible driving too. The crossing of the border was somewhat stressful because we had an assault riffle in the glove compartment and our narcotics weren't properly hidden. It took ages, the customs were thoroughly checking our passports for a very long time, the custom guard was such a cliché with his huge gut and the sense of importance he was trying to convey. It was all so absurd and random, we couldn't stop laughing. When we arrived in the next Bosnian town, after 60km of the worst nauseating driving through dark wild mountains, it was friday night and there was a little bit of action going on. Drago stopped in front of bar and ordered a shot of rakija without stepping out of his car. He didn't pay for it because apparently when your name is Drago something, you don't pay for shit. He knocked it down right in front of a cop's car who saw us, parked right next to them and started talking shit. Apparently it wasn't a problem to be absolutely pissed in front of the wheel there because they didn't even bother to stop us. We crashed at one of his friend's place where I shared a dirty room with Lucas while two young dogs attached next to the house were relentlessly barking all night long. I was 33.

Off to Sarajevo, climbing some more mountains on the way, we spent a whole day trying to work out an airbnb there to rest some and repair stuff, but after a whole day geeking on smartphones, always looking for wifi, we weren't working it out, we ended up waiting until 10 pm in front of the Slovakian embassy for some woman to turn up but she never did, my buddy got pissed and dozed off so I looked around for about an hour for some place to stealth camp and found one, I even had free wifi. The next day Lucas sent me a message, he was sorry and so was I, somebody offered him to stay at his place so we met later on that day. Our host was a awesome, eager to please and to be helpful, when we were about to leave after 3 days spent there, he prepared us some breakfast, gave us some raisins and when we were about to pay, he said we didn't owe him anything. What a legend.

We took a train to Banja Luka in the north of Bosnia because the weather sucked. It was nice to enjoy a train ride, vaping and boozing in our own compartment watching the sceneries goe buy effortlessly for a few hours. We found a warmshowers host over there, a cool french girl about my age who had been living there for 13 years and who was preparing a cycling trip through central Asia. After that Lucas took a train to Zagreb (Croatia) because he had to get back to Berlin, find a place to live and sort things out before a new year at uni.
I was a bit sad to see him leave, but also happy to be able to cycle again at my own rhythm (faster).

I found myself an abandoned house in a village for my first night in Croatia, and camped in the yard. The next morning I was chilling, reading a book and some old guy popped his head in my tent and asked :"schnapps?" I accepted of course, after all it was already 9 a.m and I didn't have much to eat. I cycled to Zagreb where I had booked a room, which turned out to be a pretty cool independent studio. I rented something because this girl from Novi Sad (Serbia) that I met previously was meeting me there, and my chances of getting some with her were pretty good this time. The owner of the apartment in Zagreb turned out to be a super hot girl (of course), my age, who had just broken up with her boyfriend, he had moved out and she was renting out her office to pay for the rent since she had to pay for it all by herself now. I was so attracted to her I could barely look at her. She was quite confused around me too, which was awkward. Then my girlfriend from Serbia arrived and I wasn't into it anymore. But she came all that way, 6 hour bus ride, which was a pretty bold move for her as she said she never did something as adventurous before, meeting a french guy she barely knew in a place she was unfamiliar with. So I didn't feel I could dodge the situation without being an absolute prick and I went on with it even though I didn't really want to. When she left, I apologized for being weird but she said she didn't notice anything.

My plan was then to get to the Croatian coast and explore beautiful island Cres. I wanted then to go up north through Slovenia to Austria, and was pretty excited about a road there which is the highest of the country, something like 2000m with summits along it. I felt physically ready and thought it would be great to end the trip that way. I had spent some time and some money to get a good tire to replace the one that was fucked, changed my break cables and felt the bike was good for it. But on my way to Rijeka, my back wheel broke and also fucked up my brand new tire in the process. I managed to get a train to Rijeka and arrived just 10 min before the closest bike shop closed. The guy wasn't willing at all to leave after his working hours, even to help a cycle tourer out who was in a bit of a situation, he pressed me to buy this expensive replacement wheel that wasn't even that good and left me outside the shop to repair it myself with my own tools. It got pretty dark, it was raining and I had no choice but to get a hostel. There, I met a french guy who was a bit weird, maybe coked up and obviously uneasy about something. He was so happy I smoked him out that he payed for pizzas and drinks and wanted to take me on a night out but I was way too tired so I declined. He arrived the next morning in the hostel room and about ten minutes later some cops came and arrested him.

It was raining hard when I got out of Rijeka, the weather was definitely getting more autumn like. Once on Cres island, I found a nice camp spot amongst olive trees. During the night there was a storm and it rained really hard. I had left my bags outside the tent and wasn't too worried about it because there are good waterproof bags. Only I hadn’t close one properly and of course it was the one with the electronics and valuable who remained a whole night immersed in a bag full of water. Everything was fucked and I was bummed. The season was over, the weather wasn't too great and I went to town to buy some booze and drown my sorrows. When I went to retrieve some cash, the machine announced "insufficient funds". So this was it I guess. I had a 100€ note folded in my belt and nothing else, so I played it safe, went back to Zagreb and took a bus home from there, I didn't want to risk it and break something on my bike again that I couldn't afford to repair. It had been three months anyway, I had a bag full of broken electronic gear, money was running out, it felt like it was time to go home. Once in Zagreb, I tried to vape all my stash before taking the bus but rapidly gave up because it was too much. I couldn't resolve myself to throw it away so I just packed it, hoped for the best and crossed my tenth border with illegal substances on this trip, which is a very silly to do but still feel pride from it !

Voilà guys, I hope this wasn't too boring to read, here are a few pictures to digest it!


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Parak-KaLo!!
 

Mankini

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i love the Greeks, and Greece. cool, funki people who know how to partay :D
 

Matt Derrick

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Thanks man, it was my intention but I didn"t manage to work it out. Can you explain me how to ?

By the way that "squat the planet" tag was found in Belgrade (Serbia). I hope you're proud ;-)

well, if you use the edit button, you can open one tab with the editor and another with the unedited post and then copy and paste all the references to images (the 'attach' codes) to spaces in between the paragraphs. you don't really have to do all of them, just the best pics that fit at that point in the story.

i can help if you need it, i just don't know where the pics should go exactly.
 

Ignatius

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well, if you use the edit button, you can open one tab with the editor and another with the unedited post and then copy and paste all the references to images (the 'attach' codes) to spaces in between the paragraphs. you don't really have to do all of them, just the best pics that fit at that point in the story.

i can help if you need it, i just don't know where the pics should go exactly.


Thanks man, tried to do something a little better
 
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