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Linda on BMW: Start of the Trip in Castellar

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Hi all,

I am in a little town in the North East of Bulgaria called Veliko Tarnovo where they are holding an International Folk music festival. I am going to stay for a couple of days to watch the dancing  and music and relax as I feel a bit knackered after the previous months travelling which I will describe briefly here.

Finally leaving Frank and Christinas place in Kircheim on 18th June I spent the night with Heiner (my Webmaster) and Co. at the Haefale rally not far from Ulm. I had been snapped twice on town speeding cameras on the way there but the boys told me not to worry as they cant see the number plates. Thank goodness I'm leaving Germany, I thought , and had a beer.

Then the next day I went to Wels in Austria to spend a few days with Bruno and Uli, during which time we visited a spectacular Austrian lake and had a great evening in their country garden, dancing the Brown jug polka.

The journey down the Danube to Vienna was also stunning and very warm, I had my red boots on at last and Klaudia came to find me at the petrol station on the way into the city to take me back to where she and Alfred are busy preparing their bikes for this same trip. She took time off from her planning schedule to come into Vienna with me on the train for a sightseeing trip capped off by a fireworks display over the Danube which was just WOW!! No, it wasn't just for my arrival,  I was lucky that my visit had corresponded with the end of a festival.

Lots of walks in the Vienna woods with Klaudia and nice BBQs, thanks to Alfred's cooking, but the most amazing thing was, on the final night, he suggested we record Faraway Friends for the web site and ended up by recording and producing a whole CD for me. And just in a few hours. The man is an engineering whizz!

From Vienna, it was just a few hours back in CZ, this time Moravia, to see Andy and Stanya, who I last visited after the WIMA CZ rally in 2002. Andy works in the English department of the Uni in Zlin so we used his office there for me to chase up the Iranian visa. The contact number had finally come through from the travel agency so I can go to the Embassy in Istanbul armed with that.

Zlin is the old production centre for Bata shoes and the whole town was set up for the Bata shoe empire. The old factory buildings, transport network and workers houses and facilities are an amazing sight, viewed from the top of the Bata building.

After several evenings drinking and a day of mushrooming in the Moravian hills, I got back on the bike to go into Slovakia to visit Pavel and Christina who had met me at the BMW CZ rally and kindly invited me to visit them. They live in Dunasky Streda which hit the headlines about 4 years ago when there was a machine gun Mafia shooting in the Fontana cafe which left 10 dead. Well, there was no sign of blood on the street when I got there but this was made up for the following day when Chrisitina kindly lent me her bicycle to ride down to the Danube to view the amazing lock system..

Just over the bridge there is a levee with a nice cycling path. I was just admiring a pretty country house when a black dog came barking out of it and bit deeply in to my calf. My first instinct was to peddle on away from the beast  but when I got a few yards away and saw the blood streaming I thought it would be a good idea to get it cleaned so I went back and was most unwillingly given some Bettadine and plasters. Fortunately I was able to cycle the 15kms back and Pavel insisted we went back by car to view the Vaccination certificate. I was just glad that I'd insisted on anti rabies injections before I left Spain. I hope the dog is now mad from having bitten me.

After all that excitement we had a day in Bratislava and the best Ice-cream I have tasted in my whole life, made by a family en route. Bratislava has some old buildings and a lot of coloured cows positioned around the old town but not much else, I found.

My next destination was Budapest and I entered Hungary by the monastry town of Estorgem which I remember visiting with the WIMA girls at the Hugarian rally in 1988. A beautiful place and  great intro route to take to the capitol. The camp site ythat I last stayed at 10 years ago was now really expensive so I found a slightly cheaper one and then walked 10km the next day into the capitol along the Danube. Great walk but I was a bit tired to do all the sightseeing when I got there so had a snooze in the park and went to see a great Hungarian folk dance show that night.

I love Budapest and I was sorely tempted when I saw a lovely fiddle for sale in one of the back street shops for only 100E. But there is no space for it on the bike!

Only one more night in Hungary and then out to a new country, Croatia. Unfortunately the heavens opened and after 2 hours of torrential rain I had to pull off the road and stay in a motel as |I just couldn't see and the road had heavy truck traffic. Very poor facilities and expensive.

However the next day was clear and I entered Bosnia i Herzogovina and started to notice how many graves there were around. On visiting Mostar, a very pretty tourist village, the evidence of bombed buildings and the war memorials reminded me that this war only finished 10 years ago and is still fresh in peoples memories.

Down at the coast I was back in Croatia again and this is a truly spectacular coastline and I spent a few days camped by the beach exploring the area. Clean water and lovely island views, a great holiday spot. When I finally got to Dubrovnik, another amazing walled city, I visited the local bikers cafe and was invited to go and camp with some Serbians who were staying at a Divers camp site in Monte Negro. So I followed their bikes. The trip entailed crossing the border, which was about an hours wait and reminded me of the Gib/Spain queue, then taking a ferry and finally going down some very narrow, steep, twisty roads, just on sunset. I have now discovered that the Suzuki lights are useless and I will never be able to ride at night!! Even going through tunnels is dangerous!

Anyway, the Serbians are great company. I can't dive but had a great couple of days drinking slivovitch with them. Beaches are not so clean as in Croatia but still a great coastline with interesting fortresses.

Igor and Tanya, my guides to the site, rode out with me again to get me back on the road to the hills, of which Montnegro has plenty, and it was a very scenic ride through that country and ito Kosova, where the landscape changed dramatically from cool mountains to hor dusty plains. Not only that but Kosova do not recognise the green card insurance for the rest of the Yugoslav countries and charge each foreigh vehicle a minimum 15 day insurance which costs 30E. I was only going to be there a few hours but still had to pay it. Was a bit pissed off. The country is dirty  and riddled with UN and KFor Forces. I was happy to get out of it into Macedonia where a charming family invited me to spend the night in their house, instead of my original plan of camping by the river.

The next border took me finally into Bulgaria and I hunted out the Rila monastry and found some walking tracks. After finding a safe place to leave the bike I spent four days walking but discovered that I am not as fit as I used to be and that those mountains are very tough. Fantastic scenery but very poor facilities. The country has not invested in it's tourist potential and has a lot to learn about private enterprise after its communist regime. I hope it will improve but not get spoilt like so may other countries.

I didn't spend long enough in Sofia to form an opinion, although it seems a lively city and there are a lot of parks. A friendly Turkish man let me use his office for internet access and I spent the night camped in the garden of some people from Sofia who had a weekend house about 50kms out.

The countryside is lovely but the roads are mainly in very poor condition and, that with the low driving standard, makes every journey a slow one.

After this stop I will head on to the Black sea coast and then down to Turkey. I hope to be able to send some photos to the web site from there as I hear the facilities are better in Istanbul.

Again my thanks to everyone en route who helped me.


Lots of love


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