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Bikes & Baking

sugar & spice meets rust & bikes

Balkans baby

The planning for summer is in full swing.

After a lot of back & forth we scrapped the idea of heading up to Nordkapp. It’s not that we couldn’t cover the distance in three weeks, just that the reality is we’d be in such a rush to get there & back in time, we’d miss everything that would make the trip special. The whole excursion would be limited to main highways & too many kilometres per day. It’s not worth it. If I’m going to go to a place, I want to see it. I want to be able to get off my bike, lay in the grass & soak up the experience without the stress of meeting a deadline.

So we decided to focus on touring the Balkan countries. With the exceptions of Turkey (we’ve both been), Albania & Kosovo. It’s still a nine country trip & it’s shaping up to be pretty epic.

Whilst Panagiotis pours over maps & forums, I’ve been looking up sights each country has to offer & doing some more practical research, such as local currencies & whether or not free-camping is permitted.

It dawned on me though, that most countries operate on their very own currency & we might be getting fucked & swindled on exchange rates. Taking our cash cards is also not an option since Capitol controls are still in effect in Greece which renders them useless. Not to mention bank charges on every gass top up & grocery run would just be excruciating. Then again, my sister is amazing & told us about a company called Revolut which looks too good to be true. Apparently you can top up your Revolut card & then it will automatically convert your money into the local currency using the most accurate exchange rate, without conversion fees or bank charges for your purchases. Going to check it out this summer & if it works it’s going to be the best discovery recommended to us.

For now, here’s the beginning of my research. I’ll be updating this with new information such as camp sites, the map files & more once we have it all finalised.

The excitement has reached & I’m in full swing

BALKANS

Bulgaria
Currency: Lev
Exchange rate: €1 – лв1.96
Vignette: yes – except motorcycles
Free camping: yes

Romania
Currency: Leu
Exchange rate: €1 – lei4.56
Vignette: yes – except motorcycles
Free camping: yes – not recommended

Hungary
Currency: Forint
Exchange rate: €1 – Ft311.93
Vignette: yes
Cost: 7days / €4.80 – Website to buy online
Free camping: no

Slovenia
Currency: Euro
Exchange rate: n/a
Vignette: yes
Cost: 7days / €7 – Website to buy online
Free camping: no

Croatia
Currency: Kuna
Exchange rate: €1 – kn7.43
Vignette: no
Free camping: no

Bosnia
Currency: Marka
Exchange rate: €1 – KM1.96
Vignette: no
Free camping: yes

Montenegro
Currency: Euro
Exchange rate: n/a
Vignette: no
Free camping: yes

Serbia
Currency: Dinar
Exchange rate: €1 – Дин124.02
Vignette: no
Free camping: free

Skopia (Macedonia FYROM)
Currency: Denar
Exchange rate: €1 – ден61.48
Vignette: no
Free camping: no

withdrawal

I find when I’ve spent too much time off my bike, I start getting withdrawal symptoms.

Absolutely everything in my life will be great, but regardless, I’ll start moping around the house looking miserable & lost. When questioned about my state, I’ll even say “I don’t know.”

It took me a while before I realised that just because nothing was wrong in my life, I was missing something. An integral part of me that just can’t be replaced.

We see it all the time. There are hundreds of messages out there all trying to get the point across…. That we’ve become a society of people who have started to value “things” more than people. & for as much as I think I’m not materialistic, when it comes to my bike I fall into that category.

The difference is, I don’t view my bike as a thing. To me, she’s this living entity that embodies my inner spirit & takes me places that feed my soul. She’s this extension of me & I love her. I’m not weird, I swear. It’s just that she symbolises a way of life that speaks to me.

The point I’m trying to make in a very long-winded way is, I needed the ride this weekend. More than anything.

Gear… & why you need it

I think it’s no secret to anyone who reads our blog that I’m clumsy.

I’m the kind of person who can trip standing up. Add in a bike, & I fall off all the time. Not to mention, I seem to be a magnet for bad drivers who have taken a liking to clipping the back of my bike with their cars… yes that’s right, I’ve been hit twice already.

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So it should come as no surprise that I fell off again yesterday. In fairness, this wasn’t one of my silly mistakes. We went to cross one of the Korinthos Bridges…. one that spends half its time submerged under water, & guess what… the wood was slick. The bike started to slide & I lost all control. There was that split second where the bike & all its weight came down on the back of my ankle & I heard a crack & experienced intense pain. To my complete surprise, I was able to get up & walk around.

Why was that? Because I was wearing my FORMA boots. The ones my husband so lovingly bought me for Christmas two years ago. At the time I wasn’t quite sure how they were an appropriate gift for the holidays, but after having my bike come down on my foot twice in the last 3 months, I’m more in love with them now than I ever was.

By all accounts I should be in a cast, but Panagiotis has been teaching me the importance of gear from the day we met & I’m thankful that he has.

Everything I wear has been a gift from him, & through every fall, & every near miss, I’ve walked away with a smile still on my face.

Is my ankle currently bruised & swollen? Absolutely. Is it serious? Nope. One more… can you guess why????

……GEAR!

If you haven’t had a fall or injured yourself riding, then you won’t understand what I’m saying. I would hate for it to come to that though, just because you’d rather look cool on your bike than being safe.

I’m just saying… there ain’t nothing sexy about road rash or a cast that smells like death  & decay.

A cookbook to get you through

In another life I was a chef. Actually, I was a pastry chef, turned chef…

Then I broke my foot & was permanently taken out of professional kitchens.

So instead I started baking from home. I focused on recipes that got us through the day, & in particular, ones that would be useful to us on the road.

Energy bars seemed to be the most valuable thing we could pack, food wise any way. I have several dietary restrictions which make eating on the go a nightmare, & we both try to eat healthy instead of gorging on whatever junk is nearest.

In the end I ended up with all these energy bar recipes & usually a couple kilos worth of the bars themselves packed into our luggage before we embarked on our way to whatever destination we had dreamt up.

Here are those recipes. I finally gathered them all up & put together a little ebook which I have available for sale on ETSY & Apple iBooks Store

& here’s the cover… you know, just to entice you a little

bikes-baking-energy-bars

can we do it?!

The possibility has arisen this year that maybe, just maybe, we might be able to take three weeks of vacation.

In all of our excitement… a feeling of wonder & fear started to creep through me.

Could we do it? I mean, could we actually realistically do it?

For a couple years now we’ve been itching to travel the longitude of the European continent. Start down at Cape Tainaro in Greece (the southernmost tip of Europe) & ride all the way up to Nordkapp, Norway.

Then I opened up google maps & everything went into a crazy free-fall of not knowing what to do.

Usually when we map out a trip, there’s the caution of trying not to put too many km/hours per day on the schedule. Not because we aren’t capable, but because half the fun is the journey.

But to cover over 11,000 km in three weeks means we will be pushing ourselves to the limits almost every day in a mad-dash to make it there in 10 days so we can make it back in time to go to work.

Can we even figure this out? I mean, I want to do it. Every fibre of me craves completing this epic route to gain that sense of accomplishment… but can I?

Sure I can do it on the back of Panagiotis’ bike… but could I do it on my own? Am I capable of riding 600km a day & spending 8 to 10 hours daily physically on my bike? Will there be snow? If I fall off every day (as is my track record on trips)… will I start to loath it? Will I hate myself if I quit?

Then there are the other questions. Money is a big one. A trip like this with two bikes… that’s a couple grand right there for gas alone.

& will we enjoy ourselves if 70% of the roads are national highways? Isn’t half the fun the weird side roads & strange mountains that we traverse?

So many questions. This is all I have so far:

Going:

Returning:

 

a gong show

I’m battered & bruised. Ping-ponging back & forth between blissfully happy & outrageously pissed-the-fuck-off. I’m like a fucking bi-polar psych patient.

I’d say I’d lost count of how many times I fell, but that would be lying. I remember every time I hit the asphalt & bounced. My bike remembers it too… considering we spent the last couple hours trying to straighten my steering column, I’m surprised she isn’t thoroughly pissed off at me. Continue reading “a gong show”

she’s all mine.

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For a little over two years, I’ve been on the back of Panagiotis’ bike marvelling at the world as it races by. I’ve had the great fortune of getting lost in my thoughts & the ever changing scenery, all whilst relaxing & enjoying the ride.

But for the past two years, I’ve also had a longing…. Continue reading “she’s all mine.”

ghost town to celebration

All was quiet in Germany today. The roads were empty & it had the feeling of a ghost town. We drove through Munich & changed our route off of the main highways into smaller local roads to make our way to Austria. & I’m glad we did.
Munich had this feeling of being huge in terms of architecture, but the roads & spaces between the buildings were so vast that it made the space feel open in a way you don’t often find inside cities. It was as if small town meets big city in a way that worked.
I’m impressed to say the least.
That’s the thing about travelling as a passenger on the back of a bike. I have endless time to look around & marvel at my surroundings.
The deadness in Germany today was the result of a public holiday. The country had gone to sleep and left in its path a tranquil surrounding that we drifted through & admired.
The cherry on the cake was meeting an 82 year old biker & his wife, who had just sold his very last Honda Goldwing the day before (with tears in his eyes). He told us of his journeys & shared his photos. He bragged about having received numerous awards at gatherings for being the oldest rider. He was a gem to meet, they both were.
Crossing over into Austria there was no boarder, none. Nothing to mark the change. But it was clear. Somehow the landscape knew instinctively to alter from vast open fields to mountains in an instant. & the architecture was immediately different.
The country shares the same public holiday with Germany, but instead of quite cities, it was full of life. Everyone was out in celebration.
After setting up camp, Panagiotis & I tried to get back to a town we had passed through which was hosting a food festival & couldn’t find it for love nor money. It was like it had been an apparition. Instead we ended up at a food stall just on the side of the road which was grilling fish. Magical doesn’t begin to cut it.
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autobahn & camp grounds

Germany is beautiful. Much of the country seems flat, which is appealing as it makes the sky look that much bigger. For 500km we rode under a beautiful blue sky dotted with fluffy clouds & I found myself profoundly impressed by the fact that we were going 120km & still being overtaken by all the locals. There’s an allure to the autobahn.
We made an attempt at going to see Dachau & pay our respects to the dead, but unfortunately didn’t get there till after closing time. Still, the glimpses we could see through the fence, & the photographs & information provided on the sign posts was still an experience in & of itself.
Here is my advice for the day. My pearls of wisdom if you will….
Months in advance, when you’re in the midst of mapping out your next big trip, taking notes of where you want to go, & making a list of all the camp sites in each area you plan on stopping for the night….. Call the camp sites.
Here is why I say this. If you intend to travel by bike like we do, you already know that everything essential is packed away on it. This means that leaving the bike unattended really isn’t an option, & taking everything off the bike each night when you’re already exhausted may be a bit on the overwhelming side. The camp site we found for tonight for example was absolutely gorgeous. The down side? We couldn’t bring the bikes in past the gate. Luckily for us, they were very helpful in assisting us to find another campground not to far away. Nice people. I would have loved to stay there, really, but not being able to bring the bike right next to the tent was a deal breaker for us.

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