Note! A short compilation video at the end of post! Click here for shortcut.
Way down to Faaker See
Rode down to Faaker See / Klagenfurt am Wörtensee in Austria perhaps too eagerly. Well, it was 1200+ km but I wanted to cross the distance quickly. After all it was only a transfer ride to get to where the action was.
After the 1200+ km ferry sailing, I was ready to get on the bike! I left Travemunde around 10PM in the evening and having spent the day doing nothing but sauna and jacuzzi between meals, I did not want to go straight into a hotel but decided to do a little run towards Austria. This little run turned into Leipzig 450 km later for a few hours sleep. Eating the miles is easy on a motorway but less fun, particularly at night.
Note to oneself and a top tip for the others: Do not take shortcuts at night, no matter how tempting it may seem!
I have done the run to the alps several times before and did not really expect much from the transit through central Europe. But when traveling overland, I can feel the anticipation growing to see the scenery change rather suddenly from the flatlands of Europe to the majestic mountains and alps. Always a tingling sensation in my body.
My plan was to visit the European Bike Week in Faaker See and to continue my ride south-east towards Transfagarasan in Romania.
The bike week, like many other events, had suffered from Covid-19 but now there were apparently again some 100.000 bikers congregating at Faaker see in the Austrian region of Carinthia. Strick covid measures were in place, but it was all done in very relaxed atmosphere as much as the pandemic could allow. Access to main areas and attractions were controlled and after proof of covid vaccinations using the EU covid passport, one got a wristband to avoid constant re-checks and was free to move about. With the EU covid passport life was simple when visiting restaurants etc outside the rally area.
A chance reunion and a dinner with a good friend on the first day made up for the tiring ride and meant that I had good company for at least a few days ahead.
Bears at Transfagarasan, Romania
Austria is always a great country to visit but eventually it was time to continue on. We actually found a third friend to join our team and while my two friends had plans to ride north, I managed to convince then that while we were so close by, we should all go and ride the Transfagarasan mountain pass. Since it was only two days away!
We eventually decided to stay overnight in Belgrad and as luck would have it, our hotel was right next to the bohemian quarter and some great restaurants. Catchy music by local bands and the best steak tartare I have ever had, prepared by the no 2 tartare chef in the country. Yes, they do run competitions! And preparing the steak tartare is a show in itself!
We were really lucky and the weather was clear and sunny and Transfaragasan was really beautiful that day! To top the experience, in the afternoon, on the southern descent, unbelievably we saw bears no less than nine times on the road. One even with a cub!
When on a motorbike, stopping next to the bears to take picture is a bit unnerving compared with those who were sitting in their cars. Some cars even threw snacks for the bears, apples and such. What a great and rare experience, truly memorable!