Veghel to Hastings – this time I took into account getting through Antwerp and travelled on a Sunday when there are no trucks on the road. Cold and windy ride with the occasional drizzle, arrived early at Calais and was put on an earlier train, the queue to get to the train started in the Terminal car park, it took 45 min crawling along to get to the immigration booths, never seen anything like it. Apparently BREXIT is to blame because now that the UK is no longer part of the EU each passenger has to show their passport and it has to be scanned into the system, it is far worse for the trucks which are backed up for kilometers in the UK and have to wait all day.
Winchelsea and the Flight home.
My knee was not getting any better so I decided to cut my trip short and head for home. I was planning to ride to Cyprus and then the North Cape.
Zagreb to Regensberg in Germany goes through Slovenia and Austria both of which require vignettes for their freeways and there are a couple of long tunnels that have their own tolls (€10 & €6). Slovenia eVignette costs €7.50 for 7 days and Austria €5.60 for 10 days and you buy them online. I had to say I was a business customer to get the Austrian one immediately or I would have had to wait four weeks, give any name as the Business name and an address, nobody cares. The only reason for this ridiculous step is Austrian consumer law which allows you to claim a refund within 28 days if you are Private but with the Business eVignette there is no refund. You can also stop and buy a vignette at Service stations on either side of the border and make sure you do that before you cross the border, a friend got fined €300 because they waited too long after crossing the border to buy the Paper Vignette which is a sticker and very hard to remove. Had to remember to get a stamp in my passport when re-entering the Schengen area at the Slovenia border. Beautiful ride through the mountains most of the way in warm and sunny weather 585km in 7:08hrs. This was just an overnight stop at a motel near the freeway.
Regensberg to Veghel – fine and hot weather 35c with many roadworks. Got stuck for 20min boiling in my jacket when one truck ran into the back of another at some roadworks which narrowed the freeway down to one lane, 666kms in 7:35hrs. There was a festival on in Veghel which was nice.
Palazzolo to Trieste on the freeway then onto back roads into Slovenia, no border stop. Arrived at the Croatian border and there was a long queue, people heading for the coast on the weekend. Rode on the wrong side of the narrow road, no traffic coming the other way and got to the front, one car would not let me in but the next guy did hahaha. Got waved through immigration but remembered to stop and ask for a stamp in my passport to show I have exited the Schengen area. Next time there should be no queues or immigration as Croatia will have joined the EU and the Schengen area. Short ride to the freeway past Rijeka and then another freeway all with Toll stops. If you ever drive this way always take the Bankcard lanes at the toll stops especially when you get to the Zagreb exit, the cash lane is kilometers long, in the Bankcard lane you either drive straight through or there is a short queue on the weekend, and pay with your credit card, 327km in 4:55hrs. I hurt my knee in Italy and decided to take a break here staying at a friends place for some R&R.
Zagreb – not my first visit, Croatia is a great place to spend some time but try to avoid the Summer peak season.
Njivice, Krk Island – Trip to the seaside.
Batina – a trip to the Danube drama included. The Danube is the border between Croatia and Serbia and people cross it all the time to visit a restaurant, friends, relatives, to do some shopping etc. We crossed this border twice for a meal during my stay here. The first time coming back took an hour at least as they were searching cars for drugs. The second time we were right at the immigration booth with one car ahead of us when there was an explosion and the car in front of us caught on fire. The couple in the car jumped out and ran and we and the cars behind us frantically reversed to put some distance between us and the fire. The immigration people were running around clueless until a truck driver who was in the queue behind us brought the fire extinguisher from his truck and put the fire out. Next the Authorities were called and they and a fire engine and crew turned up about an hour later hahaha while traffic piled up on both sides of the border. The other lane was clear but nobody was allowed to cross until an investigation was completed by a Magistrate and nobody could tell us when he would arrive from the nearest town. Therefore we had to turn around and head for the next border crossing and it took 3 hours to get back to Croatia instead of 10 minutes. The fire was probably caused by a fuel leak under the bonnet not a terrorist bomb hahaha.
Spot the non-Croatian beer.
Getting out of Milan was nearly as bad as Antwerp, trucks and more trucks and tolls. After about 200km traffic eased and I could cruise along in fine and hot 35c weather. Two fuel stops and one very long traffic jam which I got around by riding down the emergency lane. Tolls €27.20, 374km in 4:21hrs.
Palazzolo dello Stella – I spent a few days here visiting friends and the surrounding area.
Lignano Sabbiadoro – This is a popular seaside town where many Germans and Austrians have holiday homes.
Codroipo – Stopped for an Espresso and Croissant.
Koper in Slovenia – This is Slovenia’s only major port and it has an interesting old town.
From Logroño I rode to La Jonquera an overnight stop near the freeway. 612kms in 6:05 hours with 3 fuel stops, 4 lanes all the way with very little traffic and only one toll stop €16.45. Spain is eliminating Tolls and demolishing the Toll Plaza infrastructure, there are a few still left in the North West of the country. Windy with many Wind Turbines in parts.
Then to Frejus in France another overnight stop near the freeway. This starts on the busiest Freeway in France and continues all the way along the South Coast of France, trucks occupying 2 lanes most of the time, winding roads and tunnels, no time to relax. Stopped for tolls 6 times, first to take a ticket and at the end pay for the ride €15.10, €2.70, €6.10, distance 445kms in 4:36hrs
Until I arrived at Lianate on the outskirts of Milan where the Alfa Romeo Museum is located. I crossed over from France to Italy at some point probably in the middle of a tunnel. 4 tolls stops on the French side €2.30 for 28km, €1.90 for 28km, then €0.90 no receipt, €1.70 for 20km, mind boggling. Tunnel, viaduct, roadworks, tunnel, viaduct, roadworks all along the coast until I turned North to Milan, beautiful views along the coast. The Italian Toll Department only asks you to take a ticket at the beginning and pay for it at the end, therefore only 2 stops €29.50 for 295kms exactly €10 per 100km. But when I arrived at the Ring road around Milan I had to pay two tolls (€3.30 and €0.80) hahaha, usually once you get to a city there are no Tolls but not in Milan. The traffic is almost as bad as Antwerp without throwing Toll stops into the mix.
The Alfa Romeo Museum in Milan, one of the best of its kind.
Pamplona to Logroño – a short ride 104kms in 1:10hrs.
Logroño is the capital of La Rioja a major wine producing region in Spain and Rioja wine has been accredited with “denominación de origen calificada” . It is also famous for several streets that specialise in Tapas bars but you would have to stay here for a year to sample them all hahaha. Calle Laurel is the most well known street. The first day was 40c, the next 41c and the third day was 42c but no rain so I was happy.
The museum was free, surprisingly well organised and immaculate.
Concatedral de Santa María de la Redonda
Calle Laurel, party street
Laguardia is a village on a hill that is riddled with tunnels dug during the Middle Ages as a place to hide from invaders. They are now used to make wine. I went on a tour of one of them. By bus it takes 30 minutes to get there from Logrono and costs 1.90 Euro.
Bayonne to Pamplona over the Western end of the Pyrenees. Maximum altitude 718m compared to 1,818m when I crossed over from Toulouse into Spain. Once I got past the villages in the foothills good ride through the mountains in fine and cool weather upto Elizondo.
Elizondo – a Basque town in the mountains, made famous by Dolores Redondo in the Baztan Triology. Having read the books I had to see the town for myself and as I was passing through I stopped and walked around, very pretty. From there to Pamplona I joined up with a 4 lane highway with trucks, looks like they are headed for France by another route. Distance 104kms, time 2:44hrs.
Pamplona – where the Running of the Bulls takes place every year. This is where the bulls chase a crowd through the narrow streets of the town. The runners wear white with a red scarf and a few get gored every year while the Bulls finish up in the Bull ring where they will be killed. The city also has some impressive defensive fortifications and an interesting Church.