Midwest Motorcyclist Blog
by Henry Gerst
Our tour was the Adriatic Riviera Tour, offered by Adriatic Mototours (www.adriaticmototours.com). This was one of ten different tours offered in the 2013 catalog. Six of the tours were offered on multiple dates.
Adriatic Mototours has been touring Central and Eastern Europe for about ten years, and it shows! I can't think of much, if anything, that I would change on our tour. Our guide on this tour, Dejan Planko, is a certified tourist guide as well as a motorcycle enthusiast. His co-leader, Katja Defranceski, normally works in the office, but was doing her "once a year on the road" on our tour. While Dejan had responsibility for getting the riders and the bikes to the hotels (sometimes something akin to herding cats and/or pushing chain); Katja drove the luggage van with the spare bike, got rooms assigned for us, made sure our luggage was picked up after we checked out each morning and in our room before we checked in each afternoon, researched and reserved restaurants, answered silly questions from each of us, and kept smiling all the way. They both made sure that our holiday was nothing short of fantastic!
These tours are normally kept to a maximum of ten bikes... we had nine, including our leader, Dejan, riding a 1200GS. Our travelling companions for the tour were Paul and Karen (England), two-up on a new 1200GS; Ian (Washington State) on a 1200GS; Jim and Tric (Windsor, Ont) on an FJR; Kent (Louisville, KY) on an F800GS; Martin (Toronto) on an F650GS; Duncan (England) on a Suzuki V-Strom; and Bert and Brigitte (South Carolina) on a Honda Deauville that they had rented in Frankfort and ridden to Ljubljana to join up with us.
First, I neglected to mention a stop on the way to Pag on Friday. Not far from the city of Zadar, we stopped along a few abandoned, graffiti-covered buildings. These were once homes of Serbs, who had pushed out Croats from the area, and in turn were pushed out themselves after war came in the early 90's. We had also seen signs of war in Dubrovnik; the old town had been shelled. People seem to be trying to leave the past behind and move forward.
Saturday morning we were off for our return to Ljubljana, with overcast skies and a bit of a funk as everyone realized this week of adventure was about to draw to a conclusion.
Another spirited ride - I think that was the case every day. This day, we were trying to stay ahead of the weather, not wanting a repeat of our start (rain and cold). A short ferry ride and then a bit up the coast. Turning away from the coast, we encountered not much more than the odd drizzle but did slam into falling temperatures as we rode into the mountains. At one point along the way back, we saw low 40s (fahrenheit).
As a rider, my focus was on road conditions - those in the mountains were slippery when wet, and we had experienced a few "pucker" moments on the way south at the start of our tour. It was impossible though, to not notice how much greener everything seemed when we crossed the border back into Slovenia. A final gas stop in Ljubljana, and then to the livery to return our bikes. The bikes were inspected for damage (no accidents/injuries, and only one tip-over!) Cabs were called to return us to our hotel. First though, there was a bit of Slovenian sparkling wine to be dealt with!
After time for cleaning up and a bit of relaxation, our tour guide and host were back with more cabs for a trip to the Ljubljana castle for dinner together. A final evening of new friends, fine food and drink... we've exchanged addresses and talked of more rides together.
Sunday, we were up at 4:00am (Slovenian time) for a 5:00am transfer to the airport to start our trip home. A stop in Frankfurt long enough to run from one end of the airport to the other to catch our flight to Detroit. Eighteen hours after our wake-up call, we were back home in Toledo.
(Henry Gerst authored this series of blog posts about their recent tour in Eastern Europe. Thanks, Henry!)
It is Friday morning in Hvar and we're just finishing breakfast. We spent most of yesterday walking through the old part of Hvar, including a walk up the stairway to the old fortress. The markets are full of lavender... Apparently, this area is world-renowned for its crop.
We have a short ride to the ferry this morning, then a two-hour crossing to the mainland. Today, we're headed to Pag, tomorrow back to Ljubljana. Although no one has mentioned it, you can sense that everyone is realizing that our tour is almost over.
We left for the ferry at Stari Grad, not far from Hvar. Along the way, we had a stop for photos looking down on the old town, and a stop at the lavender fields. The hills are lined and crossed with small stone fences, approximately one meter high. The fences are there not to define property or to keep out animals that might be inclined to eat the plants but to retain what little topsoil there is in place. In Ohio, we've seen fields of corn this summer that reached 10 and 11 feet in height. In Croatia and Slovenia, we've seen small "household" plots of corn, maybe reaching five feet in height... better living through modern chemistry?
At the ferry, we met up with a group from Germany touring on three R1200RT's and a FJR. A note on bikes in Slovenia and Croatia... scooters, and 125s to a lesser extent, are everywhere - full size bikes in general, and touring bikes in particular, are not. Those that we encountered were mostly ridden by western Europeans and Brits on holiday.
As for the ferry, I've ridden across Lake Michigan on the Lake Express, and Georgian Bay on the Chi-Cheemaun, and across the St. Clair River on the small ferries at Marine City and Harsens Island, so I thought I knew what to expect. Our ship to Split was about the size of the Chi-Cheemaun, maybe a bit larger. Our group was directed to the lower hold, and parked, on our side stands, no tie-downs! I fully expected to come back down to find a row of BMWs on their sides. I was amazed - the two-hour crossing to Split was smoother than most roads I've ridden on in Ohio, almost like skating across a newly frozen pond!
A bit of traffic to deal with in Split, then up the coast to the island of Pag. Almost all of our "butterfly" weather was "spirited", although the general rule was to ride at your own pace. Our tour leader used riders to mark corners, and we had a dedicated tail rider every day. If you saw no corner marker, the rule was to continue on the main road. Other than the first day, when one rider didn't pay attention, we lost no one.
With an 11:00 sailing booked on the ferry to Split, we had a late start for a full day of riding, arriving at the bridge to Pag shortly before dark. We had about 30 kilometers from there to our hotel for the night, located at a winery. For me, having developed some night-vision issues, this was the most challenging part of the tour. Fortunately, we did not have to deal with rain and darkness!
At the winery/hotel, a shower, change of clothes, and meet the group in the bar for pre-dinner drinks. We were at a winery, and "when in Rome", the local red was very, very good. As everyone was fully functional in the morning, I would have to say that exactly the right amount of wine was consumed! As for the dinner, once again exceptional... a meat dish, beef cheeks with a lamb risotto for a starter; or sea bass, with beet gnocchi for a starter. "Local food" and "slow food" are nothing new here... this is how people live, every day. For the most part, everything you get in a restaurant came from the garden, or out of the sea, or from the farm that week.
Still really liking the 1200R... and Deb gives two thumbs up for the seat!
by Henry Gerst