Another excellent day on Balkan Flare despite a dodgy start to the morning. It was raining throughout the night and the air was quite humid and cold when we woke up. The clouds were low and aplenty. We packed up and had breakfast and coffee as usual but the campground reception was empty when we wanted to leave so we had to wait until 8.50 am for someone to show up.
We didn’t get depressed though. We headed North towards the border with Macedonia and took the smaller roads that looked more fun on the map. We were right as it turned out as the ride was wonderful. We followed the E853 towards Kalpaki and then turned on North in the direction of Konitsa. The road was great and I enjoyed every bit of it. Csabi was keeping up okay. About half an hour later at Konitsa I noticed a small old bridge of sort so I took a right turn and went straight there. We stopped for about 15 minutes for a short walk and a couple of pictures.
After the break we continued north and the road was fabulous. At one point we stopped for coffee in a village then went on to enjoy more of this excellent ride. There is an intersection before Eptachori and we turned north there which seemed a wise decision and we saw some of the most beautiful scenery on this journey as well as the best roads. We stopped to take pictures several times and the helmet cams were rolling as there was always something to see while enjoying the endless number of curves up and down the hills and mountains. Some areas looked like the Dolomites with giant rock formations while others reminded of alpine passes. That is a must for everyone.
Just before Manioki we hit the main road again and rode on a motorway for about 2 miles 🙂 Before arriving to Antartico we took a left as we wanted to have lunch in Psarades – as it was recommended by a friend – to check out the Hungarian speaking village. The road leading to this small settlement is also great with magnificent views and plenty of hairpins with almost no traffic. One can see the Prespa lakes and the abundant wildlife.
It was a bit after 1.00 pm that we arrived to Psarades. We sat at the first taverna for lunch but unfortunately no one spoke our language. After a short meal we geared up and decided to take a ride to the end of the village just to check it out. As we walked towards our machines a ow was just getting a taste of Csabi’s saddle bags… We rode to the farthest point of the village and just wanted to turn back when a person started to speak Hungarian to us. We got off the bikes and greeted him with great joy. We sat for a coffee at one of the tables and chatted with him. As it turned out about 200 kids and a couple of partisans fled to Hungary during the civil war to seek refuge. Our man – Germanos Papadopoulos – spent 15 years there and still spoke excellent Hungarian. He was also happy to practise. It’s a pity we had to move on otherwise we could have stayed at his place for a night as the small village is very cosy and nice.
We saddled up and headed for Florina and then north to the Macedonian border. We stopped briefly at the top of the mountain as I put on my icebreaker as the air was getting very cool at 1500m.
We crossed the border without any hassle although the customs officer warned us that roads are ‘catastrophic’ for the first 15 km. He was right. There are holes that would easily swallow a car so we had to be careful. Once in Bitola we thought we were okay but then the Garmin played a trick. I was already suspicious when we just kept on going in really small streets but at one point we found ourselves above the city completely off road. When making a u-turn I slipped and fell off the bike. Once we pulled it back upright we laughed so hard we almost cried. So we tracked back our steps and followed the roadsigns until we arrived on the national road.
We took direction Ohrid since it was our destination for today. The road was really bad. It wasn’t so much the holes (there were few and they were reasonably small) but the asphalt that made it a real pain. It was like riding on a washboard… From Resen it was a complete change for the better. The road was wide and seemed brand new – no holes and perfect tarmac. We arrived to Ohrid quite early. As we realised we were back to Central European Time. At the first main crossing we stopped at the red light and got immediately surrounded by guys on bicycles offering a room or various type of accommodation. They immediately wanted us to follow but I told them we just arrived and wanted to go to the centre of town. We did so. We rode down to the port area and there they were again. We chose a guy and negotiated a price of 10 EUR/person for the night with safe parking for the bikes. After a couple of pictures we followed him as he led us to his family’s house.
As the garage was too small he moved his bike so we had enough space for ours. I liked the license plate though 🙂 Initially we wanted to camp but the price is cheaper than what we paid in a campsite for the two of us and the temperature forecast for the night is a mere 6 degrees so we figured it will be okay. Let’s just hope the bikes will be there tomorrow… 🙂
After a shower and change of clothes we headed into the centre to look around and take some pics. The city is pretty nice but it is obvious that while western culture has set foot here everything is adopted to the post communist style of living so there are huge discrepancies and a long way to go for them. People are a bit pushy in search of business and money but are otherwise not too open to communicate.
We also wanted to eat something but we had no local currency so we went into a supermarket to purchase ingredients for dinner which we cooked in our room!
That’s the Balkan after all. I guess we won’t try this at the Hilton.
Tomorrow we plan to get to Albania via Kosovo so we’d better get to sleep…
Remember: always keep the rubber down!
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