There are too many jokes, good advice in this text, and besides the suggestion that the Balkans are worth a visit, you are unlikely to learn anything new from it. I would only be him scrolledto see the photos and read something else.
I have never gone on such a disorganized trip before. This is what happens when you take more than a week of vacation and a week before it starts, you have no idea where and with whom to go. Basically, there is some kind of cut-off point in life, after which the organization of anything becomes somehow more difficult.
And then BOOM! You are sitting at work you scroll mindlessly internet and you see an article on some foreign website about a visitor who bought the cheapest airline ticket and decided to return from there by bike. Sounds like an idea.
So I go to Wizzka, and Podgorica there for PLN 49 (of course, before I bought it a few days later, it already cost PLN 149) + less than PLN 200 for a bike. That Podgorica is terrible, but the area is great, everyone who has read our entry knows a slightly longer stay in Montenegro. I put a question on Instagram if someone is going with me - Marek volunteered. He volunteered so perfectly because he only asked what he had to do to go. One 10-minute meeting and a dozen or so messages later, we were already enrolled in an adventure towards a little known and a little unknown.
That the route would be roughly hopeless was certain. This is actually one of the first sentences I said to Mark: I invite you, but it will be so-so, because we avoid everything cool. I am increasingly considering starting a cycling club called We Ride Without Ambition. There were several variants, but the optimal plan assumed that we would visit a few points on the map with slightly random roads and end up in Vienna, from where we could return by train directly to Warsaw. This is a great option, because nothing worries me more than the vision of looking for a cardboard box and unscrewing seized screws a few hours before departure. There was one goal: to visit countries where I was not with my bike and see if it is worth going back there.
For people who don't like reading, a summary.
First of all, it is worth noting that this route avoids one hundred million beautiful places. So if you have a week or two of vacation and want to repeat it, I DON'T RECOMMEND. Fly to Podgorica, see the vicinity of Skadar Lake, Cursed Mountains, Durmitoru and see a bit of Bosnia or Albania. I was just lazy and wanted to go back by train. If I wasn't, the photos in this post would be better.
The cost of the trip is about PLN 1,500, including airline tickets. Accommodations searched for on a regular basis cost PLN 50 / head in cheap countries, PLN 100 / head in the expensive ones (with 1 person more expensive, with 4 people cheaper). Food roughly as much as ours. There are no other costs, so it's easy to calculate. We eat during the day randomy from shops, in the evenings we try to visit a pub (if kebab and pizza are pubs, it can be considered that we almost always succeed - including a bakery - we always do).
Stable in Montenegro - bad drivers on the main roads, but the country is beautiful
In Croatia, there is a lot of traffic at the seaside in tourist areas and no traffic on the rump.
There is a lot in Bosnia, but maybe we are just very lucky, because opinions are mixed.
In north-eastern Croatia and Serbia it is like on Gassy, and sometimes like on the embankment between Białołęka and Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki
Hungary is the worst place in the world for a man with a bicycle.
Slovakia along the Danube is a family idyll.
In Austria, shops are open, while in the aforementioned Slovakia, they are closed on a national holiday.
The Czech Republic is the Czech Republic - it is known, although I have the impression that we are driving the most boring part of this country.
There are the worst drivers in the world in Poland (because they are the fastest and the most frustrated).
We start every day at 8, we finish when it starts to get dark. We could cover the route super-hyper lightly, because nothing was useful from the clothes except the "short" set. From money, all you need is a credit card + euro. Internet in Bosnia is at gas stations, in Montenegro you can buy at the airport upon arrival, we flew Serbia quickly, and in other places it is European.
Generally, I do not recommend the route - you can spend your vacation in a more interesting way ... but you need to have time to plan it. It is good to the Bosnia / Croatia border - then you can go to sleep because Mazovia begins.
The route from Podgorica to Rybnik is about 1600 km and I would describe it as "rather easy". Coming with two liter water bottles and a few emergency bars, a rather slim chance of dying for any reason other than melting in the sun (or under the wheels of a Hungarian TIRand). On the entire route we meet only one man waving a rifle at us (probably friendly), somewhere in a Bosnian village.
Day I: Podgorica -> Kotor
the only certainty of the route - link to Stravy
We already have our first adventure at the airport in Warsaw, because we meet Eliza there, who also flies to Montenegro and also for bikepacking (only by bike weighing more than our two in total) ... and a moment later we also meet the policemen on segwey. I try to follow the recommendations, but still taking advantage of the fact that we were the only people on the terminal, I thought that you could indulge yourself a bit. We are saved from trouble by the fact that we all keep food, and thanks to writing down I know that Marek is actually Marek, whether he was punished and how many penalty points he has. Then the adventure is provided by Eliza, who, while folding her bicycle at the airport in Podgorica, sticks a rack in her leg and with a hole in her leg goes to search for first aid. Here I suggest: at airports they provide one free of charge.
The airport in Podgorica is great, because there are garbage cans in front of it, and the disposal of cardboard boxes is always a bit problematic:
The first day is a route I know by heart. A bit of the main road (and the main roads in Montenegro are a good chance of death), and then the stump. First a bit of climbing and somewhere in the distance Skadar Lake, Albanian mountains and most of all Pavlova Strana Viewpoint, which reminds me how perfect this area was for a bike and how much I want to rent an apartment there for a while:
Then the largest uphill ride awaits us, because from the lowlands we hit somewhere around 1400m above sea level - to the Lovcen National Park. If you are interested in this, I refer again to entry about Montenegro. Not much to us, except that the driveway is super nice, because we are in a hurry to go to Croatia. There will be free internet there and we will find something on Booking. When it is slowly getting dark at the top, we know that it will be fine. Because maybe it is downhill from the top, but the exit to Kotor is, however, one of those roads that are thrown on Instagram and there are a thousand likes (if there was a drone at hand). After all, these are 25 numbered streamers overlooking the Montenegrin counterpart Norwegian fjords. So much that he gets bored at the end.
We look for accommodation in Kotor by knocking on apartments and hotels - high prices. We finally find a random apartment a bit outside the city. The lady thinks the price of 50E out of her mind and that you do not have to pay tax for one night, we make up that we believe her. If I had spent a few euros on a SIM card at the airport, we would probably find something cheaper and in total they would be positive. In the evening, a visit to a bakery and a shop - this is probably the only day when we do not eat in a pub for bedtime. Well, but when you sleep for 50E, you don't eat later.
Day II: Kotor -> Dubrovnik -> Bosnia
beautiful, terrible, beautiful - link to Stravy
We start rolling along the coast: some ferry, some main road with heavy traffic, some beaches and towns. We only take off at the Croatian border where we fall into oblivion. If we had arrived in Croatia the previous day in search of accommodation, we would have had breakfast for dinner. It is super nice and super empty - such a classic Mediterranean road. And it is worth adding that the border was set by a laugh where two asphalt walls meet. More and more often I wonder why I am cycling and not I am chilling on the beach. I have been looking for the answer until today.
Then there's a very bad part. Nice but bad. The main road of the coast and even before Dubrovnik. As for the city itself - in my opinion it is worth it. It is especially worth being there once, so that you will never come back and smile under your mustache when someone at work mentions that they have visited the beautiful city of Dubrovnik for their vacation. Maybe it is beautiful, but it's like visiting the market square in Krakow on a Saturday afternoon in July… only more. It used to be bad, then Game of Thrones came out and it got even worse. I'm not going back there, except in December. And it is also worth adding that the SPDs, tired of life, are not the best footwear for walking on historic stones, slipped by 1.5 million tourists a year. It must be admitted, however, that the city looks very nice from above, and Mr. Abramowicz's yacht (340 million euro) moored in it makes you reflect on the meaning of life. Especially when you enter poor Bosnia a moment later. Although if the Bosnians tried, they would also buy one - it is enough for every working Bosnian to put all the money earned into a common piggy bank for over two weeks.
A really good tour starts when you leave Dubrovnik. Not a small driveway, Bosnian border and here is a slightly different world. Because when the country changes, the trail begins Ciro Trail. I dare to say that this is the most famous bike trail through Bosnia (maybe the only one?). About 140km from the border to Mostar, run along the old railway line. As we know - trains (unless Swiss trains) do not run uphill. This results in an unexpectedly nice situation in which not only are we driving on roads with virtually no car traffic, but also in the middle of the mountains, but flat. A very good experience, I highly recommend the Ciro Trail.
If you are a fan of trains then you will never feel more like a train than on this route:
Along the way, there are signs informing about which station you are currently passing, but generally the infrastructure is rather poor. I mean, it is, but abandoned. If you belong to those who die after 50 km without a shop - you will die. Small fragments of the trail are still under construction, but it seems to me that it is even possible to travel on the road. Apart from the drive from Dubrovnik to the border, I think it's a nice attraction even for someone who doesn't ride a bike.
We sleep in Čapljina - it has everything you need, including a decent pizzeria, bakery, shops and even a large bus station. The accommodation is hidden so well that if not for the dogs that alerted the owner, we would have been looking for him until now. The host is great and welcomes us with juice, water and information where to eat dinner. I have the impression that everyone in Bosnia speaks English ... The only place where English could not be communicated was the Czech Republic.
Day III: Bosnia -> Bosnia
beautiful, beautiful, beautiful - link to Stravy
I am a simple man, I do not follow the geopolitical situation in the world. My idea of Fr. Montenegro and Albania it was completely different from what happened to us in 2019. It was the same with Bosnia. You speak Bosnia, I see films with Boguś in my head like "Demons of war according to Goya", Mostar, Sarajevo, Serbia, Kosovo, Aida - mines, rifles, poverty and so on. Then you ride your bike there, people smile at you and say to your friend: "You, this is such a completely normal country". As with us, only less billboards. And you feel a little ashamed. Then you go back to yourself and one of the first headlines you read is: "In the evening, an unknown man rode up to the injured cyclist on a motorcycle. Using a machete, a large knife to be exact, he cut off the hand of the traveling cyclist and departed in an unknown direction". And you start to wonder who lives here in the wild country. Especially that the most dangerous part of the route (not counting the Hungarian borderline) is practically the entire part in Poland. Well kur%$#, nobody goes anywhere so fast.
However, it should be remembered here that my opinion is based on several hundred kilometers traveled through Bosnia and I am able to indicate people who are much less enthusiastic about this country. In order not to look far, even if only Krakoska Gravel Stage (though I don't know if it's official). The guys have also packed a completely different part of Bosnia recently and it's either a different country or we have different tastes. Although I can also indicate people with a mind-set like me, so I don't know.
Ciro Trail brings us to Mostar. Pretty nice city. I assume that the vast majority of visitors come to see the famous bridge. When you enter "Bosnia" in Google Images, then 45 of them will probably represent him - a bit sad.
Then it's very good. We travel a bit along one of the main roads in the country - traffic is heavy, but luckily mostly in the opposite direction. We don't have a single unpleasant situation, and the views around are really strong. I have the impression that the roads in Bosnia are mostly valleys, so you drive through the mountains, but flat. Such a crossroads of the Bieszczady Mountains with Taiwan and disgustingly blue, Albanian water.
Somewhere near Jablanica, the road changes and we are left alone. Then we wander in the mountains between lightning bolts and reach the end of the world, which accompanies us practically until the end of the day.
The most interesting discovery in Bosnia is an evening walk around the city. Observations of local pubs result in the notion that everyone is sitting at the tables NEAR each other, not in front of them - facing the same direction: the street or the TV set. On the one hand, they are strange, on the other hand, they are funny, because riding a bicycle by them makes you feel like you are on a stage.
Day IV: Bosnia -> Croatia
return to Mazovia - link to Stravy
The end of Bosnia is good, but it gets a little worse with every kilometer. In fact, from the area marked on the maps as Republika Srpska, it gets pretty boring. The town of Zenica, where we sleep, is also strong. Strong with a capital "M". It's like Rybnik from 20 years ago, but surrounded by mountains so that the muck coming out of the chimneys has nowhere to escape - we quickly realize that the morning mist is not a mist at all. Wikipedia only says about him: "The city has developed chemical, paper and metallurgical industries" and she is definitely right. I don't want to know what it looks like in winter.
In Croatia, we were supposed to feel at home, but it turns out that everything is closed or you cannot pay by card. The entire (north) Croatian part of the route could be in Mazovia and I wouldn't see much of a difference. The attractions are comparable to the vicinity of Mińsk Mazowiecki, which of course is not negative, but after the high bar set in the previous days, not very satisfying. We don't know yet that it will get worse every day.
Day V: Croatia -> Serbia -> Hungary
worst place in the world - link to Stravy
Croatia unchanged. We are several dozen kilometers in Serbia and we are riding a part of the route called "Amazon of Europe" - very nice, a bit like the embankment near Chotomów. Serbian cities are again a surprise in the style of "You, it is normal". Then we huddle the infinitely long journey among enormous crops, mostly withered and looking like an American movie. Such a post-apo intersection with a thousand of the same shots of a car speeding through the corn. It's dramatically boring.
In order to slightly diversify our lives, we are entering Hungary. From the border to Budapest, the only interesting moment is the border itself, which resembles the modern northern border of the Seven Kingdoms on the Westeros continent - barbed wire, fences, turrets, watchtowers etc. It is located in the village of Bácsszentgyörgy. Note, I repeat: Bácsszentgyörgy. As if someone would like to come back from there by bus, the name of the stop is Bácsszentgyörgy, autóbusz-váróterem. Beautiful country.
I have nothing to say about Hungary. Who was with the bike knows who was not - let it not be. The Bukowe Mountains and Lake Balaton alone will not save this country. I got a lot of messages on Instagram, they were divided into two groups: "hey, Hungary is cool! It is true that I was with my family, not by bike, but ... "and" I confirm, I will never go back there with a bicycle ".
Day V: Hungary -> Slovakia
a bit of saving the worst place and a family yard - link fo Stravy
The only thing I can say in Hungarian is hajduszoboszlo, though I still don't know if it's a formal or informal greeting.
National road number 51 is death. Holes, no shoulder, trucks and all the best. You can fall into a hole, bend a wheel, run over the steering wheel, be run over and dry sun all while dying of boredom. The alternative is the Eurovelo, which may be walking along the embankment, but the embankment is alternately leaky, off-road or absent. The main attractions are the fact that we run away from the rain and sometimes we fall into a field of peppers.
Then there is Budapest, the city may be nice for a weekend jump with goulash as the leitmotif, but I don't go back there with my bike. Never.
Behind Budapest, the world changes a bit and we take a comfortable path that leads to Bratislava itself. Until we spend the night in the Slovak town of Komarno, nothing happens except the ferry that takes us to the other side of the Danube and the basilica in Esztergom (Ostrzychom in Polish). Someone could play there. Of course, the ferry, as befits Hungarians, goes every hour and there is no sign anywhere when it is this gracious hour. If you ask a Hungarian when the closest one will answer you: huszonnégy which supposedly means 15:40.
Komarno is great if you like loud cars, casinos, naked girls and kebabs. We spend the night ourselves in a hotel and bowling alley, thanks to which, after about an hour of falling asleep, I can use my ears to determine with great efficiency how many pins have been knocked.
Day VI: Slovakia -> Austria -> Czech Republic
as pensioners - link to Stravy
The whole stretch from Budapest to Bratislava is very pleasant and if you are looking for a "weekend bikepacking for dummies" route, I can recommend it. A bit like driving from Góra Kalwaria to Warsaw, only the asphalt is located on the embankment, not under it. And instead of the Vistula, there is the Danube. As we hit a national holiday (so we have to go to SPAR in Austria for shopping), in front of Bratislava on the route it gets crowded like on the best holiday days on the Vistula boulevards. Fortunately, it doesn't bother us, but maybe it's because we've already missed the sight of people on the bike a bit. For the previous thousand kilometers we have seen one bikepacker and maybe 5 panniers. A bit strange considering we've been sticking to Eurovelo for a long time.
Day VI: Czech Republic -> Railway Station in Rybnik
almost a cottage - link to Stravy
Such a real, average pleasant (for the Czech Republic) Czech Republic. Hills, villages, Ostrava - familiar atmosphere. The beginning is only extremely interesting, because there is nothing along the canals near Amsterdam. The route was supposed to end in Chałupki, but I went a little further. Chałupki, as I always remind you, are great, because in my opinion it is the best connection from Warsaw. It takes you from the capital to the better Czech world full of Jeseníky, Moravia, Lysy Góry, etc.
I do not recommend.
Of course, I do not recommend this route. There is at least 800 km on it, which in my opinion makes no other sense than punching kilometers to get the award at the Cafe Mountain. These are flat and boring areas that we have near the house. I will say more, despite my admiration for Bosnia, objectively speaking, it is a much less spectacular and friendly destination than the Dolomites or the Alps, which we all know better. But that's not the point. The fact that you are driving through completely unknown terrains that you know practically nothing about makes the adventure a completely different experience than Stelvio or Tre Cime. Different, not necessarily better ... but much more interesting for me. And there is this nice feeling that you, however, learned something new about the world and broke some not very accurate ideas.
And you know - the look that the Bosnian / Serb / Croatian border is 4 days of unhurried and tourist cycling, hence changes the perspective a bit.
I come back to Bosnia on 100%, also to Albania and also to Montenegro. I will probably give Serbia a chance, because the south of the country looks completely different. This is definitely a less epic scenic adventure than those known from popular trips, but it allows you to feel like little explorer.