A day off the bikes exploring the wonderful city of Budapest was enjoyed by all, as was the dinner aboard a restaurant boat on the mighty Danube.
We left the following morning in some very wet weather crossing into the beautiful country of Romania, a destination so often overlooked but truly a spectacular place. The Hotel Victoria in Timisoara offered us all an insight to the fantastic Romanian hospitality with some of the friendliest staff we had ever encountered, what a pleasant surprise from the dour miserable hoteliers we encountered across some of Europe. As Laura, the night reception attendant put it, “Everyone thinks Romanians are Gypsies, thieves & sluts, but we aren’t, we are nice people” that certainly was an understatement!
Another day off the bikes was appreciated in the mediaeval town of Sighisoara deep in Transylvania. Transylvania is of course synonymous with Count Dracul or Dracula, noted more for the impaling of his victims than sucking blood, as described in Bram Stokers legendary book.
We moved on, in more wet weather visiting Bran Castle, reputedly Dracula’s castle, but of course it isn’t and it is in question whether the man ever spent a night there, but Romanian tourism wont let the facts get in the way of a good story. The rain and fog certainly lent a feeling of the dark side to the place.
Some spectacular mountain riding was enjoyed, as was the sun before we reached the capital of Romania, Bucharest. Our hotel is located around the corner of the second largest building on the world; formerly known as Ceausescu’s Palace it is now the Parliament house and was constructed during the country’s darkest hours under the dictators rule, and we all know what happened to him 25 years ago!
Crossing the Danube again we entered Bulgaria. When I arrived there last in 2010 you could clearly see the Soviet influence that remained; in four short years it has all but disappeared as it has become a European Member state, something that we are all happy about as it has made the agonizingly slow border crossings a thing of the past. We spent the night at Europe’s oldest continually inhabited city of Nessebar, spectacularly set on an island in the Black Sea.
The luxury of quick border crossings wasn’t to last though as we entered Turkey; three long hours were spent there with most of the time being taken up by the incredibly slow compulsory purchase of the Green Card insurance. Waiting at the border barrier were 30 Turkish bikers who had ridden seven hours to welcome us into Turkey. It was an absolute thrill to have these bikers applaud as we crossed the border, take many shots and ride with us into Istanbul gathering more bikers along the way. We had an evening with our Turkish mates that never will be forgotten, some people claiming it was the best night of there life or maybe that was the Raki talking!!!! Thank you Murat!
Another day off the bikes was welcomed mostly to dry out and to also explore the only city in the world that straddles two continents, Istanbul, straddling Europe and Asia. A city guide was organized and I enjoyed a full day at Borusun BMW.
We have good and bad news in regards to the bikes, in driving rain, along with over 45 bikers while riding into Istanbul, Brian’s bike finally gave up and ground to a halt, his big end bearings and valves had failed and it is the end of the road for Brian’s BMW R1200 GSA. It is being rebuilt in Istanbul, and in the meantime we are pulling out all stops to fly another one of Brian’s bikes, a triple black F800, into Tbilisi, Georgia. At least Brian is not getting wet sitting in the Landcruiser support vehicle!
Tim’s bike stalling issues turned out to be an exposed wire leading to the O2 sensor, so now whenever it rains he doesn’t have to worry about it quitting on him at 100kph!