I’ve been home almost 3 weeks, it was a fiasco trying to escape Italy after it was officially “closed.” I had planned a 2 month tour of the Balkans and Italy, but Covid 19 squashed those plans. I was able to bike tour 3 cities in Italy, still killed it and lived to tell. I typed in “what to see in Italy?”, Alberobello stood out as a must visit.
My good friend David (aka Chops) visited for 3 weeks from America. We rented a car, loaded up the bikes and explored the hidden Gems of Slovenia, while visiting friends.
We started in Tolmin and stayed at Camp Vili, Little did I know this would turn into the Ping Pong Tour Championship of Slovenia. Continue reading →
There’s not a lot of music options in Slovenia, so going to Milan to see a concert is a must, if you want live music. Neil Young is 70 and I’m 60, it’s probably our last time together. Milan was the closest that Neil Young got to Slovenia, so I bought an online ticket (39 euro just for shipping ($45)). I meet some people on my weekly Lubnick bike ride, who were going to see Neil Young at Piazzol Sul Brenta, about 2 hours away? They added the show after I already bought the Milan ticket. I was driving by the day after the show, so I decided to leave a day earlier and catch the show. Yep 2 Neil Young shows. Continue reading →
Everyone asks “what was your favorite country?” I had never really thought about it because I had nothing but positive experiences everywhere I stayed. So the answer I’ve used several times: “I would re-visit every place again, if given the opportunity.” “If you told me you were going to Tavira, Portugal I would want to go with you.” The only place I visited (and without my bike) was Morocco, that I couldn’t make a recommendation one way or the other. It was great at times but trying at other times, the jury is still out on Morocco.
I’m going to write a small commentary on each country I visited. I hope there’s enough for you to plan a trip to one of the many places I visited. PORTUGAL
I pace my travel in order to avoid having to return. But I spent 5days in LISBON, I left feeling a yearning for more.
THE PUBLIC PLAZAS WERE ALL VERY INTERESTING AND CREATIVE
I RODE DURING THE EARLY SPRING BLOOMS, OUTRAGEOUSLY BEAUTIFUL
MIGEL’S HOSTEL IN TAVIRA, FELT LIKE HOME
Biking in Portugal was so satisfying, I felt all the work in planning for this trip was paid back and I could have come home. (notice could have) SPAIN
I’ve had friends rave about Spain, I get it now. The history, art, landscape diversity and the people were tops. I had a year for this adventure, I could have easily spent it all in Spain.
LOTS OF AWESOME VIEWS
CLIFF’S HOSPITALITY WAS JUST A SMALL SAMPLE OF WHAT PEOPLE EXTENDED TO ME
I FOUND THE MUSLIM ART AT BOTH ALCAZAR and ALHAMBRA TO BE IN MINT CONDITION. (much better than Topeka Palace in Turkey)
THE VILLAGE OF COLERA HAD ART, NUMEROUS ACTIVITIES: DIVING, HIKING, SNORKELING, SWIMMING, KAYAKING. HISTORY AND THE OPPORTUNITY TO WORK ON NURIA’S COMMUNITY GARDEN PLOT!
After staying at 2 “border” towns I find they have a lot of the countries uniqueness without the crowds. I would re-visit COLERA without hesitation. MOROCCO
I wasn’t going to go to Morocco, but from Seville, Spain a round trip ticket cost 130 EURO ($169), OK I’ll go! I spent 2 weeks: SAHARA DESERT and SIDI IFNI and FEZ . I consider myself pretty well travelled (3 times around the world), but MARRAKESH ate me alive. I wasn’t ready for the continuous opportunities they found to take advantage of me.
I GOT SCAMMED INTO VISITING THE TANNERY DURING THIS WEEKENDS “CELEBRATION”. Remember a tannery is where they work dead animal skins, WTF!
I LOVE AND RESPECT AGRICULTURAL WORK, BUT HERE IT SEEMED ONLY THE WOMEN WERE WORKING IN THE FIELDS
THE CAMEL CAMPOUT WAS A GREAT EXPERIENCE AND A SUPER VALUE
AWAY FROM THE BIG CITIES BIKING CAN BE SAFE AND VERY REWARDING (rented bikes are shit)
THEN THERE’S THE GARBAGE SITUATION, TOSSED INTO THE STREET AT NIGHT, BUT CLEANED UP BY SUNRISE
MOST OF THE MOROCCANS WERE AWESOME, BUT THE SCAMMERS GAVE THE COUNTRY A BLACK EYE
Like I said earlier, the jury is out about recommending or returning to Morocco. I have a friend building a house there, so maybe I’ll return someday? FRANCE
The first 2 hours of biking in France, I flipped off 3 drivers, non previous to that. It was the start of their busy tourist season on the coast, everyone was in a hurry, to have fun? I was in France 20 years ago, you couldn’t hardly get a cup of coffee unless you spoke French. That’s over, they got the memo, English is the International language, not French. I felt so welcome speaking only english, it was awesome.
MY GOOGLE CALENDAR ALERTED ME TO NEIL YOUNG’S CONCERT, I QUICKLY LEFT SPAIN AND HEADED EAST.
THE FRENCH WERE VERY HOSPITABLE, DINNER, CONVERSATION AND LOTS OF LAUGHS
The tourist office in TENDE (another border town) recommended I visit GRANILE. The tourist office was spot on about this recommendation.
GRANILE WAS THE MOST INTERESTING PLACE I VISITED IN FRANCE
I was so close to MONACO I decided to join the 20,000 tourist who visit daily. The country is 2km X 2km, best known as a tax haven and for gambling. I thought it was kinda of a police state too, I was stopped 3 times and reprimanded for something? (no police photos from here).
MONACO’S AQUARIUM WAS AMAZING! BUILT IN 1910 (PHOTOS) ITALY
I had several awesome bike tours planned. The more I thought about it and some of my other options, it came down to, no Italy. I did spend some time in VENICE. It was pretty hot, crowded and the transportation options were limited. I was kinda burned out from traveling, so I holed up in my air-conditioned hotel room.
THE MURANO GLASS WAS REALLY AWESOME
A local told me there were three businesses that made good money: the water taxis, gondola paddlers and
THE LUGGAGE GUYS (this guy is earning his now) I NEEDED HELP GETTING MY BIKE AND TRAILER OVER A PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE, $10 FOR 1 MINUTE OF WORK (I did it myself)
I got the train out of hot Venice and headed for the cool mountains of Slovenia.
RIGHT OFF THE TRAIN, I GRABBED THIS BIKE PATH ALL THE WAY TO SLOVENIA!
BUT NOT BEFORE I CAMPED ILLEGALLY AT LAGHI DI FUSINE
I really didn’t give Italy a chance to win me over, but my decsion to skip Italy proved to be life changing. Maybe Italy will be in some future travel plans. If you really must see the leaning tower of Pisa, google it.
This blog post is longer than I thought it would be, so 2 parts.
Thanks for reading (the stat page tells me your reading)
Climate Change needs your action to stop, please stand up and make a difference.
Jeff NEXT? WHAT WAS MY FAVORITE COUNTRY PART II
I was in Portugal and spotted this Policeman who looked like the “terminator” cop. I wanted to get a photo. I asked if I could, then his friend said yes, I just wanted terminator, but OK, I took this photo
PORTUGUESE POLICE PHOTO WITH THE TERMINATOR COP AND HIS FRIEND
I take the ferry to Spain, there were 2 policeman who were giving me directions to the phone store , I showed them the Portuguese photo then they offered to have their photo taken.. I said “Heck Ya.” This was the start of collecting policeman photos in every country I visited.
THE SPANISH POLICE WERE SUPER FRIENDLY AND HELPFUL
A friend (?) from France wrote and told me to look out for Spanish cops. I sent him this photo and asked, “these guys?”
I’m biking around France, shopped at a farmers market and spotted 2 policeman. I asked him for photo? No. I show him the Spanish photo, he walks away. He joins his partner across the street, then he waves me over.
TOOK SOME CONVINCING BUT I FINALLY GOT THE PICTURE OF FRENCH POLICEMAN.
My first day in Venice, Italy at the ATM I spotted 2 policeman and they eagerly agreed to the photo.
THESE ITALIAN POLICEMAN NEEDED NO CONVINCING TO HAVE THEIR PICTURE TAKEN.
Slovenia was a real task, I had to compromise some with this one. First, there are hardly any police around! I had always tried to get 2 policeman together, that wasn’t going to happen here.
THIS IS THE SLOVENIAN PARLIAMENTARY BUILDING “POLICE” GUARD. THAT’S THE BEST I COULD DO. There are really no police to be found and not 2 together for sure.
The Croatian policeman shot was just about as difficult as the Slovenian. I hardly ever saw the police here either. But when we were dropping off bike boxes at the ferry dock, I spotted several armed “dock” police.
THIS IS THE CROATIAN MARITIME POLICE, AGAIN IT’S THE BEST I COULD DO.
The Montenegro police photo was totally by “accident.” I was only going to be in Montenegro for 24 hours, so my chances were pretty slime. The bus I was riding in got in an accident, so the police arrived to take a report.
THE MONTENEGRO POLICE DELIVERED THIS PHOTO BY WAY OF AN ACCIDENT.
Albania was fairly easy, the first night in town I walked into town with a local. He convinced them it would be OK, somehow?
THIS ALBANIAN POLICEMAN PHOTO WAS TAKEN MY FIRST 5 MINUTES OF WALKING THE STREETS
The Greek policeman photo should have been of at least 2 policeman. Of the four policeman, only this one agreed to a picture.
THE GREEK POLICEMAN ALL COMPLAINED ABOUT GERMAN CHANCELLOR MERKEL’S AUSTERITY DEMANDS
This next photo of the Turkish police is the Gold Standard from which all policeman photos should be judged.
HOT TURKISH POLICEWOMEN WITH MACHINE GUN–YEP HOLY SHOT
It was fairly easy to get all the 10 countries I visited policeman photos, but one Morocco. When I asked maybe 10 different policeman the answer was always the same “IT IS FORBIDDEN.” So I pretended to be adjusting my music while taking a few pictures:
I`ve been on the fence about bike touring in Italy. A tour that I mapped out six months ago looked so promising, from the mountains to the sea. My friends Ken and Heidi are several months ahead of me and are blazing the trail for me. They said they felt the Italians were in-different towards them. Basically they don’t like tourist but they know they need them. I met several Italians who confirmed those feelings. Then I started thinking about standing in front of the leaning tower of Pisa and almost feeling like a victim, instead of a traveler or tourist.
People told me I had to go to Venice, its one of the most beautiful cities. The temperature has been rising the past 3 weeks, its basically hot now. In France II met some folks from Slovenia and felt a connection. I always planned to go but after Italy. I want to visit Lake Bled in Slovenia but during August, while the weather is still summer like. If I did the Italian Tour, that makes Slovenia Septemberish, colder and potentially wetter. So the Italian Touring doubts are starting to settle in.
I left Tende too soon, but anyway. I take the train to Cuneo and attempt to buy a ticket to Venice. Im at a border train station and NONE of the ticket people speak English. Hey Italy, do you want people to visit? We need to be able to buy a train ticket! No one outside Italy speaks Italian, get on the tourist program, ENGLISH. I find a guy who helps me buy a ticket to Venice, I take the train to Venice. I arrive around 11pm, and start looking for a hostel or hotel. The bottom is $65, the dorm rooms have an age restriction 35, I`m close but NO. So after talking with several hotels I stumble into HOTEL S.GEREMIA he has 1 room $65, I ask if he`ll do $55, OK. I get the room, I`m king, private bath, air conditioning, big bed. The room is so nice I almost go back and pay him the difference (notice almost but no) I get up early and head for an ATM, and what do I find?.
MY ITALIAN POLICEMAN PHOTO, SCORE
I learn something quick about Venice, its a walking city and I dislike walking. Walking is a pace that does allow you to take photos
CLIMATE CHANGE SAYS GOODBYE VENICE
Nearly every restaurant serves Pizza. Breakfast is espresso and a croissant, not my idea of a meal to start the day. So I walk by this place one afternoon.
SOMEONE GOT THE MEMO, AMERICAN PIZZA MURANO GLASS is something I knew nothing about. Well, again every other shop had blown glass.
THERE SEEMS TO BE A THEME, CLOWNS ON BIKES. HOW SHOULD I FEEL ABOUT THIS?
So I’m walking around, museums, cathedrals, gondola rides (boat) its a little too much. Im not in the mood for any of it. Basically Italy is more of this, its making my decision to skip Italy, that much easier. Oh ya, its f____ing HOT, standing in the sun sweating.
I email someone I met in France, ask if they have room for me? No problem, gives me his address and I take the train to the mainland and bike to the address he gave me. No one is around, its late, so I camp in this field.
THE NEIGHBORS WERE A LITTLE NOSEY
I GOT UP EARLY AND WAS OUT OF THERE.
So I decide to bike back to Venice instead of taking the train. What a stupid idea, I made it but WTF. After taking a nice bike lane, Im on the gravel I finally get to the bridge.
LOADING UP WATER AND SODA FROM THE MAINLAND TO TAKE TO VENICE. (photo out of order).
I think, if they have a hotel room for $50 Ill stay one more night? if not I’m out of here. I get another great room at the same hotel. WIFI in the room (France its possible).
IT`S PIZZA OR PIZZA FOR DINNER?
The smart phone disease is bad here. I see this young couple having (what I thought) was a romantic dinner at a sidewalk cafe in Venice.. They are both engrossed in their phones, not talking to each other. So Im talking with the resturaunt worker and tell him the story. His response? People ask him first if he has WIFI, not whats on the menu. I said so basically you can serve shit and free WIFI makes it all good? His response, Yes.
So I go next door to my hotel and tell Enrico the WIFI story. He laughs and chimes in, When people come for a room, he points to the chair and says they would sleep in the chair as long as there is free WIFI, we got a good laugh.
ENRICO WAS SUPER HELPFUL AND FUNNY!
I TRIED TO HIRE ONE OF THESE GUYS TO HELP ME OVER A CANAL BRIDGE MAYBE 50 FT., $10. I DID IT MYSELF.
So the decision to skip Italy has gotten easier with just my few days in Venice.
1. Its only going to get hotter the more south I go, skip Italy
2. The in-different attitude, life is too short, skip Italy
3. Pizza for every meal, skip Italy
4. Tourist attractions that victimize you, skip Italy
5. Slovenia’s summer August window would diminish by the time I got there, skip Italy
6. When a French driver tells me the Italians drive aggressively, rude and impatient, that was the nail in the coffin for Italy, skip Italy.
The decision to Skip Italy was one of the best travel decisions besides coming on this adventure to begin with.
THE TRAIN LET ME OUT HERE
I tried to take a train to Bled Lake but they said its probably quicker to ride. Thanks for the awesome advice.
II GOT ON THIS BIKE PATH ALL THE WAY TO SLOVANIA.
I MET THIS FUN COUPLE FROM BELGIUM, BLIJKE AND JAN. THIS IS HIS TREE CLIMBING BUSINESS TRUCK/CAMPER
So theres no tent camping here (caravans are ok) what? Its a $200 fine if they catch you. So I leave my bike and stuff with Blijke and Jan and hike into the woods with my tent and sleeping bag. Though they do allow cows to graze in the woods, what causes more damage, tent camping or cows?
I stop to take this photo the next day
Before I know it I’m being filmed and questioned by this Italian Family.
SYLVIA SAID SHE WANTED TO JOIN ME, I TOLD HER TO GET HER BIKE.
THE BIKE PATH IM ON IS SO BEAUTIFUL AND NO CARS!
I NEVER GOT A WELCOME TO ITALY PHOTO SO HERES THE GOODBYE ITALY PHOTO.
Italy photos HERE
Thanks for reading and commenting, again these take hours to write so don’t feel put out if I don’t get back to you. Ive got to do activities so I have something to write about!
NEXT? I come to (happy) tears in a Slovanian tourist office.