Encounters

What I like the most about traveling, besides riding through beautiful countryside’s, is meeting people. I don’t know what it is. In my own county I meet people every day but when I’m traveling it’s different. The encounters seem to be more meaningful, more personal.

 

During the HU event in Germany I was too tired to meet other people, but the lunch with Jens and his family was really nice. My ride goes on and my first stop will be somewhere at the Donau. I don’t know why, but I just want to go there. Because of my late start the first 150 km I ride on the highway, something I don’t like very much. This motorbike is not made for that, although I am surprised how comfortable my bike rides. I leave the highway to find a place to stay and when I arrive in Ingolstadt I stop at a famous take away restaurant to have wifi and search for a campsite in this area. Not far from here I find one and decide to see what it looks like. On the map it seems to be located in a sort of a park. The road to the camping is not exactly promising. Industry, vague shops, I don’t know. When I take the last turn suddenly I enter a beautiful green area. What a surprise!

I’m the only guest on the camping and when I’ve set up my tent (goes really quick: just eight pins and one pole), I feel my stomach protesting. Driving around the campsite to find a nice spot I saw a sort of cantina at the lakeside. It looked promising. I hope they’ll have something to eat.

The cantina: named blue lagoon in German, has had it best times. At the tables some men are sitting, playing carts and drinking bear. Klaus, the owner, spots me and when I ask him if he has something to eat he opens the fridge and takes out some sausages. ‘Is this ok for you’, he askes. My stomach says yes!

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When I fished my meal one of the men, approaches me and asks me the usual questions: where are you from, where are you going to etc etc. In no longer the ten minutes we are in the middle of a personal conversation. Uwe, that’s his name, tells me about his life, how he missis his children (he is divorced). While talking, one of the other men comes to me and when Uwe tells him I’m going to Mongolia, he walks into the cantina and comes out with a handful of maps. All are from Germany. I can have them for my trip. Thinking about the little space I have I politely take the map of southern Germany out of the pile and thank him.

 

In the restaurant with wifi (not my most popular place to be) I also looked at the weather forecast. My plans of going to the Croatian coast literally fell into the water. Rain… all over Europe for the next days. Only in Turkey there seems to be some sun. A change of plans: as fast as I can to the sun!

 

That means: talking the boring highway to Croatia, Serbia and Bulgaria.

But my first stop will be in Slovenia, a country I fell in love with some years ago especially the area around the soca river. My ride goes through Austria, no highway yet and the last few kilometres There is a stunning pass in Italy that I have to take to go down to the river. At the campsite the owner offers me one of the old mobile homes to sleep in for the night, but while opening the door a smell of moisty old cloth encounters me. I’m not up for this kind of stays yet and politely reject. I ask him if I can use one of the sheds on the campsite and prepare my bed for the night. A take away pizza with tea, my laptop with wifi takes me through the rest of the evening.

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The next day I leave early to stay ahead of the rain.At one of the stops in Croatia I meet a older man. We start talking and within fifteen minutes he invited me to stay the night at his place. He was an technical engineer, now repairing cars bought in Germany and selling them, just for fun. When I tell him about my wish for a frame for my frontbags, he offers me to make them for me. How can I say no to that! Pode, that’s his name and his wife are living at the Donau on the border with Serbia ones, not even so long ago, the scene of a terrible war. Also Pode and his wife had to escape the area and landed in Germany, where they had lived before.

When I follow Pode into this burdened area I can still see and feel the signs of the war. Houses with gunshot holes, empty, abandoned. It physically hurts to see all this. Pode’s big white house rises up and I already can see the huge barn. His wife comes out and gives him a handshake. Not particularly full of affection. She looks at me, not unfriendly but a bit reserved and invited me in. After a cup of tea and some talking she opens up and within ten minutes she tells me about that dreadful time twenty years ago. They lost everything, Not only there house and possession, it’s clear that they also lost there meaning in life. Pode drinks and smokes cigarette non stop and his wife just copes with the situation by living on like it is. The man in the restaurant has changed from a lively man into a poor old man. I’m offered to use one of the bedrooms. I actually feel a bit of a burden, but they both insist.

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The next morning after a nice breakfast. Pode is nowhere to find, I enter the big barn where my motorbike waits for his make over. To my surprise Pode already started with some attempts. When I see him working my confidence shrinks with the minute. He want to make a frame out of an old piece of worthless metal and it’s hard to convince him to stop his attempt of making me the frames. I feel so sorry. He really wanted to help me but can’t.

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Still impressed by the story of these two people, supported by the sight of the village, I ride to the Croatian – Serbian border. The Serbian guard askes me where I’m heading for and when I tell him about my plans his face light up. ‘If I’m interested in Buddhism’, he askes. I am so surprised about his question: A Serbian young man, working in the same army that not so long ago was in war, is interested in Buddhism…

I continue my ride into Bulgaria. It rains without pause. When I enter the city of Sofia I remember my last visit her with Marika. We ended up in the garage while Marika’s motorbike had problems. There was a nice hotel with great food somewhere, it’s getting dark and it’s time to stop. My Garmin leads me through the city centre, beautiful, with the most luxury hotels. Just one minute I dream about an invitation of staying there for one night. Of course I don’t know where to find that hotel Marika and I spend our time waiting for the repair so without noticing I find myself out of the city on the highway again. I’m getting really tired and stop at a tank station to ask for a place to stay the night and luckily there seems to be a motel not far from here. When I arrive to my surprise I see another motorbike parked at the entrance. It’s 21:00 I’m very tired of riding in the rain all day and the only thing I want is a shower and a bed.

The next morning when I enter the breakfast room the other motorbiker, Hubert from Austria, also just arrived for his breakfast. He’s going the same way, but has only two months. We decide to drive together until Istanbul. I’m going to Kumköy by Sariyer and Hubert wants to go to the city centre. It’s really great to spend a day with another traveller like me and we both enjoy the small breaks for tea and lunch we have together.

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In Istanbul in the middle of rush hour we go separate ways. Now I have to bring out my skills as a asocial driver. I end up driving over the emergency lane in between other asocials and the police who doesn’t bother at all, and manage to leave the highway into quieter area’s. The road to Kumköy is going uphill, into small villages with lots of traffic. I really have to concentrate. The last thing you want is to stand still on a steep slope. Finally I arrive at the campsite. The only one nearby Istanbul. I’ve been there before so I know what it’s look like. It doesn’t earn the award of nicest camping on the planet, but I’m so glad it’s dry and sunny and I can use my small palace again, that I forget about the shabby toilet facilities. I just want a few days of rest here in Kumköy, sitting at a terrace with the beautiful views at the black sea and wifi.

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