(This page is under construction -- many more pictures than these are available but only some are scanned as of yet).
I started by riding to Kennedy Airport and taking a plane to Gatwick Airport, spending a few days in London, enjoying the city and the 10:30PM sunset. From there I rode through Brittany and Belgium to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and then to Germany, Luxembourg and France.
After going through Slovenia and Croatia I got to Bosnia-Hercegovina. In 1985 it seemed like everyone there got along fine, regardless of ethnicity. People didn't say they were Serbian, Croatian or whatever; they said they were Yugoslav ("Ja sam Jugosloven"). The capital of Bosnia, Sarajevo, which hosted the 1980 Olympics, was still a beautiful city, before the region descended into war and chaos in the late 1980's.
Five views of Sarajevo:
Leaving Sarajevo I came across signs advertising the Kroz Jugoslaviju, or Tour de Yugoslavie; this is Yugoslavia's Tour de France. I didn't see or enter the race itself, but just rode the route.
Vishegrad was the next major town; here is the view approaching town, with the medieval bridge visible. From the bridge itself, a portrait of Ivo Andric' is visible; he is the author of the book The Bridge over the Drina that made this town and its bridge famous. There is also an old plaque on the bridge noting its history under the 16th-century Ottoman governor Mehmed Pasha, and the German occupation of the region during World War II.
Montenegro, or Crna Gora, is the region of Yugoslavia whose name means "black mountain", which does accurately describe some of the mountains there. More like dark green. From there I ascended the remote Chakor («akor) Pass towards the Kosova border, with the mountain looming ahead. Near the top, there was a mountain that was almost black. Suddenly a crowd of Albanian kids surged over the hillside, wanting me to take their picture. We exchanged addresses so I could mail the pictures when they were developed; we exchanged a few letters prior to the deterioration of the situation there in the late 1980's and 1990's. From there it was a short distance to the top of the mountain pass, elevation 1849 m (6066 ft.), the highest point since the Flüela Pass in the Alps, which is 1752 feet higher. This apparently marked the border with the (then) Autonomous Province of Kosovo (Kosova), because the next village I got to, Kuqishte, was Albanian, with the sign in Albanian and Serbo-Croatian. My map only had the Slavic names, which was unfortunate since the Albanian names are sometimes quite different, such as the next city, Pech, which is Peja in Albanian; it is at the end of the beautiful Rugovo Gorge. This area was also devastated during the 1998-1999 war, and refugees streamed along this route to escape into Montenegro.
I spent a night in Prizren, and being only 18 km. from the Albanian border, decided to see if I could get across. Approaching the border, I got close to the Drin River, which flows towards and through Albania and empties into the Adriatic Sea. Just before the border, it enters a large and beautiful valley, taking on the appearance it has across the border. This was only a short time after the death of Albania's late and brutal dictator, Enver Hoxha; the current ruler was Ramiz Alia, who was still insisting on maintaining a strict Communist government. The road to the border was almost deserted. Passing the last village before the border, Zhur, I came across the sign warning that the border is a half kilometer away. I could not get across, nor was I permitted to photograph the border crossing, so I contented myself with chatting with the border guard and looking across at the guard on the Albanian side.
So I returned to Prizren, and while considering whether to spend another night there, or go on to Skopje (in what is today called the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), an Albanian Muslim, Daut «ejku, pulled up alongside me and spoke to me in perfect English. I was looking for an electrical store selling adapters for plugging devices with a flat plug into the recessed outlets which predominated here. He said "follow me", so I followed his bike up a valley into the hills. Something got lost in the translation, since he took me to a hydroelectric plant! But he also told me a lot about the history and politics of the place; he was as interested in talking about it as I was in learning about it. He showed great hospitality and invited me to his house where I met his family. He surprised me when he said he knew I tried to go to Albania earlier that day; but this was because a relative of his was waiting at the bus stop in Zhur when I passed by (and then came by in the other direction not long after, since I was not permitted to go across). Also, he had other relatives in Kukës, just across the border from Zhur on the Albanian side. We watched the news and weather broadcasted on Albanian TV, as well as Dynasty with Albanian subtitles, which was wildly popular among Kosovars and was broadcast locally within Kosova.
The next day I rode to Skopje and from there to Greece. (Pictures not yet scanned)
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Page created: September 1, 1999 Last modified: April 18, 2001