Guide to SKOPJE

Finland best, Ukraine and Russia worst for bikers


Interview with Konstantin Jovanovski – Press Officer with the EU Delegation in Skopjenordkap_znak_balkon3

Konstantin Jovanovski is Press Officer with the EU Delegation in Skopje. He always wears a suit in the office, always smiling and polite. However, we are not doing this interview to talk about reforms, rule of law, corruption or other related topics that we have been debating with the European Union for decades now. Balkon3 is more interested in the story of Konstantin, aka Tino, the passionate biker, rather than his career as a EU bureaucrat. He brags a thick motorcycle dossier completed in only a few years’ time, so let’s set off on a journey with Tino…arctic_circle_balkon3

You ventured on a bike tour not so long ago reaching almost to the North Pole and you travelled alone? How was the journey?

Well, close enough to the North Pole. I travelled to the northernmost point in Europe that can be reached by road, that’s Nordkapp in Norway. And, yes, I rode alone, fortunately without any problems, with nothing but absolutely wonderful experiences.

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How long did it last and what was the route of the journey?

It lasted a total of 20 days. The route went through 12 countries, starting with Serbia, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland and Norway, and returning through Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia. All in all, it was 10,000 kilometres.


Which country is best to travel on two wheels?

Finland! I repeat, Finland! It is a captivating country in every respect, the nature is fascinating and people are very welcoming. Still, there was something in every country that took my breath away: the cleanliness of Banjska Bistrica in Slovakia, Sweden’s inland far away from the highways, the unpredictability of North Norway. However, Finland is incomparable.motor_priroda_balkon3

Have you ever taken part in a race or in any other such event that shows off your motorcycle skills and abilities?

Frankly speaking, no, but that may be due to the fact that I started riding a motorcycle when I was well into my thirties. Personally, riding a motorcycle is a pleasure and I do not see any enjoyment in putting your life at risk.

What we’ve seen in films are bikers who are usually violent guys, in conflict with the law, always trying to pick a fight. Is this true or is it just a stereotype?

Yeah, those guys are proud to be called the one percent, because, you know, they are real bikers and the 99 per cent of the rest of us are just amateurs, weekend drivers. Fortunately, for us, I still haven’t met a biker that contributes to the stereotype. You know, most of the bikers here, including myself, are people who have other priorities that come far before the motorcycle – it’s family, work … riding a motorbike seems more like a weekend hobby. At times, when time and resources allow it, the hobby gets more space, so you go all the way up to Nordkapp, but surely it cannot be one’s main goal in life.


How often do you ride? Are there any standards?

I ride every day, the motorcycle is basically my means of transport, and I have to say that in Skopje’s traffic riding a motorbike is far more practical. When I’m on tour the daily length of the route depends on the road conditions, sometimes 800-850 kilometres a day, sometimes even 350 is too much.  You can travel the 800 kilometers from Skopje to Budapest faster than the 300 km from, say, Ivalo to Nordkapp. However, I am careful not to spend more than eight hours on the bike in one day.

Did you meet any interesting people on the road? Any interesting meetings or events?

Sure, especially when one travels alone. I met all kinds of people and they get usually curious when they meet a biker. They want to help. Here’s a story from Tallinn; the central area is a pedestrian zone, like our Old Bazaar, where it is impossible to park because the streets are incredibly narrow. I stopped outside a club where there was a huge guy standing at the door, I asked where to park and the man literally opened the door for me to take motorbike inside the club which was packed. In Budapest the police stopped me, they were also riding motorbikes and we ended up drinking beer til four in the morning.


Traveling on two wheels means danger on the road. Have you ever been in a situation like this?

Yes, last year I and two friends of mine rode to Moscow via Ukraine on the way to and Belarus on the way back. Well, that trip was dangerous when it comes to the fun of riding a motorbike! Especially Russia. Roads are in desperate condition, there were situations where the road just stopped with no notice, no signs. And people are not exactly the friendliest kind, especially not with bikers. Fortunately, we didn’t have any major problems, but the feeling that you need to be constantly on your toes ruins all the fun. The only worse thing than the roads of Ukraine and Russia are the streets of Kiev, where I promised myself – never again.kiev_balkon3

How many kilometres have you travelled with your motorcycle?

Well, not so many, considering the fact that I jumped on a bike six years ago. So far, I have done just under 60,000. But, there will be time for more…

What kind of motorcycles do you ride now?

I have two motorbikes, one is a Honda Magna 750 v4, that was my first love and the one I ride every day to/from work from February to November. The other one is a Yamaha Royal Star 1300, an excellent bike that I ride on my tours.avtrija_balkon3

Do you hang out with other bikers in the country or the region?

Of course, especially with the bikers from Skopje. It was them, my biker friends, who put me on a motorcycle in the first place. A cup of coffee in Van Gogh is our daily routine.

Is there a journey that you will remember all your life?

I have not realized it yet, but the plan is to tour in June next year. I plan to go over the Alps, the full length from Innsbruck in Austria through Liechtenstein, Switzerland and the grand finale – Stelvio Pass and Cortina in Italy.tino_tanja2_balkon3

Does anyone else in your family share the passion for motorcycles and touring?

My wife is my faithful companion on daily tours of up to 500 kilometres. She has spent a long time in the passenger seat and has travelled an enviable mileage. She has not dared to go on a long tour yet, but I hope I’ll talk her into it one day.

Darko Chekerovski