Sultan’s trail (part 2): Crossing Serbia

Distance covered: 480km | Total: 977km

My last morning in Hungary was a sunny one after small showers overnight. Still it took me a while to leave Baja, as i was busy writing up part one of the journey to Istanbul to make use of the still free roaming (in Serbia my mobile provider charges 5GBP/mb!?!).

Into Serbia

I forgot to havea breakfast and was dead hungry having fallen alseep uber tired and without dinner the previous night. It took me to the next village, the last one before the border, to locate a bistro. That one didn’t have food though other than potato chips. Well, better than nothing. I also had an early beer to fit into the landscape – the place was full with drunk old men. But they were nice and my food/drink was on the house! Off to Serbia…

My first border crossing was smooth (other than locating my so far not required passport in my panniers). Just a curious question from the Serbian border guard as to where i am headed and that was it. I was in Serbia and miles were flying past me. I stuck to the road all the way into the small town Sombor where i finally enjoyed a decent meal.

From there it was a mix of small roads and dirt tracks along corn fields that were being harvested. Quite amazing scenery be it dusty as hell at times.

J just continued to Sivac that day (80km in total) and arrived by nightfall. There were no camping or booking.com options so it was wild camping that night. I did some shopping and picked a spot using google maps satellite.

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Situated near a canal a bit off the main road, it turned out more busy than expected. It was dark so i dont know for sure, but i think a harvester broke down and the repair work was pretty noisy. I was tired enough though to fall asleep anyway after munching away my sausage and cheese sandwiches.

Cycling in the rain

I woke up to rain drumming on my tent. I wasn’t in a rush and decided to wait for a dry window and did some planning for my Jan/Feb trip in South East Asia. At least some warm thoughts. By mid day the rain stopped long enough to pack up. Once packed, it rained again. So i rode in full wet gear. It was fine. Not wet. Not cold. Loved the waterproof gloves and trousers Laura and I bought after a pretty wet day up in Aberfeldy, Scotland.

My target for today was Novi Sad. Some 80km to go. I made good progress on the wet roads. That was until i stopped for a coffee and met Miro. He is 70 years old and used to be a Gastarbeiter for 10y in Bonn. We chatted for two hours about his life and mine until we had to say goodbye. Owe him a postcard and thanks for the beer Miro!

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Off to Novi Sad

The clouds had vanished by the time i continued and the sun peeked through. Nice. A wet morning makes you appreciate warmer weather even more. Riding was smooth on little roads all the way into Novi Sad, which i reached 75km into my short day. The landscape of endless fields was magnificent and the drivers actually quite respectful towards me cyclist.

In Novi Sad it took me a while to locate my hostel. Either battery dead or no wifi around. Eventually i arrived and got myself sorted. I ended up going for a few drinks with Alexander from Gdansk. He (a lawyer) and his girlfriend (a sound engineer) were on their way back home from a hitchhiking trip through the Balkan’s.

After a beer in the more upmarket Petrus bar we went to another local place for the famous last beer. Well, that was until we met a Bosnian guy with his Serbian friend and another Serbian couple. After some lively concersation in the said bar they dragged us into another Serbian restaurant with traditional local music. It was monday night yet it felt like prime time saturday. It was mainly young people there. Very enjoyable.

Alexander checked out after another beer while i stayed out. We ended up in the appartment of the serbian fellow, a fitness instructor, and continued chatting away. The serbs take hospitality very serious and wanted to make sure i took away some good memories – well, job well done! Thanks guys.

Uphill with sleep deficit

The first people left the hostel already around 8am. Not so my polish friends who also decided to sleep in against their objective of an early start to catch a ride towards poland.

I was slow and still pretty tired when i hit the road after 10am. Worst of all, right after Novi Sad a seemingly endless climb into a smaller mountain range made me sweat. The last thing i needed that morning! Well, at least it was sunny.

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After the first 25km and a well deserved downhill stretch i found a nice restaurant in the middle of nowhere. The souo with veal was excellent, but i was dead tired. I cycled a little further and decided to take a nap in one of the fields. Now that felt great.

I must have slept two hours until traktor noise woke me up. I sat up and looked. The farmer was wondering over. Trouble ahead? Quite the opposite. He asked me if i was hungarian or german. I said the latter. He also enquired as to my route in bloody good german and asked me if i eat apples. I said yes and had to follow him to hia trailer full with boxes of fresh apples. I took five and thanked him.

With fresh vitamins in my stomach and sleep caught up the journey to Belgrade continued. Another 50km and it was already after 3pm. Thankfully no more hills, some breaks to rest and overall good speed so that i got to belgrade center before 7pm.

When my 2,500km feel suddenly so little

Once in the center, the routine kicks in. Wifi, hostel, shower… Just this time someone asked if i needed help while looking at my phone. Her name was anne (well, short version) and she is from Belgrade. She was also on her touring bike though not fully equipped. Turns out that she has been riding around europe and asia since 2011 and writes travel novels to make money.

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As you can imagine, we had a great conversation. She even invited me for a serbian hamburger (Pljeskavica) before we said goodbye. You can find her travel stories http://www.snezanaradojicic.com. Very impressive. Good luck for your panamerican journey. Am sure we’ll meet again.

A day in the white city – hello Belgrade

The first time i got excited about Belgrade was in a British airline magazine. Their is always a travel colomn which argued that Belgrade is a great destination with fantastic nightlife. Sounds just right! Years later i was finally here. Technically my schedule only had one night here, but intrinsically i had already decided to stay a biy longer and catch up one day by train. No stress.

The first night was quiet after i checked into Yolohostel – central but certainly not one of the nicer ones i been to. Well, a bed is a bed. I enjoyed breakfast on a sunny morning next day and went for a city tour as I usually do. The politics of the region, present and past, are dazzling and the city raised to the ground many a time (one other tourist mentioned 40 times). Definitely a lot of work to do to restore buildings and streets. Maybe joining europe will one day help, but there is the question of kosovo to be solved.

My last morning came quick and I headed for the train station after another breakfast to catch up with my schedule and make it to Niš.

Over to Niš

Serbian trains run very slow and so the two hundred odd kilometres were scheduled to take more than 5 hours. I got round to reading 100 years of solitude meanwhile. Close to Niš, the train crashed into a car that was a bit late on the rail wail crossing. By the time all was sorted with police we had lost two hours more. Should have gone by bike!

The day ‘n night hostel I checked into the evening was very pleasant and well thought out. I met a Turkish guy and we ended up grabbing some food, drinks and chatted away until midnight in the hostel. Great evening and an invitation to Ismir.

Next morning I managed a little sightseeing (yet another fortress) after agreeing to leave my bike in the hostel garage. Probably the safest option in town. I will find out in a week. First back home via Bratislava for a school reunion, time in London and a wedding.

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