Category Archives: serbia

Serbia (2014-05-05–2014-05-27)

As if with a wave of a magic wand, as though the nature knows about political borders of states, rains had stopped when I’d got into Serbia from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The sun shined in Šabac, my clothes were washed, and I lived in a bicycle heaven. Alexander, a bicycle mechanic and an owner of a bicycle shop, lodged me in his house where I was surrounded by all kinds of bicycles. I spent many hours and could watch infinitely how he fixes bicycles even in the most hopeless cases. Often he didn’t ask any money as he supposed that a person will come later on to buy something in his shop.

I asked Alexander how it happened that he linked his life with bicycles. He replied that once during Yugoslav conflict his family went out on the street to sell a couple of bicycles they had, as they needed money for food. Neighbors spotted that episode and asked to sell their bicycles as well. That’s how it started.

Though there was no suitable tyre for my bicycle in Alexander’s shop, he just told me to look in his bicycle collection and put off a tyre from one of them. This way I got Schwalbe Marathon Plus for free.

From Šabac I headed to the north of Serbia, to Subotica. Views didn’t differ much, just endless fields. But Subotica surprised nicely. I left the bicycle at the tourist information point and walked a few hours in that Serbo-Hungarian, drowning in greenery city.

After that I moved to the Serbian part of the Eurovelo 6 route along the Danube river. As a whole I didn’t like to follow some predetermined, invented by other people route. Often there weren’t roads close to the river, so the Danube river left somewhere in a few kilometers from the route. But route inventors still had insane drive to lay the route as close to the river as possible. Thus often I followed trails, but suddenly found fences and went around by paved roads.

When I’d arrived to Novi-Sad I didn’t manage to find any host. I was sitting at the quay, eating bananas deep in thought. Some guy came to me and started asking about the bicycle, my trip, and so on. After a few minutes Miladin, that was his name, invited me to stay at his place. The most remarkable thing in this story is that Miladin never invited strangers to his place before. In the beginning he even wanted to make up a story for his flatmate as if Miladin and me were old friends. But I convinced him to tell the truth.

The next place after Novi-Sad was Belgrade, there I was hosted by awesome guy Martin. A small rain started in the evening when I approached Belgrade. But during the night it rained non-stop. Those were the days when Serbia and Bosnia started experiencing floods.

At the same time Martin hosted another one cyclist Ed from the USA (by the way, he also had Surly LHT). The first four or five days we almost didn’t go out, ordered food online, Ed played guitar, from time to time we watched news about the floodings, on floods photos I recognized places where I cycled quite recently. In the evenings we moved out just to reach some pub, thus I knew a dozen of drinking places, but nothing else about Belgrade.

Martin, who hosted about one hundred cyclists in the last year, told us storied about some gloriously insane guys that stopped at his place. Like the story about a French guy who traveled without money on an ancient bicycle, who didn’t have even a single proper pannier, only plastic bags and duct tape, and… also that guy carried a huge accordion on his bicycle!

The day when I finally had left Belgrade was very atypical for me. Suddenly I started thinking that probably it’s a bit strange to move from place to place without any final purpose. Such thoughts never visited my head before. Usually thoughts get stuck in my mind for a moment, I register their appearance, and then they fade away like outgoing train. Rest of the time I directly take in what happens around me. What I see, hear, smell… I don’t judge it. The world around neither good, nor bad, it just exists, it’s what it is.

In the evening I turned to a trail going along the Danube river, trees grew directly in the water, no signs of human beings, gigantic birds, the sky was in sunset haze. Two small deers ran close to my tent.

After a couple of days I was in Zaječar visiting Viktor, who hosted my in the winter. I endeavoured to help him on the farm, but either I managed badly, or I did some other mistakes, but I felt that my presence brings discomfort. I didn’t dare to ask Viktor what was my main false step. Instead of initial plan to get a Romanian visa in Zaječar, I’d bought an airline ticket Belgrade->Moscow to deal with my visa issues in Russia.

Zaječar–Bečići (2013-12-24–2013-12-31)

Viktor’s father, Slobodan, is a good musician. He played guitar and we sang traditional Russian songs and romances. I didn’t know some of them (Slobodan turned out to be a big lover of Russian culture and started learning Russian language in the university), so he joked: “Oh, you are Russian, you have to know this song!”

We went to the Viktor’s farm in the afternoon. Immediately I realised that I love that place. I could see that everything is built with love, and Viktor has a good sense of style. From technical point of view everything was done very well as well: solar panels, own source of water, big shed for tractor and fully equipped workshop.

The fog has disappeared for a while, we sat outside watching mountains and fruit fields, catching outgoing sunrays. It was hard to leave after the hospitality I’d got from Viktor and Slobodan.

The next three days I went quite fast by mountain roads. There were small problems with places for camping. Usually I found places near abandoned houses.

On the fourth day I became more and more tired and couldn’t keep the pace.

The difference between Serbia and Montenegro showed slowly. More villages, more drivers who honk. Dangerous dark tunnels. Usually there are a few grave crosses in front of them. Tunnels of any length in Serbia were always lighted.

Probably due to tiredness I started thinking that my rear wheel becomes deflated. My paranoia forced me to take the tyre off and check the inner tube. Everything was fine, but I managed to break the valve. I took a spare inner tube and spoiled everything again: tire lever had scratched the inner tube, so I had to put a patch on the absolutely new inner tube. It’s hard to take trouble with the bicycle when it’s cold. Anyway, at least the paranoia didn’t chase me anymore.

Finally, the road went downhill. It’s a very strange feeling: just one hour ago you rode on snowy roads, and now you are below and you put off more and more layers of unneeded clothes.

The way to Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, went through the amazing canyon of the Morača river. Podgorica itself was uninteresting at all. There I turned to a shortcut initially, but I had no more power to go uphill again, so I went back.

It wasn’t the only time during that day, when I went back. I stopped at a junction. It said that the main road goes left through a tunnel, and another road went steeply uphill. For sure I’d decided to go to the tunnel. Unfortunately, cyclists and pedestrians are now allowed to go through the Sozina tunnel. Its length is more than 4 km, so a cyclist may be poisoned by carbon monoxide, even though the tunnel is ventilated. I waited about ten minutes with a hope that some truck will pick me up, and then I went back.

In the morning of December 31 I still had to pedal. After six kilometers by the lacet the altitude had changed from 50 m to 750 m. Luckily, that was the last ascent. And then meeting with Boris, Irina and Davor, warm shower, the last day of the year, a ride to Kotor by car, New Year’s Eve, and so on.

Bucharest–Zaječar (2013-12-20–2013-12-23)

Bucharest prepared for the New Year celebration. Christmas trees on the streets, kiosks selling mulled wine. Dressed up Gypsies (one of them certainly wears a costume of a bear) walked in the commuter town and played music (or just produced some noise to get attention).

So I started thinking of a place for the New Year celebration. Boris (I knew him well due to Moscow CouchSurfing community) wrote me he is going to Montenegro on New Year’s holidays. We agreed to meet each other there.

I had ten days to cycle about one thousand kilometers in hilly and mountain areas.

Still, everything was covered by dense fog. Sometimes I could see some movement on the fields. Those were small oil derricks.

During the nights thick layer of hoar-frost covered the tent. Grass, branches, wires, everything around was covered by 5-10 cm layer of hoar-frost. During the days it started melting. Due to this process wires burst, and roadsides looked like if it snowed earlier.

There are many secondary roads in Romania and most of them have good quality. Only once I got a really bad road, and I turned to a highway. A sunset blazed on the horizon, and a few stars already blinked over my head. Infinite fields stretched along the road and there was nothing that could change their infinity.

But a small pothole had led me out of trance. I hadn’t noticed the pothole and had fallen down with awkward grace.

That was the shortest light day in the year, probably the most important festival for touring cyclists. So I’d eaten jam and brownies given to me by Roxana.

I wasn’t sure that the chosen border crossing actually works. There was contradictory information on the internet. Luckily, it did, and I crossed the Danube river on the Iron Gates II dam, leaving Romania and getting into Serbia. Unfortunately, the fog was still too thick, so I didn’t see any amazing views.

Actually, it’s quite funny to ride in such fog. You don’t know how much you’ve ridded, whether you are going uphill or downhill. You just move somewhere.

Serbian roads are worse than Romanian, but good enough. Almost no traffic.

Viktor met me in Zaječar. We went to a pub with his friends. Tiredness, warmth, beer and nice atmosphere made the deal: I was close to get a sleep in the pub. Fortunately, the pub located just in a few meters from the Viktor’s house.