Day 39 - Belgrade to Krajisnik: Puppies, kittens, and my best day in Serbia - No More Taxi Drivers - CycleBlaze

February 23, 2015

Day 39 - Belgrade to Krajisnik: Puppies, kittens, and my best day in Serbia

I spent a couple days relaxing in Belgrade, and unwisely buying more clothes because I want to be presentable in Europe's cities. Tried some of the legendary nightlife and was not impressed. It's not an age thing--the 20-year olds I was with were also not impressed. A classic example of quantity not being the same as quality. The Nikola Tesla museum was expensive for what you get, so if your budget is tight, feel free to skip this one, but at least do some reading about this guy.

Where to go from Belgrade was a problem. I impractically committed myself to something in Ukraine, very far away. Going via Hungary would be fastest, but Romania sounded more interesting and wouldn't use up valuable Schengen days, though that probably wouldn't be an issue at this point.

Poking around online, I found some tantalizing references to an international cycle path between Zrenjanin and Timisoara--scheduled to open in March! The Romanian section of the path was complete, but I couldn't find any information on the Serbian side or the border crossing. Not knowing the length of the detour, I decided not to try crossing the border, but all you future Serbian-Romanian tourists should definitely check this out!

I also found a brand new bridge over the Danube at Zemun, and a small crossing to Romania that was supposed to be permanently open now. Looks like I have a trail to blaze, and it'll definitely add a few kilometers to my day.

Escaping Belgrade, I followed the Eurovelo 6 signs from the city centre, past the fortress, and down to the riverside bike path. The path was fantastic except for the occasional deaf dog-walker and some sharp turns which were difficult for my weighted front end. There was a river crossing, where a nifty bike elevator waited to carry me up to the bridge. A bike elevator with a yellow sign across the doors. Okay, cross the road and head for the pedestrian stairs with narrow bike ramps. It's a good thing for me the many steps were in four sections so I could rest in between--pushing a loaded bike up a slope that steep is exhausting.

The bike path continued after crossing the bridge. I soon encountered a pile of puppies on the path. Black, fuzzy, floppy-eared puppies whose mother got really angry with me after I plowed right through them. Well, that's how she saw it. What really happened is that as I proceeded with caution, the puppies gathered, some trying to wriggle right under my wheels.

I continued to follow the path to where it merged with the pedestrian path in Zemun--this could be an issue during peak times. And then the path abruptly ended, the Eurovelo sign pointing me up a road paved not even with cobbles, but with large rocks. Pushed the bike, joined the main road, crossed the shiny new bridge, and enjoyed a few kilometers of light traffic. Aside from a couple of quirks, this was a pretty slick route out of Belgrade, much better than the way in.

After the first interchange, the road to Zrenjanin was narrow and a bit busy, but bearable, given the decent road surface. Especially with the tailwind. I was flying along (by my standards) and more than made up for the hour I took to go 7km in Belgrade. At Zrenjanin, after getting lost, I turned east, toward the Jasa Tomic-Foeni crossing that I'm gambling on. The land was flat, open.

No hotels. At Sutjeska, the road sign pointed north to Jasa Tomic, though I thought I could continue east to Secanj. A man on the street told me there was no hotel in Sutjeska, but I could find one in Krajisnik. Decision made, I went to Krajisnik. Where there were no hotels.

Eventually a woman took pity on me and offered to take me in. She checked with a police officer relative and determined it was okay to not register me. So I went to her house, her husband went out and brought back dinner for me, then I went to the pub with her colleague's son.

Two of his friends were there, and all three spoke English (Serbia has the best English education of the countries I've biked through so far, and all the movies provide practice as well as ingraining American movie culture into this remote Serbian village, eg. jokes about Wanted: Dead or Alive posters), so I was able to learn a thing or two about Serbian corruption (prevalent at all levels), gypsy thieves (I was drinking with one), gambling (locals gamble on hockey scores without knowing what hockey is) and how they treat tourists ("When tourists come, *we* spend money"). They all dream of my country. I'm the first non-family tourist most of them have seen here--they joked about putting up a statue of me.

Belgrade fortress
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Belgrade city centre
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The bike non-elevator
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Belgrade bike path, with some of the river nightclubs
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Brand new bridge
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Today's ride: 120 km (75 miles)
Total: 1,860 km (1,155 miles)

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