Two days ago we woke up in our tents at 7.30 am, packed everything including the tent, had breakfast and got ready for the ride. We left at 9.30, so a two hour estimate between waking up and leaving is a good one for now, hopefully we will get used to putting everything away and improve our time to an hour and a half or even only an hour.
The ride from wildcamping on the other side of the river from smederevo to where we stayed that night was 75 km long. The road went right next to the Danube most of the way, we are following the European cycle track system, and some of it was easy riding but most of it was unpaved and therefore bumpy, sandy, gravelly and therefore mainly extremely exhausting.
The Serbians are exceptionally friendly, especially as they are most likely to offer help with directions. The fact that they speak neither English nor German, and we don’t speak Serbian or any or the S/C/B languages does not matter in the slightest – we still chatter away as if we all spoke the same language. It is surprising how much speaking your hands do for you.
We spent the night in a small town called The White Church, or Bela Crkva, in a small hotel right at the entry to the town that was recommended to us by yet another helpful Serbian who had spent twenty years in Vienna and therefore spoke fluent German. Mike was paranoid about leaving the bikes locked up outside until he decided to carry everything – two bikes and a trailer- upstairs, and leave them on the balcony.
Today we set off after a massive breakfast of omelette and bread and an amazing lunch of fried local river fish cooked by a very friendly old Serbian man who used 50/50 german and english. We reached the small city of golubac at 5 pm.
Today’s ride was unbelievable. We got the ferry at 1 pm from stara palanka across the Danube to ram and then went on the cycle track towards veliko gradiste. The road between there and zatonje is just incredible. I have never felt so much like I deserved a view – swallows were cruising around us while sheep were grazing on one side of the road with the Danube on the other side. As we progressed there were little islands that seemed like moors but without mosquitos and as we rode past, white birds would rise elegantly from the water and sail above our heads. Poppy flowers were strayed across fields of white and blue flowers, the kind of wild flowers you would expect in the hands of a gentleman in a tuxedo ringing your doorbell to pick you up for a date. I have said that I felt like I had entered another world before – I never felt it the way I did today. Maybe because, as I said, I had earned this view, maybe because this stretch of land was actually that special, but I was tempted to go back and do it again.
The cycle track today was paved entirely, inclines were mostly only slight inclines with very rewarding declines on the other side. I realised that if I turned my feet so my toes pointed to the floor while going slightly downhill and pedalling as hard as I could, I could make myself feel like I was actually running at 40 km/h, it was really fun.
Tonight will be an early night in the best hotel we have stayed at so far with a balcony on a promenade overlooking the Donau and the mountains in Romania, at a cost of only 25 euros. The hotel was pointed out by yet another extremely friendly German-speaking Serbian pub owner, who not only recommended this place but also called to reserve a room for us ask if they had internet and arrange for us to lock our bikes in an own bike-room, and then took us there personally! I could not be happier. Mike says the trade-off for staying here is that we will be camping the next three nights. Fine by me, this hotel is definitely worth it.