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Belgrade Twice

June 18, 2019

Sremski Karlovci, Vojvodina, Serbia

Interesting village. The birth of the Serbian Orthodox church was here. During WWII the Germans occupied and made it part of Croatia. It has the first high school in Serbia and it is still an open high school. It is the heart of the northern wine region of Serbia. It also contains the first Serbian Orthodox seminary in Serbia. Such a nice, walkable town and a great plaza. To sit and watch the people here is a very nice experience. Just could not resist stopping.

Except for the 3 days in Belgrade, I have been riding more.  Well, it was really 5 days depending on how you count.
“What the heck does that mean? Pretty easy to count days.”
The ride from my “kissing of the Danube at Smderevo to Belgrade was very difficult.  Many  steep climbs of 2 to 5 km, where 10% was just a little bump.  Two 12 foot lanes on a very busy highway for 75 km.   Temps in the mid 90’s and humidity about the same.  I could keep my elbow bent and touch the trucks as they passed.  Did not do it but was tempted at times.  Took this road to save 20 km, not the best choice.  By the time I arrived in Belgrade I was happy for the city traffic, blowing horns, being cut off, normal speeds and passing distances.
After arriving in Belgrade it was time to look for my apartment. Had the address plugged into the phone, so no big deal.  But Serbia has it own gps directions I have discovered.  The addresses are really not the addresses.  They can be off by half a block and on another block! After searching for about an hour and texting the owner on a regular basis I found it!  Well,  even though it had the same name and a very similar address it was not where I had booked. The lady said “Why don’t you have a look while you’re here and then decided.  You can always cancel your other reservation.”
She showed me 2 rooms, a single and then a double that had a kitchen, separate bedroom was away from the street and she priced it below what my reserved apartment was priced at.  I texted and canceled the other room and stayed.  While we were filling out the paper work a cold beer appeared.  Now I knew I would stay.  Did I say it included breakfast at a local restaurant?  I am now drinking cappuccino on a regular basis.  Not like the Serbs, but some.
Saw the city, got my cell phone screen replaced (dropped it) and stocked up on food items from the “supermarket.”  More like a large convenience store.  Packed up on the 3rd morning and rode out.  I like to enter or leave big cities on a Sunday.  Even if it is not a Christian city Sundays are still good traffic days.
Good riding day to restart.  Major destinations always seem like an end. So, when I leave that place it is like starting again.  It was about 70, wind at my back and just enough sun to make me happy. Rode about 30 km when I saw a packed bike at a biker bar.  Ok, I know, a biker bar and a touring bike?  Well, the bar was named Route 77, a Harley was parked out front and the staff were in black biker shirts?
I stopped to talk.  The touring cyclist was from Belgrade on the last day of a 5 day tour.  Milos was a new tourer but really was enjoying the experience.  We talked a while and he asked me to look something up on my phone.  I could not get it to work.  We checked the time and data finding out I had no credit left.  OK, he said that is easy.  Every little store sells time.  Right next to the bar was such a store.  Guess what?  Their internet was down.  OK, the next store.  No, problem what is you telephone number?  I took my phone case off to look at the sim card holder for the number.  I always put my US sim card and the foreign card holder in the case so I have easy access.  The case was empty!  Great!  Now I had a problem.  In the case had been my Verizon sim, my Vodaphone sim for the EU and the number of the Serbian sim card.
We called Milos’ phone to get my Serbian number and updated the minuets.  OK, now I have service back.  But, I really needed the Verizon card.  Sometimes I have to call my bank or credit card company and they use my home cell number to verify that it is me calling.  So, I will switch the cards from time to time.  I knew where they were.  The store that had replaced the screen had not put them back in the case.  They were in Belgrade!  Damn, a trip back.
Milos said I could stay with him and we loaded up and headed back to the city.  The trip should have been around 2 and half hours but Milos was not a strong cyclist and he had to stop every hour to have a smoke.  Everyone in Serbia is born with a cigarette in their mouth.  It is very hard for me to go in a hotel room or a café or anywhere.  Anyway, got to his house by about 7:30, long day.
He said he would sleep at his sister’s place and I could have his bed.  No, thanks.  I said I would set up my tent in his very nice garden and sleep there.  No, he insisted, his bed.  I let it go for a while and then told him I had slept indoors too much lately, it was going to rain that night and I liked sleeping in my tent in the rain.  A little more work and before we went to dinner I set up my fabric home.
The next day we went to the cell store and picked up my cards.  They had all but the Vodaphone which was not that important.  I will buy a new one when I reenter the EU for about $3.00.
Milos then showed me Belgrade.  I learned a lot and saw many parts I never would have known about.  He is a great guide and host.  It is amazing how events occur.  Stopping to talk led to the discovery that my sim card was missing, learning how to update my cell credits, seeing a city I thought I knew a little, in a new way, a great night’s sleep to the sound of rain on my tent and meeting a very nice person.
Today, again I found myslef riding to Novi Sad, trying to get in my required 100 ks every day to be in Brussels by the night of the 5th of July.  Rode into this little village and could not continue. Wineries, c 1700 churches, an Orodox seminary, just a cute town.  I still had done my 100 plus but had not completed my planned day.  If necessary there is always the train or..
I am sitting on the banks of the Danube river as I write this, watching the river traffic.  I have seen 3 river cruise boats go by.  I wonder if they would allow me to take my bike?  Maybe I will see what kind of a deal I can make. A cruise to Vienna would be nice.  I am not an EFI kind of guy.  You will have to ask me directly what EFI means.  I will say that the “I” represents inch and the “E” every.

—Bill H.

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