At this moment, I am basking in sunshine. I have very smelly clothes hanging on a close by fence to air out. Heck, I even took a full on 1.5 litre shower this day to celebrate. My tent is dry, my bag of sleep is getting close to dry, my bike reads 87 degrees at 5.25pm. My camp, is high on a ridge over Palanka, Serbia. My son convinced me to take in Belgrade while I was here, since JW was going to skip it. I told him it was nothing but bullet holes and landmines in an area of constant historical conflict. And his reply, was, thats exactly why you need to take it in Dad. So by tomorrow evening I should be in Belgrade for supper, I’am praying about entering big cities without Pine.
The last blog page had us further south in Sajecar, and I left there on a very tiny back road in pouring rain. The road was a very difficult one for me as the surface was full of cracks and gaps, so that forward speed was very slow. I have no idea how difficult it would have been for a regular mortal, scares me to think. Old roads get very steep grades and this one had plenty of 15 plus grades on it. Big, rolling hill country with narrow verdant valleys snaking thier way between hills and ridges. The villages were few and far between. Not one village had sort of product for sale, so no supplies gathered on this first leg. Supper that night was spartan and simple. 1 cup of very sweet tea, and several cookies along with a handfull of raisins. Please be sure to download this days recipe at the end of the post.
It’s about 2pm, and I am climbing het another hillon my way, I feel like I am threading a needle so too speak as I make my way one tiny backroad after another. There is a bar slash cafe type store and out front it has a cooler full of ice teas. Being that the bike is reading about 90, I think a tea would be pretty good right now…….HELLO…….and I turn to see a fellow all clad in pure racing attire for a cyclist. Hello, I said back and the conversation thus began. He, being Nenad, a Serbian businessman who speaks very good english. We visit for half an hour and I begin to excuse myself so I can get into Belgrade before dark. Well, that will not take long if you allow me to lead you he suggests. And so the journey begins, he on his sub 12 pound total carbon fiber racing frame. And I, on what he affectionaly called a tractor, even suggested I paint it green and put a John Deere label on the head tube. There are a lot of hills and grades on the way and he would have to wait at the top of almost all of them for me, but wait he did. Right into the city we went, me following him, as he scurried between cars and rode out into intersections at red lights…… things I would never do, but I had to keep up. By 4pm, I was in front of the huge apartment that I had rented rather than get a hotel room which was more than double the price. $34.00 us dollars a night, it was great and very clean right on the primary oldtown street. Can’t get better than that.
Go, have a shower because you need one, said my guide. How about 8pm, I will come back and pick you up for supper, he asks. Fine with me, but only if you PAY…….oops, sorry, only if you allow me to buy. Sorry he says, but in Serbia, when you are a guest, we treat you to the very best of everything and thats the only way it can be. So, I asked him if he preffered to dine alone or with company……..too which he emphatically stated be would prefer to dine with company. Good I said, that is my preferance as well. So, if you want to dine with me……I BUY……. and you get to pick the restaurant. Which will it be, with me, or by yourself? Okay, fine, we will do it as you wish. But tomorrow you have too allow me to give you a cycling tour of Belgrade.
We dined at a very small Serbian restaurant, known for its excellent Serbian pasta dishes. We had a huge salad, fresh made bread cooked in a stone oven on ashes……wow, I am bread lover and this was good. The main course was lamb and proscuitto baked with home made pasta bows and a heavy mushroom sauce, then topped with something called kymika (think a sharpish cheese ). I love Serbia, great people,beautiful scenery, interesting city and culture……but what I love the most……these folks are carvivores. By golly, when they serve you meat, they serve you meat, no messing around. Didn’t have to hunt around for the meat in this great meal. The next day, we took off on the bikes and began a 30 mile trip seeing the sights of Belgrade. Yes, to answer that lingering question that maybe all of us from the west have……there are still bullet holes, and torn apart buildings from both rocket and mortar fire. For the most part, these fragments of war evidence have been left as a reminder to all, that this is not what they want to return too. I found the city, Belgrade to be vibrant and intersting, even more so than Bucharest for instance. Would I come back to Belgrade and greater Serbia, in a heartbeat and bring my sweetie with me without any worry or concern. And not to beat the drum too loud, but the country of Serbia has a very interesting and enticing business inducements in place that should make any Corporation give them a seriuos second look. That afternoon was spent dining on the best lamb I have ever had, and yes, even you Pine would have enjoyed this lamb. Its cooked whole on a spit, slow cooked and basted for 8 hours. At this restaurant you buy it by half kilo per person or more……none of this 6oz servings of red meat crap. Here if you can’t eat 1/2 kilo, then go put your man pants on and come back. We had a full kilo order and non left over. All good things do come to an end, and my host had to leave. We said our goodbyes and went our own ways. But, I know we will talk and see each other again somewhere, sometime.
Up the next morning and headed out of Belgrade. Not one problem getting out with the gps folks. I took the smallest back roads that I could find. Put in an admirable day for an old fart. About 115 miles at 85 degrees, pretty nice riding weather. Mostly flat or gentle rolling coutryside. I was wanting to gain some distance and time, because everyone warns me that I will be punished when I get to Bosnia. Bosnia is surely living up to that expectation in spades.
Crossed the border into Bosnia, and interestingly, you cant get gps service here if you are from USA. So, I spent about 3 hours hunting for a road map,,,,,hard to do if you dont speak the language. Back a few months, we met a great couple from Amsterdam ( we met in Bayan Olgii at the Blue Wolf yurts, and you guys drove the white Land Rover ) who really swore by “open street maps”, they felt it was the best thing going. I on the other hand have a tough time with it…….so my Amsterdam friends if you read this……… contact me by email firstname.lastname@example.org and maybe you can aid me in better understanding and using the program. Now I am navigating thru Bosnia by paper map and cyrillic……pray for me as I will be lucky to make it out the other side. I am cycling thru, over and around all that God created during that amazing first week of life on this earth. And in case you are wondering, NO, he didn’t put an outpost on Mars just incase this one didn’t work out, contrary to what the whiz kids on Discovery channel have come up with as an excuse for life here. As gorgeous as the mountains, roads, lakes, rivers and streams have been, they pale in comparison to that which was made good in God’s eyes on the 6th day of creation, thanks big Rob for making me aware of that very important fact. I may have been a “pantheist” forever had you not pointed that out. Its up to you to reread the creation story if you want to know what he made the 6th day. Hey, uncle Bill, start with looking in the first book, Genesis.