Wednesday July 31 - Day 35 - 53miles - Total 1366miles
We were all packed up early and had muesli and yogurt for breakfast. Bruce had the last remaining piece of chocolate cake from the night before. The hostesses said farewell to us in the courtyard before we opened the gate and cycled out into the streets of Novi Sad by 8.30am.
Stefan led the way through town, as he and Rebecca had gone that way to the fortress yesterday. There are some separated bike lanes in Novi Sad, but they do tend to end abruptly and also have curbs on them. Still, it is a lot better than most cities in the USA!
As we went over the Danube bridge out of town, a street dog started following us, but not in a menacing way. It almost seemed to be protecting us, as it barked at and chased the cars that were passing us. It did follow us quite a way though and it did get close to a number of cars. Hopefully our escort from Novi Sad will be OK.
The official Eurovelo 6 Route takes you out of Novi Sad by the main road to Sremski Karlovci and then up a steep hill on the main road, which has been complained about by other touring cyclists, not just for the steepness, but also the traffic volume and the lack of any place to pull off. None of us fancied cycling this hill, so we detoured around it on a track that we hoped would work! Initially the detour was excellent as it was an asphalt road leading into an industrial zone. However the road turned into a gravel track past the industrial area, although it did stay relatively flat as it paralleled the railway line. However the track disintegrated further as it started climbing. Big mud puddles in it from the rainstorms of the prior night further deteriorated the path. Stefan and Rebecca handled this section really well as they have big gnarly tires on their mountain bikes. We "only" had 1.6" tires so the trail was a little tougher for us! We finally made it through and the trail started improving a bit as it went by a National Park. We were all invited for a beer at 10am by a guy in a Yugo. We politely declined and made it back onto route at the village of Cortanovci. The detour was only 8kms or so, but it seemed a lot longer! We probably climbed the same altitude in total as if we had been on the road, but at least we didn't have to deal with the traffic.
We cycled to the village of Beska and got some snacks at the small shop there. We did some quick route planning of our various options. We could follow the Eurovelo route which is unnecessarily long; follow the main road which might be trafficky but which is a lot shorter; or there appeared to be a compromise option through the village of Novi Karlovci. The three French people from the campsite in Baja Hungary pulled up at this point, so Bruce chatted to them a little.
We tried to take the compromise option and cycled out of Beska, but the road on the map didn't actually exist and was actually just a mud tractor trail.....we reconsidered quickly and decided to follow the main road, especially since the Eurovelo route re-joins the main road after following the Danube closely. We cycled out of Beska (again) and made our way to the main road, Route 22-1.
It was pretty trafficky, but was wider and it had a great surface, so combined with the tailwind and slight downhill, we fairly rocketed into India....yes, the next town was called India (Indija - but the j is pronounced as a y).
The Eurovelo route rejoined us as we had lunch in Batajnica. We had a chicken sandwich from a small food vendor, but these things were huge! We had no idea when we ordered them. We even struggled to finish them and the fries that were ordered.
We cycled past a military base and took Andrea's photo next to the Mig jet on display. We finally got off the main road, but the route that the Eurovelo takes you on is down some awful cobblestone streets. Now, these weren't even the nice small cobble stones that you can speed over only chipping a few teeth along the way, no... these are the big uneven cobblestones, so when there are gaps in the mortar between them, or a whole stone or two missing, these can be really dangerous for cyclists, as they will eat your front wheel.
Anyhow, we got back to the banks of the Danube and followed the very nice path through a park for the last 3 or so miles into Belgrade. The bridge to cross the Sava river is a busy one and luckily there is a sidewalk. We semi-successfully navigated to the hostel after looking lost. We saw the shoe store that serves as the shared entrance to the "Groovy Nights Hostel", but the problem was that it was across a four lane busy road. This part of Belgrade reminded us of Government Center in Boston - some old buildings remain, but the majority had been bulldozed and a big road driven through the middle. In fact Belgrade so far, hasn't made much of an impression on us. It is actually pretty darn ugly.
We waited outside of a pawnshop, across the road, while Stefan checked out the hostel. There was an underpass, but it only had stairs so it was going to be tricky getting our bikes across. Stefan finally came back (Rebecca thought that we was already showering!) and it turned out that he had got stuck in the elevator....he was also accompanied by the hostel manager....who we nicknamed Moshi. His actual name was Alexander. He helped us with the bikes through the underpass and he single-handedly lifted Andrea's loaded touring bike up 25 steps in flip-flops!
We unpacked all bikes in the narrow foyer and put everything in the elevator with Andrea and then more with Rebecca...hoping that they wouldn't get stuck either. Stefan and Moshi carried the bikes up the stairs. Bruce tried to help but they wouldn't let him as it was his birthday!
The hostel was pretty new and actually very nice. There were a lack of showers, as there were only two for the whole hostel (maybe 20 people if it was full) but it wasn't too busy when we got there, so we all showered up and then went walking around Belgrade. We were hoping that something would change our initial impression, but even the main pedestrianized street and Republic Square were both pretty ugly. There were some pretty buildings, but there were rundown. The communists really did a number on this city. We were really happy that we took our rest day in Novi Sad and not in Belgrade.
We had dinner at a pizza place on the pedestrianized street, and it was really good. We ordered risotto and savory crepes and both were delicious. We wandered around a little more to the fortress area and we got some gelato for dessert. Customer service hasn't gotten any better as the girl serving flirted and chatted with the waiters in her restaurant while she had a line of 10 people all wanting gelato....still the gelato was very tasty!
We returned to the hostel, intending on an early night, but the hostel managers were still around and they brought out their homemade Rakija, which they are very proud of. This is the homemade firewater made from plums. We had a glass or two to be polite and it actually wasn't too bad!
Off to bed!
The World is Ours!