So it’s been a little while since my last update. I’d put this down to a mixture of excitement of being home and post-exped lazyness. I wasn’t actually going to post the details of my return journey as it wasn’t really part of the expedition but then it dawned on me that some of the things that happened along the way might make for good reading, so over the next few days i’ll be posting the details of the journey back. So without further adoo….
Jumping back on the bike after a period of rest is always great. After the initial chaos of leaving Belgrade i was back to pedaling between fields, the farmers planting seeds or turning over the soil in preparation. The winter was definitely over.
One last haircut from a friend in Belgrade before heading home
I’d had a late start and so i planned to pedal in the dark to make up for lost time. I neared the city of Novi Sad and had decided to pass through the city before finding someone to pitch my tent as the idea of battling the morning traffic didn’t much appeal. With the sunlight fading i made my way across a quiet bridge that crossed the Danube. A car pulled over in front of me and three men jumped out. Realizing they were headed for me and with no one else around i hopped off the bike, thrust out a hand and greeted them.
Spotting my accent and the Union Jack on the trailers flag pole the tallest of the group spoke.
“Your speaking english?”
I responded in the affirmative. Eyeing the bike another asked where i had been and where i was going. I recited the usual response of ‘England to Istanbul and now i’m travel back home’.
“Are you a Muslian?” This confused me initially.
‘”Am i a Muslim?”
“Yes, are you a Muslim man?”
I responded that i wasn’t and the middle gent gestured towards my hat and buff combination, the latter of which had been pulled up over my nose so only a slit for my eyes remained. This had obviously made them think i was a ‘Muslim Man’ and it would seem, is the reason they had stopped. They went onto tell me how much they despised anybody who wasn’t Serbian Orthodox like them (luckily they didn’t ask about my actual religious beliefs) and how they were ‘Serbian Nazi’s’ – they wore swastika’s on their skin like a badges of honour – the one-sided conversation continued on it’s dark path. Having met this brand of person a couple of months earlier i didn’t come as a surprise or shock (which is what i think they were hoping for) and they soon got bored and bid me farewell and good luck. I simply bade the farewell.
With matching swastika tattoos, boasts of how many people they had killed during the Kosovo and Bosnia conflicts and ‘lovely’ descriptions of what they would do to me if i were in fact a ‘Muslim Man’ they made quite the trio; this night time ride had become rather menacing. I pedalled hard through the city and headed for the relative safety of the open country were the only likely confrontation would be with a stray dog – which frankly, would have had more intelligence than these 3 cretins put together.
After a couple of days i swapped the last of my Serbian Dinars for Euros and crossed into Hungary. I was immediately apparent that i was out of the Balkans and into the EU. The roads were smooth and there weren’t mounds of rubbish every kilometer – everything seemed very westernized and sterile. I stayed in a campsite over looking the Danube for a couple of nights to rest as i was having issues with my right knee.
In Serbia i was appalled at the amount of crap, mainly plastic, that floats downstream – so much so that it makes the lower parts of the Rivers Thames seem rather inviting. I had assumed that the plastic had come down from countries further upstream but sat by this stretch of the Danube in Hungary for two and half days i didn’t see more than five pieces of rubbish float past.
A friend at the campsite
After my couple of days rest I loaded the bike, found the cycle path that followed the Danube to Austria and pointed my bike upstream…