On the 130th anniversary, I recreated part of the journey of the first person to cycle around the world on a bicycle. Taking it one day at a time. View the archive.

To Belgrade

By Stuart Lowe on

I'd had such a great day yesterday that, in the morning, I was very reluctant to move on. Unfortunately I had to because I needed to keep to Stevens' timetable. Aurelie had had contact with cyclists a day or two ahead and they'd told her the road to Belgrade was pretty dangerous so she was opting to take the train in the early afternoon. I stayed almost the whole morning chatting with her, Lela and Tijana in the hostel. Lela took me to a local shop and helped me purchase a Serbian sim card with credit so that I could stay in contact with the outside world. In return I helped her add the VaradInn and its contact details to Open Street Map.

I went up to the fort with Aurelie to have a look around. The fort was very impressive and the views were great. Off in the distance I spotted a factory with a red and white striped chimney which I later came to realise every Serbian town of any note has.

photo
Petrovaradin

photo
View across to Novi Sad (Нови Сад)

panorama
View across the Danube

Time was moving on and I said my goodbyes to Aurelie and thanked her for the company. She said we might see each other again although I was heading for a different hostel in Belgrade to the one she was booked into. With a heavy heart I left my new friends and cycled out of Petrovaradin (Петроварадин). Just like Stevens I had to trundle my way wearily up a shoulder of the Fruška Gora Mountains for a few kilometres. At the summit I was happy to find a fruit seller and promptly bought a large quantity of apricots most of which I immediately ate.

photo
Fruit seller (lady on the right) with a customer (man on the left)

The occasional advantage of a big uphill section is a nice long downhill. Thankfully this was the case this time as the road was fairly straight to Belgrade. The downside of long straight roads was the overtaking style of Serbian drivers. This involved them heading towards me on my side of the road and me being unsure if they'd get back on their side before they hit me. It was a bit of a white knuckle ride.

I stopped to rest in a petrol station and a local (who is friends with a Serbian player in the UK football Premiership) told me I needed to be wary of the crazy motorists. He particularly warned me about the Bulgarians and Turks. I'm never sure how much to believe this sort of thing any more as people always seem to have dire warnings about how awful their neighbours are and they usually turn out to be just as nice as everyone else.

As I got closer to Belgrade the density of traffic increased and I had to dodge bus drivers too. It was far from pleasant riding. In many ways, the lack of courtesy by drivers, was like being back at home.

photo
Heading south from Novi Sad

photo
Zemun

In Zemun (Земун) I had an incident where a car nearly knocked me off my bike because the guy wasn't looking where he was going. He did sound apologetic as I regained my composure and headed back towards the Danube.

Once in Belgrade I headed towards the IYA hostel. It seemed to be teamed up with a travel agents next door. In the smokey offices of the travel agent, a friendly lady named Jelena told me they'd just had a big group booking so they had no space but she recommended another hostel to me and also told me how to get the internet working on my Serbian sim. I rode over to this second hostel which was in the bohemian district. I rang the bell and talked to the reception who buzzed me in. As I was struggling with the door someone came out to help me. It was none other than Aurelie! It turned out this was the hostel she'd booked and she had arrived just a few minutes before me. What a brilliant coincidence. We ended up sharing a 4-bed dorm room with another touring cyclist - Jakob - who was cycling from Germany to China.

The hostel had laundry facilities and both Aurelie and I took turns in making use of the washing machine. I seem to be making a habit of doing laundry in European capitals. Later in the eveing we went out and got food in a local restaurant.

Later, on the hostel's free wifi (essential for the modern traveller) I found I had an email from Mislav back in Osijek. He told me I'd made it into the local newspaper! The headline read "Mladi Englez biciklom putuje svijetom prema knjizi slavnog novinara". Something to do with a mad English bicyclist perhaps?