Fewer cycling paths, more fascinating inside stories and stray dogs
Zdravo! We’re 2160 km and 6 weeks away from home — we’ve made it to Belgrade. With the help of strong yet enjoyable tailwind, we’ve cycled over the last 2 weeks from Bratislava — which was our door to the Eastern part of Europe — to Belgrade, the capital of Serbia and former Yugoslavia.
Having crossed parts of Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia and Serbia, we clearly noticed that everyday life started looking less and less familiar to us, and that it’s getting more adventurous by bicycle.
As the tradition goes
Firstly, a short movie about our journey through Hungary. Enjoy!
Welcome to the peloton, Margot and Arnaud!
In Bratislava, we have welcomed our first guests. Margot and Arnaud came and joined us for a week for a ride between Bratislava and Budapest.
Change of plan: through the Hungarian and Croatian countryside
Initially, we planned to cycle the whole way between Bratislava and Budapest along the Danube river. That quickly turned out to be as other cyclists told us before: totally flat without great sights. Therefore, after one day of cycling from Bratislava, we changed our itinerary in Győr and decided to cycle to Serbia via the Balaton Lake and the Northern part of Croatia.
In Hungary, we followed the bike route 24 which goes from Pannonhalma, close to Győr, to the Balaton Lake. It was definitely worth the change since it allowed us to experience the Hungarian countryside.
As we also wanted to spend a few days in Budapest, we took a train from the Balaton lake to Budapest and the same train back to continue our journey.
When expectations differ from reality
As our host in Belgrade beautifully framed it: as touring cyclists we do control time, but we don’t control space. We know where we want to be at what time, but not what it is going to look like in reality.
We headed with very high expectations towards the border between Hungary and Croatia. Unfortunately, it turned out to be very different from we expected it to be. It already started at the border with huge fences placed to control the border. After the border crossing, we entered Northern Croatia and quickly felt that there would not be much nice to see: flat landscapes with small farming villages and many uncompleted houses surrounded by car graveyards. No, we didn’t like to cycle in this part of Croatia. That’s why we headed back to Hungary before we crossed the border with Serbia.
Welcome to Serbia!
Fortunately, soon after we left the border controls and car graveyards behind, we entered another country that we had never visited before: Serbia. A country we quickly fell in love with! Not because of its cycling paths since it’s quite hard to find them, but because of its friendly and curious people who all want to have a chat with us and share personal stories about their country.
It’s intriguing in Serbia to identify different cultural influences coming from different wind directions. The country was ruled by the Ottoman Empire for almost three centuries, most citizens are adherents of the Serbian Orthodox Church and it’s geographically also closely located to Europe.
We’ll never cycle alone: stray dogs
A new region brings new discoveries but also challenges. As soon as we crossed the border with Croatia, we started getting chased by dogs. The first few times it happened, we intuitively started pedaling like crazy, what made it very exhausting at the end of the day. Each time we saw a dog, we started to cycle as fast as we could with about 30 to 40 kg luggage on our bikes. Of course, this only works if it’s flat or downhill.
After having read about this issue online, we found out that we counterintuitively have to stop each time we see a dog coming towards us. We tested this out in reality and it really works: dogs lose interest and stop chasing as soon as we get off our bicycles. Issue resolved for now!
Our journey goes on via the Iron Gates and Bulgaria to Istanbul
After a few days of rest in Belgrade, we’ll cycle eastwards to the Iron Gates. Afterwards, we’ll cross Bulgaria, what — based on the website of Bicycle Touring Bulgaria — looks like a very promising country for bike touring. To be discovered!
Some more pictures to end with:
See you in 2 weeks — happy cycling!