Saturday, April 10, 2010
Going home, going home, going home, going home...
Yesterday we had been cycling for 1,300 km and 12 days without a day off. We had pegged Novi Sad as our day off destination and had a nice steady route planned to get us here, avoiding the apparently doomful traffic of Belgrade. We were therefore a bit tetchy and tired when we pedaled into Pancevo yesterday only for there to be no room at the inn. Our choices were another 115km to Novi Sad or traffic misery into Belgrade. We decided to slump down in the main square to eat some sugar and make a plan. Little did we know a plan was already descending upon us.
'Hey hey, cyclist, cyclist', a man in a full length black leather coat, flip down mp3 fitted shades and grey curly barnet taps Nick on the shoulder.
'Me, me cyclist, come come see', We get ushered to one side of the square, reluctantly heaving the tandem when really we just want to collapse and not have to deal with any suspicious looking men in long coats. 'See, look, me... Stockholm, Regensburg, Athens, Tulcea.' Our weary faces lift as the man shows us a board of photos of his cycling trips. This isn't just any oddball, this is a cycling oddball, which means we can relax.
Before it gets too weird that we have no means to communicate other than the medium of Rock, his 21 year old son Niki arrives. His excellent English and long flowing locks suggested that he might have grown up watching a few too many of his Dad's DVDs.
'My father says you can stay here tonight, he must go and talk on the TV now and later he has to train the local table tennis team and then tonight he is out of town so you can have his bed.' Wow. Its more bizarre than we can ever have hoped for. But free, warm bed – brilliant. After missing a train into Belgrade we spend the afternoon with Niki exploring Pancevo and eating hamburgers twice the size of my head (the Serbs are incredible hamburger makers). After days of cycling through places and being desperate to ask questions its good to get an insider's view of this part of the world. Frustration with politics but an appreciation of things getting better and a definite intrigue at the future role of the EU comes over strongly. But most telling, for this soft mannered Serb, Canada, a paved cycling path and house in the mountains is the dream.
There is a local speciality here called 'lescovacki voz' (Leskovac train). This is essentially a 'train' of meats brought to you throughout the evening. It would seem churlish not to try it... From here we head pretty much due North to Budapest, West to Vienna and then hit the straight line to London through Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium and France. ETA into Hyde Park is 4 weeks time today on the 8th May, but as with all great adventures, you can never be too sure what might get in our way or speed us up en route.