We’ve just entered our thirteenth country – Serbia! We spent the night in the Bosnia-Herzegovina border town of Zvornik. The town itself was fine, but the only two hotels in the city were ridiculously expensive. We ended up paying $70 for a tiny hotel room. There was just enough room to open the door, take two steps into the room, then jump directly into one of the two twin beds the room contained. An added treat was that the room was on the ground floor, the window by my bed had apparently been left open all day, and there were a few little millipede looking worm things cuddled up under my blanket. I was incredibly grossed out and had a hard time sleeping after listening to Jamie repeatedly ponder whether they’d be looking for a warm place to curl up and sleep at night.
We rode over a bridge into Serbia first thing in the morning. We didn’t have any Serbian dinar and were on the lookout for an ATM so we could get money out for lunch. Usually this isn’t a problem and we find an ATM within an hour or so of entering a new country. Unfortunately for us there were no ATMs in any of the small towns along our first day’s route. 85km down the road was a larger city that we thought would have an ATM but until then we were completely broke! We had some Croatian Kuna that we tried to exchange at a few banks when we started to get desperate for lunch money, but no one would accept them. We also had 2 Euro that I tried to spend at a supermarket, but of course no one wanted them. I was dejectedly walking out of the supermarket wondering what we were going to eat for lunch when I happened to spy a 200 Dinar bill ($4) laying on the ground. Yippee!! We used it to buy some food at the bakery and made it the rest of the way to our first stop in Serbia – the city of Šabac. The Serbian countryside we rode through during the day was pretty farmland. The poor road quality, small towns, and vendors selling produce along the roadsides made us feel like we were back in Asia.
It is harvest time here, and all day we see farmers driving tractors down the road and working in their cornfields.
Once again we had trouble finding an affordable place to stay in Šabac. There was no camping and only two hotels in town. They both cost approx $100 for a room. With no other options, we stayed in the $100 room and groaned about how this was absolutely destroying our budget. To rub salt in the wound, the room was not even nice. The shower didn’t drain, the bathroom smelled like sewage, and the cable going into the TV looked like it had been chewed apart by a mouse, which made the reception horrible. It was like the hotel quality in Cambodia at Western European prices! We ate bread, cheese, and apples for dinner while watching CNN and Animal Planet. The exorbitant price did include a buffet breakfast which was tasty. I enjoyed a nice selection of pastries and Jamie had some strange meats and pickled things.
It was another 85km to the large city of Novi Sad. Novi Sad is on the Danube and we were expecting the entire ride to be pancake flat. So we were both pretty shocked when we climbed a 300m pass followed by a 500m pass, including multiple 12% grades!
Near the top of the pass we stopped for a snack. While we were sitting there eating our bread, cheese, and apples two dogs came over to check us out. One of the dogs was smallish with black wavy fur – it looked exactly like a little lamb. I loved it. It lied down on the ground about two feet away from our feet and literally slithered over to us on its belly. It wanted to be petted and fed, which of course we did! Every time we see a stray animal we always wish we could take it with us.
Due to road construction we were forced to rejoin a major road for the final 20km into Novi Sad. Half of this 20km included winding steep descents towards the river basin. The drivers in Serbia have been some of the most aggressive, macho, and basically insane drivers we’ve seen anywhere in the world. They have a mania for passing each other, even if it is completely obvious that there is nothing to be gained by passing (i.e. slow moving traffic due to upcoming road blockades for road construction). This insatiable urge to pass every moving vehicle on the road persists even on blind corners, mountain roads with no shoulder, alongside slow moving cyclists, or the combination of all three of these things. To top this all off we have been seeing roadside gravestones every kilometer or so – I can only assume these are victims of traffic accidents. It is really unbelievable and has convinced us to stick to small roads whenever possible!
Novi Sad was a much bigger city that we’d expected. It is also really beautiful, especially around the main square.
The Catholic Cathedral’s spire is rainbow colored!
Painted cows are scattered throughout the city.
We originally planned to stay in Novi Sad for one day to rest before heading to Belgrade. Last night we checked the weather though, and found out that there would be one more day of cold and rainy weather before things start to clear up, so we decided to hang out here for one more day before riding along the Danube to Belgrade.