Just beyond the Serbian customs post, we met a young Australian couple who’d set out from England in March and who’d cycled to Turkey and back. We talked for a while. Each of these encounters inspires us to bigger dreams.
The spoken languages of Serbian and Croatian are similar enough to be considered dialects rather than separate languages (according to my learned reference: Lonely Planet Phrasebook Eastern Europe). However, the written form is in the cyrillic alphabet here in Serbia, adding a new layer of difficulty to navigating and finding shops. Book in hand, I managed to ask for a bank machine in Backa Palanka, the first Serbian town, and we took out some dinars.
Accommodation choices were few as we pedalled on into the evening. Ad hoc camping is frowned upon by Serbian authorities, we’d been told, and you are meant to have every night documented with payment that shows your passport number. After various failed attempts to find a room, we pulled onto a tiny side road to the river, where accommodation was shown on our Danube route map. We had done 120 km, and it was our seventh day’s cycling–670 km. The floating terrace restaurant was delightful, and we tucked into grilled fish as swans glided by. As far as accommodation, we were first told there was no room, but that we could camp. Later we were told to wait while a small bungalow was prepared for us. The men-in-black –who we’d thought were Novi Sad businessmen– were musicians who began to play traditional music. Once the room was ready, we collapsed into bed, with our bikes stowed under our riverside cabin.