Before leaving Belgrade I stopped at the local bike shop to get a new chain and maybe find a new left crank arm. When my homedog mechanic, Marco, looked at the bike he was shocked at the condition of the drive chain. My chain, a cheap kmc chain, installed in CA, had stretched over 2 inches and had completely wore out the middle chain ring on the crank, and all the sprockets on the cassette. A new chain and cassette are easy replacements in Serbia but my Sugino, 5 bolt middle chain ring, is impossible to find. Rather then deal with mail order parts from the UK I abandoned the idea of changing the middle chain ring and now have to double shift when climbing. I also installed a left crank arm but the size is a few mm shorter than the right one, pedaling was a bit awkward at first but all in all gaby runs smoothly, and when I arrive in Istanbul I hope to find better parts.
The Serbian diet is very similar to that of Hispanics. In the villages the locals eat beans, with le pinna (a thin bread similar to a tortilla), crushed tomatoes with bell peppers and onions. Many Serbs also have an appearance very similar to Mexicans and celebrate their own version of “day of the dead”.
I am heading east on the Danube river to see the largest canyon in Europe, second in the world only to the Grand Canyon. Leaving Belgrade I cycled through the most polluted city in the country, Pancevo. Factory after factory spewing smoke into the blue sky, (the city also makes its own yogurt which is quite good). The roads are relatively quiet and small villages line the banks of the Danube.
While looking for a place to camp, the village of Ivanovo, I befriended some locals drinking beer outside a grocery store. An older man named Zoran spoke English and after a few beers, 2L size, invited me to stay at his country home. We talked mostly about traveling, and he told me that his only regret in life was that he waited until he was 50 to start. A Belgrade native, Zoran had traveled all over the world and used to be a chauffeur for the Serbian Embassy. I invited him to dinner and we ate Cata Georjva (fried beef wrapped around pork), and Oustipsy (mixed fried meat with cheese) at a local restaurant. I slept on his floor, and breathed heavily in his smoky house.
Zoran starts his day with beer, so being a good guest we toasted off the morning with a “Ziveli”(Serbian Cheers)! He made me fresh caught, roasted fish and then we headed to a friends house on the river. Ivanovo, is a very small community of mixed races, Serbians, Muslims, and Hungarians make up the majority although there are few Croatian and Bosnia households. Constantine, Bosnian a retired, electrical engineer, has a house right on the Danube river. He spends his time distilling his own plum brandy, and makes very tasty apple marmalade.
Upon arrival Constantine (Kole) pulled out a large glass gallon container of “Jabukovaca” (His very own plum brandy), and we toasted off the afternoon listening to Serbian folk songs. After a few hours, of partying I made an attempt to leave but notice that I could no longer stand up, I also could feel the familiar salvia lubrication in my throat. I unsteadily paced to the river and spent about an hour puking and enjoying the grass by the river. Kole found me passed out on the grass and walked with me back to his house. He offered me his room and I slept for rest of the evening.
I woke up hangover free, and drank homemade tomato juice in the garden. My Ipod is now full of Serbian folk music, and Kole is now a big fan of African folk. International music exchange! Kole cooked me a breakfast of eggs and homemade jam and wished me luck on the journey.
I am now in a small village about 30 km away called “Kovin”. The countryside is full of sheep and most of the villagers are either fishing or managing sheep. The weather is fantastic! During the day it is very close to 30 C, and other than a constant head wind conditions are ideal for sandals. I find the Serbia/Yugoslavian culture very interesting and I am finally getting the feeling that I am far away from home. With a huge Turkish influence on food, music and religion I thoroughly look forward to seeing the rest of Yugoslavia; Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro and Macedonia.