The priority for today was to cross into Serbia and have someone give the bike a bit of an overhaul. Nothing serious just a few adjustments and some lubrication.
The border was only a couple of kilometres from where I stayed, so first thing I crossed the bridge over the Danube into Croatia. All very straightforward just a stamp in my passport.
Bačka Palanka, the town on the Serbian side, proved unsuccessful for a bike shop so I would have to until the regional capital, Novi Sad, about 50km further on. It was back on the flood dyke again, more wide open spaces and a reasonable surface for cycling. At one spot there were a few men fishing- it was a lovely sheltered inlet, so I had my break here. I watched as one man sitting in a boat at the shore caught a few small fish; over the space of about half an hour he had takes from about three much bigger fish, but he failed to catch these. For the first time ever I began to appreciate the challenge and perhaps the allure of course fishing. As I watched a Black-crowned Night Heron flew into the inlet and quarried around owl-like scanning the water’s surface. That was a surprise and a delight to see.
The approach to Novi Sad is met with a cluster of high rise appartment blocks that have seem better days. Around one, a peregrine falcon screeched- I wondered had anyone else noticed from the busy street? I found a very obliging bike shop, Fanatic, who took my bike from me and gave it the once over- charged me only for parts, which was very decent. Novi Sad has been chosen as European City of Culture for 2021 – in the short time I was there I got the sense it is a quirky city and could offer a lot in that role.
About 20km or so from Novi Sad, I came to roadworks where the main road was completely dug up- in true Craggy Island fashion, they took the road in for a few months to repair it. This resulted in cars turning off onto farm track and general travel chaos. Finally, I arrived to where four cars had come to a dead end. You always know things are bad when all the locals are out of their cars and on their mobile phones looking for some assistance. Certainly I hadn’t a clue where I was to go. One local finally had it nailed, and gave everyone there detailed descriptions of where to go. To be fair to the man, he didn’t ignore me. It can be difficult enough at times to get direction you can understand from a farmer at home, but one with a Serbian dialect was a bridge too far. I rode on in the vague direction the cars went, but of course was stumped at the first cross roads. Finally, when completely and utterly lost, and arriving to the end of a lane in some hillside in the back of beyonds, I spied a sign for what looked like a guest house- a very welcomed sight.
It is often the way with travel that when you are at your wit’s end and most in need of bit of a break, that you fall on your feet. I arrived as a lost soul on the doorstep of Mirko Jevtović’s home, to be greeted with true hospitality. Mirko house was small but homely. He lived here with his wife, but she was away for the evening. He gave me a room overlooking his garden – a long orchard with meticulous maintained fruit trees and bushes. Coffee was produced first thing, and with a mixture of English, German and Google translate were got chatting. He was an interesting man, with a nice manner. It was easy chatting to him. I was shown the garden and he treated me to peaches and nectarines from the tree. Gardening was his great passion. He invited me to eat with him and a great plate of meat, cheese and vegetables was produced. I also tried some of his homemade plum schnaps; that went down smoothly! He handed me a pepper. I was about to bite into it but he warned ‘It is angry’. Heeding his advice, I took a sliver to taste- angry, indeed it was! A good expression I though for something that would blow the head off you.
We broached a few topics that would have been interesting had we a greater range of vocabulary. I didn’t need to know much Serbian to get the gist that Mirko was not a fan of the EU!
Our evening finished up watching Argentina just managing to qualify for the knockout stages of the World Cup, and exchanging photos and news of our respective families.