The morning involved a busy road with a long hill and the rain came in the afternoon. These are all things that Christine hates!
But let’s cover the last two days in order. We left you on Tuesday evening hanging on to your hat in the strong winds waiting for the rain to come! Well the rain largely stayed away with only a few spots every now and then throughout the night, and gradually the wind died down so that Wednesday dawned bright and clear. This meant that the mosquitoes came out to play having been tucked up in their beds the previous evening because of the weather! We packed up camp as quickly as we could and dived into the adjacent cafe for breakfast. For the princely sum of £4.40 we had a cheese omelette, a “hamendecks” (say it!), an orange juice and two coffees.
The road out of Backa Palanka was busy, straight and narrow meaning that traffic sped past far too close. To make matters worse the clouds came in and there were more spots of rain. After about 10 km we were grateful to turn off and head towards the river and dyke.
Although the path was not made up to start off with it was fine and we made good progress towards Novi Sad, the second largest city in Serbia and the only one, other than Belgrade, that either of us had heard of. As we neared the city the route initially became paved and then joined quiet side roads.
The plan was to go straight through and find a hotel or pension in one of the small towns and villages on the other side of the river so that Belgrade was reachable the next day. However, the rain became much heavier just as we hit the centre of Novi Sad and there was a convenient cafe! An hour later the rain eased up a little but all our motivation had followed the rainwater down the drain and so we headed for the nearest hotel.
Novi Sad was much better than our ill informed prejudices had led us to expect. There was a very nice square surrounded by typical Austro-Hungarian buildings, a couple of nice churches (one Orthodox with the usual absence of pews or other seating) and a fortress overlooking the river. We later read (in Wikipedia so it must be true!) that all three bridges over the Danube were destroyed by NATO bombing in 1999 as part of the efforts to end the civil war.
We viewed Thursday morning’s cycling with some trepidation as the guidebook indicated a long stretch on a busy road with some stiff climbing. It did show an alternative route that avoided the 5 km climb just before the turn off on to quieter roads but when we started to follow this we met a Basque cyclist coming the other way who had given up and said there was no way through.
Reluctantly we headed back to the main road and started on the 8% climb. Christine did not enjoy her walk up the hill with fast traffic zooming past and was decidedly grumpy when she got to the top. However she was a little mollified by a lovely peach from a roadside stall and then a very pleasant chat with three young English lads, Toby, Jack and Rowen who were on their last day cycling from Linz to Belgrade.
We had lunch at a rest area set up for Eurovelo 6 riders by a small village that had wholeheartedly embraced the concept. A sign showed 1580 km to the Black Sea and over 2500 km to the Atlantic back the other way.
Setting off again we met another English cyclist, Harry, going the other way. He had been looking out for us having been told about “an English couple” by the two Belgians on the tandem who we had spoken to about a week earlier. Harry was heading towards Passau having started in Crete.
It was definitely a day for stopping to natter with our fellow travellers as a little further on we met a French couple heading home having “done” South East Asia, China and Kyrgyzstan before flying to Belgrade.
The rain had started while we were talking to Harry but by the time we had finished speaking to the French couple it was much heavier. After half an hour of this, and with no sign of a let up, Christine decided that she had had enough for one day and proposed that we stop in the next village where there were two or three places to stay. Stephen had been expecting this and did not take much persuading!
The village was a little off the route down a 10% hill by the Danube – only the second time we had seen it since Novi Sad. We look forward to the climb first thing in the morning!
Dinner was taken in a restaurant with a lovely view of the river and was only spoiled by the smell of cigarette smoke from most of the other customers. Christine ordered trout and was surprised to be presented with two fish on the plate. Despite her protestations she must have been hungry as she left only about 1/4 of one of them!