Hang on to Your Hat!

The weather over the last few days has been much better with thin, high cloud taking the edge off the heat so that the temperature has been in the range 25° to 30°. This has been much better for cycling.

As we left Vukovar on Tuesday morning the cloud was a little thicker which meant that the sun cream that we had applied was superfluous. We went past the water tower which is being kept in its war damaged state as a reminder of the terrible times twenty years ago.

The water tower in Vukovar.
The water tower in Vukovar.

The road south was not particularly pleasant being quite busy with fast traffic and slightly undulating. This was not what we were used to! After about 20 km we reached a junction and thankfully a large part of the traffic went the other way to us. However, the hills got steeper with short sharp descents into the villages followed by similar ascents. Christine walked up these while Stephen ground away slowly up the 8% inclines.

As we approached Ilok, where the route crossed the river into Serbia, Christine started to feel a little under the weather, not helped by the fact that it was warming up as the sun had burnt off most the clouds. We decided to aim for the campsite in Ilok’s twin town across the river, Backa Palanka, rather than the one 20 km further on.

The border crossing was quite a novel experience as our passports were inspected by both sides and the Serbian even stamped them! As we crossed the river in “nomansland” we saw a distance sign on the river saying 1297 km to the mouth.  It  was then a short ride into town to find a bank to avoid a repetition of the “money troubles” described in the previous post. As we expect to be on Serbia for around 10 days the amount of the initial withdrawal was less vexing.

With the means of paying our way safely stowed in our wallets we headed back towards the river to find the campsite. When we arrived at the place indicated in the guidebook there was no sign of a formal campsite but a young man explained that it was permissable to camp under the trees by the river. No campsite fees will certainly help to offset the cost of two consecutive nights in hotels in our budget calculations!

As another change in the weather was under way with black clouds heading towards us we quickly erected the tent. Just after this was completed the wind started to blow very strongly making the tent flap loudly. All the bathers who had been enjoying the adjacent lake disappeared in an instant.

As we write this two hours after arriving the wind on billowing around and the temperature has dropped about 10° but there has been no rain – so far!

Money Troubles

Although we managed to deal with the initial money crisis on arriving in Croatia we have continued to have issues.  We eventually found a money machine “on the road” on Sunday morning which meant we were solvent again but we had to take a punt on how much we needed. It is difficult when you don’t know what prices are like or how long you will be staying in the country. And, being accountants, we are mindful of the cost of each withdrawal and the way in which you lose out when converting what is left into the currency of the next country!

Arriving in the city of Osijek on Sunday evening, we saw there were several exchange bureaux so we decided that the remaining Hungarian money could be converted in the morning and so decided to splash out a bit on a decent hotel as we had been in the tent for the last week.
However, it turned out that we had been caught out by Public Holiday Syndrome (Antifascist Day in Croatia)! This prevented us changing the Hungarian money and when we got to Vukovar on Monday afternoon we found that the campsite indicated on the map was no more and the only accommodation available cost more than we had in kuna. So it was off to the monwy machine again. Grrr!

But that is enough of our troubles. Let’s get back to the usual stuff!

Not long after starting on Sunday morning we were confronted by a couple of arrows on the map meaning that climbing was required. The hill was not actually that steep but it was a nasty shock to the system after many miles of flatness.

As we moved away from the border there were more villages and people around. The guidebook told us that this was the “breadbasket” of Croatia and it certainly looked increasingly prosperous. There were many vineyards as well as other crops such as sunflowers, sweetcorn and wheat. Many of the houses looked more wealthy than the average in Slovakia and Hungary but every so often there was one that was falling down and overgrown. We speculated that these were abandoned by Serbs as a result of the civil war of the early 1990s because Serbia is very close.

We were on quiet country roads for most of the day but as we approached Osijek, the fourth largest city in the country, a cycle track beside the road appeared just as the traffic level increased. Very considerate!

Walking around the city we saw many ice cream parlours and cafes but only one restaurant. This was in the top hotel in town (not the one we were staying in – we weren’t that extravagant!) and had a very nice meal before Christine rushed off to the 6.30 service in the cathedral (of St Peter and St Paul to make a change!) The church was packed with many families and young people. She managed to grab one of the few remaining seats with many standing in the aisles.

After the abortive attempt to change money on Bank Holiday Monday we headed off, initially on a cycle track but then on a major road that led to the Serbian border. Perhaps because of the public holiday there wasn’t too much traffic but what there was was going fast as the road had long straight sections. As a result Christine persuaded Stephen to put his helmet on for the first time since Budapest.

As we neared the border our route turned south onto quieter roads and we caught our first glimpses of the Danube since the ferry crossing in Mohacs. As we entered Vukovar we reached a significant landmark on our journey as we went through the 3,000 km mark. We are now more than 2/3 of the way to the Black Sea and more than half way along the Danube.

 

 

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The name “Vukovar” resonated with both of us as a name from the civil war of twenty years ago. The town is slowly recovering from the dreadful events with marked contrasts between brand new buildings of glass and bombed out remains and bullet marked houses.

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All being well we will today leave Croatia for Serbia (and finally convert our remaining forints into whatever they use in Serbia!)