The forecast today from Niš to Belgrade was for high 20’s so we made an early start this morning. Michele headed across to the bakery and fruit stand, a tin shed on the side of the street, to purchase breakfast. She returned with some cheese burek, a sour cherry bun, strawberries, cherries and after brewing some fresh coffee we had a lovely breakfast at the hostel.
The Day and Night Hostel is probably one of the nicest hostels we’ve stayed at during our travels with all the facilities attached to huge common areas, spacious modern double rooms, balcony, and friendly staff. All within walking distance of the city centre. We really regret not staying a few days to explore Niš. On the edge of Niš is a WW II concentration camp, and a fascinating communist era monument to the partisans. Throughout the former Yugoslavia are monuments of all shapes created by artists to recognise the partisans efforts to liberate the country during the war.
After breakfast I packed the bike and we rode through the tree lined streets as we headed out of the city. On the edge of Niš we passed a huge army base and spotted a group of soldiers digging weeds out of the concrete road. The sight took me back thirty years to being a fresh faced recruit.
On the edge of Niš we somehow ended up on the tollroad from Niš to Belgrade so we had no choice but continue on. We also thought that it may be better to get to Belgrade before it gets too hot.
Riding along we were contemplating how different Serbia is to Bulgaria. The colour of the countryside is a deeper green and the farms are laid out differently. There were lots of huge wheat fields but also lots of what looked like family plots. In between the wheat fields smaller acre sized plots of cabbages, corn, tomatoes, beans grew. There were also 1/2 acre sized stands of fruit trees. As our first coffee for the day didn’t quite hit the spot we made our first break only about 50 km’s down the road. We both chatted about the different landscape. At the moment it’s spring in Serbia so with all the sunny weather many farmers are busy making hay. It’s interesting watching them out in the fields on their little red IMT tractors cutting raking and bailing. a few times we spotted groups of farmers loading bails of hay onto their TAM farm trucks. They’re literally making hay whilst the sun shines.
Throughout the countryside groups of red brick two storey bungalows with terracotta tiled roofs stand together. In some places traces of ottoman style architecture show through in the style of windows, overhanging upper floors, and plastered houses finished in a dull whitewash.
Arriving in Belgrade
As we drew closer to Belgrade the temperature hotted up and we were glad we left a little early to try and beat the heat.
A bit of smog haze was settled over Belgrade as we rode over the hills on the outskirts of the city. Communist era apartment buildings dominated the skyline in a forest of drab grey buildings with the occasional red terracotta roofed bungalow dotted here and there adding a bit of colour.
The satnav led us to a group of grey apartment buildings covered in graffiti which had us raising an eyebrow. However, after a scout around Michele discovered the hotel was on the next street. It wasn’t in the nicest looking neighbourhood but there were a few bars attached to it along with a few restaurants nearby so it can;t be all abd.
After checking in we headed straight for the room, stripped off our bike gear, had a cold shower and put the air conditioner on full blast. It was so good to be out of the heat. After cooling down we headed down to one of the outdoor bars which surround the hotel and the first drink didn’t touch the side.
As the hotel is on the main bus line we decided to leave the bike parked and catch the bus into the city.
It seemed so strange to be back in Belgrade with the sun shining and all the flowers in bloom. The last time we visited Belgrade we caught the train from Bar to Montenegro on the train line which president Tito had constructed to showcase his country. We passed through some amazing countryside on our way to Belgrade and at the time, as it was in the middle of winter, it seemed the whole of Serbia was covered in snow. When we arrived in Belgrade it was snowing so all the streets were covered in a lovely blanket of snow. The contrast between then and now is quite amazing. We’d really love to catch the train down to Bar in Montenegro again just to see the difference in the countryside.
Around Belgrade and in the main promenade, where in winter hardly a face was to be seen, street side cafe’s had sprung up and the streets were abuzz with people out enjoying the sun.
We visited Belgrade Fortress which was packed with people. Through the park market barrows were set up selling souvenirs, drinks and food. Old men played piano accordions whilst their wives and friends gathered around singing old traditional Serbian songs. It was a really nice mood of people having fun playing music and singing.
Wandering back through the promenade we passed the small cafe where during our last visit we met up with Mick Whitty a wild Australian, with a long scraggly beard like Catweazle, on a bicycle journey following in the footsteps of his grandfathers World War I diary. Back when we met him he was huddled over a coffee inside the cafe out of the snow with his bike propped up against the front window. We’ve been following his journey ever since on Facebook laughing at his madcap adventures.
We also visited the Moscow Hotel where last time we had its famous Moscow Snit. As we’d already had a cake today the Moscow Snit will have to wait until tomorrow.
Late in the day after walking around the centre we caught the bus back to the hotel. All around the hotel the suburb had come alive with people coming home from work, bars, restaurants and takeaways opening. Tomorrow we are going to take a Free Walking Tour of Belgrade which should be fun. We’ll definitely be wearing hats.