Short ride today. The rain wasn't too bad and I got into the town of Bjelovar early. Met up with my couchsurfer for the night, Dragana. She took me along to a session of ˝Insanity,˝ a workout class in a local gym. Apparently its all the rage back in the US, but I hadn't really heard of it before... The guy that was running the class turned out to be really into biking and used to live in the US, so it was cool getting to meet him. For once it was nice to watch other people doing lots of exercise instead of myself haha. Walked around town, got some beers, nice night.
Awesome local breakfast pastries and a quick coffee down at a bar with Dragana and her friends before heading out. Another day filled with Croatian countryside. Flat ride, no problems on the road, made great time. Got to the small town of Slatina, basically just ate dinner and watched TV in a hotel room.
|Couchsurfer Dragana and her mom|
|Dragana and friends|
Ever since Zagreb the weather forecast has called for rain everyday. Ever since Zagreb I haven't really had to deal with much rain. So much for the accuweather predictions... I have had a lot of misty, foggy weather, but nevertheless its been smooth riding. Bikes holding up well and the roads have been flat without too much wind. Into Osijek, and another awesome couchsurfing experience, this time with Dario. We went to this restaurant and got a traditional slow cooked meat stew dish. Man it was good. Really rich and filling too, perfect for the bike trip. Then we assembled a crew, and headed out into town for Saturday night.
|Right at home...|
Today I was flying. Probably the fastest day of the trip so far. As with the past couple of days the roads were flat and the traffic was ok. The secret today was my old frienemy, the wind. There are few things worse in this world than biking into a strong wind. But today the wind was heading my way, and it felt like I was on a motorcycle. Out with Croatia, in with Serbia.
Zagreb to Belgrade was by far the smoothest leg of the trip I've had so far. No real problems with the bike, I managed to get lucky with the rain and wind. Every day was fast, and every day was fun. I met a lot of interesting people and learned a lot about Croatia, Serbia, and former Yugoslavia. I have been able to have several fascinating conversations about the regional history. One fundamental comment I seem to be hearing over and over again, in both Croatia and Serbia, is that things were better before the war. I am curious to see if that sentiment continues as I travel through the country.
Made some friends in the hostel that like to party. Last night was fun. Didn't really get much done today. It was cool, a nice lazy day and a change of pace.
Before I left on the trip I applied to graduate school. Well everything is going pretty well on the application front, but I have one school which thinks they're special... It is a pretty good school so I guess maybe they are just a bit haha. Anyway, they require me to submit an online interview, a hard task when I have trouble finding reliable internet access, let alone a computer with a camera and microphone. They also want me to wear business casual clothes, which didn't make my cut when I was deciding what to pack before I left. Today I spent the majority of the day, trying to find a place to conduct the interview. I found an internet cafe with cameras, but I couldn't get it to work. I guess that was probably for the best since the cafe was in a bar, with drunk people behind me playing pool and rowdy games of foosball... Went to a couple other places, but long story short, I just could not find a place to do the interview. Hopefully I can find a place soon... Its sometimes been a bit of a balancing act dealing with the application process while also figuring out the logistics for my trip. Its ok though, all part of the deal.
Four days to Sofia, Bulgaria. There's a big town which I would like to check out, only problem is it doesn't quit line up perfectly with a nice even biking schedule. So the result is a two day sprint to Nis, and then two days of relatively easy biking into Sofia. At least that's the plan at the moment, time will tell. The challenge of the day wasn't the distance, the rain, the terrain, or the wind, it was the bad roads. Some parts were pretty good, but other sections were filled with potholes, cracks, and crumbling asphalt. Not only slowed me down, but made me quite nervous about keeping my bike in good shape. I did expect this to happen though, and that's exactly why I went for the thicker tires and mountain bike frame. Today was really the first day where I was glad I did that... Tonight I stopped at a small truck stop. It reminded me a lot of traveling in the US, a rest stop adjacent to an interstate with a diner and a huge "Motel" sign. Cheapest hotel room of the trip and a bar full great food and truckers signing along to loud Serbian music. Great place indeed.
Today had everything - the wind, the rain, the hills, the bad roads, the heavy traffic. None of these things persisted throughout the entire day, but there was always at least one of them bothering me at any given point. Also just a long ride today. Nevertheless, made it to Nis, quite proud that I was able to stick to schedule. Met up with a couchsurfer, Stevan, and he showed me to his place. I was amazed with his trust in humanity. After meeting me for only about 15 minutes he told me he had to go to a business dinner and he gave me a spare key and told me to make myself at home in his apartment while he was gone. Really nice guy.
Yesterday was around 130 km, today was only about 75 km, so I didn't approach the ride too seriously. Left around noon, headed out on the road towards Pirot. Ride wasn't too bad, roads were in better shape, but the wind was back... That wind. I really just can't express how much impact wind has on the trip. Wasn't quite as bad as some of my previous "wind days," but still slowed me down quite a bit. Anyway, got to town, another couchsurfer, this time Antonio. Very hospitable guy, we sat in his house drinking some great rakia and chilling. Went out tonight, small town, but still incredibly crowded bar. Live music, made some new friends, good times.