Beograd to Timisoara – a tale of wetness & warm hearts

I joined as a newbie in Beograd, finding a cheap bicycle and then trading up before the turnoff to our stay at the public camping area on War island, crossed by a pedestrian metal bridge manned by the military. (The understanding was that traffic ceased at eight o-clock but was later found to be for visitors and not campers like us. Meanwhile, it prevented us from joining a collective that was serving vegetarian pizza. Boo.) Beautiful site with beach, picnic tables, forest, and open grass at the merging of the Danube and Sava rivers. Internal rumblings of the group were ending in a kerfuffle of expulsion with long public interchanges of messages that I half understood.
After the Scouts departed, some earlier risers set out on an uphill cobblestoned route to cross the river on the main road. The scouted arrows quickly diverged us down a set of stairs, under an overpass and onto a dirt track that was EuroVelo 11. Really? Next adventure was the trailer, Platypus, breaking down and everyone offering different solutions from their engineering and cycling expertise. Three of us were deployed ahead to seek welding assistance and ended up at a stinky cow factory where a friendly driver offered possible pick up if we could get the trailer off dirt and onto gravel. Just when we thought there was no way out, the entourage with trailer appeared, having created a simple solution of straps. (Go Marzec!) Afternoon rain caught us and the later departers were pummeled by hail, some choosing the multi-laned highway. The skies opened and a hard rain did fall, accompanied by strong winds. And hail on those still close to Beograd. (see image evidence-sizeable!)
Ended up bivouaced at a stadium in Opovo after scouts checked in with the friendly Mayor, most of us arriving after dark. There was no electricity in the town since trees had been felled in the storm and knocked out the power lines. The stadium was next to a cafe and after a few hours the lights went back on. Happier campers.
We were in clumps of 4-5 and sought shelter from various kindly Serbs. My soaking wet group of five ended up in an enclave (after I was blown sideways across a bridge in the final leg) of open-hearted souls who gave us towels, t-shirts, tea, homemade sweets leftover from a funeral anniversary, rakija, and finally clothed us in last year’s Serbian custom officer’s uniforms, admonishing us to discard them before we got to the border. Others were welcomed by folks at a former German restaurant, or found an abandoned house or tent sheltered and we all finally ended up late in the day in a large unfinished sports building in Secanj that Manuel and I were directed to by a local when our idyllic spot by the river (with shower) was overshadowed by dark clouds and more ice falling from the sky predicted. 
For the next leg, Manuel and I were official scouts to Otelec. We took a byway from the river site that was still muddy, while directing the wiser rest of the group to the paved road. A quick downpour of rain and then sunshine eased us out of Serbia. Friendly border guards, one a young woman, waved us through. I forged on ahead and Manuel caught up at the grocery store with Hungarian/Romanian people following in a car who were arranging our place to stay. It turned out to be an ex-fishing club next to the police station. Very cushy with beds, a full kitchen, and the lure of a washing machine which posed peculiar problems to open. Some of the group were not pleased to be under police surveillance and camped in a field close by next to the bridge.
The next day was a sunny flat path along the river with only a small dogleg over a bridge and into Timisoara and onto city bikepaths. Our accommodations were at Centru Social Ledera (showerless but centrally located) and two apartments that our oh so kind hosts offered. At one point there were thirteen of us strewn about the center when the Spanish crew arrived, slightly sardined at best. There was also a gathering place ,”Kolektiva”, in an industrial building where we cooked and led workshops (Death cafe, Authentic Relating Games, Knopf concert) with super friendly locals. City/rest days were welcomed and Romanian street food sampled. Timisoara is a charming city with many buildings swathed in fabric for renovation. Some of us visited the Museum of Communist Consumerism on Monica’s recommendation – great experience!
Synopsis of the all-encompassing encounters enroute from Beograd to Cluj: mosquitoes, hail, heavy rain, wind, mud, hot sun, dogs ravaging food, bear siting, sheep grazing, quaint elder couple finishing raking hay before we could camp, shallow rivers, heart-warming rural folks, steep climbs & thrilling downhills. Everything a cyclist could wish for and more!


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