Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Zrenjanin, Serbia

Breakfast in the morning was a Russian Breakfast. No coffee, but very good tea was served. The buffet table had the obligatory cucumbers and tomatoes and black, Russian bread was in the bread basket. We ate and started our ride along the West end of the Danube River, following close to shore.
After leaving Kladovo the road became very twisty and would have been fun to ride if it were not for the condition of its surface. Seemingly at random, large rectangular or square patches had been cut about 2 or 3 inches deep into the surface of the road. Let’s call them planned potholes!
Dangerous and with sharp edges they were cut into the road in preparation for repairs but those repairs never happened. The potholes were placed at angles that are very dangerous to a 2 wheeled vehicle. Entering at the wrong angle would certainly lead to you spilling your bike and leaning your bike would definitely create a severe crash. Carol and I tried to miss as many as we could by riding in between the cut outs yet we hit some doozies. Not only do those mean holes shake up your bike and your bones and rattle everything on and in the bike, but the sharp edges of the hole cut into the tires, also. Riding became a slalom run on curvy roads. I think somebody planned this with a vicious idea in mind. Just when you think you have it all figured out, this devious mind added tunnels. And yes, within the tunnels were those holes, too. Then, this mind does not add lights to the tunnels and now you ride in the dark with your headlights only, trying to find those potholes. After you think you found a solution this sick mind adds curves inside the tunnels to screw with you a bit more. Observing the color changes in the roads makes the cut outs somewhat visible and you can pick a line to avoid them, even if it means riding on the left side of the road sometimes. Sure, some holes go across the whole width of the road and there is just no way. BAM! You hit one of those suckers. Your bike shakes; you check your tires and add 25 cents to the swear jar. After 50 miles of riding like that you notice you never looked at the panorama. You are fighting to get going and 3 hours have passed by. Now something new is added. Tar has been painted in some of the holes so it is harder to see the color change. BANG! You hit another one! Then, some holes are fixed, some are not. You cannot tell, really since they come at you fast, 2nd gear is actually fast enough but you are in nowhere land, in a National Park kind of setting. Very few cars pass you, they have it a bit easier since they have 4 wheels but they too, hit hard. Some buses creep along, you pass them and ouch, you hit another cut out. Whoever thought about fixing roads like this has never ridden a motorcycle. The condition of the road was awful. We managed to get across the Gap section of the River Danube but I cannot say I enjoyed it. From the little we saw the panorama is not worth the difficulty we encountered. Bad suggestion, Mr. Croatia, we should have gone a different way across Serbia. Coming out of this nightmare at the small town of Veliki we took a well needed break and sipped some water to cool off our tempers. The sun had beaten us up at 37 degrees Celsius ( 104 F ) and we were glad to ride on a normal road.
Our next experience was a ferry crossing near the ancient town of Bela. I did not know there were only two ferries per day. Arriving 10 minutes before the afternoon ferry was pure luck. The ferry itself was homemade. The warped boards of the deck stood at nutty angles but we got across. That we had to ride unto the ferry using a gravel ramp and full speed, that we were almost the only passengers, that getting off needed a shovel to create another gravel ramp and good balance on our part we will not consider dangerous. By now, this is part of travelling in the Balkan region. Expect the unexpected. Live from minute to minute. Adjust to every kind of conceivable satiation. Make do with what you have, what you find along the way. Get help if you can, help yourself the best you can when you need it. While waiting for the ferry we had another quick drink at a restaurant next to the ‘terminal’. Another passenger, proud to practice his English had many questions and was in awe at our endeavors. Two Romanian men travelling on foot back to their country, after having found work for 2 weeks in Serbia told us of the hardship in surviving the ‘no work’ situation in Romania, This guy had a wife and 2 sons yet could not find any work at all in his homeland. His father or father-in-law, I cannot recall, was in the same situation. I could only listen; I could understand their plight yet could do nothing to help.
After getting off the ferry we rode through the small ferry town and took a look around. I felt like I would see and meet Huckleberry Fin around the corner. This was a small, sleepy town in nowhere land trying to hold on; the ferry serving as the only connection with life, arriving and departing twice a day. We left and were on our way, glad to have options available to us that others do not have.
The roads we took finally got us to the bigger town of Zrenjanin; an industrial town in the middle of the now totally flat landscape. The heat index was unchanged at 104 F or more. It was time to call it quits for the day. Naturally we have to find a hotel. I rode around town but saw nothing. One of my tricks in finding a hotel is to ask a taxi driver. Those guys know the towns well, know of good and bad hotels and can, if you do not understand their directions, drive you there. You just follow their cars and voila, you are at a hotel. You pay them for their service but at least you get a room without the frustrating effort of finding it yourself. This time, however, I asked a car parked nearby and not a taxi driver. The 2 guys were extremely courteous and nice and drove us to a hotel about 8 miles outside of town. No charge! It was their pleasure and our pleasure, too. Thank you!
The hotel was in the middle of wheat fields, near a major road but away from everything. Why they built a hotel here I do not know but does it matter? Does it matter that the large room we had, an apartment really, had a shower without curtains; that the water was yellow even though we ran it for 30 minutes? Our bikes were safe! We were safe and even had air conditioning. The place had a restaurant and we ate well. We slept well that night because it was quiet in the middle of the fields.
We survived another day and tomorrow we will leave for Hungary!

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