Friday 25 July 2014

Senses Assailed

We feel on the verge of sensory overload. The past few days as we have ridden the tandem from Belgrade, Serbia, along the Danube and into Romania have been the most rewarding of the trip.

The cycling, sights, people, stories we have heard, friendly waves - they've all added up to something special.

Judy the Stoker tucks into a local speciality in Serbia - kacamak, which is a doughy goo a bit like polenta, accompanied by grilled cheese. Hmmmmm...

In no particular order, here's a random rundown of a few of them.

Two German cyclists met on the top of a Serbian hill. "What were the dogs like in Romania," asked Judy the Stoker.

"No problem," one of them answered. "We heard all the stories about being attacked, but just whack your panniers loudly and they stop chasing"

Next day we meet a Belgian couple on a 1,300 cc motorcycle.  "What were the dogs like in Romania," asked Judy the Stoker.

"Terrible," he said and goes on to explain how they rode through a tunnel where a pack of wild dogs lived. "Twenty chasing from behind, five in front. One got my leg, we wobbled but I was wearing my leather trousers so wasn't injured. But terrifying."

As a precaution we bought a version of a dog Dazer (see photo for details) before we left Belgrade. Haven't had a chance to test it in anger.

In need of a dog Dazer? After so many stories from fellow travellers about dangerous dogs in Romania, we went in search of a Dazer in Belgrade, Serbia. We found a similar device which emits a high pitched tone, unpleasant to dogs but inaudible to humans. The shop is known as Snijpar, at Prizrenska 13, near Hotel Moskva.

Scenery through the Iron Gates must be among the best on the entire EV6 from Nantes, in France.  The river narrows to 150 metres at one point and for a couple of days we have rejoiced in blue sparkling water. Hills remind us this is a bike ride, though nothing over 10 per cent gradient and all rideable. Had to stop once on a downhill to allow the tandem's brakes to cool down.

The ruins of Cetatii Tricole, a former Habsburg castle, which was partially submerged  when the Djerdap 1 dam was built on the Danube to generate hydro electric power.

Weather hot - mid 30s with sudden thunderstorms, particularly in the late afternoons.

Memorable moments include riding into a sleepy village and having a large dog bark rather too enthusiastically at us. We asked its owner - an elderly man - if there was a cafe where we might buy coffee. He indicated no, paused for a moment then waved us into the shade of a verandah. A woman we later discovered was his daughter-in-law emerged from the house and there was a brief discussion. Before we knew it we were drinking lemon juice and coffee and eating chocolate cake and learning that the man's sister had migrated to New Zealand and lived in Wellington.

Judy used a stick to nudge this turtle away from the road and out of harm's way.

Another memorable moment - man proudly shows us a campground cabin which we are considering renting for the night. He yanks the window open so enthusiastically it comes away from the wall and he almost drops it on his foot. We took the room. There was netting over the window so no mozzies, which was all we cared about.

This monument to the Dacian king Decebalus (reign from 87 AD to 106 AD) is on the Romanian side of the Danube. It was made in the early years of this century and paid for by a Romanian industrialist.

We rode into Romania at Sip yesterday, across the Danube which creates a natural border.

On the final stretch of the Serbian side we could see what looked like a brand new freeway across the Danube and were grateful we were missing all the heavy traffic.

Romania is one of the newer members of the EU (2007) and while it is making economic gains the gulf between west and east Europe becomes a chasm here. Although we were prepared for it, we were still surprised by the empty, falling down industrial buildings on the outskirts of Drobeta - Turnu Severin.

Two prostitutes were looking for business among the long haul truckies, one of the women stood so far out into the road we came close to hitting her as we barrelled past.

Mangy dogs rambled about but we didn't discern a marked personality change between them and their cuzzie bros a kilometre away across the river.

The Danube at its narrowest point in the Iron Gates - 150 metres.

Once in the town, things looked better but it took time late in the day to find somewhere to stay. Have ended up in a small 3 star hotel which we have taken for two nights. Celebrated the border crossing with a meal in the hotel's outdoor restaurant with beer and wine and collapsed into bed. Judy managed to find the Tour de France on the TV and watched stage 18.


Distance: about 2/3 of the way from Munich, Germany to Constanta (on the Black Sea), Romania.
Punctures this trip: 1
Distance Cycled This Trip: 1,923 km
Distance to Constanta: approx 875 km
Current Location: Drobeta - Turnu Severin, Romania

A stop to snack on roadside blackberries. The tunnel behind is 371 metres long and unlit. However, it does have a footpath (cyclists' escape route).

Quotable Quotes
We have spent more than a week with kiwi friends in Belgrade and Sarajevo, and they came up with some quotes worth sharing. 
S talking about the number of unnatural blondes in Belgrade. "They must sell hydrogen peroxide in industrial quantities here."

S poses a question: "What is the difference between erotic and exotic?"
Answer: "Erotic is with a feather, exotic is with the whole chook."

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