Suggestion : Print this out in draft form, on scrap paper, and use it for some bedtime, bathroom or weekend reading. Our journals are more like a chapter of a book and this is 7 pages. So relax and enjoy!
Exciting Photos: Just click the link below. Big thanks to Panasonic for the cameras:
Newsletter—compellation of blog entries…
Greetings from Novi Sad, Serbia! I have good news and not so good news for you blog readers. Good news is that I posted an amazing 7 page newsletter with stunning photos of my most recent Balkan adventure in Bosnia. I have decided to keep the tradition of newsletters going as I’ve had about a dozen regular supporters request it and I want to make the time to write good stuff for my book. So the blog will just be short updates and links to the newsletters. I think that sounds right
I strongly suggest taking the time to have an armchair adventure with me and some very awesome Bosnians—head to www.peacepedalers.com/bosnia-nl.html and enjoy the ride!
The not so good news is that I’ve been here in Serbia for about 5 days and I’m hitting a few speed bumps on getting the pedals moving both physically and emotionally. Yesterday I had my first day of official riding here in Serbia and something still is just not right. In fact, ever since I crossed the border I have not felt comfortable, peaceful or any real connection to the people or the country. It is likely just a case of “Balkan Burnout”, or perhaps some fears or even anger I have towards the country and its recent flexing of military muscles. But whatever it is from an emotional standpoint it is manifesting into physical issues too.
Check this out. Just as I arrived last Friday and was riding into town my rear rack bent again and the tire was rubbing the rack. Then when I attempted to bend it back I broke my rear hard case so now I have to strap it to the trailer, making the use of the rear tripod impossible. I decided to leave that event in the past and hit the town that night to experience some of the famous Belgrade nightlife. But for some reason all I found were heavy smoking, almost as heavy drinking and cold groups of people that seems to me to be unhappy deep inside and just hiding it with this big party.
Now that was just my initial feeling but as I went out walking the next morning I still experienced the people the same way—coldness, sadness, tension, anger and aggressive vibes all over. My smiles were met with a cold looks, my “Dober Dan” (Good Day) greetings unreturned, and this happened over and over again. As I sat on benches to just observe I saw a business and worried look on the majority of the people. I still don’t know if it’s just me or if it was really just the way the Serbians I saw were.
Things started looking up later Saturday morning. My good friend and guest rider Mirela from Sarajevo decided to join me for the weekend in Belgrade and hopped in her car for the 4 hour drive. While she was on her way I met my host Bobo, another friend of Svemir from Croatia. He is a sweet man who just published his 5th book about people who “protect the light” and has several portraits of people making a difference in the world. He is doing a book signing and release party and wanted me to be part of it. He lined up a meeting with the Blic newspaper for me, which resulted in a great full page article the next day, which I was very grateful.
I had a 20km ride to get to Bobo’s house and he was not interested in riding it with me so I pedaled my way out of the busy capital just as the rain began to fall once again. It was then that I realized my rear hub was locking up and the freewheel was not working. I also noticed that the rear tire had a bubble in it and was on the verge of popping! If that was not enough, the front rack also had two cracks in it, likely from when I loaded it up when the first rear rack break happened. Now you see what I mean when I say the mental stuff and the physical stuff were coming together here!
I rolled into Bobo’s place just as Mirela arrived from Sarajevo and my funky mood immediately turned to bliss. Mirela and I get along so well, and we were both very grateful to be back together for some more adventures. We had a great meal with Bobo and his girlfriend Zorca then hit the town for some yummy drinks back in the center. For the next 24 hours it was really all about relaxing, taking in the sights, getting to know Bobo and Mirela, and enjoying our time together building our friendships.
Mirela had to leave early Monday morning and when I woke up to start my day I just could not be bothered to get out of bed. Bobo must have felt the same way as neither of us got anything going until after 10. I spent most of the day working on fixing all the issues on my bike and equipment, washing up stinky clothes from Bosnia, catching up on newsletters and missing Mirela and my Bosnian crew big time. Again, as I was out on the town getting my tasks done I still did not find anyone I connected with like in other countries, and the hopes of finding a rider out of town with me were fading.
I did some maintenance on my hub, got a new tire, found a way to bend my rack back enough to ride and thought yesterday would be the day I’d pedal on north. I rode off solo with a late start to Novi Sad at about 4PM. It was only a 60km ride so no sweat getting to the city before dark, so I thought. I was rolling along great at the start but at the 30km mark the rack started to bend again and the tire rubbing. I had to take all the weight off it and put it in the rear bag, a process that took about 30 minutes.
Then I got my first flat tire at about 30 km mark, which I feared would be the case on a cheap tire, even though it was the best I could find. And it takes a while to fix a flat on my rear tire, another almost 30 minutes. Then came the climb over the mountain that never seemed to end. Nearly at the top, just as the sun was going down, I realized I had another flat tire! I pumped it up and it held, meaning it was just a slow leak. I figured rather than take the 20-30 minutes in the last bits of daylight I’d pump it up and hope to make it to Novi Sad like this. The slow leak got faster and faster, it got darker and darker, and eventually I was riding at night with heaps of cars having to stop every few kilometers to pump up my tire. Oh, and it started raining too. Nice! Not.
If that was not enough, when I arrived into Novi Sad every place in town was full from convention in town and it took me over an hour to find a bed. I was showered and ready to finally eat at 11PM, but tried to remain optimistic about going out and meeting some folks to ride with me the next day. I walked around the stunning town of Novi Sad, gave friendly smiles as I normally do, tried to meet some people and tried to meld into the community a bit. After 3 hours on the town I just gave up and accepted that I am not meant to ride the next day with anyone
I slept in this morning until 10AM as the rain hammered the roof, only making me feel worse. But the good news, and only really positive thing getting me excited right now as I sit on a train, without my bike, back to Bobo’s book launch event, is that Mirela is going to be there too. Mirela and Bobo connected and built a great friendship last visit and Bobo painted a portrait of her for his event. And, because the book is about peace and positivity in many ways, he invited Mirela to return from Bosnia to Serbia for the event. So Mirela has today and tomorrow off work so at this point I can see us just hanging out together and scrapping the rest of my ride in Serbia for the most part, unless some of these crazy bike issues and emotional blocks start mellowing out!
That’s the latest from the road. It’s not always peachy perfect but even my worst days out here on the road are still pretty darn epic! Just gonna go with the flow, give myself some time to digest everything, listen to what God or “The Universe” might be telling me, and I have no doubt it’s all part of some divine plan of yummy goodness!
Over n out from somewhere in Serbia!
Greetings from just outside Budapest, Hungary!
So the divine plan of yummy goodness I left off with involved me taking some time off the bike and away from video cameras and microphones. I’ve been going non-stop since Italy for the most part and the broken bike racks, flat tires and lack of inspiration were clear signs to relax.
I made it to Bobo’s book signing and launch event and he was so grateful for my support, and especially Mirela’s long drive from Sarajevo. Mirela showed up just as it was wrapping up but was able to meet, and was warmly welcomed by, some of Bobo’s fans and supporters. I did not know much of what was being said as several speakers came up talking to the crowd in Serbian. But I knew it was important and meaningful and I was told later that most of the speakers were quite famous philanthropists, artists and leaders in various positive movements in Serbia.
Mirela brought a bunch of amazing famous pies and cakes from Sarajevo that disappeared as fast as they came out. After that we hit a café for a last drink with Bobo and his lady Zorca. It was at the café where we learned a few more things about Bobo. What I had seen of him living at his house for a few days was a man struggling to get by as a spiritual novel writer, living the artist life.
But just about a decade before he had two successful businesses with a brother and owned a big flat in the capital Belgrade. But just like that, the famous dictator dude of the 1990’s decided to take it all away and he was left with nothing. But, like and my bankruptcy of 1999, we used the even to ask ourselves what we really wanted and used the event as a pivotal turning point towards living the life we really want to live. Since then he has written several books and seems quite content in his own unique way.
Mirela and I drove Zorca and Bobo back and I gave them both a huge hug. I was amazing to meet Zorca and Bobo, and we vowed to meet again my next trip to the Balkans. The hug I gave Bobo caught him off guard and I think I might have injured him a bit, but he smiled warmly after it settled in. We waved goodbye and drove off together towards Novi Sad where I left my bike after my wild adventure into the city.
I kept my room for the day before in Novi Sad so we dropped off Mirela’s bag, took a shower and hit the town for some fun. Now that I had Mirela with me the town was bright, cheery and tons of fun. We found a gypsy bar with amazing musicians and delicious wine, walked the fairy tale streets of Novi Sad chatting away, and ended up at a Red Cow Irish Bar (in honor of our friend Nevena in Sarajevo) bar to grab my first Guinness beer in over 6 months (I love Guinness!) and chat while overlooking the people walking by.
Yesterday we slept in until 11AM, something neither of us had done in very long time. Mirela, like me, is a very ambitious and hard working person. She not only works with the European Union full time but also has two part time businesses in accounting and interior design. Needless to say, we were both happy to just lye in bed and take cat nap after cat nap while listening to Novi Sad’s busyness go bay out the window.
Mirela decided to take today, Friday the 20th of June, off work and was happily supported by her coworkers to stay the night and today with me. This gave us time, and me the opportunity, to finally give Mirela her first camping experience. It’s hard to believe someone as natural, simple and fond of nature had never gone camping but this was about to change. We did some research at the tourist office and found a lovely lake in the north of the country on the border of Hungary, near the town of Subotica.
We went out to the sad sight of my bicycle in the back of the hotel to start packing up. She is looking so tattered! The cheap Serbian tire was flat, the rack bent and with a fresh break in the Croatian welds, and the seats soaked in water from the rain. I was happy to pack her up and not think about riding until I got to Budapest to get my shipment of parts, including a new SRAM drivetrain.
Mirela was so excited as we drove north and the weather cleared up big time with tons of sunshine, scattered clouds and perfect temperature. We were hoping to be able to make a fire and BBQ so we picked up fresh veggies and aluminum foil for the cookout. But when we made it to the campsite, we had a few challenges. For one, it was closed. I guess they don’t open until July, so we just drove right in and served ourselves up a chunk of grass.
Yep, the place was closed, the water just trickling out of the cobwebbed pipes, and our BBQ pits were nonexistent. But Mirela was so happy to just finally be camping and we went to work teaching her to set up the tent, blow up the mattress and set up the nest for a good night sleep. Mirela was like a little girl, all bouncy and giggly inside the tent for the first time. It just so happenes that I have a new Sierra Designs sleeping bag and new mattress coming to Budapest so I decided to donate my current setup to Mirela to support her new passion of camping! Of course, she was stoked!
With my beatup bike still in the car we walked over to the lake hoping to take a swim in the setting sun. We found a lakeside café playing rock and country music and serving ice cold beers in lounge chairs so we thought we were set. I was just ready to jump into the lake, which did not look all that inviting due to tona of algae, when the waitress gave us the shocking news that it has been poisoned by illegal dumping. It’s such a shame because Sebria has no real natural tourist draw card and this could have been it.
Luckily the sunset was stunning, the cold beers and music just right, and the company divine. We hit the town for some dinner and a walk on the lake before getting a perfect night sleep and waking up naturally to the peaceful sound of dozens of birds singing lovely songs outside our tent. We were both extremely content, but I was already starting to get sad again as I knew I would once again, for the 3rd time, be saying goodbye to my lovely Bosnian princess Mirela as I made my way to Budapest.
We got to the train station for my 10AM train, which was fortunately late, giving us more time to just be together. I don’t usually go into much detail writing about my travel romances. Most people can “read between the lines” of my adventures to figure out some bits and pieces. But in this case, the fact that Mirela and I have had three different adventures together does not take much reading between the lines to figure out that we really like each other.
Fortunately Mirela is a wise and strong woman. We both know that I’m on my path, doing the work I am called to do in the world, and am soon out of reach from quick drives in her VW Polo. As we shed our last tears at the train station it was quite a surreal experience. Like the SMS she just wrote “It was like saying goodbye after being together for a very long time, but feeling we will only be apart for a short while”. Who knows…
We had quite a funky scare getting on the train. There was a mad dash to get my bike and kit all on the train as there was not storage area. The bike was in many pieces and just as the train pulled out I lost my breath because I did not see the entire rear section of my bike! I looked all over but it was nowhere to be found! Then I went to call Mirela and a man picked up her phone and hung up. I thought for sure she lost her phone and some stranger had it. As I was rushing up and down the isles, and Angel handed me back my camera that fell off my butt pack (whew!), and I found the bike part in the bathroom! Then I got an SMS from Mirela saying she was fine but that somehow the lines while roaming are being crossed and she’s reaching somebody different calling me and I’m getting some strange man!
I settled into my seat, dripping in sweat, and let the adrenaline finally mellow out. Of course, as it did, the tears flowed as we exchanged the last few SMS messages with my remaining credit on my Serbian phone line. I don’t know what will become of Mirela and I, but we both know that we will meet again someday, somehow. For now I just celebrate a unique connection with a special woman from Sarajevo!
And, although I’m still a bit sad, I am getting excited for Budapest and the adventures in Hungary! From the train I can see people on bikes (a rare scene in Serbia), and quiet back roads once again! I have great new friendships to form up ahead, cultures to explore, and I’ve got a nice network of people hosting me in the capital.
To close on Serbia, I have come to the conclusion, with the help of Mirela, that it’s not the country and people of Serbia that created this emotional blockage so much. In fact, I really think it comes down to the fact that I did not plan enough and line up a good network to play with in advance like I did in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia. I made an assumption that Bobo was going to be a hub of active, fun, adventurous people but that simply was not the case.
So I’d like to give Serbia a second chance one day, but for now I don’t have many regrets how it turned out. I made some great new friends Bobo, Zorca & Yasmin. I helped Bobo launch his book and inspired several people with our story. And I had a lovely two adventures in Belgrade, Novi Sad and the north with my Bosnian friend Mirela that I’ll never forget!
The train is pulling into Budapest on a Friday afternoon! Gooooooooood timing, eh?
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