This post is dedicated to Mr Steven Patrick Morrissey for making it possible for Mr James Thomas get the sharpest haircut in Sofia without speaking a single word of Bulgarian. Happily James is a bit of a Smiths fan and so lacing this entry with lyrics, song titles and album titles should be a breeze.
It was like we had travelled back to time somehow. As if cycling through one of my granddad’s memories of Staffordshire when he were a lad, we start our Serbian journey in little farming villages. Buzzing with activity, real work, real places, real people. As we pass them by everyone says hello or waves us on. Old folk watch the world go by their doorstep, farm workers ride on tractor trailers, children play in the streets and half a dozen escapee piglets scuttle off squealing down the road. People still grow their own food and collect their own fuel. Village shops, fascinating dimly lit little grottos, sell just about everything under the sun. Welcome to the Balkans!
Somehow this week has been a Balkan roller-coaster of fun, meeting some of the friendliest people of our journey so far. Arriving in Hungary from Slovakia was rapid and took us very little time before we arrived in the split cities of Buda and Pest. Right up to Thursday afternoon I had this whole post worked out, nailed down. We’d spent an excellent three days in Pest, the older, more interesting side of Budapest at a great hostel called Big Fish, with some of the friendliest and hospitable Hungarians in town. While we were in Budapest we visited the best spa, enjoying a full body massage and a choice of twenty pools and a dozen saunas. So far, so relaxing. We really did enjoy our time in Pest and I would recommend anyone who hasn’t been to go at the soonest opportunity.
There are a million different ways to cross Europe by bicycle so picking a good route can be quite a task. Most of our route planning happens while we’re on the road, combining map reading and intuition to find the best cycling roads as we’re going along. The great thing about riding in Europe is that you’re not just confined to riding on roads, there are thousands of cycle paths all thrown into the mix too. We don’t have any maps of these cycle routes, we just seem to find them, or they find us. Many of Europe’s finest cycle paths follow the course of rivers, taking advantage of nature, so watercourses and their bike paths will no doubt play a critical part in navigating our way across the continent.