Directly after all the Bucharest activities I hitch-hiked back to Giurgiu, took the bike and left for another daily ratio of cycling… This time it felt a lot harder, though – I was falling asleep all the time and as soon as I crossed the bridge between Giurgiu and Ruse (interesting construction by the way – it is the first bridge ever built not to go straight across the Danube, it makes a smooth curve instead) I lay in the grass to have a little nap… In Tutrakan, fishermen town, I found a nice hotel with a help from passers-by and policemen. The owner of the place was a sailor who used to work on a ship with some Poles – his Polish was very good, he was even using the right cursing words, applying them with wrong timing, though. The hotel itself was an old fishermen house with its old character preserved. Not very cheap (9 Euros) but definitely…

Bucharest was a difficult experience for me – not enough sleep, too many bars and too many cheap shoarma kebabs. The only tourist attraction or *kind of attraction* I really got to see was the Building of Parliament that is said to be one of the few buildings that can be seen form the outer space… I saw it from the surrounding-park space and it was pretty impressive with its size but not with architectural stylishness… Though it was chaotic and under construction, I found the old town OK, with all sorts of pubs to hang out in until the morning (which solved the issue of accommodation). It felt like a Mediterranean city without a sea. I found Herastrau Park surprising, mainly because of Micheal Jackson monument and a little walk named after him (Him). In that very park you can rent a bike for free for two hours (you have to wait in line to get it for one…

What an amazing place on my way! The whole town is filled with palaces of different kinds, each of them trying to be greater, shinier, fatter than the neighbour’s. This place is almost 100% populated by Romani people. Different stories are told about how they managed to finance erecting those pompous constructions. Drug dealing, theft, selling women. There is also a legend that says that in each of those houses a hundred of inhabitants live – without furniture or even toilets. I will never know – I didn’t manage to communicate with the kids I met – they only speak their own language that I cannot fake.

Passing next to one of those magnificently ugly palaces with my mouth open with awe, I was stopped by one of their residents sitting on an abundantly decorated bench. She asked me for a cigarette. I don’t smoke, sorry…

The remaining part of the route to Giurgiu was easy and flat. I arrived…

My next stop was Gardesti, a little village where the mother and grandmother of Alex live. I was given some very precise directions how to get there, otherwise it would have been very but very hard… By the way, never thrust the distances that Google Maps gives you. Add a quarter of the distance not to have a bad surprise…

Upon arrival I put my fake Romanian to operation again and talked a bit about life in the countryside. Not only we talked about it but I also experienced it with my own stomach:) I had some real milk from a cow that stayed in the barn next to the house. Real eggs from real chickens, real cheese, vegetables and wine… I haven’t had a meal so tasty for a long time.

The next day the ladies would not let me go without a bag of food for the route. And I was really moved by their hospitality…

***

Moim…

Getting to Craiova was easy except for the ferryboat from Vidin to Calafat, Romania… There is no schedule, you just need to be lucky to hop on the boat when it’s there. I arrived at the pier some 2 minutes too late and hate to wait for 1,5 hour… Rain was a faithful companion during that day. At some point it was pouring so heavily that I had to stop and hide in a little shop/bar in some village. Soon I had a couple of local bar-goers asking me all sorts of questions – in Romanian, of course. I put my French into operation and tried to make it sound Spanish enough so that it becomes similar to Romanian. It worked surprisingly well and soon a bunch of sixty-something year olds was explaining me the miracles that a GPS would bring upon me If I had one. I remained unconvinced, however, and when it stopped raining I set off…

http://vimeo.com/11778243 http://vimeo.com/11778718

Getting to Bulgaria was a bit hard since I had to cross the mountains (otherwise I could have followed the coast but it would have made the route a lot longer) but the picturesque villages made up for all the struggle. At the border I learned some basic words in Bulgarian (“zdrastie”or “zdravej” for “hello”, “blogodaria” for “thank you”) and was ready for the new country… At least I thought so… But Bregovo, the town at the border, was like a heavy blow on the head… I felt I was entering a different world, post-nuclear maybe, where humans were no more and the animals took over the power, wandering the streets, hiding in houses that would fall apart soon. Big factory buildings that have never been completed and now crumbling down… It is only after some time that I noticed a lonely shepherd walking in the distance. But it still felt like a different world to me.

http://vimeo.com/11778042

The route continued and so did the splendid landscape. You can’t help stopping once in a while with your mouth open with amazement…

Last few kilometers included fighting with some quite steep hills so when I eventually got to Donji Milanovac, I was pretty tired. Fortunately, there is this Tourist Information Centre open until 9 P.M. – they are very helpful organizing a place to stay – they offer private apartments at around 10 Euros. They were also helpful with choosing a route for the next stage of the trip.

And Donji Milanovac itself is a beautifully set little tourist-oriented town with a nice promenade and… not much more than that, actually.

***

Wspaniałym pejzażom nie było końca. Spowolniło to nieco moją podróż, bo co chwilę byłem zmuszony przystawać i rozdziawiać się w zachwycie…

Ostatnich parę kilometrów to walka z pagórkami, niepostrzeżenie przechodzącymi w góry. Gdy w końcu dotarłem do Dolnego Milanovaca, byłem mocno zmęczony… Całe szczęście lokalne…

In the morning I talk the ferry to Ram and started cycling along the river. The Danube route goes right next to the river bank most of the time, revealing all the beautiful views… I made a little stop in the town of Golubac – an important place for the Poles. It is here that our famous knight, Zawisza Czarny (Zawisza the Black) died fighting Turks. I met Rajko, Serbian guy cycling to Barcelona. A photo together, a handshake and we wished each other good luck.

***

Rano załadowałem się na prom (a właściwie promik) do miejscowości Ram, po czym wskoczyłem na rower i rozpocząłem jazdę wzdłuż Dunaju. “Dunavska ruta” wiedzie tuż przy brzegu, zatem nie ominęły mnie żadne ze wspaniałych widoków przygotowanych przez rzekę… W Gołębcu (Golubac) zrobiłem sobie krótką przerwę – wszak to miejsce, w którym poległ, walcząc z Turkami, nasz Zawisza Czarny. Tutaj też spotkałem Rajko, pedałującego w przeciwnym kierunku, do Barcelony. Parę wspólnych fotek, uścisk dłoni…

http://vimeo.com/11770139

After the usual morning burek, we started cycling with Ana. She kept me company until the weather was bearable – then we said goodbye and promised each other to keep in touch. And I got to Stara Palanka too late to catch the ferry to the other bank of Danube. So I stayed for the night in Hotel Sunce – 10E/night B&B, not very cheap but the room was really comfortable, with wardrobe door all covered with slightly faded stickers of football and basketball players from the 90’s. The jazz CD I got from my CS hosts in Nitra put me to sleep… And the breakfast was good and fat, yeah!

***

Po tradycyjnym porannym burku, wyruszyliśmy wraz z Aną w drogę. Dotrzymała mi towarzystwa dopуki nie została dokumentnie okopcona przez mijające nas ciężarуwki i dopуki pogoda była umiarkowanie deszczowa. Pożegnaliśmy się i obiecaliśmy sobie pozostać w kontakcie. Do Starej Palanki dotarłem zbyt pуźno, by załapać się na…

I was lucky that Ana helped me out! After a couple of hours of trying to find my way out of Belgrade, I cycled the muddy dirt road towards Pancevo, got chased by some very but very unfriendly dogs and had some heavy rain pouring over me. Luckily for me, Ana from Pancevo was so kind to host me. She cooked some delicious meal, introduced me to some fine beer and gave me some education in Serbian music. I also saw some of her artwork – both that for sale and personal.

The following day we decided to cycle a couple of kilometers together.

***

Dzięki, Ana, za uratowanie mi skóry:) Po paru godzinach kluczenia celem wydostania się z Belgradu, przebijania się przez błotnisty fragment trasy eurovelo i paru chwilach grozypodczas ucieczki przed wrogo nastawionymi psami i przemoknięciu do suchej nitki podczas ulewy, miałem serdecznie dość jazdy rowerem… Całe szczęście Ana z Panceva zaoferowała mi couch, a także pyszny obiad…