Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Done and Dusted!

It was 88.85km from Bratislava to Vienna. 4 hours, 6 minutes, 14 seconds. The road was mainly flat, and I had a pretty decent tailwind for most of the journey. FY was not at her best, struggling under the weight of several days worth of camping mud, rain and road crust without me paying much attention to maintainence. By 4.30 it was dark, but I figured I must be close to the city. Soon I found myself riding through what looked like an oil refinery, then onto a long, dark empty road, with nothing resembling city lights anywhere that I could see.

Then, soon after I passed what looked like a ranch-themed restaurant and turned a corner, above the horizon (and slightly to my left) appeared the magical river Danube. Not far beyond it's gentle flowing waters were the lights of that fabled city which once marked the edge of the Roman empire, which resisted the viscious attacks of the Ottomans on not one but two occasions, that distinguished itself from the rest of Europe and indeed the world for its unmitigated class through the ages, its depth of history and culture, as the home of Mozart, Apfel Strudel and Freud (in no particular order)!




Vienna!

It's a little strange to think that the riding is over. The difference between riding out of 'Major's Den', the $3 a night crack in the wall in New Delhi's Paharganj district and into my Aunt and Uncles beautiful apartment in Vienna's 19th district is a little bit like the difference between a your left pinkie toe and Jupiter's 7th moon. (ie. quite different.)

There's been a multitude of people and places that have made impressions on me during the last 5 months on the road that will last for most, if not all of my life. Most of those people, and probably all of those places will not read this blog, but for those that do, thank you.


So until the next adventure, I think that's the last real entry for Tosif Trekking International Inc. I'll endeavour to put up some pictures and things in the next couple weeks to wrap it all up nicely. peace

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

So i've spent the last two days trying to figure out how to rotate this bloody film and still can't get it... I blame the system, technology in general, and this computer specifically.

Please rotate your screen now.


video

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Hungarian Autobahns and my first real run in with the Cops

In almost 5 months of travelling, along a fair few roads and through quite a number of towns and cities, I have always maintained a fairly good relationship with the police. Usually they are pretty happy to see some dude on a bicycle in the middle of nowhere pedalling along and will do little more than wave and smile. or wave and frown. or just ignore. occasionally that stop you just to ask where you're from and what you're doing, which is ok i guess, but momentum is everything when you're pedalling 50kg of bicycle along the road, to come to a dead stop just to explain that you're from Australia ("AAaahh! KANGAROO!!") loses its appeal rather quickly.

In any case, relations with the cops were good. The first signs of possible friction appeared in the north of Serbia, when I was stopped by the cops for riding on the main highway, and told to take the smaller country road which criss-crossed it.

Now, i'm not advocating rebellion against the law keepers, but their suggestion was clearly a ridiculous one... Sure riding on the motorway is illegal, but there is a huge shoulder of beautiful smooth asphalt to ride on and hardly any cars. On the local road, which is bumpy, narrow and full of tired people driving home from work, I really felt my life to be in danger. Unsurprisingly, the cops couldn't spare much sympathy for me.

They say bad things happen in threes ("they" being my grandmother). I got stopped by the cops three time in 24hrs. The third was just after the Hungarian border, again I was riding on the Autobahn, admittedly this was wrong and illegal, but it was a) just after dark and b) I was tired and c) it was only 18kms to the next town... The cops immediately saw through this first round of stupid excuses, so I quickly made up some new ones:

d) I didn't see any alternative road,
e) the people at the border just flagged me straight through
f) i've been riding for 700km and 4 countries on this same highway with no problems
g) I'm Australian, do you like Kangaroos??!!

Again, complete failure. Thus begain half an hour of negotiation where the cops wanted me to fill out and sign a ticket for 80 euros, and I tried my best to avoid doing so. Eventually out of frustration and the impending threat of frostbite, the cops took my details without giving me a ticket, and said they would write a police report about the incident back at the station.

So I rode on, with a not so friendly police escort brightly flashing their lights behind me to the next exit, feeling just a little bit proud of myself for coming out with my wallet intact.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Belgrade

From Nis,


Two days of riding and a night of muddy camping in a field by the highway,


brought me to the doorstep of Belgrade.


Belgrade is the first city i've been too where you can get your face printed on a note at the National Bank of Serbia for free! Seriously fantastic. As well as that, the two national foods of this country are pljeskavica (hamburgers) and Burek (a bit like a massive puff pastry sausage roll with cheese). Brilliant.


Two days in this town and it's a struggle to tear myself away. Especially since the roads are wet and the skies cloudy. Belgrade is the kind of town with a warm cafe on every street and plenty of people out at any time of the day or night. It's another one of those cities that's been blown to smithereens on more occasionas than anyone can remember and rebuilt again every time. More recently they've kept better records of their struggles, the military museum in Belgrade has a huge American Humvy parked out the front from the front from their last tussle with NATO in 1999.



Another thing that Serbia does well is religion. There are huge and relatively new churches sprinkled all around the city, and they are attended with a vigour and dedication that I haven't seen else where. As you walk around Belgrade, you might notice that peoples right arms are slightly larger than their lefts. This is because during each service, the participants cross themselves with great vigour about 460 times and after several years of sincere worship, you will graciously be endowed with a divinely ordained enlarged bicep.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Big ups from the Balkans!



For those authentic homeboys and homegirls out there who may be offended by my Big up-ing even though i'm clearly not black or a homie, I apologize. But it does begin with 'B' as does 'Balkans' hence making it aliteration and therefore cool.

On with the journey! The GPS is back, apparently it hadn't ran out of satellites, only batteries... i've now remedied that and have also arrived in Serbia!

Given my complete absence of knowledge of this part of the world, I partly expected to be riding through wartorn areas with shrapnel stuck in walls and minefields by the roadside. What I got was quite different. The landscapefrom the border to Nis (where I am now, Serbia's second biggest city) was rolling hills and beautiful villages with old crumbling cottages. Now for those who really crave adventure,old and crumbling could also be read as not-so old and bomb-riddled, thereby making my blog far more exciting.

Since Turkey there has been a lot more camping taking place, owing mainly to the fact that with the current state of the world economy (i've always wanted to use that phrase) its really expensive to sleep under a roof in Europe using Australian dollars. A few people have shown a bit of curiosity as to how i'm camping and where, so the photos on the blog this time are from camping spots over the last week or so.







There's a few more photos of Serbia etc in the album via the link on the right.