We crossed the border into Serbia and I suddenly felt so much further away from home. The first market town we stopped in for some lunch was a hive of activity, and came as something of a shock after the sleepy towns of Croatia. People roamed the streets mostly on bicycles or on foot, busily visiting market stalls and small shops. Gone, it seems, is the over-dependence on the large supermarkets on the edge of town on which I have predominantly subsisted since Germany. There were beggars in the streets, more noticeable than at any other point during my journey. A man lay, apparently unconscious, in the street, and nobody seemed to mind. The local men would often stare and grin at me and begin to speak English, before giving me a parting pat on the back. The traffic on the roads seems prolifically horn-happy, and the weather is punishingly hot.
Riding into the capital, Belgrade, with the ruins of the great fortress on the sun-bleached hilltop overlooking the Danube, the place all felt more North African, or perhaps near Middle East, than Eastern Europe. The city centre is a little more ‘European’, perhaps cosmopolitan, but I certainly feel further away from home than in any other country so far; a theme which I expect only to continue as I continue to head east.
Brad is riding eastwards towards Romania, while Laura and I head southwards through Serbia towards Bulgaria, expecting to meet again in Istanbul. The weather is expected to continue to heat up, so I think a few dips in the river will be in order over the coming days!