On June 25th I left Sarajevo and Bosnia, preparing to cross Serbia.
I imagined I would have stayed only a few days – the time to visit Belgrade and to figure out a way to get to Romania (where I would visit a pediatric hospital) – but I was immediately dazzled by the beauty and the warm welcoming of the capital of former Yugoslavia, where I ended up staying over a week (guest of Milica and her mother Svetlana).
Later on I went to Niš – city with impressive history – before changing my plans and deciding to go to Bulgaria …
25 June, Belgrade (Serbia) | Day 24 🇷🇸
Protesting in Belgrade.
What the hell is going on in this journey?
When two rivers meet, somebody has always to watch out.
26 June, Belgrade | Day 25 🇷🇸
I found out it’s Sunday also in Belgrade, and it’s hot.
I don’t care if is a lake, a sea, a river or a pond.
Just give me some water and I’ll be fine.
27 June, Belgrade | Day 26 🇷🇸
40 degrees in the morning, tempest and Italy vs Spain in the afternoon. I didn’t do much today.
And so I think about yesterday. About those 30 kms I cycled along Belgrade’s waters, passing by hundreds of river boats turned into bars, pubs, restaurants, hotels, sport activities and so on.
It seemed to me that half of the people living in this city feed their energies with waters and cannot stay far from it.
Never before I had seen so much life close to water.
Like in all those cities born on a big river, you may say. And that’s true.
But here there are two big rivers (Donau and Sava).
So everything doubles, and it’s quite a magic thing.
28 June, Belgrade | Day 27 🇷🇸
On the 5th floor of a building in Labudovo Brdo, a neighbourhood in Belgrade, in a gym terrace, working on a video and listening to Banana Joe soundtrack to remember a tremendous guy.
I’m not able to control my journey anymore, that’s official.
I already knew something about Nikola Tesla, but I never imagined that at least half of our lives are affected in some way by his discoveries and inventions.
Electromagnetism, alternating current, motors, x -rays, remote controls, wifi … it’s hard to find a field in which this Serbian guy has not left a deep mark.
And this is the expression I would make to my father now, thinking about when he says he’s a genius.
Which I still believe. Maybe.
29 June, Belgrade | Day 28 🇷🇸
New landscapes, new museums, new skies, new roads, new lakes, new rivers, new sunsets … everything is beautiful.
But nothing is better than playing football with kids I had never seen before with whom I can hardly communicate.
Fortunately, smiles are not difficult to translate.
And I’m a champion.
PS1: in Serbia even 8-years-old children are almost bigger than me.
PS2: this was my team with Vlada and Pavle. We lost.
30 June, Belgrado | Day 29 🇷🇸
In Belgrade there is a Fortress whose history goes back into centuries.
It was built by a Celtic tribe, the Scordisci.
The Romans fortified it, since it was located at the confluence of the rivers Danube and Sava and served as a bulwark against invasions coming from North and East.
They called it Singidunum.
It was destroyed by the Goths and the Huns.
It was rebuilt by Justinian.
For a period it represented the border between the Western and the Eastern Roman Empire.
Then the Slavs owned it (renaming it Beograd, “white city”), then Bulgarians, Byzantines, Hungarians, Austrians, Turks, and Serbians.
For the Turks it was Kalemegdan, the fortress on the battlefield (“kale – fortress”, “meydan – battlefield”) and legend says Attila’s grave lays somewhere here.
But Belgraders probably don’t care about all of this anymore.
It is easier to remember that the Fortress is on a hill, that the rivers confluence is still in front of it and that it faces the West.
And think that maybe the Celts – and then all the others – chose this place simply because the colors, from up here, at sunset, glitter in magic and are worth every kind of battle.
1 July, Belgrade | Day 30 🇷🇸
In Belgrade, there where Danube and Sava meet, lies an island, named Veliko Ratno Ostrvo.
It is green and uninhabited. Only animals, birds and insects can call it home.
At the Western top there is a beach, the Lido, where every day hundreds of Belgraders go to swim in the Danube’s cool and muddy waters.
To access it they have to walk on a military bridge, which is controlled by the military forces from both sides.
I do not know the reason, but well Veliko Ratno Ostrvo means Great War Island.
So this makes sense actually. And it’s also quite funny.
While I was on the bus which was taking me out of Belgrade, after almost a week I spent there, I found out there are 5 silly reasons I could not live in that city for:
1) I don’t understand Serbian and Slavic languages at all, everybody could troll me easily;
2) Average height is 1,90 Mt, I could not compete in anything except limbo dance tournaments;
3) It’s too big, and I’m not an animal made for cities;
4) Wild dogs scare me, especially when they come out from the dark, growling at me while I’m pedaling;
5) There are too many stunning girls, and I cannot fall and unfall in love every 5 minutes.
And then that there is also one I could live there for: it’s just beautiful.
PS: I barely believe it, but I’m on the road since 30 days already. And today I made it to a new city I couldn’t even dare to pinpoint before.
Its name is Niš.
2 July, Niš | Day 31 🇷🇸
Naissus. Known today as Niš.
Emperors ruled here and Constantine the Great was born here.
But wtf … Italy vs Germany is tonight!
Even though I’m for Wales already.
Or for Iceland, with this beard …
3 July, Niš | Day 32 🇷🇸
In a time when conflicts and atrocities don’t know any stop (actually, did it ever happen?), today – in Niš – I came across a cruel and incredible past story. It is grim and painful, but no one knows it and I’m sure it deserves to be told.
At least to honour those who lived it.
It goes back in 1809, during the first Independence battles Serbian revolutionaries started against Ottoman Empire.
On May 19th 3,000 Serbian soldiers led by commander Stevan Sinđelić were attacked by a large Turkish force on Čegar Hill, close to Niš. Knowing that they couldn’t win and that he and his men risked impalement if captured, Sinđelić waited for the enemies and, once they besieged the camp, he fired at his entrenchment’s gun powder magazine. The resulting explosion killed him, all the Serb revolutionaries and all the Turkish soldiers (around 10000) in the vicinity.
After the battle, the Turkish vizier of Niš, Hurshid Pasha, ordered that the heads of Sinđelić and his men should be skinned, stuffed and sent to the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II.
The skulls were then returned to Niš, where they built a Skull Tower (originally consisted of 952 skulls) as a warning to future generations intending to revolt against the Ottoman Empire.
In the following battles and centuries the Serbian fought for this tower, for it became a symbol of Freedom and then of Independence.
In 1830, French poet Lamartine wrote of the tower, which was at the time still part of the Ottoman Empire, saying:
“(…) The mountain breeze, which was then blowing fresh, penetrated the innumerable cavities of the skulls, and sounded like mournful and plaintive sighs. My eyes and my heart greeted the remains of those brave men whose cut-off heads made the cornerstone of the independence of their homeland. May the Serbs keep this monument! It will always teach their children the value of the independence of a people, showing them the real price their fathers had to pay for it.”
And that’s all for today.
4 July, Niš | Day 33 🇷🇸
July 4th 2016, one day I’ll never forget.
And not cause there’s Radon in Niska Banja’s thermal waters.
VIDEO (SERBIAN RAILWAY)
KM on BICYCLE: 135
KM on AUTOBUS: 530 + KM on TRAIN: 110
NIGHTS in HOSTELS: 3
NIGHTS in HOSPITALITY: 7
EXPENSES: 205 €
“GOOD DAY”: “Dobro Jutro”
“THANK YOU”: “Hvala”