After breakfast with my adopted family (I tried refusing the continuous offers of food and failed miserably), I explained that I really did have to go. Can’t I stay for a few more days, they asked, sliding the sweet-smelling bread just an inch closer?
No! I had to put my foot down. This is a fundraiser, not a holiday! This phrase I seem to constantly repeat wherever I go fell on deaf ears. How could I explain that I was supposed to impress potential World Literacy Canada sponsors with my biking prowess…not my ability of swinging in a hammock all day long sipping juice?
I rushed back on the road, my sandwhich for lunch packed safely away.
Hello there, wind! Head and crosswind. Good morning to you dear flat, straight and mind numbing roads!
I stop at a small town to get some juice and yoghurt. Taking a seat at the only available bench in front of the hairdresser’s and right on the main street for all to see, I am surprised to see an available, and open, wifi connection. But before I have the opportunity to send even one tweet, I see an older, swarthy woman approaching me from the house across the street. She motions to me, big, strong movements, that I must come inside into her home. There’s no messing with this tractor-driving farmer woman; I meekly follow her, not really sure what all the fuss is about. I look around me and see the gathered crowd on the street sending me encouraging smiles; all is well.
Inside, I am roughly sat down in front of a glass of lemonade. Drink! Then there is coffee and cake. Eat! It’s not a request, it’s a command.
Between mouthfulls, I tell them the usual Ride to Read story embelished with personal details about myself and my family. The other woman present, a gentle, little one with kind eyes, tells me of her 26 year-old son. He is single and good-looking she promises me.
These repeated marriage proposals are starting to be
comical, although I do my best to keep a straight face so as not to be rude. But is it really this nation’s group mission to find me a Serbian husband?
They send me away with more cake. While I tap back into the Internet world, comfortable on my exposed bench, passing women gift me with fresh apples and plums. I can hardly believe my good fortune and the openness and curiosity of these people.
Of all the nations I have passed through on this trip, no where have I been welcomed, fed, housed and questioned with such warmth and enthusiasm as in Serbia. And I’ve only been here 2 days.
By mid-afternoon I’m faced with a cycler’s dilemma. There are still 60km left to Vršac, the next place where I have a WarmShowers host awaiting my arrival. If not for the strong wind I could power through the remaining distance for a late evening arrival at Sanja’s place. But I know that it will be a huge struggle to do so in the wind, and I may end up in a 9pm burnout 10km before my destination, which would be plain stupid.
So I decide to stop for the day and make Vršac tomorrow’s final destination.
Again, I send out a little prayer in hopes of finding accomodation in the teeny town that I approach. I hold my breath when asking a local for a hotel, but he responds cheerfuly with “Da!“, it’s just down the main street and to my left.
The hotel is indeed there; it’s dingy, old and unkept, but nevertheless very present. And endowed with hot water! I reflect that I really can’t complain since I didn’t specify in my prayer what quality of accomodation I was looking for. The universe heard me and it provided, the fault is mine for not mentioning “no cobwebs” and “clean floors”, please. Hehe
I switch on the TV, momentous occasion in and of itself as it usually happens only a few times a year. …And what do I find but a subtitled episode of 80s British sit-com “Only fools and horses“. I’ve never seen it before, but British humour and I have always seen eye to eye. I laugh out loud and love it. I can feel my stress and tension dissolving.
With the old music that plays on the radio and the wide range of outdated sit-coms on TV, I have to admit that it’s proof of the old cliché that Eastern Europe is kind of stuck in the past.
Well, as far as TV is concerned, it’s fine by me. In my opinion they haven’t come out with anything good since Will Smith was young in “the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”. …But…I guess that’s a whole other topic not meant for a literacy/cycling blog
Kasia – your Eastern-European cyclist