We’re back on the trail of our two budding cyclists on their 400km trip from Budapest to Belgrade, the Serbian capital. Last time we left Romain and Julien, both staff of liligo.com, in Baja at the end of Part 1 of their journey. Here they remount their bikes and head to Novi Sad and on to Belgrade.
Day 3: Baja – Novi Sad
Now this is what we call good luck!
Our pair arrive at the train station in Baja in rotten moods. The rain certainly came down on their parade. Now they need to track down the right train, the international one that runs from Budapest to Belgrade with a stop in Novi Sad, where they plan to get off. It’s not an easy task when all the ticket windows are closed, despite the station clock saying 10:30am. According to their map, a Baja-Kiskunhalas line will also do the trick.
Fortunately they took a complete train schedule with them which outlines all the stops along the way. But no employees are in sight at the station! Julien waves down a train conductor who, luckily, opens one kiosk for them so they can buy tickets for their trip. Departure is in one hour, at noon, and will arrive in Kiskunhalas at 14:30. Victory!
Draw me a sheep… and a bike
Early in the afternoon Romain and Julien arrive in Kiskunhalas. What time is the trail to Novi Sad? How much is the ticket? Is it possible to get tickets for bikes? The ticket vendor speaks English as well as Julien and Romain speak Hungarian. After 20 minutes of misunderstandings punctuated by meagre drawings that wouldn’t even fare in a game of Pictionary they leave with tickets for 2 people and 2 bikes for Novi Sad at 17:30. At last!
After two and a half hours waiting the pair hope their train will arrive soon. Unfortunately the station conductor has different information. A train bound for Novi Sad will arrive, but not until midnight. The boys are left to wait, and wait, and wait.
“None! If you happen upon someone who tells you something they know nothing about, you have to just go with it,” muses Julien after the fact. In any case, it’s good to double check information with another person if you suspect there’s been a misunderstanding.
The route just keeps getting longer
12:10am reads the clock and the train arrives at the station with a screech. Romain and Julien find their seats, put their bikes in the right car and try to get some sleep. It’s a five hour trip to Novi Sad and they could use the rest if they hope to make a full day’s cycle later in the day. The Hungarian ticket controller however discovers the two don’t have the proper tickets for travelling with bikes but let’s it go after seeing how clearly exhausted our two travellers are.
At the Serbian border the two need to show their ID and go through customs and border control. Again, “Gentlemen, where are your tickets for travelling with bikes?” Oh boy… again they’re let through, clearly looking frazzled and tired. They arrive in Novi Sad as the sun rises over the horizon. They cycle for half and hour to their hostel, sleep a few hours and then explore the city, the second largest in Serbia. The highlight? Visiting the beautiful citadel perched atop a hill overlooking the Danube.
Tip from Romain and Julien:
Always carry enough of the local currency in cash for unforeseen events. Often it’s not possible to buy a bike ticket from the station, only onboard. Plan to carry around €10 in cash (3,000 HUF) per bike if you’re on the Hungarian side and €1 per bike (100 dinars) on the Serbian side.
Day 4: Discovering Novi Sad
Early wake-up and a city tour
After a big cup of coffee, Julien and Romain head to the city centre (on foot to give their bottoms a break) with no real plans. They walk around the historic city centre, taste a few things along a street full of restaurants, tour the Citadel and wander among the beach bars. All in all nice, but the afternoon greeted the with a violent rainstorm. “You couldn’t see 2 metres in front of you!” They returned to their hostel by taxi. It’s an early dinner before hitting the sack. The alarm is set for a 7am wake-up. Checking the weather forecast before bed, it looks like the weather will be in their favour for the last 100 kilometres!
Ask your hostel for a city map and a few pointers on what to see and do and where to eat. This will really help save time, especially if you are only there for one day.
Day 5: Novi Sad – Belgrade
A surprise (just not a good one)
Ten kilometres pass quite quickly in the morning after leaving Novi Sad. Their calves are warming and the pace is steady. “Ah, a small false flat? Shouldn’t be too tricky,” they conclude after checking the map. The two friends take it on with enthusiasm in hopes of arriving in Belgrade that day. 500m in and it all becomes very steep. After a while, they’re forced to push their bikes up to the top. A simple incline turns into turn after turn. 5 kilometres later they reach the summit. Just in time, morale was reaching a record low…
If you run into this kind of “topographical” problem, don’t burn yourself out. It may take longer to walk but you’ll save plenty of energy which you’ll need to get through the rest of your day.
At the crossroads…
The next 25 km are mostly downhill and are a breeze after the tortuous climb. They have two choices: continue straight along what looks like a perfectly paved road or take the road market on their map which contains lengthy portions of trails (likely full of puddles after the recent rain). Their choice? The paved road. It’s 4pm and Belgrade is only a dozen kilometres away.
If you need to cycle the day after a storm, think twice about your route, especially if you predict tricky parts. It’s better to make a detour (even if it adds a few kilometres) than have to hike and haul your bike through mud and water to get there. Save your strength and your morale.
Welcome to Belgrade!
Zemun, on the banks of the Danube and right inside Belgrade’s metropolitan area. That is where our cyclists have their eyes set. They’ve already decided to stop at the first bar to take a break and savour a beer (or two) on the terrace of a cafe. Romain, who’s riding in front, approaches first at 5pm. After a quick look back to make sure Julien is still behind, he gives it his all and pushes the pedals to the metal for the final stretch. He got the upper hand this time but only because Julien seems to have gotten a slow puncture. He stops to fix it and finally catches up to Romain.
Romain is chuffed he finally beat Julien and arrives at the hostel one and a half hours before his cycling partner. The two finally pedal past the city limits and complete the last of the 400 km journey from Budapest to Belgrade. What lies ahead? A great weekend in Belgrade after days on the road.
A final tip from our team:
When you finally arrive in the city, take care. The crowds, traffic, small streets and traffic lights bring their own set of problems. Be especially alert when navigating through city traffic.
Well done boys!