A journey from the delta of the Danube / Donau / Dunarea to its source, tracing the path taken by Ayla and Jondalar in the book 'Plains of Passage' by Jean Auel.
Rise around 9, no breakfast, only a Coke.
Tour at a leisurely pace over to the border at Mora Vita. Had a long talk with mum; the situation in Serbia hadn't escalated since our last talk, so I asked the gas station keeper if he accepted dollars, yes, and filled her up plus a Fanta.
Arrived at the border at 11.50, had to wait to get out of Rumania, there was only one car ahead of me but no customs officers, 10 minutes later, down to the Serbs. They were very polite, one of them spoke very good English, but they were very hostile/suspicious at the same time, why did I come to their country? The Danes didn't like them, etc.
I told them that I was following the Donau river, from the black sea to the Black forest in Germany, told them about the book series Earths Children, helped a little, showed them my planned route in Serbia on my dads UN map, hmm...., showed them the map created by Don from Australia, OK.
Then he wanted to know if I carried any firearms, I replied that you weren't allowed to have any in Denmark, except for competition guns, if the police found that you have any non-licensed weapon, you go to jail. He obviously knew that a lot of countries have very strict rules, but he also knew that people don't always follow them, because he asked again if I owned one/carried any with me. Well I owned an air rifle, but it would be a little hard to carry on a motor cycle, that actually made him smile, phew.
Then they wanted to see my green insurance card, showed it, but it's not valid in Serbia (that didn't improve their mood), sent me over to buy an insurance for Serbia. That cost $25 for a three day transit insurance, and changed $25 to 274 Dinar, back to the control and I was allowed entry to their country. It didn't take long to see the difference between Serbia and the rest of Eastern Europe, I might as well have been home or in Germany.
A typical Serbian church seen shortly after I entered Serbia. It's not paint, but red and yellow bricks.
Finally got my breakfast in Pancevo; one Frisko icecream (Danish brand-name, bought by Nestle I believe), continue towards Beograd, before the city limits, turn right toward Zrenjanin and again towards Knicanin a little village before Titel. I found a small road not even on dad's map, it got me with in a few kms from where the Tisza runs into the Donau.
The river Tisza (aka The Sister in the books) approx. where Ayla and Jondalar crossed it. Yes I know they do not fit completely.
It is/was approx. the place where Ayla and Jondalar crossed, a very calm river to look at. I parked the bike at the turning place at the end of the road and walked the approx. 100 m. to the river, could see smoke down there, closer; people. They are placed along the brink and are barbecuing a pig, they greet me, I nod, smile and ask if any of them speaks any English ? One replies, a bit, I ask if German's better, No. They asks where I'm from, Denmark, ok, ok, football (soccer) ? Yes Laudrup, da, da Michael Laudrup (they know him), now we are friends ! Beer ? Schnaps (alcohol) ? Whiskey ? Food ? No thanks, I'll just take a few pictures, no problem, go ahead, but after I took the pictures, they become more insisting: Sit and taste the Serbian specialities (you haven't been in Serbia if you haven't tasted the food), some kind of beef + spareribs + salad + green chilli, etc. there's absolutely no limits on what they want me to try.
I'm a private man myself and I don't like to crash in on other peoples parties, so I decline on most of it, telling them that I ate a short while ago. It suddenly turns out that a young guy in the party actually speaks good English, he had until now declined the others with the excuse that he only knew a bit, but I started to talk to him, since one of the elders kept asking him for words. He understood everything I said, but couldn't always remember the words when he wanted to say something, it turned out that he had his own TV and Video repair shop (all electronic service manuals are always written in English). I spent one very cozy hour with them (from the village), they would like to know what the Danes thought of them, I answered that we wished for peace and I was sure that they would prefer that too. They couldn't agree more and thought that I was a Big man (brave), since I had the guts to visit them, when no one else dared.
They were very sad about ten years of embargo and travel restrictions, they felt very isolated, I believe that to be one of the reasons why they wanted to talk to me that much.
The man that had talked to me in the beginning asked me where I would sleep tonight and the women said something to the young man, he thought it embarrassing, but asked me if I was married, no. The women the said a lot more to him and he blushed and protested but finally asked me if I had a girl friend, no. I got the impression that I very quickly could have a roof over my head (and become married for that matter) if I wanted/needed one.
Later the young man asked me what I thought of the Serbs/the situation ; (can't remember who, but) a Serbian professor said : "That he was proud to be a Serb but he wasn't proud about Slobodan Milosovic" (the president), he thought that it said it very well, so I quoted a bit more ; a little later the professor said : "The Serbs are very proud people, very good soldiers, no so good diplomats and poor politicians".
Again whole hearted support for that opinion, so I dared to include one of my own observations: Their houses, cars, efficient farming were better and that they where more used to strangers/tourists, so if there hadn't been a war in the former Yugoslavian Republic, I felt very sure that they would have been a part off the European Union by now. (The suburbs to Beograd had several fantastic apartment buildings).
I said good bye to them one hour later and continued over the Tisza (~500 m. wide?) towards the motorway, heading north.
The motorway was a bit of a joke, there were only two lanes (instead of 4), only gas stations and picnic areas on the southbound side of the road but road signs on the north going side pointed to them, even though you weren't allowed to cross the road. To top it off ; ca. ½ way there was a pay station, where you couldn't pay with Dinar, but only with Deutsch Marks. Come again !...... (5 Dm.). (The planning of the motorway was ok, the money had just been used somewhere else instead of finishing it).
Left the motorway to get gas and to take a route a bit more west of here. The police pulled me over, a bit before the second last village in Serbia before the Hungarian border, their radar gun said 78 Km./h and my speedometer 82 Km./h. They didn't speak any English or German so we had to use sign language again, hadn't I seen the 60 Km./h sign, I had, and I had observed that they use them in much the same way as the Germans do, if there is a crossing for instance they will put up a sign with a speed limit that ends after the crossing. I saw the sign and the crossing, and just thought that I missed the end of limit sign, so I had returned to 80. That cost me 150 Dinar (~ $18), ok, 100 m. after I left them : the sign end of 60 Km./h zone, ah well, at least their documentation was right, not a hoax.
Then into the village, the map showed three roads to or from it, I didn't see any road signs so I continued straight ahead and after a few Kms the road took an S turn not on the map, and signs saying border, after the last part of the S: the border control; a booth and a gate. In front of the booth: three men in uniform having a barbecue in the middle off the road (not obstructing the traffic), hey what is this ? They rose and asked for my passport, I gave it to them, they look in the visa part, and remarked something about Croatia, then I pointed to the other side of the border and said Hungary?
That made them laugh and they replied Croatia, still laughing they returned my passport and told me to go back to the gas station and turn left (they must have been used to the fact that people took the wrong way because of the missing sign). Back and over the right border into Hungary. Stopped at the first gas station in Hungary and bought a Fanta and some light bulbs, they had been shaken to pieces in Rumania, and praise the Lord, they accepted Visa, so now it doesn't matter that I'm a bit low on cash. Found a very nice hotel a little later, finally a hot shower again, I needed that, the kitchen was closed when I finally was ready to go down and eat, cooked some soup in the room, ok, wrote a little, very tired, stop, zzzzz.
80637 Km. => 426 Km. (265 miles) today.
Rise at 9, got washed, wonderful breakfast at the hotel.
Change the light bulbs on the bike but the low beam still doesn't work on the left side and I can't get to the parking light on the other side to work, so the only improvement was the tail light.
More than 30°C in the shade, so I'm not quick at packing the bike again, finally have success in getting my jeans into the luggage. What a relief, my knees don't hurt anymore when I drive.
I realise that the hotel is located in the middle of the river, it just doesn't look that way, the river has divided itself here in the flat lands into many small streams. There's not a lot to look at (I talk about the river) before Budapest, I did see a church from the "inside". Took the "detour" route a couple of times in Budapest; very fine road signs but it's only the natives that can read them .........
One of the extremely beautiful buildings in Budapest, my camera and I disagree about the exposure, damn.
One of the many bridges over the Donau in Budapest.
I just turned the camera a bit. Too bad that you can't see the big ripples in the water behind the two buoys, there's a rather strong current here.
Yes you've seen this before, but it's just to the left of the one above.
Just north of Budapest where the river turns west towards Bratislava and Wien (Vienna). Jon and Ayla travelled on the other side. The place where the big chasm was is just outside the right side of the pic. Taken where I rested.
Taken a few Km.s later looking back.
I only found one place to stop and take pictures, but there's an incredible amount of wonderful buildings here, I also saw a excavation from the Romans (?) from the main road. I could easily spend a few weeks here (as a pedestrian). North of the city (on the Western / South, shore), it's like a summer cottage / residents area, very beautiful, I enjoyed it a lot.
A little north of Budapest I saw one of the "small" river barges.
Found a Zimmer Frei sign, stopped and asked, but she was booked, she walked two numbers up the road with me, and asked them, but no she had a four bed room and I was only one.
Walked back to the bike, an elderly gent on the other side of the road, called out for me and asked if they had been available, no but... Come with me he said, and then we came back to place number two, I don't know what they said to each other, but I got the room.
He had a motor cycle himself when he was younger, and when I told him that I had been to Rumania, he told me that he had been a soldier there for 3½ years (the wife said something about the war but I didn't understand her, on the other hand, he was probably old enough to be in WWII).
We talked for a while, before I went out to get something to eat, he spoke a very clear German but he couldn't remember the words any more. I found a very good restaurant, wonderful but not cheap (when I recalculated the price back home) and the first real orange juice on the tour. I also ordered an ice dessert with fruit, felt like I had been stuffed, could almost roll from there myself, better take a stroll to get some exercise.
Went down to the river, saw a couple of lovely pups out on their own (for the first time?), caught up with them at the river, they were very trustful, begged for a bite but I didn't have any, maybe just as well, because they followed me for quite a while (fortunately away from the railway tracks again), they disappeared where I saw them the first time.
Back and write in the diary, read a bit and then to bed.
80973 Km. => 336 Km. (209 miles) today.