A 3.5-hour, 30-mile (48 km) hike-bike-hike along Belgrade rivers
Today has been another exciting day. And it’s only half way over. More fun to come… hopefully of a more sedate kind. 🙂
I woke up early this morning and decided to do something I have never done before. Not even in my youthful years in my native city. I decided to walk down to the Danube, rent a bike, and then ride it to Ada Ciganlija, an island within the river Sava that has been turned into a recreational mecca of Belgrade (see the map).
Up until two days ago, I did not know that something like this was even possible. It certainly was not 50 years when I lived here last. The riverfront, which then housed a port and railroad yards, was the grimiest and filthiest part of the city. I would not have dreamed of biking through there had my landlady told me about the bike paths along the river Sava which connect the recreational facilities on the Danube and Ada Ciganlija.
I also did not know the hike-bike-hike would be so long. I figured originally I’d bike to the Ada (the red dot on the map), and then turn around and ride back. But once I got there, the Ada was so beautiful, and there were so many people enjoying the weekend there walking, or jogging, or biking, or roller blading, some even playing golf, that curiosity got the better of me. I just had to keep on exploring. Little did I know that, as a result, I would double my planned biking distance.
In the end, my right knee was quite sore as it has been just over two weeks since my second stem cell therapy, but I am sure that by tomorrow it will be okay after I give it some rest.
And now, I invited you to join me on this wonderful ride.
Getting to the Danube
Walking from my home to the Danube was an enjoyable and interesting experience. I had forgotten to put on sunscreen at home. So I stopped at Bajloni market to buy one. As a result, I made a new friend – a man called Kića who wished me a wonderful ride.
On Car Dušana street I past a church I had never seen before. The sign read Alexander Nevsky. “Must be a Russian church,” I thought. But when I came back home and checked, turns out it was probably Ukrainian. Nevsky was Prince of Novgorod (1236–40 and 1240-56 and 1258-1259), Grand Prince of Kiev(1236–52) and Grand Prince of Vladimir (1252–63). In other words, a very long time ago.
Since the road I was on approaching the Danube went into what looked like a tunnel, I followed a local guy who took some “shortcuts” on the surface. Well, after walking on a dirt path and wading through some shrubs and bushes, I found myself walking across about 10 pairs of railroad tracks. Another remnant of old Belgrade, I thought.
At the Danube
Once I got to the Danube, I was delighted to see the swans in the river. They reminded me of similar scenes along the Danube banks in Vienna where I have also gone on regular bike rides.
I had no trouble finding the bike Markoni rental place. In hindsight, that was the only disappointment of the day. I tried out two bikes and both were crappy. I am sure that I have expended at least 30% more energy pedaling than I needed to.
And then when I asked to use a restroom before heading out on a long ride, they said they did not have one. They pointed me to a public one in the nearby Dorćol sports center. Alas, that restroom was out of order. And the cleaning lady would not let me use the ladies one even though nobody was there.
Rude Markoni bike rental staffer
When I returned to the Markoni bike rental place, I asked the two attendants if they would make an exception and let me use their staff restroom since the public one was out of order.
The younger man was about to let me, but about his 40-year old partner said he would not.
“But that’s inhumane,” I said.
“Take it up with the city authorities,” he replied rudely. “I cannot make an exception for our staff bathroom.”
I was about to go out but then turned around and came back.
“What is your name?” I asked the rude man.
“Okay, Igor.” I said. “I am going to make you famous. I am a writer and you will be the star of my today’s story.” 😦
“What a way to treat a customer!?,” I thought on my way out. “He must have been a commie” (or his family were). I then went to a restaurant and used a restroom there.
Ride along Sava
The first part of the bike path starts out along the Danube, and the veers to the left along the confluence of the river Sava into Danube. It then continues along the Sava river under the Kalemegdan fortress and the city of Belgrade.
As I was riding through the area, I was thinking that that was the view the Austrian soldiers had in 1915 when they attacked Belgrade. They had to fight their way up the steep hills and take the Kalemegdan fortress. Of course, the artillery from the War Island on the Danube did much of the work to make that possible.
During the next section of the ride, right under the city of Belgrade and the bridges over Sava, I marveled at how this riverfront has been rejuvenated from the rack and ruin of the communist era and made livable and beautiful.
A bit farther along the river, I was reminded of a place we used to call Sajmište (Fair Grounds). Back in my days as a basketball player and fan, this is where the major tournaments and events were held.
I also remembered that when the Balkan wars stared in 1991, this is where the supplies were the American donations were stored. The late Metropolitan Irinej of Chicago and I organized a drive within Serbian communities in the States to collect and ship supples to Belgrade. They were intended to help the Serbian refugees from Croatia and later Bosnia as the so-called “international community” turned a blind eye. I remember meeting with Patriarch Pavle in Belgrade at the time who told me about this Sajmište collection center.
And then I finally reached Ada Ciganlija – my destination. Little did I know that this would be merely a start of another equally long ride. 🙂
During my ride back to the Danube, I only took one picture. And it was a beauty. Like a painting. Take a look.
My right knee had been hurting during most of the ride back from Ada, so I was dreading my half-hour uphill hike from the Danube to my flat. But I did notice a couple things worth mentioning.
Belgrade heroes, narrow sidewalks
That “tunnel” I tried to bypass on my incoming hike by clambering over the railroad tracks, turned out to be just an underpass under those tracks. With pedestrian sidewalks on each side. As I walked through it, I noticed this plaque. It was commemorating the death of 60 Belgrade defenders who fell here in September 1915 during the Austrian assault on the city.
And then closer to home, again on George Washington street, I noticed what was probably a record narrow sidewalk – less than a foot!
And that’s all she wrote from this interesting morning.
UPDATE JULY 29, 2018
BIKING TOUR OF BELGRADE II
How time flies when you’re having fun. I can’t believe it’s been already two weeks since my first hike-bike-hike tour of Belgrade (July 14). I took a break from it for a while to allow the stem cells in my right knee to recover from a 48 km (30 mile) grind.
Before the hike
So when I set off to do another hike and ride, I decided to make it a more sensible one. I only hiked part of the way and let a taxi do the rest. And I cut the bike ride pretty much in half, judging by the map and time. Two hours total.
BUSY BIKE PATH
One thing I noticed, perhaps because today is a Sunday, there was a lot traffic going both ways on a fairly narrow bike path. So you had to keep your wits about it and not do too much sideways gazing at the scenery.
Here are some shots from start to finish…
SAVA RIVER FISHERMEN
It was cute seeing these old geezers sitting on their little stool and fishing between these to big bridges over the river Sava.
IRRESPONSIBLE PARENTS, DRIVER
A particular nuisance and danger both to themselves and the bikers today were little kids. They could barely ride a bike. Some were pushing it. Other were on tricycles оr small two-wheel push scooters. I lost count of how many times I have had to put on breaks or even stop to prevent an accident with these little toddlers.
I thought their parents were utterly irresponsible. They had no business bringing little kids like that to a busy bike path like this. At one point, near the Sajmište (Fairground) there was even a car driving on the bike path. Slowly, but still. I had to get out of the way to let it pass/
From now on, I will only bike here on weekdays.
GIGGLING BRIDE AND BRIDESMAID
As I waited for my taxi to arrive after returning my rental bike, a wedding party was disembarking from their cars in the parking lot. I was too lazy to get up from the little tone ledge I was sitting on, so I just snapped a couple of pictures of the bride and one of her bridesmaids.
The bride noticed me, pointed toward me, and must have said something to her friend. Look how they are both giggling. 🙂 You’d think the the bride would be paying more attention to the groom.