Across Continents

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Into the hills

Negotin, close to the Bulgarian border. I’d done this a few times before. Arrive in an unfamiliar town, light fading, accommodation to be found. Ordinarily I’d hunt for a street map I’d a room booked, but no idea where it was. But I’d barely dismounted in the central plaza when Mica approached and offered to help.

Directing me to the town street map would have been kind enough. But this was Serbia. Walked me to my accommodation some fifteen minutes away on the outskirts, discussing English perceptions of his country as we went. Translated for me when we got there. And then, did I want pizza? Yes, that would be good, I said. This was something new in the town and he wasn’t sure if they would deliver, but he’d investigate and let reception know. They didn’t, so he brought the pizza over himself.

I offered him one of my business cards with details of the website, and some pizza, but he politely declined. He wasn’t into the internet. So, instead, we settled on his address so I could send him a postcard or two. And then he departed, presumably to go and do whatever he was going to do almost two hours previously.

Finally, a chance to sit down and reflect on the day’s events. Between the previous night’s stop at Donji Milanovac and Negotin, the Daunbe forms a large eighty mile loop, the neck some sixty kilometres across. Increasingly constrained by the shortage of daylight, I’d decided to take the direct route across the neck, through steep, wooded hills.

Alpine look

An unrelenting climb, the well made road winding upwards through a narrow valley. Trees in their autumnal colours. Peaceful. Then, suddenly, the road levelled off. High pastures. A charcoal burner. Well kept farmsteads. Alpine perhaps. A very different Serbia certainly. The faint glow of the sun through a blanket of cloud giving the place an eerie feel. Then endless steep descents, switchbacks, and equally forbidding climbs, a few villages and the final downhill run into Negotin.

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