Once you have eaten a Borek in Bosnia you will for the rest of your life lament this taste when you eat a Borek anywhere else. They come with meat, spinach or cheese and you drink yogurt with it. Greasy, salty, crunchy pastry…. The perfect bicycle snack.
“We do that, once we are in Sarajevo” has been our mantra for the last few weeks. Fix our bicycles, rest our souls and bodies, make a plan how we continue (after our Israel plans are obviously scrapped), buy better wet-weather gear and so on. Especially the last few days have been quite challenging, so we needed a place to look forward to. Roads have been very rough, and our mechanical issues keep coming, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a little bit harder to travel in, we had very cold days riding in the rain and some crashes, with Max had a particular nasty one on a wet road. He got 8.5 points for this crash! He could have done some better screaming and rolling around in puddles for full marks. However, he was shaken but fully intact.
But let us start where the last blog post ended, as it has been a while. After leaving Ostrava, we had some absolute stunning days riding through the wild Tatra mountains on questionable and steep dirt roads, but the weather was outstanding, and we were well rested. We crossed the next border into Slovakia, once again without really knowing where the border was. One thing I like on riding in Europe is, how quick things are changing, Slovakia is not as prosperous, and the mood was somehow grimmer in the little villages along the way. In Banska Brystica we picked up Ellie’s brother, Toby, who did a tedious 2 day train journey with his bike to join us. It is great to have Toby with us. He has the same kind of fitness, a similar idea of what a bike tour is all about. He brings a calming presence to the tour - Max loves him and Ellie has finally a reliable drinking partner (although even I drink sometimes now!) and I have someone to talk seriously about bike mechanics and bike routes. Most importantly (and life saving since we entered Bosnia) he taught us a new trick how to deal with the increasing number of street and guard dogs. Our proven method of throwing little kittens as bait out of our handlebar bags during dog attacks is not well received by the locals here, so Toby’s method of just stopping and asking “What’s up, mate?” has worked a treat so far.
His first day on the road with us was maybe not the best start, because for some reason it became this monster day, where you ride over 100km and more than 1000m altitude with some tough ups and downs at the end of the day. On top of this, we rode through Banska Stiavnica without stopping, the maybe nicest town of Slovakia, on a 14% cobble stone road… what a stupid thing to do. So, if you ever make it there, tell us how it is.
Few more days through the countryside and we ended in Hungary and finally in Budapest, which was a real treat. We stayed in the old Jewish Quarter in a mice apartment and just wandered around, doing our own things. Max spent both days skating on some cool inner-city skate spots, mingling with the locals, while we checked out some museums, coffeehouses, bars and just soaked up the relaxed vibe of this city. Next was the Danube cycle way, which was the biggest disappointment for me so far. I thought it was just boring, riding on top of a flood-dam, flat land, very rough surface (especially my personal nightmare: broken asphalt) and windy. I was very happy we left that river behind and made our way to Croatia…
Oh Croatia, beautiful Croatia, with super nice people. All in a sudden everybody was greeting us, the roads became better, and the little cities are true stunners. I especially liked Osijek, with its charming old town and relaxed street life. We crossed Croatia in a few days and entered Bosnia…. and what a change it is. Bosnia Herzegovina is not in the EU and not as developed as Croatia. And while we saw signs of the war from the 1990s in Croatia as well in Bosnia the war is still everywhere. As soon as we hit the border, there were so many ruins, copious numbers of bullet holes in houses and abandoned bunkers. The roads have been really tough, and the weather has turned from some stunner Indian summer days into some wet and cold autumn days. But I enjoy Bosnia a lot. This mixture of ethnicities, the call of the Muezin, the food, the welcoming people and the music (even if it is until midnight, while you try to sleep)
And now we are in bustling Sarajevo and have just extended or stay. We stay in a whole house in the old town, surrounded by life. Bread is made in woodfired ovens, fresh fruit and vegetable stalls, some cool cafes and everything is just pleasant.