Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Popping the Vespa Cherry

Sean and his Vespa
I left Belgrade yesterday with a a full belly, new friends and my Buff smelling of fabric conditioner. Life couldn't be better!

Sean and his very soon to be wife, Tamara, have a great flat in central Belgrade with a basement car park for Rhonda, a spare bed and a very warm welcome for stray bikers like myself. I was looking forward to finding out all about Sean's own world trip which he completed 2 year ago. 18 months on the road with nothing more than a fully loaded Vespa and a heavy dose of optimism. 

Some of the photos from his trip were displayed on the walls and it was great to look at them and imagine my own walls full of similar pictures one day. Where those walls will be is another question all together and one I don't care to worry about. In fact it is all part of the adventure and the not knowing is exiting! Sean, a Canadian, had ended up here, in Belgrade, with a wonderful Serbian wife to be and a book on it’s way. I look forward to receiving my signed copy just as soon as it’s finished (hint hint)! 

Great food
That night we headed out to meet some friends and eat in a rather trendy restaurant, serving Serbian food with a modern touch. 

The conversation flowed along with the wine as we consumed copious amounts of meat, which was all delicious. I let my hosts order for me and I was not disappointed with their choices. Serbian food is good! 

The next morning I woke up feeling like I had just done 3,200 miles in 2 weeks! Yes it was catching up with me! I also had a hang over but far too excessive for the 3 glasses of wine I had drunk. I decided fatigue was to be expected given the miles and the excitement of meeting new people and new places every day. I also decided that sometimes I just had to give in to it and rest up so I stayed in bed until 11.30am! Wonderful! 

That afternoon, Sean suggested some fresh air and so too tired to ride, I asked if I could go on the back of his Vespa. This was going to be an experience as I have never been on one in my life! His red mean machine is called Visnja (meaning Cherry) and she is the only way to travel in Belgrade. We nipped in and out of the traffic, mounted pavements and parking her up next to cafe's as we checked out some of the sites of the city and drank lots of milkshakes and coffee. Rhonda sulked in the basement car park where I had left her to rest up! 
Military headquarters bombed during NATO attacks
Belgrade is a place that has not forgotten the NATO bombings of 1999. It is certainly still a topic of conversation and Sean explained, as we rode passed the bombed military headquarters, that it had been left just as it was as a reminder of the events that took place over a 3 month period just 15 years ago. As we sat and drank coffee in a trendy cafe on the walls of the cities fortress over looking the River Danube, Sean tells me that during the attacks, cruise missiles could be seen following the line of the river on route to their targets and that teenagers would come to this point, where we now sat, to drink beer, get high and watch the display. There was not much else they could do as there were no studies in the city during this time so the only thing left was to party, in the way teenagers do during a crisis! 

This city has seen so many changes and troubles over the years. Now it is full of interesting characters, wonderful food and an overall, chilled atmosphere. It's not hectic as I expected. It has a good feel to it. It is one of those places you want to keep to yourself and not tell anyone about in case too many people come and ruin it all! 

That night, we had dinner and headed out to meet some more friends at Cekaonica (The waiting Room) in the Bigz building.
Kurt Cobain graffiti in the Bigz building
Now this was an interesting place. A former printing press complex, now a derelict high rise building, covered in graffiti and full of dark corners! It looms over one corner of the city and actually holds several clubs and lots of rehearsal studios despite it's derelict status. We took the rather dodgy looking lift up to one of the top floors and to my amazement we were suddenly in a funky little bar playing live Jazz music (sexy sax player included!) and a large terrace overlooking the city. It had to be the best view of the city. We sat drinking beer and looking out at the lights, sharing travel stories and discussing life in general.  Perfect way to say goodbye (for now) to this great city. Reluctantly I gave in to tiredness and headed for bed at around 2 a.m. I felt good in the morning. After a shower and a great breakfast I was ready to hit the road again! All the better for my time with Sean and Tamara.

I said a sad farewell to my new friends. Once more on the road and on a mission to make it to Mezdra, Bulgaria, to meet my next host, Ian Greenwood. A Scarborough lad and former bike racer who has raced (and been knocked off by) the best of them in his day. 

That was Belgrade! 


  1. Great reading Steph and it sounds like you are meeting so many nice people. I love the sound of the Jazz club in the old printing place - wonderful.

  2. Great blog. I am in awe of your spirit of adventure, sounds like a fantastic way to experience the world.

  3. Great following this adventure. As an aussie in Ireland for 15 years I know that you end up not where you thought you would. great aint it?

  4. Good on ya Steph, I'm glad to read you're obviously getting right into your trip. Your writing is becoming much more descriptive as you are getting further from home. Great blog and I look forward to the updates. By the way, the ride along the A55 (North Wales coast road) was beautiful this week with the spring settling in nicely. Clear blue skies and a wonderful turquoise sea lapping up against Penmaenmawr.

    1. Thanks David. Good to get some feedback and bloody good timing to tell me how nice the weather in Wales is when I have just been through 2 days of rain!! ha ha xxx