Day 51: 8 August 2016

Never started so late: I hit the road a quarter to ten, planning to leave the busy E-80 road on which all traffic rund to Bulgaria, Turkey and Northern Greece, as soon as possible. Fortunately, my map from the Belgrade Tourist Office (ridiculous scale 1:800,000, no other maps available) revealed a sideroute via a pass of almost 600 metres. What I did not know was that they were building a new ‚autoput‘ (autobahn) through this secluded side-valley. A sign told me there would be no way through to the other side, but I had to try, for the alternative would have been 25 or so kilometres on the VERY busy E-80. For once in my biking life I praised autobahns: after some kilometres, I traded the road for the autoput under full construction. Kilometres of decent rise made progress easier than hoped for. No one stopped me (unthinkable in Germany – controlfreaks!), so I was at the pass at noon. Once over it, I dived into a different world – everything was so much more mediterranean: the vegetation had changed from oak and beech tree forest to macchia bushland and, when I shot around a curve, it smelled of lavender, thyme and rosemary – it might have been as well in French Provence. The clouds lifted and I was in no time in Bela Palanka, where I had an extended lunch consisting of Ćevapčići and tomato salat, my new favourite because easy to order (almost the same word as in Austrian: ‚paradaijz‘). Then off via tha old military road (see foto) across another even higher pass to Pirot and from there – always trying to avoid the busy E-80 – first through various villages roughly following the course of the river Nišava upstream until I, once more, stumbled practically over another construction site of the same ‚autoput‘. I seized this highway, freshly tarmacked and arrived quickly in Dimitrovgrad, the last Serbian town before the Bulgarian border. To my ears Dimitrovgrad sounded somehow glamourous and promising – it was only a small town, not unlike many small towns in the USA and also of the same tristesse. I was still beat from the days before, so I stayed at my hotel and went to bed early.

Starting afresh in Niš.
The gigantic building site of the new ‚autoput‘ from Niš to the Bulgarian border at Dimitrovgrad. Smurf worries about the consumption of land and hitherto undisturbed nature.
Still to be decrypted: the announcement of the building of the new ‚autoput‘ – also with money from the European Union.
… or straight into Mordor (Istanbul). I took the military way over a n almost 700 m pass.
Lunch break in Bela Palanka with Smurf and Jelen.
Impression prèsque provençale.
Pure pleasure: racing alone on an almost finished ‚autoput‘.
Product display in a country store: mass matters.
Last Jelen fresh before Dimitrovgrad.
Dimitrovgrad: Serbia’s Wild East.

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