The leg to Novi Sad was rather boring and mostly flat. So not much to tell except the crash in the town of Gradiste.
During a right hand turn the front wheel lost traction and I was sliding down the road. Luckily I was unharmed (thanks to protective gear and a slow speed of approx. 30 km/h) and could pick up the bike to assess the damage. There was a bent brake pedal, which I bent back into shape with the help of a local resident who borrowed me a plumber wrench. Apart from that I had a slightly bend handlebar, a hole in my panniers and the waterproof innerbags, a broken right handguard (which probably prevented the front brake lever from breaking). All in all no show-stopper and I continued, albeit with a bruised ego and a lowered confidence in tire traction.
Approaching Novi Sad I saw once again one of the many remnants of the Yugoslav Wars: a damaged TV Tower overlooking the city. I searched for a campsite which was a little bit outside the city. Upon arrival I found myself seated in front of a huge mountain of grilled lamb with a glass of wine in one hand and a some rakia in the other. The owner of the campsite had a barbecue with some friends and invited me as well as two other campers, a german belgian couple who were touring the Balkans by bicycle. Luckily I didn’t have to ride anymore. Honestly, this hospitality is just overwhelming.
Talking with the people made me realize that destroyed building aren’t the only signs of the recent wars. During longer conversations quite a lot of the people I met, not only here but all over the Balkans, started telling about their fate in the war. The campsite owner’s family for example came to Novi Sad in the early 90’s, fleeing from the fascistic movement in Croatia with nothing but a tractor for transportation. While the fighting has stopped and the Balkan is now a safe place to travel, the underlying problems aren’t solved entirely. Prejudices and hostility among the different religions and ethnicities are still noticeable. On a few occasions people warned me of potential crime, violence and fraud coming from another ethnic group. The people I was warned of then treat me with similar hospitality but warn me of the first group. It seems I as an outside traveller can enjoy an omnipresent hospitality, which the locals deny their direct neighbours and former opponents in the Yugoslav Wars.
The next day I spent visiting Novi Sad, where I met Marko, one of the guys I met during yesterdays barbecue and a motorcyclist, who wanted to guide me around Novi Sad.
A day later I left Novi Sad for the Tara National Park, due to the repeated recommendations to go there. The first half of this day was again rather flat and boring until I left the Danube plains and reached the mountains in southern Serbia, where I left the paved roads to find some more adventurous tracks.