I bike (and walk, and float) Belgrade
When my latest duo of prijateljice (girlfriends) arrived in Belgrade, I thought I’d abandon my “RHOB, private guide” role and join a bike tour. Little did I know that a touristic bike ride would lead to one of my most local adventures to date.
I Bike Belgrade is a relatively new tour company that also seeks to promote bicycle use in Belgrade. The company was founded by Dutchman (shocking) who employs local guides. Beograjani might laugh at the concept of biking through the city, since bike paths are limited and drivers are, well, spirited. We were assured that we’d stick to bicycle paths for most of the trip.
The tour started innocently enough. We met our guide at Kalemegdan and walked about a half mile to the bike rental place, where we selected our bikes and introduced ourselves to each other. Upon starting off, we received one of the best summaries of Belgrade history that I’ve heard. I thought the tour would be informative but a little predictable. I thought wrong.
Soon after seeing the Nebojsa Tower, our guide discovered that I lived in Belgrade. He had been to the States, and we talked about the differences in both places. He said, “Do you know what I miss about America the most? BROWNIES! They are delicious!” This was the last thing I expected to hear, but it’s true: we do not have brownies in Belgrade.
I wasn’t sure if he meant “regular” brownies…
As we approached Zemun, our guide asked, “Do you want to do something really local?” “Of course,” I replied.
NOTE: I don’t generally recommend this response. Local things include drinking tons of rakjia, “no liability” bungee jumping at Ada, or driving all night to see a friend in Montenegro. Lots of fun, but…do as I say, not as I do, readers.
“I will see if we can visit my friend on Rat Island,” he said. JACKPOT, I thought. Rat Island is a nature preserve by Zemun with incredibly diverse wildlife. More importantly, it also has small beaches, rustic cottages, and cafes that are practically hidden to non-Beogradjani. It’s not private but you have to know the right person to figure out how and where to go. It was a rare opportunity to see another aspect of Belgrade life.
After biking/walking up to Zemun’s Gardos Tower (it’s steep there, readers) we hopped on a small motorboat with 9 people, three bikes, and a skipper. As we carefully balanced ourselves and noted the two inches of boat floating above water, our guide asked, “You can all swim, right?” as we started off.
We arrived at Lido beach and celebrated our safe passage with beer, rakija, and good stories. Other guests fed stray cats and argued about soccer as we watched the sun sink over Zemun. Some guests were slightly nervous about the change in plans (or just the return trip on the boat, perhaps), but I tried to assure them that this was truly the best Belgrade tour they could ask for. After all, how many times does a bike tour include a treacherous hill, a secret beer spot, and a perilous boat ride?
I should add that we were charged higher prices than normal for drinks and food, but since we were not charged for the boat ride and our guide was with us for longer than the advertised period, I considered it a worthwhile price.