Read, Write, Run, Roam

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?

For more information about I Bike Belgrade, click HERE. The site also has a great blog worth checking out.

 

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.

 

 

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5 responses

  1. Lela

    Hi. It’s great to see that you’re having a wonderful time over there. Miss you here though!

    August 21, 2011 at 2:03 am

  2. Hi there,

    How nice to read you had such a nice time on the bike-tour. I am the Dutch guy who started iBikeBelgrade. I did it because I love Belgrade and I truly believe this tour is the only possible way to get a complete impression. Your blog is great and I’m jealous of the fact that you manage to write a new story almost every day! I hope the winter will allow me to work on my blog more frequently too!

    It is clear form the description of the tour (and the picture) that you went with my most crazy guide Paris. I organized workshops with all my guides to hear their stories about Belgrade and to give them a course about all the things we pass along the route. This way, the tour is both personal and ‘historically correct’ . So, all my guides know everything about the buildings, monuments and sights on the tour. However, all of them are free (or even urged) to fill in the tour the way they want, as long as the group likes it. One tour involved horse-riding, on the another people were brought to the guide’s home. So, if you have any other prijateljice visiting please join the tour again, for it will be a whole different experience!

    The biggest compliments I have gotten so far came from Belgradians who went on the tour, and told me they totally re-discovered their city. So I also welcome anybody you know who lives in Belgrade, just like yourself, to come on a tour. Let me know if you want to join with a group so we can plan a special tour!

    See you around! I’m the guy with a green cap on a black bike!

    August 30, 2011 at 3:58 pm

  3. Hold on…WHERE did a group go horseback riding? I didn’t know you could do that in Belgrade. This is why the bike tour was so great–I had been hoping to get on Rat island, somehow, and Paris indeed helped us make that happen. I would love another tour, with or without guests, to find another side of the city. Congratulations on a great business and I’ll definitely wave hello! I’ll be the girl at the cafe bent over her laptop and drinking way too much coffee.

    August 31, 2011 at 8:12 pm

  4. Hi there,

    If you want to go horse-riding I can put you in touch with my guide Teodora who can tell you all about it.

    Or, which is even more fun, you can take a special tour for you and friends which will include the horse-riding. September is great for both riding a bike and a horse!

    Either way, send me an e-mail at ralph@ibikebelgrade.com if you’re interested!

    I will look out for a caffeine-fueled writer these days!

    Greetings,

    Ralph

    September 2, 2011 at 2:32 pm

  5. I love your customer service! We have a group visiting us in October who might be interested in a special tour. I’ll let you know. Thanks!

    September 4, 2011 at 1:51 pm

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