Leaving Osijek was easy. We were up early, had breakfast at the 24 bakery opposite and then hit the road. It was an easy morning and as day 5 without a break it was to be a short day and just 50km to Vukovar.
We stopped for an ice-cream in one on the small villages on route and an exceptionally friendly old man (also on a bike) stopped to talk to us and ask where we were going. He was interested in where we were from and where we were going and as he left he explained that he was Croatian, but an (Serb?) Orthodox and not a Catholic. It was a throw-away comment, but nevertheless a sign of the complicated and perhaps sensitive issue of identity in the region.
As you get closer to Vukovar you notice a slow deterioration in the state of the buildings and the surrounding villages are still dotted with houses that are covered in bullet holes or occasionally destroyed. It’s not shocking but each building catches your attention and I often find myself wondering what happened to the people who once lived there and why this or that house has not been rebuilt when the others have.
Cycling into Vukovar and the number of war-damaged houses increases considerably but its still hard to imagine that it is a town that was entirely destroyed by war just 24 years ago. It’s only when you see the photos or videos that you understand how bad it was.
Our hotel, like so many others, was completely rebuilt and outside the door is a photo of the building in 1991. It’s just a shell. Think Warsaw after WWII and you’ll have some idea of how bad the situation was. Just down the street is the infamous concrete Water Tower that was battered by 600 shells, but never destroyed.
The city museum provided a detailed overview of the scale of the destruction and the whole city acts as a powerful reminder of the madness of war, however Vukovar is not as sad or depressing as it might be. I actually quite liked it. OK, there’s not much to do as a tourist, but it’s pleasant enough, the people are friendly and like many other Danube towns, there are places to swim, party and relax by the river.
With a long day planned for Saturday, we skipped the partying and retired early.
My legs are now quite tired, but I’m not in any pain and I feel a lot fitter now than I was 5 days ago. The big question is: am I fit enough for another 25 days of cycling?