Profile photo for Ralph van der Zijden

Ralph van der Zijden

As a kid born and raised in Holland in the 1980-ies, I always was fascinated by the cold war, the Berlin wall, and what I imagined was behind that wall. As soon as I was old enough I went to explore Eastern Europe. I soon learned that all the scary stories about 'The East' that I grew up with were far from reality. People were really friendly, cities and nature were great and , important for a poor student like myself, beer was cheap :) As soon as the wars ended in the Balkans I also started to travel there and found so much kindness and learned so much about cultures, live, food, people etc. After working on projects in the Balkan region I one day decided to move to Belgrade and start a bike-tour company. That way, I could share my love for the city, promote cycling and create employment. Since the start in 2011 the company grew internationally and we're now in Vienna and Budapest as well. Also, we do much more than biking, like our Yugotour in classic Zastava cars and tours where our guests can meet the local people living in Belgrade and Budapest.

What places and activities do you specialize in?

"I live in Belgrade and know the city very well. I am more interested in the not-so-known-and-pretty places than the tourists highlights. The hidden restaurants , old small shops, street-art and rooftop bars are what gives the city its unique vibe. So our bike-tours and walking tours focus on those parts of Belgrade too.

I am also specialized in the socialist period of Belgrade, when it was the capital of Yugoslavia, a country that doesn't exist anymore. Nothing cooler than explore the traces of that period with one of my old Zastava cars (built in Yugoslavia!) .

As we are also based in Budapest we are able to provide bikes and other things needed for those who want to bike down the Danube river to Belgrade and further. We are probably the only ones with this service and it is great to see more and more people biking for a week or longer through Hungary and then Serbia, with the least visited but most beautiful parts of the Danube."

How did you get involved in travel?

"When I decided to give up my comfortable life and good job in diplomacy in Holland to move to Belgrade, I didn't have a very clear plan what I would do. However, coming from a family involved in the bike-business (dad had a bike-shop, mum started the first bike-tours in my hometown The Hague) it kind of came natural to start the first bike-tours in Belgrade.

It is great to be able to share you love of the city and the fascinating stories behind it with people who are interested. Another great thing is that I always have guests who are happy, because they are on holiday.

Guiding people or helping them find their own route through a city or country is a very satisfying and energizing job. Even if I'm tired I always get energy when meeting the guests!

Also, being able to make people understand other cultures and history and by doing so create more sympathy for others is very rewarding.


Please share a unique travel experience you will never forget.

"Asking someone who travels extensively through the Balkans to describe a unique travel experience is likely to get you hours of stories....Maybe the unique thing about traveling in the Balkan region is that you can't really plan anything, but everything can always be arranged on the spot and will turn out fine or better than expected.

A few random moments that come back to my memory when thinking about my trips is the experience of swimming in the river in Ada Bojana at the seaside of Montenegro, where at the same time you taste the sweet water of the river and the salt water of the sea it flows into. Or the caving-excursion in the middle of the winter in Valjevo in Serbia, where I had to crawl though a tiny hole in the snow to be overwhelmed by the underground corridors and halls and lakes . Or sitting at the campfire at night on the white sandy beach of Dermi, Albania and get the shock of a lifetime when suddenly a cow appears from the dark....


Ralph is part of the following groups: Hungary Travel Agents, Serbia Travel Agents