We took a plane to Београд (Belgrade), the capital city of Serbia earlier today. I felt such a huge contrast in the way that I was traveling in comparison to my initial arrival in Europe. We booked a plane flight two days ago, I didn’t learn any of the language, I didn’t know anything about the city and we weren’t sure where we were staying. Granted Kristina speaks the language and is somewhat familiar with the customs in this area, but it just seemed funny compared to how over-prepared I was for traveling to Copenhagen. From the very limited exposure I’ve had to Belgrade over the past few hours, it seems, in a certain way, better than western Europe for totally winging travel. I think most of my stress when traveling in those countries was financial. I knew I could get where I needed to and that I could find a place to stay, but in a rut, it could cost an exorbitant amount. Here, I just had a hearty meat stuffed burek and a large pastry for $1.50. We found a super nice hostel to stay in for $12.50 a night.
Walking around Belgrade, so far the first thing it reminds me of is the scifi future night life and slums out of Blade Runner or Total Recall. There are these big apartment complexes with odd-colored lighting and air conditioners that, for some reason I can’t explain, feel very futuristic. Many of the streets are pedestrian only, or at least I think…and there are random narrow cross streets and spots where the intersections feel very abrupt and unexpected. The city layout just seems out of the ordinary and certainly draws attention.
We got to White Owl Hostel just a short time ago, (it’s 12:30am at the moment), and I just quickly wanted to share a really crazy story that our local hostel manager shared with us. It ends with him spending 27 days in a Russian prison. I forget where it was in Russia, but he was spending time in some city and observed that his friends would kick some of the homeless people while walking down the street. You might think, well that’s mean…I wouldn’t say that it was the nicest of solutions to the situation but it was actually motivated out of the fact that it was so cold there was a legitimate concern of freezing to death while asleep on the street. This kicking is a “friendly” way of waking someone who had fallen asleep somewhere without shelter and could freeze to death. Well after getting used to seeing people do this frequently, our hostel manager was out at the disco one night and when he stepped outside he walked past a person lying on the ground and kicked them. He pulled his foot away to see it was bloody and that the body was covered in blood. The guy was dead! The police promptly arrived and naturally arrested him, being that he was the most obvious murder culprit. After clearing up that it was all just a misunderstanding and this man was clearly not a malicious murderer he was eventually released, but it certainly seems like he still has some negative associations with Russia. Can you blame him after an experience like that??
Next day. We didn’t do all too much, just relaxing, but to start the day we got breakfast of burek with our german hostel roommates. As we were waiting in line a woman was slowly creeping up as if trying to cut us. All in all it didn’t really matter if she cut us or not but the thing that bothered me more than anything was the silent pressure that she was putting on me. Give me some space lady! It just reminded me that as we were going through customs to enter Serbia, a third line opened and as it did people rushed to get into this line. No remorse! It still throws me for a loop though because ultimately the woman in line that was giving me inexplicably high levels of anxiety ended up not cutting us and instead was very helpful in translating the signs and suggesting which filling to try in my burek.
That night we attempted, to no avail, to find a climbing gym. We supposedly found the location of one that is only open for 2.5 hours starting at 8:30pm however it was only open MWF and of course this was a Thursday. We instead walked around for a bit and found a bar called Snap that had just opened two days ago. It was a very nice bar run by a filipino man and his wife, who had lived in NYC for some years before moving to Serbia. The bar was very nice, containing pretty paintings on the walls, cozy spaces to relax and three ping pong tables. Sold! We spent the rest of the night on into my birfday at the bar making new friends.