Hello from Belgrade!
It is nothing like I thought it would be (common theme in my trip). It is brutally hott, the city is huge, diverse and absolutely stunning and the men are gorgeous so there is constantly something fun to look at. But, we will come back to that later.
So as usual, leaving a country is never as easy as getting into one. I call it the Cinncinnati connundrum-beeches and tyler addison will know what im talking about. Countries tend to welcome you with open arms, try to make your trip as easy as possible but when you are leaving with your money...they oddly just dont care anymore if you find your way back out. SO, I leave from the hotel around 7:30 pm to get a cab to the train station, which is a bit out of town, for my 8:15pm train. Bulgaria must have really hated communism because they have privatized LITERALLY everything, including the public transportation. So I head toward the cashier station to ask which company was the one offering this train to Belgrade, and this dude comes up to me "Ah, miss, where are you from? Where are you going?" I hate to say it but I have just become so incredibly cyncial about people coming up to you like that in train stations, its just non stop. "I work here, I can help you find your company", and he pulls out this ID card that says he works for the train station. Still, I was skeptical. I ignore him, and ask the cashier and she tells me where I need to go. He follows me, "really, miss, it is ok, I can help you". I was like "look dude, I dont need your help, this train station is one giant room, i feel confident I can find my way". So I get to the place, buy my ticket, and the lady who works there knows him. She says, ok, he will show you the way. In my head, Im like "I really dont want this right now, I dont want this dude around me, trying to talk to me in his broken ass english (REAKING of alcohol) about how long he has worked in this train station. But I dont want to be mean, Ive tried to be straight with him and the lady knew him so I kind of felt that MAYBE he was legit, even though I still doubted it. So he tries to take me straight to the train but I wanted to go to the grocery store attached to the station first because I knew the train arrived at 4:15 in the morning and I would want some food. He follows me there. I get the goods and, along the way, he sees some friends. Perfect. If I can get through the cashier line fast enough, I can ditch him. OF COURSE, I am stuck behind the oldest lady on the planet who moves at snail speed trying to find her 20 piece coin. Im looking around, "where is he", tapping my foot impatiently (remember, Its not like I can hide, I have a GIANT backpack towering over my head). Then I hear it, ÄH, MISS, THERE you are!" f***. Now, Im just laughing to myself, like who is this guy? What is he doing in life? So we head to the train, he helps me put my bag up top in the cabin and he just stands there. I know what he is waiting for, and he is so annoying that I want to make him awkwardly skwirm for it, just for a second. So, I pull out my last Lev note, a 2. Which, by the way, in Bulgaria can buy you a MASSIVE sandwhich or 4 slices of pizza or 2 shots of whiskey. I know, I have done it. So he looks at me and says "Thats it, this isnt even enough for smokes?" O NO YOU DIDNT. I lost it, totally, went straight into a loud, commotion causing rant. I didnt even want your help in the first place! I told you that, and frankly its pathetic that this is what you do. This is all I have so this is all your getting and your f***ing lucky you are getting this, because this is NOT the way to do what you want to do. He says "miss, calm down, it is ok. You dont have euros?" I was in shock. "NO I DONT HAVE f***ING EUROS, IM AMERICAN, Leave now in five seconds or else I am calling the police. So he left. I wasnt mad at him as much as I as mad at myself. I knew it. I KNEW IT. So why did I let him come along with me? Like I have said before, it doesnt matter how many times you have travelled, you always learn how to be a better traveller each journey. I now know, as I have been discovering so often on this trip, that dad was right the whole time. You just have to be blunt with these people, tell them you are not paying them and that you dont want their help. I used to say, "dad, aww, I feel bad for him, dont be so mean", yada yada, but alas, it is the ONLY way.
Anyway, I get on the train and, of course, its great. I LOVE overnight train trips. They are a giant slumber party where everyone is stuck with each other, sharing their food and alcohol, and just hanging out, checking out the scenery. The Serbian border guards come on about an hour into the journey so we all came out to show passports. They were super good looking, as I would soon find out is totally common here. As we come out, I realize there is a group of people next to me that are about my age, who I didnt even notice had come on in the chaos with annoying train guy. I start talking to the guy and it turns out, they had come from Turkey where he is starting his Masters degree in Septemeber in Engineering, but they are Bosnian and live in Sarajevo. I talked to them for a long time, they were so nice and offered to show me around when I go there in a couple of days! So that is exciting.
We get to Belgrade about an hour late, so the sun is up when we get there and the trip went unbelievably smoothly, I still cant believe it. The directions the hostel gave me were great. It was about 6am by the time I catch the tram, on a Sunday, and the only people up at the time are either pensioners, travellers or people still awake from going out to the bars (which Belgrade is known for). I get on the tram, watch a couple who clearly met the night before, he is an American, she is a Serb, they are headed back to her place and they are still hammered, having a conversation about the war at 6am in the morning, no concept that they make NO SENSE haha. It was funny. Find my hostel no problem, go straight back to bed for a bit.
When I wake up, I realize there is another girl in my room and she kind of wakes up also. IMMEDIATELY starts talking to me like crazy. She is an Irish journalist it turns out, and has done some really cool stuff. She talks ALOT, about a thousand different things a second, but she is interesting and super nice. So we went and had lunch yesterday. Afterward, I explored the city a bit and came back. We were going to go out and watch the Eurocup soccer games but the girl who was working the hostel, a guy who is also staying here, the Irish girl and I ended up getting a couple of bottles of wine, watching the games here and just talking, it was so fun. This morning, I am going to eventually head toward the bike rental place and bike to an island in the river, apparently, its lovely.
Belgrade is great, you would never know the country was at war less than 20 years ago. The people are SO nice and welcoming.
So far, so good in Serbia,