Thursday morning we got up extremely slowly at 8, Drew wasn’t really impressed but I wanted to get going and someone needed to push for some timings. We got our gear together and Martia prepped another wicked feed for us. After getting stuck in to that it was packs on and out door at 930.
We walked to the main tram station to catch a tram to the bus. We were spretty excited about hitch hiking. It was so funny. We were just holding up our Belgrade or bust sign to anyone even throwing our thumb towards a tram just for a laugh. The driver found it quite amusing also and gave us a toot and a thumbs up.
We jumped on the 276 bus. The idea being to catch it to a station near the toll booth on the highway going to Belgrade and then to hitch from there. I had the name of the bus station written down and I’d asked the bus driver to tell us when we were there. When we crossed over the freeway I realized we’de missed our stop.
I went and asked the driver, who spoke no English. A slightly concerned look came over his face. And he said ok ok, ok ok. He indicated turning around and I realized we were near the end of the line and that it’d turn around and we’de catch the station on the way back.
We found the correct stop, where the roof of the stop had been ripped off. The name of which disappearing with the shelter it provided lowly travellers. It was a bit of a hike to the toll booth and all I had was a crappy tourist map. TIP NO’ 1 FOR HITCH HIKING. Get a decent map.
Never the less after a few drain crossings, asking a few loccals how to get to the highway and a 5 k trek along the side of the freeway we got to the toll booth. Waiting there was so funny. Drew and I were just jumping around having an absolute ball. Dancing and C walking amongst some of the means we used to entertain our selves.
We waited about 1.25 hours and deceded to shift from the incoming side of the toll booth to the out going. We were starving too and hoped that for some reason there would be a canteen or a red rooster in one of the toll booths. Mysteriously there wasn’t. but there was a coke vending machine. So we spent the rest of our Kuna, the Croatian currency, on coke fanta and some sort of fruit drink. This would have to be our lunch. TIP NO’ 2 FOR HITCH HIKING. Pack food. And by food I mean more then the last 5th of a packet of Pringles.
Here we only had to wait for another 15mins before a guy picked us up. His name was Mike, he had a sweet car, was dressed immaculately and spoke very good, Serbian Gangster, English. He explained that he was going to Novi sad. About 70k’s from Belgrade but he could take us to the turn off 40k’s out. That would have to do. I was sick of dancing on the side of a highway.
Mike was a really cool guy, and he drove hard. But first we had to fill up at the first gas station. This was a god send and I gave drew the 100 Kuna I’d stuck in my shoe to go and grab some sandwiches and some coffee. While drew did this I watched mike fill up. With a plastic glove on to protect his perfectly manicured hands. His “official” business is the design and manufacture of Yatchs. His main office being in Zagreb yet he lived in Novi sad and had a meeting that morning.
The trip went well I spent most of the time typing and drew slept. We chatted to mike for a bit but we didn’t have much to talk about. I really don’t know why he picked us up. He seemed like a straight down the line business man who would gain absolutely nothing from picking us up, which he didn’t, I guess it made me feel safe as he seemed like he was probably too busy to bother with killing us and steeling our passports. It made the border crossing easy too. We just handed our passports to Mike and he did all the talking.
It was raining by the time we were in Serbia so Mike dropped us at a bridge where we could hitch in the realative dryness. He gave us his card and explained that he had Friends in Belgrade, Sarejevo, Dubrovnik and Podgorica, and if we ever needed anything to call him. What a nice Serbian drug pedaling possibly murderous gangster.
We waited for about 20 minutes and drew started having a sook, he’s having no input what so ever with our plans except whinging about them when we are actually doing them. So after a little we decided to walk 1k up the high way to where there was a gas station. I tied the sign to the back of Drews pack, the idea being we’d walk along the highway getting sprayed by trucks with our thums out trying to hithc
It worked too and less then 300 m into our trek to the gas station we heard a toot and there was a bus pulling up behind us. We high fived and the door opened. Drew dumbly asked how much. But luckily they said nothing, because one that’s the cheapest and two we didn’t have any of the local currency or any of the currency for any of the countries touching Serbia for that matter.
We jumped on and less then half an hour later it was dark and we were driving through Belgrade. This place is the Epitomy of a commy looking town, really interesting looking but it doesn’t look like much has been built since the 70’s and 80’s.
I walked down to the front of the bus to ask the bus driver where we were going to in Belgrade. I asked him when the bus was stopped. He grabbed the map out of my hand and started looking, the traffic started moving and undeterred he drove with one hand holding the book one on the gear shift and his legs working all three pedals and the wheel.
The map wasn’t making much sense to him and eventually a guy behind us asked, in very very good English if he could be of any assistance. This guys name as Ivan, we call him Ivan one as our host and apparently half of Belgrade is called Ivan so the numbers help distinguish them from each other. Ivan one even walked us to the street where we were meeting Ivaan 2, our host. Ivan 1 sounded pretty funnym he was and English teacher, had never lived over seas and despite sounding like a brittish Joseph Fritzel he was really helpful. The hike upto the street was a hike, mostly up stairs or really steep stairs. We’de been traveling for 4 hours on a pancake and when we had to walk it decides to be hilly.
At the moment I’m on the bus to Saraejevo. The route is anything but direct so hitch hiking would have been pretty difficult. We’re in a place called, actually I cant even pronounce it, everything is written in Cyrillic, but it isn’t getting any prizes for funnest villiage in the world anytime soon. There’s not a piece pavement that isn’t cracked or a painted wall that isn’t peeling. Add to this the grey stormy skies and the old people sitting around drinking Rakiya who should have died years ago and a pretty picture in not something that comes to mind.
By the time we’de reached King alexanders boullevard Ivan 2 had messaged us explaining how we could have got there on a tram and to go to a pizza place called pizzaria Golub, which Ivan one informed us meant Pidgeon Pizzaria. He said it was on the other side of the road and a little way up. A little way turned into 3 more K’s
We met Ivan 2 at the pizzaria and went to grab food. I had some thin sausage roll thing and a Balkan calzone, I’d wanted Burek but apparently deep fried meat pies is only a breakfast dish here.
We walked back to Ivan’s. Dropped our packs and went to grab some beers. We went to a little shop in the back alleys from Ivans. After not getting beaten we got back to Ivan’s flat with an assortment of local beers to sample.
Chatting to Ivan was really fun. A really good guy, who’s English is quite good. I’m finding people down here who speak English, although having a small vocabulary speak it better and have an easier time understanding it.
We spoke about the break down of the former Yugoslavia and the wars that came with it. I’m enjoying hearing the story from all the different ethnicites. I’m hoping to meet some Muslims in Bosnia to hear their side of the story.
Ivan 2’s story was a little different. His story included a Croatian/Nazi death camp that no body knows about that killed 650,000 Serbs in WW2 and that the Serbain/Orthodox people in Croatia and bosnia were being treated as third class citezens and that they were trying to liberate them. I dunno about that.
I did believe his story about Nikolai Tesla. The Croatians say he was a croat because he is from a villiage now in Croatia. But the serbs say that although he is from The territory of Croatia he was Orthodox and therefore Serbian. He then said to ask a Croatian who claimed ownership of Tesla that if he was Croatian, why did the Croatians kill all his family, blow up his house and force him into exile in the states. My lonely planet said he was Croatian too, so it must be true
I had a shave too. My face is copping it pretty rough, I think my immune system is starting to struggle with all the partying. I’ve got a cut that’s got infected on my chin and a massive lump underneath it. One of my glands is definitely swallen up big and I think my immune system is trying to fight that with priority over the cuts on my chin. Never the less my beard was itching the crap out of me so I shaved. I was starting to feel human again.
By 9 o’clock Drew and I were dead. The 3 hours of sleep finally catching up with us. And we fell asleep on our respective couches waking at 1130 with the lights and TV still on.
We’re in the second least fun looking town on the plaanet. This one looking very similar to the last except there is a bunch off obnoxious looking factories. The only thing that looks like it’s been built here in the last 50 years is the masses of very new looking gravestones in a cemetery that stretches for 100’s of meters.
I got up on Friday at 8. Feeling awesome so I went for a run. It’s been a lot warmer lately so I just went out in shorts and a singlet. I simply ran down the Kings Boulevard, it wasn’t very suited for running but I figured If I stayed on it I wouldn’t get lost. I did however amost get hit by a tram. Here instead of going through the centre of the road they travel along the edge between the car lane and the parked cars. This very nearly caught me un awares.
When I got back to Ivans I went to jump in the shower and when I hit the water it didn’t work. I went to ask Ivan if there was a trick to the shower. Drew called out his advice “You’ve just gotta turn the tap on” thanks for your help. Turned out that the water to the whole building had been cut off because of a problem at the mains. So I took a shower with the bottle of deoderant I had in my bag and got dressed.
Drew and I set off to do the touristy stuff at about 10. By one we’de covered nearly everything worth seeing and decided to visit a local shopping mall to grab some food. Drew gambled on this great looking burger on a menu at a place that looked pretty shabby and I went the conservative but safe option at a bar near by. Drew’s burger was horrible he only ate half of it leaving the other half and going to get KFC instead.
There’s this gorgeous Serbian girl looking at me from a seat across the isle and in front of me. I can see her out the corner of my eye wathing my fingers type while I stare out the window at the depressing yet fascinating country side. I should say something to her, but I’m pretty sure her English would be pretty limited and the bus is kind a quiet so everyone would just be listening slash looking at me, just like they did when I asked the conducter in my hungover English what time we get into Sarajevo.
After lunch we wandered back up to the centre of town to find a café with free wifi. We sat in here from 230 till almost 630, sharing my computer.
I did leave for an hour to go to the bus station to try and find out about buses to Sarajevo. I got there at 430 and it was madness. I asked on bus company office about buses only to find out that they didn’t speak English and I had to go to the main ticket office. This place was packed and the information line was also selling tickets. It was a mile long so I just decided to hope Ivan had found out for us and went back to the net café.
Drew is so funny but it just came back to bite him in the face, kinda literally. I will survive just came on and I started to sing, much to my fellow passengers delight I’m sure. Drew asked if I’d seen the replacements. I said “No… oh hang on is that about Grid iron” Drew goes “sorta its about a heap of people who escape from jail.” I cracked up. A miniscule piece of saliva shooting out of my mouth, sailing across the sky like one of mike the gansters Yatchs does through the sea directly at drew’s un suspecting face colliding like a spear right in Drew’s golden green eye.
Ivan was supposed to message me when he was half an hour before he finished work at 1700 so by 1830 we left to go and check out the biggest orthodox cathedral in Europe, second in the world only to the cathedral in Moscow.
This place was awesome. To me it was on par with St stephens in rome but for very different reasons. The inside was beautiful, covered in marbles and paintings all up about 7 m from the ground and the rest was raw stone. It made it look so much older and real, it was simply awesome.
We’d heard from Ivan and had arranged to meet him back at his. We ate and went back to Ivans with a few beers. We were early so we sat on the steps and cracked open a bear using the good old kiwi way. This was pretty funny at one point a guy walked past beat boxing really loud totally oblivious to our presence. As he passed we could not help but to crack up laughing.
At the arranged time we went back into Ivans. The shower was working. Thank god. Ivan had arranged for his friends to come around and play poker which they do every Friday. So we cleaned up a little and sat waiting for them.
We’re in Bosnia driving through the country side. On my left the houses that are still standing are peppered with bullet holes of varying sizes. On my right there’s a bunch of families watching a kids soccer game.
Ivans friends all rocked up pretty close to each other all on time. There was 5 of them lus Ivan myself and drew. They seemed to be abit of a motley crew. But they all seemed pretty nice and sat down and spoke for much of the night in English, which was good.
The poker was really fun. It was only a 200Dinare buy in which equates to about 3 Aussie dollars. One guy went out on the first hand, going all in and losing it. And Drew soon followed. Not really having much of a clue as to what was going on. I came 3rd I was pretty happy. But it was obvious I was a novice and they soon cleaned me up.
Ivans friends were all really quite tall most of them were nearly as tall as me, while one of them, who’s name was something like zlayer, or tall one, had a good few inches on me. Another friend of note was this guy who looked like his haircut was shaped on like a curly mushroom shaved up the sides with a semi mush room on top.
This latter guy was really nice, but a real ******er, I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him. We referred to him as Casanova Romeo. This guy had Pitchkas on the brain. It’s all he talked about.
After we’de finished the cards we sat around for a while drinking beer and talking. One of them looked me in the eyes and asked if I wanted a line of Cocaine. I wasn’t sure if he was serious and I casually palmed it off. They thought it was hilarious and cracked up laughing. I still have no idea if he was joking or not.