|Running the Mad Dash in Belgrade, Serbia|
It was a lovely spring day in Belgrade. I found Belgrade to be so quiet, calm, and peaceful. And very clean and beautiful. Also had all these intriguing soviet vestiges. One thing I did notice here though were all the refugees sleeping in parks. When I first got off the train and was walking trying to find the hostel, I was walking through a park and noticed all these blankets strewn about everywhere.
On a second look, I realized that people were sleeping in them. I wasn't expecting it so I was a little surprised but it took a second to see that these folks were all refugees and I almost felt a little rude walking through the park as I didn't want to disturb them. Below is a photo of one of the parks. Near the station there were a few parks and the other ones were even more full.
When the hostel told me there wasn't any room (I arrived early in the morning, I decided to screw it, I'm going to Sarajevo then) I had this feeling that the hostel was lying to me because during late winter/early spring there's always room, especially on a week night. If it was a weekend then it would've been more believable but when I knocked the girl that opened the door was coming fresh from a shower so I think she was just upset that someone was knocking so early in the morning. So after the door was closed on me, now the question was what to do. I had walked quite a bit of a distance from the train station to the hostel with my super heavy camera bag plus my carry on bag and then needed to find a way to get to Sarajevo. Where to find free wifi?
So I walked around a bit in downtown Belgrade until I found some free wifi and looked at train or bus times. Luckily I found a bus that goes every day around noon or a little after noon. Also the good thing is that the bus station is right next to the train station, where I had arrived. So I knew where that was. So it was maybe around 7am or so, so I went down to the bus station to buy a ticket.
Thankfully I also found a place where I could store my bag, because it was pretty heavy. So I stored my carry on bag, plus took out a bunch of stuff from my camera bag (like my laptop, charger, etc) and was ready to explore Belgrade until afternoon. Of course I was dead tired too having not slept much at all from the overnight train from Sofia and the overnight trip from Istanbul previous to that.
So first, time for some breakfast. There was a place next to the train station that looked good. I ordered this omelet with water. Their waters are pretty fancy, they come in glass bottles even. I was so hungry after eating one, I ordered another one :)
Serbian Dinar. It's interesting because they use Russian letters but there are also some Serbian letters in their alphabet. It was part of the Soviet Union so I don't exactly how it all works but it's interesting! I felt rich!
New Belgrade..this way! Let's go explore :)
After breakfast, I just started walking. I had been kind of in the center of town already, so I walked back up there and just started walking. I had GPS on my phone so I always knew where I was in relation to the bus station. Yes it works even when you don't have wifi, which is amazing. Early in the morning it was quiet, peaceful and nice. Then I after looking at the GPS I saw that there was a castle of some sort or a fortress called the Belgrade Fortress. So I thought, I have a little time, why not?
So I went over there. I didn't realize how long it would take me to walk over but I made it and it was really beautiful. Spring was here and trees and flowers were blooming. There was a really nice view of the river too. I could've stayed much longer. In fact, I stayed there sitting the grass that I looked at the time and was like oh no! my bus leaves in just a few minutes. So I got up and started running. Oh that was the mad dash because the castle is somewhat close to the station but still a good distance away. So I got there, huffing and puffing. Got my bag from storage and was getting in line to board the bus when suddenly I hear people yelling and arguing in front of me.
It turns out that a couple Italian girls were having a problem with the bus driver. The bus driver didn't speak English so I couldn't understand what was going on. The problem turned out to be that in order to put a bag in the luggage compartment, you had to pay a him little bit. When it was my turn, I realized that I had spent all of my currency and had none left. What to do, everyone is pretty much on the bus at this point.
So I noticed one of the Italian girls had run trying to find an ATM or something because they also didn't have any more Serbian Dinars. So I run back into the bus station looking for an ATM and then I remembered, there was an ATM in the lobby of the train station. I had stopped there to get some dinar when I first arrived. So I run over to the train station, get like $5 worth of dinars and run back. Thankfully the bus was still there, I thought maybe it would leave. Hot, sweaty, tired, huffing and puffing I gave the accursed bus driver the dinar (which he kept all of it, ripping me off) put my bag in the luggage compartment. I couldn't take it with me because I already had my camera bag and that for sure was not going anywhere out of sight. Somehow the Italian girls also managed to come back and had some dinar (I tried to briefly explain that I could pay for them and they could just pay me back in euro or something but we all left is such a hurry!)
Anyway, so I'm a bit sweaty and it's an uncomfortable feeling, when you're tired, you haven't slept for a couple of nights, you haven't showered in a couple days and you've been running all over the place. But the good news is that we laughed about it all and I made some new friends. Good thing too because I didn't even have a place to stay in Sarajevo. Normally I would plan in advance, book some hostels, etc. But in this case I jumped on the bus with no plans, no ideas whatsoever...let's see what happens. And sure enough I made friends with the Italians and they invited me to stay with them in their rented apartment...which turned out to be a very interesting experience oh my word. But that story is for the next chapter: Adventures in Sarajevo.