Just as the train was coming into Belgrade there was a huge slum area....I got a bit of a shock I never actually saw with my own eyes a slum like that, houses made from bits of corrigated iron and wood with tyres holding down the roof, the people just going to the toilet beside the train and clothes hanging on the trees...i suppose this is the tip of the iceberg compared to what i will come across in India.
I sat on the steps at the front of the station just to take in the place. It was chaos! Crazy traffic, you can smell the petrol fumes, people everywhere and dilapidated buildings...it reminded me a little of my 1st impressions of arriving in Tangiers and this made me very excited!
The hostel was a really lovely one just 2 minutes from the station. I met a friendly Australian guy, Brett there who had been travelling for sometime and had made a deal with the hostel to help out in return for staying until after Christmas, im sure if i wasnt staying with Dave for Christmas i might possibly have done the same thing! I felt really at home at this place, no crazy E.T. guy in my room, no preaching about the bible and no bedbugs i hope!
It was dark already and i was feeling tired so myself, Brett and the 2 guys working in the hostel had a few Christmas Edition Tuborgs, some homemade Rakia the local Plum paintstripper....i mean liquear and a good chat! They explained all about Turbofolk this mad music that everyone seems to hate its a mix of the folk music and bad techno and they are usually singing about how drunk they are or how hungover!
Myself and Brett went off to explore the next morning. He was my tour guide for Belgrade as much as i love just wandering and getting lost on my own you cant beat a bit of good company!
I really loved Belgrade, unlike Zagreb i couldnt stop taking photos, every building and street was filled with surprises, from shiny office buildings, beautiful old places, green parks and burnt out buildings, it was a treat for my eyes! It was also kind of hectic in a funny way, yet you could have total peace overlooking the rivers. There were gypsies sitting on every corner of every street with a few bits to sell; a mobile phone(stolen im sure!), leather gloves, tin of beans and toothpaste! Wow i could have walked all day. We stopped for a coffee when the legs started giving in then headed back to the hostel for food.
Beside Isadoras house
Getting my portion of fruit and veg in!
I was couchsurfing tonight so i met up with Isadora at the main square...horse square as its called aparently...sorry sorry i just cant spell that word either!! Anyway, she lives with her cousin not far from the centre. Very nice guys with a great dry sense of humour, we had some food, i looked in the mirror for the first time in a while...oh dear!! Then we headed out for drinks.
It was a pub designed like the inside of a boat that we went to. I thourally enjoyed the montenegran beer and her friends company. I stayed up probably until it was bright with Isadora and her cousin drunkenly trying to play the guitar, i have to say Vuksa was very patient with me squinting with one eye at the notes while i was saying `ohhh i can get it this time!`. I may have just `clevered off` if i was the one waiting for the drunken one to play the song!
We cooked food for Isadora and her friends the next day, we went to a market to buy the food, i felt really hungover as i was chopped the vegetables, i think i need some vitamins mmmm, anyway after that back to horse square to meet a friend who i was staying with the next few days. By day i found irish pubs...
The 3 Carrots....as irish as they come!
And by night i discoversed Yelen Beer with Jelena. I cant describe exactly why i really liked Belgrade and im a bit behind with writing the blog so i have forgotten many details but yes Serbia i like it! One thing that ive noticed here though is that although the young people ive met are fantastic people, studying or working they feel very hard done by that they cant travel without a visa and they have very little money. I am lucky to be Irish when it comes to that.
Ok so on to Novi Sad where i was going to be staying with Couchsurfer Nuno who is portugese and is there volunteering to teach the concepts of recycling and that to schools. His speciality is making wallets from milk cartons, bowls from records and lights from big empty cartons.
I had a wander around while i waited for him to finish work. It was great to see lots of people on bikes, it was much calmer and chilled out to Belgrade. I had a wander down by the river Danube then met Nuno in the main square.
He lives on the top floor of a hotel close to the station and he has almost 36o degree view of the city supercool! Also before i go anyfurther i have to explian that Nuno was crazy about telling jokes from not bad ones to really terrible ones! He is the only person ive met who could floor my father with terrible jokes. A few weeks ago he had an Irish couchsurfer and i think this guy really had an impact on Nuno...who now wants to go to Ireland for Ted Fest!...a hilarious festival on the Aran islands dedicated to the comedy Father Ted, where everyone dresses as priests and nuns and drinks like crazy for the weekend! He found a particular joke about going to a fish dance hilarious after about half an hour explaining the double meaning, anyway to cut a long story short this joke combined with ample amounts of alcohol was the joke of my 3 days there, i will never forget it!
Novi Sad is the best place in Serbia to get your coffin just to let you know! There were 3 or 4 coffin shops between his house and the centre....strange!
We had some beer then headed to Nunos favourite pub a little hidden place, through an alley, round a corner then up some dark stairs! His girlfriend joined us then we went to the `irish bar`! Not very irish but good fun, very smokey. Over there the 4 leaf shamrock is lucky...but in Ireland its the 3 leafed one...i think we could start some sort of business here! After another bar we headed home. ...god save the pumpkins...
Wow very hungover the next day...Nuno didnt go to work..i didnt do much either just went for a walk, climbed up to the fort where Exit festival is held every year, then back to the comfort of Nuno`s house to watch crap but comforting american sitcoms! He told me that last year at the festival he had a stall about recycling, giving away wallets made from milk cartons if someone could answer the recycling related questions, they were pretty hard questions actually like how many litres of water does it take to make a pair of jeans? I think its something like 4000 or 40,000...i cant remember ANYWAY nobody was getting the answer right so they changed it to whoever buys them a beer can get a wallet and that was a great success!
The older part of Novi Sad
Nuno had arranged friends to meet in his favourite bar that night as it was another one of his friends birthdays. It was a quieter night than the one before at least i thought it was until i fell down the stairs on the way out then twisted my ankle a bit in a hole in the ground!
Wow had a great sleep and was in brilliant form the next day. I think it was a mixture of the beer, Nunos company and generally i really liked Novi Sad i left the house feeling on fire! I found a crazy chinese shop. I thought my life was complete before i went in there but i now realised there were so many things i need to buy!! Who can live without a pocket size keyboard or a special thing you put on your hand to hold an orange so you can peel it?? In the end i bought a few silly things...i was really in the mood for buying stupid useless things..i got Nuno a fish shaped floor mat for the bathroom to remind him of the terrible fishdancing joke.
The last day we went for some drinks again...more terrible jokes, Nuno wrote Fish Dance in serbian and Cheers in Portugese on my arm in permanent marker...essential phrases not to forget until the next shower anyway, i returned the favour by writing Slainte! Not so much sleep again this night, i got up early to catch my train, i think its becoming a routine not getting much sleep before catching trains. Im sorry to leave Serbia but anyway on to Budapest now i think a good weekend lies ahead!