Completely out of order as always... this post covers the period 13/5/11 - 25/5/11
I was having a little difficulty thinking of the words for this one... somehow, the usual adjectives didn't cut the mustard... beautiful, fun, relaxing, edgy.. meh... none of them really work. I mean sure, this place is all of those things... but I thought I'd make a wee little anagram as in the title of this post to try and explain on a different level.
Those were the first and only six words that came to me...
S E R B I A
When I was on my way here from Hungary I was admittedly a little nervous. Unfortunately, all I ever really knew of Serbia was what I had seen on the news when I was younger, and heard of in the years since but not taken a whole lot of notice of. I figured it was just a place full of wars and bombings and crazy Serbians... I remember reading an article in a magazine when I was a kid in the early 90's called "Balkans: The Badlands" or something similar and whilst I knew nothing about the content, the imagery of bloodied bodies on the streets never left me. I was smart enough (believe it or not thank you audience) to know that all of that had since passed but I was still uncertain as to exactly what it would be like, and what to expect.
The trip in was pretty uneventful, and with a quick and easy border crossing then entry into the non-EU country (yet - they've applied) things were looking good. I had a hostel booked also, and using my new GPS (I finally cracked) I knew I'd get straight to my destination without hassle or interruption... or so I thought!
On the ride in I was pulled over by a couple of proper biker dudes... beards, long hair, leather jackets and patch covered vests were just the beginning!! Knowing the reputation bikers have in Australia, and commonly around the world it seems, and coupled with my uncertainty about Serbia in general, I was needless to say a little nervous as I slowly removed my gloves and helmet and gave my toughest fellow biker glare... They came up and said hello in pretty good english, and all was friendly and amicable enough... all good I thought, and was about to continue on my way when they invited me for a beer back at their clubhouse... welllll... a few things crossed my mind:
- OK, this is it... when I arrive, they'll kill me, sell my organs and take my bike!
- Hmmm, if I say no, this is it. Right here in the street they'll kill me, sell my organs and take my bike!
- I'm thirsty after a long ride, so why not!?
So I donned my helmet, and one glove (they rode off already) and followed them off down the road, out into the bush, around a few bends, down a dirt track and into their clubhouse compound... when we pulled up, a few more pleasantries were exchanged, and the beers started! Turned out they were just my first encounter with some of the loveliest people in a country overall, that I have met in my whole trip! Had I not have had plans to meet with my Serbian friend Visnja who I met on the Amalfi coast as well as had a hostel booked, I would have stayed with these guys for the night, drank and ate for free and had a place to sleep the night too!! Too cool, and such an awesome way to have my mind changed about a new country!!
After our beers, they delivered me back to my hostel via a gorgeous lookout over Novi Sad where we stopped for a couple of photos of the view, as well as of the local TV station building that was bombed during one of the four times they were bombed during a ten year period... crazy stuff to see a bombed building like that in the flesh...
My time from that night on has been pretty much spent mostly with Visnja and usually her sidekick Arjana bouncing around town, eating, drinking, chilling in the park or at the beach (on the Danube no less!), as well as visiting and partying in Belgrade and some towns in between. I even have had the luxury of experiencing Serbia's wonderful train system on two occasions!! An experience I won't spoil with words or images.. just.... try it!
This place is just so easy and wonderful to be, and whilst the landscape and city is nice, really it's the people that make it so good here. So much so that what was originally planned as 3 days in Novi Sad, has now turned into 13 days on this visit, then I will be coming back for my birthday in a week or so, and then returning again for the EXIT Festival for a week or so in July!! Can't wait for that - I haven't been to a proper music festival since Homebake '98! Visnja and Arjana work for the festival, so it's even more exciting cos they're part of it!!
Oh, and to celebrate the pending end of the world on May 21st, Visnja and I got tattoos!! She got cherries (her name means Sour Cherry in Serbian) and I got... something... you will have to wait til I get home!
I can't recommend Serbia enough for anyone who's thinking about visiting Eastern Europe, or anywhere in Europe for that matter! Make sure you get to Novi Sad, whatever you do!