Belgrade, Serbia

After the fiasco of attempting to hitchhike to Belgrade – I finally caught a bus and arrived. Exhausted from all the efforts, I hadn’t booked an accommodation. I gave one of the people outside the bus station holding signs a shot and decided on the hostel that was a stones throw away across the street. There was no sign for the hostel or anything, but such is the Balkan area.

The “hostel” smelled overwhelmingly of smoke and, despite the hostel owner assuring me that four french guests were staying in my room, I am fairly certain that I was going to be the only guest. The kitchen was a mess and it was a disaster of an accommodation, so I headed back outside to the street and decided on option two.

Before my bus ride I had posted on couchsurfing.org that I was coming through Belgrade. To my surprise, Joesefina had accepted my request to sleep on her couch. It took a while for us to communicate but eventually we sorted it out and I made my way to her place. It was nice, and I’m somewhat confused why she was on couchsurfing because it appeared that it was a guesthouse, not a private home. Or it was some kind of apartment complex where many different families shared a common area. Regardless, I had my own room and her mother was a delight and made me very, very strong turkish coffee (at around 9pm at night). I drank the coffee out of respect, then had a nearly caffeine induced sleepless night from her kindness.

We sat around the table while we drank our coffee for what felt like hours. Every time I took a sip I felt like my teeth were coated in the black coffee grains and that I looked like a toothless old maid every time I smiled after a sip. My impression of couch surfing was that the person would take you out and show you around the town, but we ended up just staying there – which was more than fine by me. I had my own bed and after the previous 24 hours I needed some R&R but could’ve done without that turkish coffee.

The next morning I had a message from my friends Kate and Zhenia who were arriving to Belgarde that afternoon to meet at a main statue in town at 3pm. None of us have phones, so if we missed each other at the statue we would be S.O.L. I went on a walking tour that morning after saying goodbye to Joesefina and met a wonderful Belgian woman who was passing through on her way to do a forestry service project in Slovenia.

This fountain at the top of the Skadarska marks the start of the bohemian street where poets, intellectuals and artists gathered in the early 1900’s. Today the sounds of gypsy music fill the air and people are found during all hours of the day drinking Rakia. 

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On Skadarska Street this older musician waved back at me then decided to be a spectacle and kiss his muscles while not missing a note of the accordion

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More charm from Skadarska Street

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The quirks of Belgrade – a new take on the “zebra crossing”

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The sweetest smelling van in all of the Balkans

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Old City Wall

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At 3pm I sat hoping for Kate and Zhenia to show up. I wasn’t alone, I had a pistachio gelato. And I was content. It was right about my first bite into the cone that I heard my name shouted from behind me – and there running up were two Australians I had met in Dubrovnik. Kate had also told them to meet at the statue – somehow three different traveler packs all ended up together, and the same statue, in a different country at roughly 3 pm in the afternoon. They also had gelato. My favorite kind of people always do.

We rejoiced in all meeting up again and then started our adventures throughout the city. We had a quick lunch, visited a museum that showed life durning the Yugoslavia times, were faces in the crowd of some Serbian zombie movie that was filming and after all this – we were again hungry.

Will and Nes had a small sheet of paper with directions to “the best, most authentic Serbian food place in town…with reasonable prices” so we set off in quest of this restaurant. We walked, and we walked, a stranger left us his dog to watch while he went into a store, and we walked some more. Finally, we found the right street (really it was more like an alley) and we headed down it with growing anticipation of how hyper local our dinner was about to be.

We reached apartment complexes and then really started priding ourselves how we’ve stepped off the beaten path. Up a few flights of stairs we started to become confused where exactly this restaurant was – in an apartment? Just as we all stopped out of sheer confusion, I kid you not, a little old woman shuffled around the corner and pointed to a door with a plaque on it. The confusion faded, and we boldly swung open the door and entered our super, local, steal of a find restaurant.

We were graciously greeted by a lovely Serbian couple who went around to all of us and shook our hands. They introduced themselves to each of us, and gave Will a sympathetic head tilt telling him he must be tired from his long travels. Will joked back that those 10 stairs were a lot to climb up to get to the restaurant but that we were happy to be there.

It was at that moment that a thick curtain of awkwardness dropped over the room. Nobody spoke, I was very conscious of my hands, and as I looked around trying to find something to alleviate the silence I noticed that there was a bathroom with a shower. A very odd thing for a restaurant to have.

It started to dawn on me that we might be in someones private apartment, and a tickle of a laugh formed in my throat. Right when I was about to speak to break the silence two more people entered the room. They, too, warmly greeted us then looked at the Serbian couple to introduce us, and the Serbian couple looked at them to introduce us. And we just wanted dinner.

So here we are: one American, one Canadian, two Aussies, two Serbs and two Brits together in an apartment in Belgrade having no idea why we were standing there together. We then conversed in a universal language: the nervous giggle.

What happened: we entered a private apartment that was just put on the market for rent. The British couple had decided to rent, and was awaiting more friends to come join them. The owners thought that we were those friends, and the British couple had no idea who we were. Before we left they gave us a tour of the apartment and offered us some refreshments. We passed on the drinks but did take directions to the restaurant.

All the way down the stairs the four of us could not stop laughing at how we entered a private apartment, and we shamelessly made fun of how excited we were about finding such a cool place to eat in a residential building.

Dinner, when we found the place, was fantastic – especially with adventure and uncontrollable laughter as an appetizer.

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Posted on by Reagan J Payne in Part II, Uncategorized

One Response to Belgrade, Serbia

  1. Mom

    OMG, Reagan. You had me laughing hysterically throughout this blog. (A much better emotion than the one I had reading your last post). I could taste the bitter coffee and felt the awkwardness in the “aptaurant”. I’m so glad you are writing these down. Keep ’em coming! Love you.

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