Serbia was unexpected and unplanned. Beginning of August I took a break from the Wild Elephants Hostel in Bratislava where I am still volunteering. And I decided to meet up somewhere in Europe with a friend. So I booked a bus to Sofia where the plan was to stay two weeks and travel around Bulgaria by car. But an event happened (bad or good, we will never know!). And we completely changed our plans. I have to admit this was the most stupid thing that could have happened but I forgot my wallet in Bratislava so I had no money. I mean not really I had 70€ in coins but I figured out that the exchange offices don’t really take coins or they exchange it for a really bad rate! So I found myself without money. Thankfully I was not travelling alone. But this changed our initial plan.
So from Sofia, where we spent two nights and three days, we decided to slowly find our way back to Bratislava. On our way we made a stop to Serbia, somewhere I had always wanted to go but never had the opportunity so far.
Nis, a random stop over which became a highlight
Our first stop was Nis in Serbia on our way to Belgrade. I think we were crazy this day because we stopped there for 7 hours, at night (our bus was at 2:30 am and we got there by 7 pm) with our backpacks (between 7 and 11kg each!). But I guess that what the excitement of travelling makes you do. So we arrived in this nice little city in the South of Serbia which was a really nice discovery and a highlight of our trip. There was a jazz festival happening and it was settled in the fortress where different events were going on, such as open movies, concerts…
At Nis, we tried Serbian food for the first time and it was delicious, it is really similar to Albanian food, to be honest, but really tasty. We ordered the typical salad (cucumber, tomatoes, onions and a local cheese) with kebab meat, sausages and homemade bread. It was simple but good. We spent 12 euros for two including the drinks. Then we spent the rest of the night hanging around near the river, waiting for the bus. It was a perfect summer holiday night.
After 3 hours drive, we finally arrived in Belgrade at 6 am. We stayed in a hostel a bit far from the centre (about 10minutes walk) which was really great because really quiet and away from all the tourists. There, they welcome us with a shot of Rakja (the typical alcohol of the Balkan that the most common on is made of plums), which is quite strong especially in the morning. And also at the hostel, the lady who was working night shift taught us some basics Serbian sentences which were really useful for the rest of the stay :
-Good afternoon: dobre vece;
-thank you: Hvala;
– bye: ciao.
A day trip to Novi Sad
During our stay in Belgrade, we did a day trip to Novi Sad. It was really interesting because it is a city very similar to the one you can find in Eastern Europe more than in the Balkan area. Our trip started in a hurry because we almost missed our bus! The thing is that it was a local bus, it stopped in every town. So it took us more than 2hours for a trip that should usually take 1h/1h30. Once in Novi Sad, I found some similarities with Brno, Krakow or even Bratislava for example. And a day in Novi Sad was enough as the city centre is quite small. Even though it is the second biggest city in Serbia.
Belgrade, another capital crossed by the Danube
Concerning Belgrade, we liked walking around, the buildings are very impressive and the atmosphere of the city is really cool. There is also an area with very small streets where you can find all the local restaurants (but quite expensive because all the tourists go there).
So as Prague, Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest, Belgrade is a Capital city where the Danube flows through. Which I think gives another atmosphere to the city. Indeed, the night life becomes more attractive as most of the parties are happening on boats. That change from the typical night clubs and for reasonable entrance fees as well. But also, all those cities are really nice to see at night time. Indeed, it becomes magical where all the enlightening buildings, particularly in Belgrade.
One thing I really enjoyed in Serbia, as well, is that the fortresses are free of entrance. And you can have a really nice walk inside with a really nice view of the city. Moreover, Belgrade has kept some memories of the war. Indeed, you can find in some part of the cities, bombed buildings which are been kept destroyed. I found it interesting to see the contrast between the new Belgrade with all the beautiful buildings and those old buildings from the war.
The trip from Belgrade to Budapest
The bus back to Bratislava was also really intense. We took night buses which first went from Belgrade to Budapest and then a second bus from Budapest to Bratislava. So our first bus left on time but after an hour only we got stuck in a traffic jam. It delayed us by 2 hours and then at the border with Hungary. And again, it took us 2:30 hours to go through. Normally I would not mind being delayed but the thing is that we only had a stopover of 3hours in Budapest, so we were running out of time. We even thought we could not make it on time. But miracles happen sometimes. And we arrived in Budapest 10 minutes before the departure time of our bus to Bratislava which was perfect!