We’ve spent three and a half days in Belgrade.
After 8 days on the road, completing 510 kilometres, we decided to spend the weekend off the bike, with some added sightseeing.
For two days, we had some friends joining us from Budapest. I planned this as a surprise for Zsolt, and it worked out very well: he couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw his best friends standing in front of our apartment gate in Belgrade. Attila and Tamás cycled the first two days with us, and now we had their other halves with them: Kata and Lilla. I must admit, I was very happy for the female company.
It didn’t took us long to realise that these guys just took the same route we did, and it took them a mere 3.5 hours, compared to our whole week in the saddle.
But was it really the same way?
I’ll tell you about that later.
We’ve spent the weekend in a cheerful mood, chatting and sightseeing. The cheerfulness was mainly due to the good company, but also to the home-made pálinka, jam and pancakes the peeps brought with them. You know you’re on a proper holiday when you have shots with your morning coffee.
Sadly, the city didn’t impress us. We found it grey and dull, the people grim and felt a general lack of life. We expected a lot more from Europe’s “party capital”. The involuntary but constant comparison to Budapest wasn’t favourable to Belgrade either. What we really liked though were the graffitis. They are all around the city like splashes of colour and wit on the crumbling walls, and not once we had to spend a good few minutes to really examine, understand and appreciate them.
Though we haven’t found many places with a good vibe to hang out, our company made up for it. So when Sunday came and it was time for our friends to drive home, we were truly sad to let them go.
As they got in their car, I honestly wished I could go with them.
I felt like I was ready to go home: I got what I came for, the meaning of life lies clearly in front of me. All I need to do now is go home, and surround myself with friends and family. Life doesn’t get much better than that. I felt like I could go home now, but I don’t have to. And I won’t. Yet.
The answer is Friday night:
This night we are sitting around the table, the six of us, and talking. Zsolt and I are telling stories about the past week, and we don’t seem to run out of them for hours. It’s been only a week since we’ve parted from them, but so many things have happened. The stories are pouring out, all the details still clear in our minds and we enjoy sharing them. Most of these aren’t and will never be on the blog, we simply don’t have time to write it all. We can’t stop talking, and we enjoy the others’ questions and attention.
If we would’ve spent this week in London, this night would have looked differently. We would have spoken maybe for half an hour, talked about work and office politics. How we did in the gym. The play we saw in the theatre. The new foodie place we’ve tried.
So maybe we didn’t travel the same way after all.
And it was only one week.
This is why I’ll continue.
Come Saturday night, I started to get anxious.
I realised that I have absolutely no idea what will happen now. I have planned the first week months ago, every day we had a destination set and a warm place to wait for us. For next week, we have nothing lined up. There is no schedule, no plan in place, no hosts waiting for us. A round of Couchsurfing requests went out three days ago, but there were no positive replies so far. I’m in the middle of Serbia, and have no idea what will happen tomorrow when we leave Belgrade.
I am not very good with uncertainty.
I like to know every night before I fall asleep, what will happen the next day, what I need to do.
You might ask, why would anyone think of a trip like this, who’s not good with uncertainty, but, you see, that’s the whole point of it. I wanted a challenge and for me there’s no bigger challenge than pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone and rising above my anxieties.
So uncertainty it is.
But if I don’t want to torture myself on purpose, and I don’t, I’d better get to work and set a few set dates in the diary for the next few weeks.
Right now it’s still 0-4 degrees at night and even though we would probably survive camping, it would be quite uncomfortable. I don’t want to detest this nomad lifestyle before we really get started. So we decide with Zsolt to spend and extra day in Belgrade and do some serious planning.
We rent the cheapest airbnb place we can find, and it’s lovely. A tiny cottage, with a kitchenette and a closed patio outside. We are in love with it. We set up our Couchsurfing Host Hunting Hut and the Tiny Blog Editorial Room next to each other at the table, and get to work. The replies start pouring in, and the upcoming weeks are shaping up. Moreover, I get more confident.
We even get to like Belgrade.
Monday morning we attend the Free Belgrade Walking Tour, led by the lovely Thea, who’s a university student in the capital and speaks better English than we do. She was born and raised in this city, and through her words we get to know a nicer, a more human side of Belgrade, and we can’t help liking it. The sun comes out as well for this day, and it brings out the best face of the city as well.
Every time I go to a new city, I join one of these free walking tours, and every time I promise myself I will do it on the first day. Because after this, the city seems more familiar, I get a good overview of the history and the society, some anecdotes and a review of current issues; and most of all, great tips on where to go, which aren’t in any guidebooks. These are never the dull guided tours you would remember from you childhood.
So again, I promise, if I go to a new city I’ll start with the free walking tour.
One thing we have to mention, is that Belgrade is a cyclist nightmare.
It was a horrendous experience coming into the city as well as leaving it. It seems all the most aggressive and impatient Serbian drivers gather in Belgrade and after a an hour of cycling in the capital, we weren’t surprised to see barely any cyclists. During our 3.5 days, we have only seen four, and two of those were our own reflections in the dark and empty shop windows.
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