David reflects on his impressions of Belgrade.
Serbians can be very gregarious and friendly people. They are still a poor underdeveloped country. No thanks to the previous Soviet occupation. Belgrade is over 1 million people but you can’t get a meal at the Main Bus Station Lasta. Cold sandwiches wrapped in Saran or pastries. No kitchen or cooks. I bought a ticket to Zagreb a couple of days ago but after paying around $40 I was given some change. Most change is in bills but she gave me a coin. Most coins are like pennies and I gave it to a street musician playing the violin. Now I find that coin was admittance fee to get in the boarding area at the Bus Station. I had to go to the desk and after showing my ticket, the attendant said she could not give me a replacement. I lost it so had to go to another line and purchase a permission slip for around $1.80 to get into the boarding area. I laugh about it but this is just one of many reasons Serbia will never get anywhere until they change. The Danube runs through Belgrade and Budapest. Expensive tours are given in both cities with meals and a tour up and down the river. Could you get a boat to Budapest from Belgrade…absolutely not. I think they are still at war with each other.
I still have never understood why they had a war in this region? Never even mention Kosovo anywhere in this region. Why? I don’t know but people get quiet and give you a funny look if you mention Kosova is on your list of places to see.
The weather has been as gloomy as the city. If you are in the tourist area, everything is overpriced and glitzy. Outside of that everything is run down, falling apart and broken…including the people. You could get on a Tram one day that was hot and overcrowded then on the way back it would be new and airconditioned comfort. I used my first Tram ticket and tried to buy another at a kiosk to return. The man said he didn’t sell them and when I asked who in the area did, he replied…this is a free country…no body pays to ride the Tram. I seldom saw anyone validate a ticket when they got on so …when in Rome.
Smoking is in the Bar at the Bus station. If you don’t smoke you sit outside in the rain. No food is served in the only indoor space just alcohol , coffee and soda. The coffee is Belgrade normal coffee. It is Turkish and is like a powder. They have boiling water added to it…stirred then poured off the top into a cup still leaving a residue like mud in the bottom. It is not bad just different. What is served in the tourist area is your typical overpriced Starbucks style .
I gave some money to a Roma woman and her child. She was in the boarding area so I assumed she had a bus ticket. She sat on the ground with her small child who would run up to anyone and hug them. He was friendly and I think it was also a ploy to extract a coin or two but he was not annoying. I guess I best say goodbye and find my gate…there are over 60 of them . Oh Oh….the boy is on me now and wants to add something to my Blog. He keeps hitting on the key board while I keep trying to show him pics of my family. He’ll have none of that. His brother is politely trying to see the pics.
I pack it up as my bus has arrived and guess what….I have to pay a baggage charge to stow my bag and am only allowed my small computer bag as a carry on. Cash only and of course I gave my change to the Roma woman so had to rush to a kiosk to get change and was the last to board and got the worst seat in the back. I slept most of the way until a border guard woke me and requested my passport.
When we entered Croatia, everyone that had a cell phone started calling their friends to say they were on their way. The man next to me went on for over 20 minutes and all of them were LOUD. I wasn’t sure anyone was on the other end and if so he never let them talk. I took out my hearing aides, put in my ear plugs and went back to sleep until after 7 hours we disembarked at the Zagreb Bus station.
I ATM’ed some Kuna and stashed my Dinars along with my Euro , bought my first and only Tram ticket and boarded the Tram for Ravnice Hostel. A few stops and a short walk and I was challanging some American travelers from California to a game of Ping Pong. While they practiced I unpacked. The Hostel was nice, fairly new, clean, and didn’t have air-conditioning. The weather had changed like the countries from cold, drab,rainy and gloomy to hot, bright, clean and cheery.
I passed on the Ping Pong and went out to look for an adapter to replace the one I left in Amsterdam. No luck but took a Croatian dinner of stuffed sweet peppers at a local restaurant. Things were much more expensive here!
The room was cool when I returned and I slept well.
The free Breakfast was Corn Flakes, Bread and instant coffee. Hey it was free! I took the Tram to one of the city centers. Everything here was clean and nice. Still a lot of old block buildings and graffitti but it was clean and kept up. New paint, manicured parks everywhere, new Air Conditioned Trams, restored old buildings, and cobblestone streets. While to AND from the center, I was given a young ladys seat. I thought she was getting off but no they give their seats up to us old folk. I took the first offer and refused the second. I still have some pride though it is much nicer sitting after walking all day.
The main Market was in full swing and after some coffee and fresh squeezed OJ, I found my adapter and returned to charge my computer. Now I am off for a city tour. This is truly a very classy city as are the people. It is very culturally oriented with lots of museums, galleries and the people are friendly. real, and TALL..the men all average around 9 feet.