Layover in Belgrade

Well, I replaced my keyboard, and this one is waterproof. I have about another hour and a half to waste at a McDonald’s, so I’ll attempt to remember where I left off and what all happened the past week or so.

My last night in Budapest I went over to Jorge’s house, where he made us (along with his roommate) a tasty chicken dinner. He had to be up for work at 0500, so his roommate and I left him and went to a few ruin bars in the town (it was actually his roommates birthday). Ruin bars are popular in Budapest. They are just old buildings that should have been condemned and torn down years ago. Instead, they just turn them into giant, sometimes open air, bars. I wish I would have been able to enjoy the evening more, but I was quite exhausted after dinner. So I headed back early and crashed at the dorms.

The next moring I packed up and headed to a bus station that was actually fairly close to the hostel. At 1030 I met up with my newest BlaBlaCar ride. They were a young Polish couple heading to Croatia for a short vacation. In addition to myself, a French couple was sharing the ride as well. So the five of us headed out, and I was surprised but quite pleased when the girl riding shotgun open a cooler built into the dash board and retreived a few beers for us to enjoy. And thus began the long trip to Split. At this point I can’t even remember how long it took. We stopped a few times for liquid propane (that was the propellant the van used) and I believe made it to Split around 2000.

This is where I should have actually made plans. Split (and later Dubrovnik) is a vacation town, and this was peak season. I really felt I would have to sleep outside. Eventually, somehow, I found a place on AirBnB for 30 Euro per night called HotSpot Hostel. It was an apartment converted into a hostel by two brothers, and turned out to be quite pleasant. The younger brother was doing most of the socializing and cleaning; I only met the older brother twice. The younger brother, Francesco (or Frane) was quite a partier for sure. The hostel was full by the time I checked in, being a Saturday night. A bunch of us stayed up for awhile on the patio drinking, but about 0100 they went to a club. I was muh too tired.

I actually got a two-bed room while I was there, and had a total of three roommates. The first one was a guy whom I only met breifly and don’t remember. The second was a girl that arrived late and night and left early the next morning. Her and I didn’t get around to talking much. The last roommate was an older French traveller, and he was quite a piece of work. He talked too much, too loud, and too incoherently. Damn, did that guy talk.

The second day there, in the morning, I walked to a beach. On the way I dropped off my laundry. After a swim I found somewhere to have a lunch. It was a little diner by all the main shopping stalls. It was named “Skalinada,” and was sufficiently cheap and edible. Later in the evening a couple of us from the hostel went to an outside club close to the bus station.

The next afternoon Frane and I drove to an awesome semi-remote beach for about three hours. We relaxed on the pebbles while drinking cold beer. The water in Crotia is so salty you don’t need any effort to just float for as long as you’d like. That was probably the highlight of Croatia. Following swimming he and I were hungry, so I bouht a chicken from the market and he cooked it for us with some vegetables back at the hostel. That evening we got a few others from the hostel to go back to the same club. I danced with this really beautiful Portuguese girl from the hostel, and everytime she was being hit on she had me act as her boyfriend to keep the weird guys away. The club was much fun.

The next day (I believe…I may have omitted a day, but all the important events are there) an Australian guy from the hostel that came out with us both nights and I caught a bus to Dubrovnik. After arriving we ran into a guy from New Zealand that had stayed in the same hostel and rode the same bus but which we hadn’t noticed earlier. We all split a cab to the city center, then parted ways to locate lodgin. This is another time I wish I had planned ahead. The bus got there after about six hours if my memory serves. I spent the next hour walking around in scortching heat looking for a hostel or apartman or sobe. Finally I found one with an extra bed (My Way Hostel). But the directions on their website were about a kilometer off from their actual location, and even that was marked only with a tiny hidden sign. So about two more hours of trekking around in the sun and I finally found myself at my bed for the evening. I checked in and was sitting in the lobby on my tablet looking for a ride out in the morning when I met my next friends…

So one of the guys in my room was real obnoxious. And he was talking on his phone quite loud with the intelligence of a dead monkey. Well these two Canadian girls, Morgan and Alyssa, were sitting across from me and just listening and laughing at his conversation, and I couldn’t help but join in. This went on for at least half an hour. Thankfully after that he passed out and I didn’t have to listen to him anymore. But the girls were ready to hit the town for some drinks. There were two guys from London in the lobby also, so they joined us to go to a few bars. The first was the Gaffe, an Irish bar that had almost absolutly nothing Irish about it. The second (and actually last) bar that night had outside seating in the main square inside the walls of Dubrovnik. We had two more rounds and played a game of “never have I ever” at the request of the girls. I guess it is a great way to instigate story-telling if you don’t know people.

The next morning I had a proper English breakfast. Tea, orange juice, bread with jam, bacon, eggs, and all sorts of fruit pieces. It was a little expensive, but I still had Kunas I had to get rid of before leaving Croatia. I had bought a bus ticket from Dubrovnik to Mostar and then to Belgrade. The Canadian girls are also headed to Bucharest, so they got their own tickets. Unfortunately, they only got tickets to Mostar. Fortunately, the bus driving on the new bus to which we switched in Mostar was kind enough to sell them tickets. This was done literally along side a back road with nothing but a bus stop anywhere nearby. So surely he just pocketed the ticket money.

So the original bus in Dubrovnik was an hour late, and thankfully the transfer bus waited for us (although the occupants didn’t look too happy). So we switched busses and we were off…for the second half of our 15-hour bus ride. Dear god that is one thing I wish I could say I would never have to do again. I think I slept an hour the whole time. And of course no shower. Hell, I wouldn’t want to sit next to me on another 15-hour bus trip. But odds are someone will! In about three hours!

Okay, to be fair this one is a train trip. The three of us left the bus at 0700, and the first view you have of Belgrade are the one hundred or so bums sleeping in a dirty stinky park right across from the station. I never had plans to stay here…maybe a night to recoup and shower…but not after seeing parts of the city. So we decided to catch a train this evening to Bucharest. So after getting diretions from about five different people (including an heavily armed guard at the station) we caught the number 37 bus towards Dunav Station across town. I had no time to withdrawal any local currency, and the girls were rushing to get to the station, so we just boarded the bus and hoped for the best. And of course it didn’t work out that way. Of course the transit authority approach me to check my ticket. That turned into a weird and interesting story. The bus stopped and the three of us just kind of walked away. That’s when I saw that there were three of them. The main guy was yelling at me, telling me the fine was 2000 Dinara. And that’s when the locals started yelling. The “cop” turned to me and said: “these guys are yelling that I’m harassing tourists.” To which I replied “I guess your job is to harass people.” So the locals got even louder and said in broken English “these are not police, just walk away.” So we did. The story had more exchanges of words than that, but that was the summation. I’m still not sure if the locals are just that nice or if they really dislike the meter maids.

Well we found the train station, but tickets for the 15-hour trip don’t go on sale until 1400. So we went to the city center, this time just paying the $1.50 per ticket, and found a…McDonald’s! Don’t judge, you would have done the same. It allows us a quick bite to eat all day, chargers for our electronics all day, and hell, just a place to sit not in the hot sun all day. After breakfast I slept in a booth for about half an hour then went across the street and found quite quickly what seems to be a better keyboard than my previous one. It’s waterproof (although that not why I bought it; I won’t make the same mistake twice probably), and silione so it folds up into a little ball. Also, when unfolded, it’s bigger than my previous one, which makes it easier to type. Also, it was the only one they had.

So in about an hour we are heading to the train station. I hope the next 15 hours goes by quicker than the last 15 hours. And I’m still dreading the 30+ hour train ride from Bucharest to Kiev. Why did I ever add Kiev to my itinerary? I’m going to lose 2 days just getting there…

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