Hello! – I have finally found the means to communicate with the outside world! In fact I feel like a Soviet Spy since I am writing this from a dark and dingy cellar in down-town Belgrade (Serbia).
It has been well over a week since I last wrote and it to be honest it has been a good but hard week. Firstly, I decided not to head straight to Zagreb, but instead I went strsight to Ljubljana the Slovenian capital and eneded up staying for 4 nights. On route their I met a Slovenian girl called Nina who works for the local radio station ‘Student Radio’ and she gave me some advice on where to stay and what was happening in Ljubjana which was a great help. She obviously fell for the Bearder charm since she even brought me a beer!
I took an epic walk on the second day and managed to get completely lost on the second day and ended up in some rural suburb of Slovenia where I found a small supermarket where I brought supplies from a 60 year old granny playing loud uncensored gangster rap! – very strange. I also met a great bunch of Irish, French, English and Australian travellers at the hostel and we all ended up drinking beer in an Ice Cream parlour at 2am. I also managed to visit some famous caves (name I can’t remember) about an hour out of town, where you get driven around in on a small electric train. The caves were quite impressive and thankfully I remembered my coat since it was colder than Pinu’s fridge down there. I also joined a 200 strong English language tour where I think I was the only Englishman – a fact that obviously didn’t occur to our guide who wished us all a pleasent journey back to Britian. The last two nights I spent in prison. Well actually its an old prison and now it’s the month-old Metalecova hostel which is pretty amazing – for a hostel. The place is like an IKEA show room. Friday night I spent with yet more Irish girls, an Irish guy and a guy from the Netherlands. We also found an Australlian girl, but we lost her again before the night was over. I also managed to catch up with Nina again and managed to get the address of a software engineer in case I ever need a job. Excellent.
From here I decided to get back with the plan and headed to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. The place is much larger than Ljubjana with a population of just under a million. The place is centered around a big hill where they old town is situated and a few small parks (squares) running out from the bottom of the hill. To be honest this place wasn’t all I hoped it would be, and this wasn’t helped by the fact that it took 3 hours to find some dinner and then even longer to find breakfast on Sunday. In fact I didn’t even find any – I had to eat at one of the ubiquitous ice cream bars. Sunday night I saw an Austrian string quartet in Zagrebs ‘premmiere venues’ .
Feeling quite adventurous on Monday, I decided to head for Belgrade in Serbia but via a town called Banja Luka in Bosnia. Banja Luka was largely untouched by the war however its not on many peoples itinery and it’s in the Serbian republika Srpska. My bus should have taken 3 hours. It took 6. The bus was pretty shabby, but thats not unusual out here and had a total of 0 windows. This meant that the temperature on board was somewhere betweem stupidly hot and very amazingly stupidly hot. Then, just as we crossed the Bosnian border it broke down. We all pilled of the bus for some fresh air, but had to make do with the mid day sun and no shade. Nobody spoke English. Anyway, after to other buses stopped to help the driver (who had been running around like a fool and looked like he was about to die) managed to get us moving again – for about 10 minutes. I don’t know what he was playing at but the fool decided that we needed to stop and was his hands. Now – nobody likes to drive with hands covered in diesel, but this man was responsible for a bus of people who were about to sweat themselves to death. Anyway, the bus didnt start again. By this time I looked like a water feature suitible for this years Chelsea flower show. Whilst we sat and waited for another bus I befiended a Croation proffessor of literature and watched in amuzement as a young (very fit) petrol pump attendent girl climbed on top of, and filled up a rusty old tractor – now thats not somthing you see on the A34.
The fun didn’t stop when I got to Banja Luka (as you can tell from my last message). On top of having no money, no where to stay and no food, everything is written in cyrillic. However, I did manage to get on the web for 20 minutes which provided me with the exchange rate, a map and confirmed that I would be staying in one of the towns 3 hotels. 15 minutes later and I was sorted. 1 hour (after a shower and some food) later – things were good. I took a walk around the town and walked down to the river where people were fishing and swimming and, whilst their isn’t much to see, theres not much to dislike about the place. The people were nice as ever and from about 7pm onwards the place is heaving with people young and old just walking around chatting, drinking and …eating ice cream.
I couldn’t afford to hang around paying hotel prices so I caught a bus to Belgrade in the morning. This yourney was equally hellish as I had to spent almost the entire day (7.5 hours) on a bus in the baking heat – again. Then when I arrived I was picked up by the usual robber taxi driver. The arsehole tried to charge me the equivalent of 13 pound for about 5km. Thankfully I had checked the exchange rate at the cash machine, so I wasn’t having any of it. After a heated argument (he in Serbian me in English) he took the fiver I was offering (500 dinars) slammed his boot and drove off – probably loving the fact that it should have only been 3 pounds. This is partly my fault since I forgot to insist on a driver with a proper meter – as the women behind the hotel desk was happy to point out.
So here I am in (very hot and very polluted) Belgrade. Since I got off to bad start with this place, it has a lot of work to do before it gets the much sought after Bearder seal of approval – but to be honest it’s not looking good. The guy at the hostel is a rude, un-helpful idiot and I can’t find anywhere to do my laundry. In fact maybe this is the root cause of dislike for Belgrade. A man with no clean underware will never be truley loving it – wherever he is. So on that note – I will say good day, and continue my hunt for a laundry place. I look like a tramp dragging all my clothes around in a plastic bag. Sheeshh.