Little camera joke.
I am way off track. I am suppose to be in Ukraine right now. However, every city I visit I am met with tales of the city just beyond; First Belgrade, then Sarajavo, now Mostar (Bosnia). See the map above; where Ukraine is located, and what direction I’m supposed to be traveling.
Even though I’m off track, it’s been worth it. The Hostel I stayed in was destroyed during the Bosnian war then rebuilt. The owner and operator of the hostel was born in a Nazi concentration camp and lived in the camp for the first several months of his life. He not only lived through the Bosnian war, he was also an integral part of establishing the American Embassy (the largest US embassy in the Balkins, most of the floors are underground. It was a welcomed establishment in Bosnia, because if you lived near it during the war the Serbian army would make sure to avoid shelling it. Go US!).
For those who don’t know or understand the complexities of the Bosnian war; “More land please”. Serbs wanted more and the Croats wanted to make sure they got there cut. America didn’t jump in to stop the random shelling of civilians because Russia posed an unknown threat (would they support Serbia?). Fortunately Monica Lewinsky’s favorite boss put down the joint he wasn’t inhaling and said stop. Serbs, said okay.
Outside of war Sarajavo is a must see. It’s filled with quiet walking streets and it’s multi-cultural mix offers a variety of flavors. It’s also one of the first cities in Europe to have electricity, Trams, etc. Why; so they could test the technology before putting it in other European cities such as Vienna.
A good little side story: During WWII many Muslim families risked there own lives to protect the Jewish families living in Sarajavo. Think about it.
Most of my posts involve how many beautiful women there are. Because I feel this is going to be an ongoing theme, I’m going to explain why every city is like watching an episode of project runway (What I’d imagine the show to be like, of course I’ve never watched it). Short answer; War. This region of the world has been plagued by domestic and international disputes for years. What sex is historically on the front line of wars? The men. Wipe out the male population and what are you left with? Bingo.
*(this is what I’ve been told and I choose to believe.)
Why would anyone want to go here?
JUST KIDDING! Belgrade is awesome! And because awesome means eight in Serbian (osam), which provoked much teasing, I’ll give you eight reasons why:
1. Fortress – One of the coolest sights in Belgrade, and arguably Europe. It’s old, it’s beautiful, it offers magnificent views, has cafe’s, museums (one of the coolest war museums I’ve seen, $1), art displays (discover America, ha) and on, and on… and it’s free!
2. Beautiful – It reminds you of most Eastern European cities which becomes more relevant with point 3.
3. Cheap – I love this. On a cost of living basis Belgrade its roughly 8x cheaper than Boston. What does this mean? If you earn 60k a year in Boston, in Belgrade you have an annual purchasing power of half a million dollars. Fun!
4. Friendly – Go out of their way to help and sincerely appreciate that you want to see their country. Unless you film them fighting at a club.
5. Clubs – Can go out any night of the week and they are packed
6. Girls – hot
7. Chicks – pretty
8. Babes – you get the point.
I discovered Belgrade because of other travelers. Outside of this network, Serbia is still a mystery. It seems to be struggling to shed its early 90′s reputation of war. However in 5 to 10 years Belgrade will be inline with Prague, Hungary and the other must see eastern European Cities but with one advantage; It’s cheap! A special thanks to Backpacker’s Lounge and our whole hostel family.
Oh, and by the way; that first picture, we did that… oops. It housed the governing party before we came to say hello and they kept it as a memorial.
In typical fashion, a night of travel with no sleep warrants a good night off to rest. In typical fashion, this never happens. The first night in Belgrade was met with travelers and locals preparing for a big night on the town with a friendly game of kings.
Also, the beauty of Belgrade, Serbia, you can literally go out every night of the week and the bars are packed. This time of year the hot spots are these giant floating boathouses which extend out into the rivers with a long suspended boardwalk leading you to the club.
We headed out on the town, turning down the first bar because of an exorbitant 5000 dinar cover charge, clearly a “foreigner special” (approximately $9 per person). We were then welcomed to the second bar by a commotion at the entrance and a shirtless bloody guy bursting out the door with a huge bouncer in a red leather jacket in hot pursuit. To gain control, the bouncer followed protocol and threw a haymaker to the side of the shirtless guys head. With this happening all around me, I did what any red blooded American would do; got out my camera and started filming. The bouncers throwing blows didn’t take kindly to this and decided to charge me. Fortunately, steroids make you strong but not fast and I was able to keep a step ahead of them. Filming was obviously a bad idea, but I didn’t catch anything good, so of course, I tried again. Putting the camera back on the commotion the fighters quickly chased each other down the street and lost my interest.
My attention went back to having a fun night out. One of the other bouncers clammy called me over and because he was the gate keeper I complied. He asked for my camera. Working on this film project, you’d have better luck asking for my kidney. I explained to him that I would delete the video, but I would not put the camera in his hands. His response to this was to pull me in with both hands and call the roided-out bouncer over. Survival mode. With everything I had, I ripped my arm away and bolted.
The night then got really bad as I couldn’t find one open gyro shop on the walk home.
When you travel, you’re exposed to music from around the world that you wouldn’t hear in the US. A german friend turned me on to this song. Unfortunately, after looking in to it, the rapper is about American as it gets. So, I’m probably just the last to know about him, but it was still good enough to post anyway.
Thankfully there is a night train to Belgrade, Serbia, my next destination. My excitement quickly diminished with a few stories:
1. It smells like pee.
2. A guy from the hostel is on the train. Bulgarian police search his train car and find assault rifles and shotguns hidden in the ceiling. Guy pleads they’re not his as the police calmly ignore him and confiscate the fire arms because apparently this smuggling is normal.
3. Girl from hostel. 30 minutes into a train ride the driver realizes he is going the wrong direction and driving to Hungary instead of Bulgaria. His wrong guess (between east or west) resulted in an extra two hours added to the journey.
4. And the last story is… there wasn’t a last story. Everyone kept going…
Bulgaria has a long history and is arguably the oldest country in Europe, possibly the world (as surrounding countries were only territories). However to find this out I had to crash a going away party at a local bar where my history lesson was laid out. This is a common theme in Sofia as it doesn’t seem important to the city to share its history with outsiders. One local museum displaying ancient roman artifacts commonly explained its contents as “piece of metal”. What it does lack in historical information in makes up for in friendliness. Every night it was easy to chat up a few new friends and there seemed to be a genuine interest in hearing why you were there, regardless of whether it was curiosity or just shock.
Nightlife. Weeknights the city is pretty dead but on Friday and Saturday night bars and clubs are packed and playing your favorite selection of 80′s and 90′s pop music. Meeting girls for a westerner is pretty easy as curiosity becomes your wingman. However English Ryan (sincerely) made the point that Bulgarian girls are not looking for one night stands after taking his date to the mens room at Club Mixtape the previous night.
A night out in Boston often results in burning through your whole ATM withdrawal before switching over to credit cards. That “Oh, $h!t, how much did I spend” feeling in the morning is never a welcomed one. My first night in Sofia was celebrated with rounds of jager bombs (not my idea), inflated tips and shots with the bartender. With approximately a $65 a day budget (Including accommodation, transportation, food… etc) I immediately woke up with regret. That was before I opened my wallet and realized I spent maybe $20.