5 a.m. - the alarm goes off. I was already staring at the ceiling for an hour. I get like that when I travel. I got ready for the trip and left to catch the bus. I was told to be at the station at 6:20 a.m.. I get there early. The bus gets there late.
It's that time of the year when the mornings are cold but the afternoons are warm....so I have more layers than an onion. When I step into the bus I get hit by a wave of heat. I start losing layers. The AC is on but it can't compete with the heating system.
A few stations away the lady that was assigned the seat next to me gets on board. She notices the AC and starts putting on more layers, puts up the hood of her jacket. She keeps fussing around. At one point put on perfume, offers me some too, as if the bus wasn't getting stuffy enough already. A bit along the way I manage to convince her to switch places with my friend who got to sit with another stranger in another part of the bus.
By the time we get comfortable we reach the border and....we stay there for about two hours staring at a squirrel while some of the people on the bus get back some stuff they had detained at a previous crossing. We eventually get to pass and we stop in the first little village that has 6 shops where we stay another hour for people to shop for cheap groceries. Till now the trip was boring but the promise of visiting the Kalemegdan fortress and the place where the Sava meets the Danube keeps our spirits up.
The next stop is on the bank of the Danube, at Stara Palanka. Beautiful scenery, a few restaurants to choose from. We settle on a restaurant called Staro Sidro, which from the outside doesn't look like much, just a small old house, with fishing nets thrown over the patio for shade. The food was good and the portion size was BIG. Had to share my grilled cat-fish with the fish loving cats that soon were next to my table. It was sunny, chill and we goofed off on the pier and between the boats. Stuffed, we boarded the bus for the next stop: Belgrade!
We entered Belgrade by crossing the Danube...which one of my friends nearly missed cause she was contemplating a chair. At this point the weather was turning a bit greyer but the view was still really nice. On the way to our first objective, the Museum of Yugoslavia, the bus driver was doing the usual tourism 'On your left you can see....' routine. We were a bit weirded out by the riot police posted all around but it turns out there was a big game in town and they were there to prevent shit hitting the fan.
The Museum of Yugoslavia was indeed interesting and well organised. We were rushed by our schedule though and I didn't really get to read all the stuff and understand what everything was. Definitely want to visit the place again. I was a bit disappointed by the park in front of the museum for being kinda dirty but I'm putting that to maybe bad timing. As a side story, we saw two gendarmes enter in the bathroom, look for someone in a hurry, then they got new instructions in their walky-talky things and ran off like they had their pants on fire. Wish I knew what that was all about!
Next stop was the Temple of St. Sava which is supposedly the biggest Orthodox church (don't quote me on that, I haven't fact checked). Look, I'm gonna be honest, I'm not a big fan of Orthodox architecture so I didn't mind the rushed 30 minutes we got there. There's more than enough for me to goof off a bit outside, then go in, look at the big fancy chandelier, take a couple pictures and then go out again. Maybe some people wanted more time to stay in line to kiss icons and such so it may have been a bummer for them. I was just excited to go back to the bus and be on the way to the main attraction of the trip: the Kalemegdan fortress and the place where the Sava merges with the Danube. Because it was getting late I was guessing we might catch the sunset there.
Back at the bus things suddenly took a stupid turn. The driver asks, since it's late, if people still want to go to the fortress. I yell 'yes', a few people mumble 'yes', and an idiot in the back starts ranting that there's no use going there just for a stroll since everything's closed at that time. Bitch, I ain't going shopping! I wanted to see the fortress and the rivers! Those aren't going everywhere. That's why I paid for this thing in the first place. But the driver takes that as a resounding 'no' and sets off to leave the city, to be honest I think they were friends. So were off. We leave Belgrade. We go to Pancevo to the....supermarkets. Seriously. At this point I was fuming. And still am.
The trip home was slow. The driver blew through a bunch of red lights. Pretty sure the idiot in the back smuggled illegal shit in the country. So that was my trip to Belgrade and my first border crossing for the matter.
Would I go again? Definitely.
Would I go with the same agency? Hell no. I paid for a bunch of destinations and instead I got grocery shopping and rushed visits. I would very much like to go there either with a serious agency or on my own terms, which is more likely.
Belgrade seems a lovely city to explore. Wish I could have done more of that!