I have been battling a sickness since my times in Kragujevac, Serbia. I have some nasty yellow liquid coming up from the deep depths of my lungs. UGH!! I am a stubborn guy and hate to breakdown and go the doctor.
My buddy, Milos, is dating a lady in Sabac, Serbia. He asked me on Saturday night if I would be interested in going with him on Sunday morning. I hadn’t been out of Sremska Mitrovica for a few weeks and told him I would love to.
Milos and I wake up around 9AM. He had just finished swapping engines in an old car for some guy. He got his money and we were off. I looked pretty rough, but didn’t feel like shaving. I had made a Facebook post the night before about my upcoming trip into Sabac. It is always hard to spend time with everyone that I want to see. I looked rough and didn’t want to be seen by a million people. There were two brothers that were from Brisbane, Australia that contacted me. I agreed to have a drink or two with them when I arrived.
We leave Milos’s house at 11AM. Sabac is only 35KM from Sremska Mitrovica, but it is a nightmare to get there. There is no direct bus or train into Sabac. You have to travel 20+km to Ruma and then take another bus or train to Sabac!
beautiful picture of downtown Ruma, Serbia
We want to take the train because it is cheaper, but it doesn’t leave for a few hours. We head to the bus station. It is right across the street from the train station. The bus to Ruma is just pulling out when we arrive. We flag it down and they allow us on. It takes about 20 minutes to get into Ruma. This bus is on its way to Novi Sad so it doesn’t drop us at the main station. We are dropped at the center of Ruma. It isn’t a large town , but DAMN is it long! It takes us about 25 minutes to walk from the center of town to the bus/train station. It is on the outskirts of town and looks like a ghost town. I would hate to walk here at night! There are NO trafficas , stores , bars or anything at the station. We ask the lady at the train station when the next train to Sabac is. She tells us that it had just pulled out! We go to the bus station and the bus won’t be there for one hour. Milos and I both love our pivo. We walk about 5 blocks down the street to this little shop that has beers! We settle on 4 Lowenbrau beers because they are cheaper than Jelen. They cost 73 Dinars a piece. It is pretty sad that you can buy imported beer cheaper than domestic. We head back to the bus station to wait on the bus.
these are one of the not so nice parts of Serbia.
It always shocks me how you can just sit around in public with a beer. I always feel a bit like a homeless guy for doing it, but I kinda look homeless with my unshaved face, t-shirt, shorts and my Illinois pullover tied around my waste.;) I have to use the rest room and head down the stairs to find it. The letters had fell off both doors. I peak in both bathrooms to try to figure out which one is mens. I notice some urinals and assume I found the right one. I walk in and almost knocked over by a horrid smell. The stalls in this bathroom have no toilets, but a hole in the floor! I hate these disgusting things. I hurry about my business and run back out the door. There are two blonde twin girls standing by our bench. OMG!! I think I am in love! They were amazing. This older guy walks over and asks in a very heavy accent ” Ver are U from?” I tell him I am from Chicago and he tells me that he heard there are hundreds of thousands of Serbs over there.
We finally get on the bus and head off towards Sabac. We take the back seats and discuss everything from Bosnians, Croatians, to the profitability of opening a bar in a small village. We drive through a village called Hrtkovci. It is a majority Croatian village that is a few km from Sabac. Northern Serbia is diverse. It is really cool to drive through villages that are known as Croatian, Hungarian, Slovakian, etc.
beautiful downtown section of Sabac, Serbia
We cross the river Sava and can see the outline of the buildings in Sabac. The first thing you see are these large ugly apartment buildings that were probably built during the Tito reign. They are block style and very ugly! We pull into the station and my friend informs me that we have about a 20 minute walk to the center of the city. We walk down the side streets and I notice many empty businesses and bars. It looks like a place you could get a heck of a deal on a rental. I will never get used to the amount of clothing and shoe stores in Serbia! You don’t see this many in Chicago! hahaha…
We get to the downtown walking district! It is GORGEOUS!!! I was not expecting to see the sites that I did. There is a very large glass hotel that is being remodeled and many old, gorgeous buildings! It is a Sunday afternoon and many people are just lazily walking about or sitting in an outdoor cafe! There are a few monuments, cobblestone paths, etc. He tells me he has to go. We agree to meet up at 5:30PM in front of this large bank. I am now alone. I love to just wander around without anyone. It makes it more enjoyable and exciting to wander around in a strange place where you understand very little. I find a nice cafe that has wifi and sit down for a drink. I pull out my laptop when my buddy sends me a text and wants to meet up.
old fortress in Sabac
Dragisa is from Brisbane, Australia. He has been living in Sabac for about 6 months. He came to Sabac specifically for the music school. It is said to be one of the best in the country! He has been taking private lessons from a very talented music professor. He doesn’t know too many people in the community since he has not been in public classes. His brother, Lazar, came to visit him a few weeks prior. They are really enjoying their time in Sabac. They want to take me on a little tour of the city. We walk over to the ancient ruins of the fortress. I was a little disgusted by the graffiti that some dumb asses plastered on many parts of the fortress. Why in the hell would you do that?? We check out all the little nooks and crannies of the fortress. I always get a bit of a creepy feeling in these old things. You can’t even fathom the amount of history that is under your feet.
We decide it is time to eat. They want to take me to their favorite restaurant in town. It is closed by the time we get there. We pop into a little bar to ask them for a good restaurant. He tells us to try this kafana at the end of town. It is a beautiful place! It is all decked out in old wood and traditional type pictures of the city. I decide to eat the cevapi. I have not had one in ages and always love them. This place is a little more expensive than most. You can usually find a cevapi for about 150 Dinars , but in here it was 650. You do get some fries and salad with it and they will bring you a bit bowl of different breads. My buddy, Milos, joins us around 6PM. We sit down and discuss everything from music to the cost of cigarettes in Australia! Did you know they can cost as much as $17 a pack?? We finish up and the two brothers tell me that they are paying the bill! DAMN!!! It must be the Serbian in them!
My buddy, Dragisa, with the accordion and his brother, Lazar, standing up.
They want to show me how good Dragisa is at playing the accordion. They know a very nice cab driver that drives us to this apartment. It is located in one of the biggest buildings in Sabacs. It is right in the center of the city and he only pays 120 E for a two bedroom with a large kitchen!! WOW!! I love it! We sit down in his bedroom and he pulls out his accordion. WOW!!!! This kid has some mad skills!!!!! I am always amazed at how important the accordion is in Serbian music. It has so many buttons on it!! How can people play it? He plays us a few different songs. This kid is going to be famous someday! Too bad his name is almost impossible to pronounce.. ahahahah..
We decide we better be heading back to Ruma or we will miss the last bus out of the city! We get to the bus station around 8:20PM. The bus is a little bit late. We get on to find NO SEATS available! Ughhhh!!! If there is one thing I hate, it is standing on a packed bus. I make it through the 25 min bus ride without having a nervous breakdown. We get to the station in Ruma to find that the bus for Sremska Mitrovica is gone! -_- The train is also gone. WTF? My friend from the Ruma Tourist Organization is my only hope! We call him and he is in Novi Sad! My cash on hand is very limited on this night. My debit card doesn’t work in Serbia and I have to wait till Monday to pick up my money that my mother is sending me through Western Union. My friend has plenty , but he is a tight Serbian. He says that we can walk the 25 km to Sremska Mitrovica. He has done it a few times. We had talked about it on the bus and it sounded ok until we actually have to do it! My Illinois jacket had disappeared too! I am standing in this little t-shirt and shorts on a pretty frigid evening. We walk to the center of Ruma praying for a miracle! The miracle never comes! We start our 25 km journey!
The city of Ruma isn’t that big until you are forced to walk it! It takes us a good 30 minutes to walk to the edge of town. My phone is already dead and I only have my IPOD left. I reach a wifi signal in front of a house. He tries to contact some of his friends to see if anyone can pick us up. No luck! The battery is about gone. We depart the lighted streets of Ruma into the deep, dark unknown!
hitchhiking in Serbia? will I live??
We stop in the last lighted spot on the road from Ruma to Sremska Mitrovica. My friend and I decide to try hitching! It is illegal in the USA to hitchhike. I start getting visions of all of these horror movies where a guy picks up some hitchhikers, slits their throats, rapes them, and throws them in a ditch!!! The first 5 or 6 cars go by without stopping. We head out on the road! I am just muttering to myself how insane this is and how Milos is a jerk! Why didn’t he realize this was going to happen? The land is very flat in Vojvodina so we can see lights way off in the distance. They look like little stars. He tells me ” That is where we are going!” OMG!!! Are you kidding me?? Mars looks closer than Sremska Mitrovica!!!! I am furious, cold, and coughing again!! He is rambling on about how he walked this path on a different occasion! IS THAT SUPPOSED TO MAKE ME FEEL BETTER??? ahhahaha…
We get into the next city on our journey to “the end of the Earth!” It is a little village called Voganj. We attempted to stop many of the cars that blew by us with no luck. We are now in town so there is no chance of getting a ride. This may be a village , but it is SOOOO LONG!! It takes us a good 30 minutes to get to the exit of this town. The whole way we are getting barked at by a billion dogs! Many Serbian homes have this big, uninviting gate and when you walk past there are dogs going nuts! I don’t like them anyway and hate to be barked at!
We start on our last leg of the journey! The next town is Sremska Mitrovica! It looks just as far as it did earlier! I am starting to be a bit friendlier than I was. Maybe it is just the fact that I going into shock from the cold! We keep trying to stop every car that goes by! I start holding my hands in the praying position when the cars go by! We walk another 45 min or so when a guy finally stops!!! OMG!!! Is this for real??? My buddy walks up and says something to him! I say ” THANK YOU VERY MUCH!” He is a bit taken aback! He tells Milos that he is only going about 4 km down the road to this little village of Erem , but we can ride that far! It is nice to get out of the cold! It seems like we just start going when we have to get out again! This little trip gave us a boost of confidence. There is another car coming and we wave our arms and they stop too!!! WOW!!! It is a young kid and his girlfriend! They are from the small village of Sasinci! He is in an Alfa Romeo. My buddy is a Alfa nut and swears they stopped because they are Alfa drivers. The guy and his lady are shocked to find out that I am an American!! hahahahahahaha… They take us to the edge of Sremska Mitrovica and drop us off! I shake their hands and thank them over and over again!!! What a nice bunch of people we stumbled upon!!! I never thought I would be so happy to be in Sremska Mitrovica.
We were supposed to be home at 8 or 9 for a cook out at Milos’s house! I hated the fact that we missed it! His father went out of his way to purchase some meat, etc and cook for us! We finally walk into the house at a few minutes past 12! The food is still there and we munch it down and head to bed! I take my socks off and notice I have a blister on 4 of my toes! We had been walking for around 3 hours!
What an experience!!!! We had walked about 3 hours in the dark Serbian night and I still had all of my body parts!!!! I didn’t freeze, I didn’t get robbed or raped by some psychotic, deranged Serbian! What is the media talking about when they characterize Serbians as mean, self centered, hateful people??? The media has tried destroying the Serbian name, but it hasn’t worked!!! Serbs once again came through!!!! I need to find this guy that picked us up!!! If you are reading this, HOLLER!!!!!!