The Long Way Home


Still Lost in Belgrade

 

Beograd, the "white city"

Beograd, the "white city"

7:30 am: The view from my Hotel Astoria room faces another gray concrete structure. The window curtains are orange and dim lamps cast a faint glow. The sun is rising, but it’s still freezing outside. The bus leaves at 10 and  I refuse to miss it. 

Last night in the bus station, Ari and I hopped from station agent to agent, asking when the next bus left for Osijek. “Last one,” we were told over and over. We wandered all around the bus station, through the train station, which was surreally quiet. A few military men paced in front of a bench, waiting for the next train. The further east I travel, I begin to see signs for cities in Ukraine, in Turkey, and Belarus. The famed Orient Express stopped here. I imagined Rebecca West writing passages of Black Lamb, Grey Falcon on loose sheets of  brown paper. Not much has changed since then.

Or maybe it has. What we figured out later was that “last one” wasn’t “last bus,” but “next one over,” meaning the next station over. There is an entirely separate station for Croatian buses. This is when language barrier isn’t just a cute little travel tale to tell the folks at home. The importance and beauty of the preposition! 

I am dirty and desperately in need of a toothbrush and a comb. The direness of my financial situation finally kicked in this morning too so I must get to an Internet cafe and track down some money. Two more months of European splendor! If I make it that long. It’s almost 8 am and I’m catching that damn bus back to god-forsaken Hrvatska.

8:43 am: Notes from god-forsaken Serbia

The Internet connection (or lack of) is painfully slow. I spent 45 minutes trying to connect, then gave up. I don’t even have access to email, my lifeline. I stormed back to my room to find 2 women dressed in french maid unifroms standing outside my door. One woman had a broom in her hand and the other a bottle of window cleaner. They pressed their ears to the door, probably checking if I was there. I marched between them, breaking up their little conspiratorial party. They burst into laughter.  When I looked through the peephole in the door to see if they were angry, they had already gone. 

I know I should make the best of this and not have such a crap attitude, but I am so ready to just go. 

10:00 am: I made the bus. I should have asked Ari for 20 dinar for the seat reservation (roughly .32USD – it’s customary for a seat charge on Eastern European buses), but the lady who guarded the turnstile knew I couldn’t understand Serbian and let it slide. See, everyone is so nice here — I just wish the circumstances were different for me to enjoy it all. Am I not cut out for die-hard travel? How brave am I, living on the promises of friends for cash, blowing off my bills back home and doing volunteer work when I could use my own donation? I am so disappointed at how American I am acting right now. 

11:00 am: I am still on this bus. The irony that yesterday the bus left on time and today I am on time and the bus is late is not lost on me. I am laughing to myself thinking of the Hotel Astoria’s idea of an “Internet cafe” — an unheated office room with an empty desk, a spinning rack of travel brochures and a pleather couch loaded with boxes. God I love Eastern Europe! I do, actually.  I already miss Belgrade just thinking of my return to Osijek. 

one last look before I go

one last look before I go

(2.5.05)

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3 Comments so far
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and my daisies keep you on the run!

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Comment by Bill_Pittsburgh

love this. amazing images, both written and photographic

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Comment by roya

Thank you for your kind words! Your encouragement keeps me writing.

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Comment by Lisa




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