“Where are you when the sun goes down, you’re so far away from me” – Dire Straits.
Disturbia: Backpacking in Red Star Belgrade, Serbia. A country which offered me a hat trick of names over the years was also one I neglected to wham into my backpack. As a 10 year old I watched Yugoslavia beat Northern Ireland 2-0 at Windsor Park.
By 2004 it was a 1-1 draw with then named Serbia and Montenegro. More recently Northern Ireland lost 1-0 at home to Serbia. My two first ventures into the Balkans were in 2008 and 2014. The first trip in 2008 I merely backpacked Slovenia. Visiting just Bled, Ljubljana and Maribor, including a crazy adventure white water rafting with the BBC. I had finally entered the former Yugoslavia aged 28.
In 2014 I crossed from Bulgaria into the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, these days normally known as Northern Macedonia or North Macedonia. That was my second ex Yugoslav state. I followed it up with only Kosovo and Montenegro, writing quite detailed reports at the time including a pub tour of Pristina and backpacking in Podgorica, Montenegro’s capital, formerly Titograd.
By 2016 though I was suicidal and depressed in the wake of some horrible fake travel friends I met, and somehow I ended up on a train to Disturbia. Serbia. It was a disturbing trip and one of the rare countries I have been to but never written about and for all I know, this might probably be the only ever article I write on Serbia. I took less photos and videos but I was really there. In the capital city too. Belgrade, without the red star.
Arrival in Belgrade: The Racist Train
As a tourist and long term whackpacker, I happened to know that there is a special train offer for a night train from Budapest (Hungary) to Belgrade (Serbia) for just 18 Euros so I booked it. It’s on off peak times and needs to be booked online (I believe).
The train was full of racist, sexist Serbs though, most of whom were drunk, or perhaps football hooligans (wearing no football shirts). Their treatment of women and foreigners on the train was horrific. Probably the worst I’ve seen on my travels. I didn’t exactly inspire me. But I was disturbed enough inside, trying to keep myself alive so it was the worst of my worries at this point in time. I arrived at dawn into Belgrade and it wasn’t so charming.
I did a quick “city tour”, I whackpacked a few sights, but generally I didn’t do what I normally do. I wasn’t happy so I wasn’t in and out of cafes, museums, bars and pretty streets. I had a look around, I tried two local beers, ate some Serbian food, visited the palace and some main streets. The entire trip was disturbing and it was just before I visited the gory Genocide museum in neighbouring Bosnia-Herzegovina.
So instead of the usual top 5 sights and bars, just some photos, just for my memory. I didn’t really have any fun here, I tried to smile. I guess it just wasn’t the right time or place for me.
For some reason, I didn’t feel inspired to visit any other cities, towns or villages in Serbia at all. That felt odd and still does. I’ve only seen Belgrade (and the views in and out from trains or buses). Actually we did have a stop somewhere on my bus out of Belgrade, but by then, I was less than bothered and I was also heading to the slightly confused region of Republic of Srpska (Republika Srpska) which sounds like it should and could be part of Disturbia. But it’s a separate region and housed in what is known as modern day Bosnia-Herzegovina. I arrived in Karakaj.
To understand it a bit more I was in each of Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina over a 12 day depression period. Apart from sleeping a lot in Dada’s Home in Mostar, Herzegovina, I didn’t do much. I didn’t even care that much. To make things even more peculiar, this region also houses Enclava and Liberland, two also unrecognised countries. I didn’t manage to visit them, but I dipped in and out of Croatia and Montenegro too before a very sad, lonely trip back to Poland. Some final photos leaving Serbia. As far as I remember, I got a direct bus from Belgrade to Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
I could be wrong with all of that as I wasn’t really concentrating on life, caring about the borders. I wasn’t really doing anything. I just felt I had to write something about Serbia and Republic of Srpska to keep my past at ease. I might be back, and hopefully with better memories. I actually took a few videos, but I’ve never watched any of them, maybe one day when my head is right, but I put them on YouTube anyway: