Bus-ing Round the Balkans travel blog




I don't really feel ready to leave Sarajevo yet, but leave I must. I have a plane to catch. I take a final walk around Bascarsija; the rain has finally stopped falling. It's nice to be able to catch a glimpse of the city out of the rain, despite the lingering clouds.

Even if I wanted to travel this next connection by bus I wouldn't have been able to today, because I'm heading north to Belgrade, Serbia. And large swathes of the country north of Sarajevo have been rendered impassable due to the flooding. Besides, flying with Air Serbia is an experience in and of itself.

Boarding the plane and heading down the aisle to find my seat I start wondering how old the airline's fleet is. It has a distinct, aged feeling to it. Boxy, cramped, yellowing. And the seatbelts aren't like any I've encountered on a plane before either. Not wildly different, but different enough that a glance around the cabin reveals most of my fellow passengers to be clunking the two parts of the belt against each other in a slightly puzzled fashion. Puzzled but largely unsuccessful (at anything other than some impromptu percussion stylings anyway).

I spot someone who's cracked it and copy them. Just a bit of elbow grease required. My neighbour still can't figure hers out, so I end up fastening her belt for her.

It's only a 50 minute hop to Belgrade, yet as soon as the seatbelt sign's switched off the cabin crew are rushing round doling out little packed lunches. Almost immediately they turn around to collect our rubbish. A touch optimistic - I don't think I know anyone who eats quite that fast! Seatbelt sign's back on because we've begun our descent to Belgrade.

I can feel an edge of excitement breaking through my new country nerves as I step off the plane. I hope I'm more prepared for the change this time; I'm no longer expecting anything to be similar to the places I've passed through so far. I really don't like that sick, culture shocked feeling, so I'd much rather skip it if I can!

Before I've really had time to gather my thoughts I'm on a bus heading into Belgrade city centre. It's hammering down with rain again, but I can already see how different this place is. It's massive, sprawling, modern. The architecture is grand, imposing. This is a city with confidence.

Another first for me today. The first time I've ever checked into a hotel, seen the room, asked for another room, held my breath riding the lift - hoping I'm not about to end up a newspaper headline for plummeting to my death on holiday - and then checked straight back out and found somewhere else to stay.

First time for everything I guess. Never has Expedia failed me quite so much! The hotel in question was, I believe, built around 1970. From what I saw I am confident in the assertion that nothing has been repaired, maintained, or, quite frankly, properly cleaned since then. The staff clearly know it - there was no surprise or questioning when I informed them I would not be staying there. Says it all.

Personally, I'm still pretty flummoxed as to why anybody would think it a good idea to install a functioning patio door in a fifth floor hotel room - that doesn't have a balcony. I can't say as the guard rail across the bottom of the "doorway" to thin air inspired me with much confidence given the fact that the catch on the door itself was hanging off the frame.

I found somewhere else - nicer, cleaner, safer feeling (not difficult), and where I didn't feel the need to come up with my own new names for the property (Hotel Deathtrap was probably the most charitable, share-able nickname...).

Welcome to Belgrade!

(And kudos to anyone who clocked my random Lifehouse reference today. )

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