When in Serbia, Do as The Serbians Do

 

Which is what exactly? I have no idea.

Alan and I found ourselves heading the long way round to Kenya for the Christmas holidays. As we had travelled a bit, moved in together and started to talk about the future I thought it was high time he met the family. So we requested the time off work, I busied myself at the computer to get ahead of the University game, and we booked our flights. Unfortunately, as with the student lifestyle, we were on a budget. After much searching and seeking, we found two flights back to Kenya for the low price of a few hundred pounds each.

Although our flights were cheaper flights, the route home wasn’t the most direct. We found ourselves heading from Wales to Kenya via London, Serbia and Abu Dhabi. Usually, I would shudder at the thought of taking longer than 24 hours to get home but with Alan by my side, I started to look at the adventure rather than the journey. This would be our first major travel trip together… a make or break as it were, especially as Kenya and my family were the final destination.

Looking back now, we ended up paying roughly the same amount as a more expensive ticket if we added all meals, alcohol, souvenirs, hotel rooms and car parking to the equation. A word of warning: cheap flights don’t necessarily mean cheap. We learned this the hard way.

After a night in a London Easy Jet hotel, we boarded the flight to Belgrade and arrived in the depths of winter to a dark, cold and misty night. As we were flying early again the next morning, we didn’t venture too far into Belgrade because at this point; sleep was our number two priority, second only to me submitting my journalism essay because it was still in the editing stages when we departed and the deadline was looming. Thankfully, The Apart K hotel ended up being a little slice of Serbian paradise, and the upgrade to the penthouse suite was very much appreciated although totally unnecessary.

What Serbians do at night in the middle of winter is nothing… the streets were bare; the shops were full of produce, but empty of people and even the bars were quiet. After a brave wander through the mist for supplies and a quick last-minute glance at my journalism essay, we hid in our hotel room, had some traditional Serbian food (or not because I’m sure chicken and rice is an everyday staple), and we settled in to do… well, nothing.

I can’t sit here and sell you a holiday to Serbia because quite frankly I wouldn’t have a clue where to go or what to do but what I can tell you is that even in the dark, the Serbians are some of the nicest people. The hotel and their very minimal number of staff kept us warm and well-watered, and they produced a large amount of food for a little sum of money. My advice is never to take the cheap tickets or the long way round but if you ever find yourself in Serbia in the middle of winter, don’t be afraid to leave the comfort of your hotel room (no matter how penthouse-esque), because the people might just surprise you with their hospitality.

All in all, I’d love to go back during the day to get the real flavour of Belgrade, but all things considered, it made for an adventurous layover on a very long journey home. It was the perfect beginning to a trip that would end up changing my life forever.

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