Monday, 14 November 2011

Don't mention the war*

The train from Vienna was comfortable enough though I was sharing a compartment with an old man who spoke no English and turned the lights off as soon as we started. Just as well though as I slept in little bits woken at every station and at one point by what felt like something running into the back of us.

We were woken again around 1 am by two sets of border guards. The first had German flags on their armbands, which made no sense to me unless we went by a very odd route, and scanned all passports in a machine hung around their necks. The next two guards who arrived half an hour later actually stamped passports.

First light showed a flat frost covered landscape and on arrival Belgrade was noticeably colder than anywhere else on this trip. It also seems more foreign in some ways, brightly coloured currency, shouting taxi drivers and even what looked like squat toilets in the station. Also Serbian is written in either Roman or Cyrlic script depending on how they feel, for example all street names are Cyrilic on the signs and roman text on maps, which certainly makes navigating more interesting. I wandered out in search of a bank and a coffee and it occurred to me for the first time how useful the Italians have been in making it possible to know what you're getting to drink. Languages may change but a cafe latte is still a cafe latte.

I also have an odd sense that it is less European in other undefined ways, it could be tiredness but it feels as if the one and a bit streets of coffee shops and chain stores are a kind of mask put on for the tourists and the real city of half collapsed buildings and men selling unidentifiable fried things is always just around the corner.

The main sights are centred round a citadel where two rivers meet, which has been built and rebuilt by various combinations of Turks, Bulgarians and Austrains as well as the local Serbs and even a few stones taken from a nearby Roman fort.

The simple approach to health and safety

The meeting of two rivers

Turkish tomb

Roman sarcophagous

Orthodox chapel

The end of the line

After seeing the citadel, which took until about 2pm I had lunch at a place with a question mark for a name and menu items translated as intestines, cows head in tripe and glands. I went for the fried cheese but was disappointed that the flat bread turned out to be half of a slightly stale white bread bun rather than the unleavened local delicacy I expected.

I then realised that there wasn't really anything else I wanted to see here so I wandered back down to the station and booked the train to Lubljana, which is where I had planned to go before I found it was inaccessible from Vienna. So it looks like I've left the EU for a day trip. I did consider heading further east but every journey eastward seems to be 20 hours or more.

*I may have mentioned it once but I think I got away with it.
Anyone want to translate?

I can't believe it either but what else could do this to a building?

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