Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Life on the road

You wake up in a room where someone is snoring and the windows have been closed all night and its stuffy. You try to get up quietly but the bed and the floorboards squeak, creak and crack and everyone starts shuffling about in their beds anyway. You battle with a shower in a bathroom that smells moldy and has nowhere to hang clothes. The water is too hot, too cold, and the shower head droops and collapses, directing all the water at the wall. You stand in a puddle and pull on clothes that are stiff from cake soap and still damp from having been washed the evening before.  In the breakfast room you are presented a plate with 4 types of coloured meat and an eggcup with a cold hard boiled egg. There is no milk for your tea. Someone is asking you where you are from and where you are going next, like this is all that defines you now. For this you are paying twelve euros a night. Ah, welcome to the world of hostels. How could I have forgotten?

I had planned to get to France from Turkey by island hopping. Visions of sun-baked white villages piling up steep slopes from an azure sea, and evenings sipping chilled white wine at a harbour front cafe while eating delicious calamari. Instead I'm catching buses and slow trains through piss-scented ex-communist countries with names I keep getting confused, headed to cities that might be called Belgrade or Bucharest or Budapest if only I could remember which one comes first. There's a bus going to Beograd, is that somewhere else and is it interesting? Oh wait, that's Belgrade. Bulgaria - no, that's not even a city, its a whole country where people speak Bulgarian and drink a lot of beer. Though I'm probably thinking of Belgians.

The trees know it is spring but it is intermittent yet, with warm days still mostly a promise and winter winds whipping up out of nowhere for a couple of days at a time.

Random images from the bus window, taken
just to relieve the boredom

Border controls seem relaxed.
In other words, there's a lot of waiting around.

The bus stops in random towns

Villages hugging hillsides, just not quite what I imagined
I'd be seeing on this trip

Simple joy. A local cafeteria where no english is spoken. I queue, watch
what others are ordering, point, and cross my fingers. And for what seems to be
about two dollars, I get the absolutely perfect lunch. Warm, freshly-made bread,
a spicy warm sausage and a plate of cabbage that is a mix between fresh and
sauerkraut in style but combines perfectly and is just delicious. Welcome to Serbia!

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