Oh, Belgrade. Belgrade chewed me up and spit me back out less than 48 hours later with the worst (THE ABSOLUTE WORST) hangover of my entire life. I knew that Belgrade was known as a party city, but as someone who avoided the pub crawl scene so popular for backpackers in Europe for four whole months last year, I thought I may be immune to its promises of lots of alcohol coupled with lots of fun. I was wrong. So, so, so wrong.
But let me start at the beginning. How did I even end up in Belgrade? Where even is Belgrade? Well, Belgrade is in Serbia, which was not in my travel plans until the day before I arrived. In my last post I shared why my solo trip was cut from almost two weeks to slightly less than one, but to make a long story short, Logan came a week earlier than planned, so I needed to hustle to get from Montenegro to the Black Sea in Bulgaria so that I could meet up with him. My new route took me straight through Serbia, and the natural and logical stopping point of Belgrade; it’s capital city and the most popular destination in the country.
THERE SHOULD BE A PICTURE HERE BUT I TOOK BASICALLY NO PICTURES IN BELGRADE
The ten-hour train ride from Podgorica to Belgrade was SLOW, but extremely beautiful. I arrived in Belgrade just before dark and treated myself with a cab ride to my hostel. Upon arrival I was quickly taken under the wing of a Bulgarian man who was temporarily living in the hostel with a teenaged competitive diver. I believe that he was the coach and I gathered that they were there to train (who knew that Serbia had training facilities for Olympic hopefuls? I sure didn’t.) The coach offered to cook me dinner, but after hearing I was American we instead spent the next hour talking about colleges in the United States. I tried to explain to him that there are thousands of colleges in America, so I did not know if the University of Tennessee had a good diving program. After it was clear that I would be of no help to him on the college search front the coach let me cook myself some dinner (because despite his offer, he did not want to touch my pesto, which he thinks is disgusting) and we all headed off to bed.
AGAIN… NO PICTURE
Since I had not planned on even entering Serbia, I really had no idea what was in store for me, but as I often do in major European cities, I decided the free walking tour would be a great place to start. The tour itself was okay and I did learn a lot about the history of Belgrade and how it has been constantly destroyed and rebuilt, but the highlight of the morning was meeting a few really nice fellow tourists with whom I spent the rest of the day. The company who runs the free walking tour also offered an “underground” tour of Belgrade, so after a quick and delicious lunch of perfectly cooked trout and hollandaise sauce (which ended up being my last real meal for almost two days) we met back up and forked over 10 euro in order to discover “underground” Belgrade.
Underground Belgrade is mostly on Kalemegdan Hill and largely consists of bunkers, Roman sarcophagi, and some graffiti. The tour was okay, but honestly Belgrade’s history was not that interesting to me and the weather was HOT, so I was very glad when the tour ended, especially since it ended in a wine cellar which was 1) nice and cool, and 2) full of wine. Between my three new friends and myself we drank about two liters of yummy house wine.
The wine combined with the fact that I really was enjoying spending time with my tour companions are what pushed me to make the fateful decision to join the pub-crawl that night. Most cities have some version of a planned pub-crawl and for most you pay a set amount for a certain number of drinks and are taken around by a guide so that in your drunken stupor you do not get lost. This one was ten euro, which paid for 4 or 5 (which turned into 6 or 7) drinks (since I was one of the few girls I am pretty sure I ended up with more free drinks than the rest of the group). Our group consisted of around twelve people, ten of whom were guys and took us to four (or five… I don’t really remember) bars spread throughout the city. We drank beer and wine and the local spirit, raki. After the guide went home we somehow ended up at another bar, where I somehow ended up drinking more raki, which magically kept appearing in front of me. So if you are keeping track, which I clearly wasn’t, that is half a liter of wine, plus somewhere between seven and ten drinks. Bad news bears.
The good news is that I made it back to my hostel safe and sound somewhere around three in the morning and was able to claw my way out of bed the next morning to catch my bus to Bulgaria.
It does feel fitting in a way that my brief time in Belgrade ended the way that it did. Ironically my hangover lasted almost twice as long as I actually spent in the city itself. The lesson I learned in all this is that I was smart to avoid pub-crawls in the past and I will be avoiding them in the future. I also learned what a truly horrible travel day feels like… I will save that story for next time.