So you only have 5 hours to spend in Belgrade...

Note: For the moment, I’m skipping Bosina and Herzegovina, as we are planning on going back there later on in the trip. Also, I’m ultra behind in blogging everything, so this is also a strategy to buy myself some time.

We arrived in Belgrade on a hot and sunny day. One concession we had was getting dropped at the doorstep of our hostel, as we had paid for a transfer service as opposed to braving the public transport system. Although we were at the doorstep of our hostel, the door itself lead to seven flights of stairs, and by the time we got to the top we were questioning our choice of accommodation. We walked through the door and were greeted warmly by the manager, who showed us to our room. The location itself appeared to be a converted office suite, as our room had about 20 powerpoints to choose from. However, the room itself was quite spacious for what we were paying.

The first thing we wanted to do was dry off in front of the air conditioner, but it soon became apparent that it wasn’t working. I sort of jammed myself onto the balcony where the radiator part was, not quite sure of what I could achieve, looking for anything obviously wrong. When I finally came to the relization that I had no idea what I was doing, I brought the problem to the attention of the manager, who promptly changed us to another room. We basked in the cool air coming from the AC like pilgrims worshipping a holy idol.

The city of Belgrade always conjures up memories of a story my Mum told me about when she was backpacking around Europe years ago. She came accross a leaflet entitled “So you only have 5 hours to spend in Belgrade”, written entireley in stranglish (strangled english). For some reason this stuck with me; I’m not sure if there was a particular reason why one might only have five hours in this city. I can understand that people have stopovers with time constraints, but enough to make a leaflet about it? Regardless, we had longer than five hours, so from a practical standpoint, the question was purely philosophical.

One of the things I was excited about visiting in this city was the Tesla Museum. This is a museum dedicated to Nikola Tesla, a brilliant inventor who pioneered many technologies still in use today. One example is the electric motor. Although the DC motor was around before Tesla arrived on the scene, it was he who redesigned it to be a truly useful thing as opposed to a mere curiosity.

The museum itself was a bit of a let down I have to say. It was small, and the tour guide seemed very jaded and uninterested. In the museums defence, it was under renovations at the time, so this may have been part of the reason for my dismay. Having seen he film “The Prestige”, a fictional film in which Tesla is a character, I did enjoy seeing his hat and gloves. If you have seen the film, you will understand, if not, then you should go watch it.

Unfortunately, we had visited Serbia in the middle of a heatwave, so we could only spend so much time out and about during the day. We were there for a couple of days, and mainly just wandered around the city centre, exploring the streets and squares, and just soaking in the ambience. There was an interesting display of 7 meter tall transformer style statues in the centre of town that seemed a little out of place, but at the same time was still pretty cool. We also visited the city fort, which was quite vast and it quite good condition.

We left Belgrade for Novi Sad, a town to the north, a few days later. Or at least we attempted to. As we waited for our bus, the time kept ticking by, and after half an hour had passed from the scheduled time of arrival of our bus, we were left scratching our heads. A local Novi Sad, who was waiting for the same bus struck up a conversation with us, and helped us out by asking some staff what was going on, something we would not have been able to do due to the language barrier. Turns out there was a huge traffic jam in the south of the city that was causing all busses that were coming from that direction to be delayed by an hour or more. He then helped us exchange our tickets for some on another bus that left from Belgrade directly. If it hadn’t been for this good samaritan, we would have been left scratching our heads wondering what the hell was going on.

A shortish bus ride later and we arrive in Novi Sad, and check into our Hostel. Novi Sad is a smaller town, and we got that same feeling of relief that we usually get moving from the big smoke to somewhere a little more relaxed. By no means a little country backwater, Novi Sad still had plenty to offer in terms of sightseeing. It was also incredibly pretty for lack of a better word.

The heat was still killing us however, so we didn’t do anything too intense, mainly just walked around the town and made the obligatory visit to the fort. The whole weather thing was starting to really have an affect on us. While we would look at Facebook posts of people back in Melbourne complaining about how cold it was, we were wishing we were in cold and miserable weather. At least then we could rug up. Instead, there are only so many layers of clothing that you can remove and still remain socially acceptable. It is frustrating when all you want to do is go out and explore, but you know that after a couple of hours you are going to be totally hot, sweaty, and smelly.

She stood there for about 3 minutes playing with her phone.

After a few days, it was time to head off. We used another transfer service to get to Budapest, Hungary again. Although you do end up paying a little more for their services, it’s usually no more than a few euro difference, and the trip is far faster and more comfortable. The driver we had had actually lived in Melbourne for many years, and echoed the sentiments of a number of people from the Balkans that had lived in Australia; coming back was apparently the biggest mistake they made. I’m not going to speculate as to why they might feel this way, however, I have to say that our time in the Balkans, despite being sometimes daunting, was on the whole enjoyable. Everyone here is more relaxed. Things don’t move as quickly, and that is a nice setting to be in when travelling.

— Thomas 2015.08.22

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