Saturday, 29 December 2007

Balkan Expedition - part I

So, on december 24th, half past midnight, Nara and I headed to the Central Bus Station here in Belgrade, to start our loooooong journey to Varna - in the Bulgarian Black Sea coast - to spend christmas with our beloved friend, Kostov, and his family.

We waited the Niš Ekspres bus for about half an hour in the station, side by side with an amazingly beautiful gypsy woman, her small kid, and her husband.

Nara and I got into the bus, took our seats and right away a chubby guy, a Serb, came to us asking (in serbian) if we were bulgarian. I said that no, and his second guess was "Russia". I said "ne" again and then, in english, Nara and I told him we were from Brazil. The reaction was as it always is: everybody gets so excited when we tell we're from Brazil, hahaha. That is, when they believe us, of course. Cause most times people think we're joking.

Anyways, this guy was showing us the gps system of his super modern mobile phone for the first 20 minutes of the bus trip (mobile phones are pretty, pretty important here in Serbia). Thank god after those 20 minutes the guy decided to rest a bit, allowing us rest too. That was when I started sleeping like a stone, and Nara too.

Nara told me that in the middle of the trip she woke up once, and could see the gps guy talking to another one, looking and pointing at her. She was scared, of course: imagine yourselves waking up with too guys looking and pointing at you while speaking in serbian! As soon as the gps guy saw that Nara had just awaken, he said loudly "go back to sleep! go back to sleep! Everything's ok, back to sleep!!" - almost like if he was ordering her to do so, hahaha. She was so sleep, she couldn't help but really getting back to sleep, haha. Thank god I was sleeping far too heavily at that time.

I was suddenly awaken by some guy, from the bus company, speaking very loudly and walking from side to side in the bus, asking the passangers some questions. The gps/mobile guy came to us asking "Sofia? You going to Sofia? You need to change bus, this is Niš! Change the bus to Sofia, this is Niš. Now, now move!!!". Nara and I grabbed our coats and bags and left the bus like if we were being thrown away or something, hahaha. Along with us came a bulgarian girl, and a serbian guy.

So, we were in Niš, the third biggest city in the country (although you could never tell by looking to it's central bus station). It was almost 3 and a half in the morning, snowing, the floor of the trashy, traaaashy station was completely covered in muddly snow and my sleepy self forgot to put the coat on - so yes, I was freezing, hahaha. The guy from the bus company (the one who woke me up with his loud voice in the bus), took us to a room, and asked us to wait a bit. I was so sleepy and confused, I can only remember there was a TV, with the movie "Swordfish" on, with serbian subtitles. Trying to read the subtitles - as the TV volume was far too low to be heard - helped me to feel more and more awaken after a few minutes. So cool, I love trying to read subtitles in cyrillic! After a few minutes in this "rustic" waiting room, the serbian guy came to me and asked me "Speak english?". I said "YES!!!" right away, hahaha - I was so relieved! And the bulgarian girl spoke english too, and quite some serbian as well. He then told us we were waiting for the bus that was gonna take us to Sofia, because that one we were in would go from Niš to another serbian city, which I can't really remember the name now.

We waited for half an hour, until the loud speaking guy from the bus company came in again, asking us to follow him. This time I had my coat and my gloves on, so I didn't mind the wind and the snow at all. As we walked throught the platforms, I couldn't see any bus waiting for us. Perhaps it was yet to arrive?

No, it wasn't. There wasn't any bus. At all. There was a taxi, actually. A red, Yugo (a.k.a. "the worse car ever produced in the world") taxi, probably as old as me, some twenty-some years old. It looked even older, though, believe me. Do you people know what is it like a Yugo??? I believe the picture below to be quite enlighting:

When I saw the so called car, I could only remember the words of Trajan, a romanian guy we met in Cologne, when we told him we were heading to Serbia soon:

"Serbia is an interesting place, you know. Very "rootsy", hehehe". Indeed.

Ok, it's just four of us, I thought. And just til the other bus station. So, Nara, me ad the bulgarian girl took the back seat, and the serbian guy was in the front seat. After some 15 minutes squeezed inside the red Yugo taxi, we started taking the road. On that moment, I realised: there wouldn't be any bus to us - we were actually going to Sofia by car. By Yugo, I mean.

I think Nara and I were just so exhausted that we accepted the whole situation and just relaxed. Or at least we tried to, until everybody in the red Yugo (but us!) started smoking compulsively. Yes, our last drop of confort had just being spilled.
It took us more than 3 hours to get to Sofia. The roads were terrible, we could't barely see anything from the Yugo windows. Passing through the border was pretty fast: it took us some 10 minutes only to show all the documents and get the entrance stamps to Bulgaria (people from Brazil do not need a visa to Bulgaria).

The day was dawning and we were arriving in Sofia, under some pretty heavy snow. I remembered that early on the day we left Serbia, when I spoke to Kostov, he told me he was stucked in the airport in Sofia, on his way back from Thessaloniki to Varna, because the flights were being cancelled one after another due to the bad weather.
When we finally came out from that red Yugo taxi - smelling to cigarette smoke like I've never been before! - we headed to the central bus station, just 50 meters ahead of where the taxi left us.

On the moment we stepped into the bus station, I took a deep, deep breath and smiled: thank god I could read cyrillic script! I mean, thank Marcos and Jelena, my two russian teachers, hahaha. If I had their phone numbers on that noment, I swear I'd have called them both just to thank them for teaching me, hahaha. Everything, literally everything in the central bus station was in cyrillic. Not like in Serbia, where there are lots in latin script too.

Anyways, I told Nara to sit, wait and take care of our bagagge, so I could walk around and look for a guiche selling tickets to Varna. It was december 24, the day of Christmas eve, and we had to be in Varna around late in the afternoon/early in the night. So we had to find a bus leaving from Sofia as soon as possible.

To be continued tomorrow, I desperately need some sleep now.


Hernan said...

Cant wait to read the rest of the Spedicija!

Robert said...

Oh no, I would feel exactly as you did in the Yugo! Being around smokers is usually disgusting, but especially when you're in a tiny car! I'm sure it was quite the experience, though.
How is Sofia?? I'm sure you'll post about it soon.
How long did it take you to learn to read cyrillic script and understand Russian and Serbian??? I remember you telling me about it before the summer, but it still seems like such a short time to learn a new language or two, and an alphabet! You're a genius! Hehe :)
Your posts are always so exciting!!
Take care!