We woke up at 5:30 am. As we had packed and prepared everything on the previous night, we didn't have to run. So we took our time, packed the last pieces of clothing, dressed up and called the cab. I remember I was so excited I just couldn't have my breakfast, for I wasn't even feeling any hungry, at all. Anja was still asleep til the moment the cab arrived and she woke up to help us with the baggage and say goodbye. As I can remember, it was not so cold - some 4 degrees - in a still dark, early-morning Köln, while the cab drove us til the main train station. As soon as we got off the car we run to find our platform. I sat and took care of our stuff while Nara ran to buy our tickets to the Düsseldorf airport. As the time to get into the plane was getting closer, I was getting more and more excited, and kinda absent: I always get like this when something I want too bad is coming closer to finally happen. And over the past few years, I can't remember of wanting anything more than I wanted to visit Serbia.
As soon as our train arrived, Nara came back with the tickets she had just bought. We took our seats and, during the 20-30 minutes of train travel, I almost didn't say a word. Nara was busy, cursing at the rude german man she came across still on the train station and I only remember telling her to relax and forget about him, after all we were about to leave the country and - head to Belgrade! Every time me or her would mention "Belgrade" or "Serbia" we would both open big smiles without saying a word, for several seconds. We were behaving so weirdly that, thinking of it now, it probably seemed like we were on drugs or something.
As soon as we arrived to the airport we managed to make the check in and get rid of our baggage. I was thirsty and Nara hungry, so we sat for a drink and a croissant - that tasted more like margarine than anything else. As the time of the flight was approaching, I was getting more and more absent, to the point Nara asked me, while having her coffee, if I was feeling ok. "Yes, yes I am" I replied a couple of seconds after she made the question.
Standing on the line to get into the plane was exciting: people speaking serbian all around us! We had our ears 'wide-opened', trying to listen some familiar word but, at least for me, it didn't quite worked: I was far too excited and crazy to focus on anything anyone was saying, no matter what language.
The almost two-hour flight were the most torturing ones to me: I felt like standing up and walking side to side in the plane while Nara was as talkative ever and hungry like a bear, eating everything it was offered, even my meal, that I didn't feel like eating at all - not even the cookie. I turned my mp3 player on to try and relax, but it was no good: my serbian/balkan-music-only player wasn't of much help at the moment, it only made me more and more anxious. I closed my eyes and tried to get some sleep or at least to get a bit more relaxed, but I was so tense I started feeling my head, neck and shoulders hurting.
When the plane finally started to descend and Nara - who had the window seat - turned to me and said "Teta, we arrived! We're in Serbia!". My body relaxed so quickly all of a sudden that I felt like a cloth dummy, without any "structure" - like if I didn't have any bones. A "melting feeling".
The "melting feeling" got even stronger as we walked out the plane and stepped in serbian soil, to get the bus from the plane to the airport building. Nara and I looked around, then to each other and then, at the very same time, we took a deep, deep breath, to feel the air. I can still remember the first "smell of Belgrade". It smelled like wind.
It was a cloudy day, around 4 or 5 degrees, but not as wet as in Germany, thank god. The dryer weather made us feel much more comfortable than in Germany and like taking off our scarfs and opening up out jackets.
We went through the customs, got our passports stamped and took our baggage. We went to the restroom to fix our messy hair and our still sleepy faces and we finally got off the arriving gate. Nara was walking before me as I remember was still feeling completely melt and then we saw Tomica waiting for us. It's weird, because I can't quite remember anything else of this meeting other than he saying "Hey, I'm Tomica". I can't possibly tell you what I said, or what Nara said, or even if he said anything else - and they most probably said plenty of things more, I just wasn't 'registering' any information at that moment.
We walked out and again, the "Belgrade smell". I took several more deep and long breathes, as we waited for the bus that was gonna take us downtown. I remember Nara asking me, kinda worried, how we were gonna do, cause we had no dinars with us. I can't remember what I replyed or even if I replied her at all - I was getting back to my conscience, but still not really able to reply anything.
The bus arrived, we took our seats, and Nara reminded me to sms Kosta, to tell him we arrived well. Toma kindly offered to send the message over his mobile, and so he did.
During the half an hour trip from the airport to downtown Belgrade, I almost didn't say a word: I was looking around, rather amazed and still not believing to be in Belgrade, noticing every single detail on everything, from the grass colours to the building's paintings and graffiti, from the huge commercial displays to the clothes people were wearing on the streets - literally, everything. As we were getting more and more close to the city center and the car traffic was getting more and more intense, I started noticing people and instruments all around: an old man with his accordion here, a bunch of guys coming out a car with their trumpets over there and so on. Later I would find out and record on my memory, forever, the sound of the city. Yes, because in Belgrade, even if there's no real music playing whatsoever, you can feel it filling in the air :)
I was finally in Belgrade.
We took off the bus at Slavija - I remember Tomica saying that place would probably be a key one for us during our staying in there. And indeed, so it became.
The ground on Slavija was kinda wet, although it wasn't raining. I had a look around, and I immediately loved that square; noise, cars, buses, trams and trolleys all over, people crossing the streets, policemen with their whistles and us and our baggage, waiting for the next bus we had to take in order to spare some walk with Hans and Klaus (the names we gave to our two "dead bodies" - aka "biggest bags", weighting more than 30 kg each)
We took another bus to our place, less then 5 minutes riding from Slavija. We got off, walked a few meters more, turned right, and then right again and voi-là: Sime Luke Lazića, the street that would be our address for the next several weeks. It was around 1pm when we were shown our room by a very sympathetic looking girl - that later became a great friend, Sanja. Toma said he would leave us for he had some stuff to do, and that he would call me a bit later, so we could plan something.
Nara and I got into our room. I took my camera and made a photo of our room's window. I was now fully conscious again, and all excited and jumping around, repeating with Nara, every 10 seconds "We're in Belgrade, we're in Belgrade!!!". Nara was looking around the room and opening her baggage while I was insisting with her that I didn't need any rest at that moment and that we should go out to explore the city right away. But I only had time to take off my jacket and boots - having in mind to put more comfortable shoes: as soon as I sat on the bed I felt asleep like a stone til 7 pm, when I woke up with Nara saying she had just made a friend in the hostel that was crazy by brazilian soap-operas; the guy from the reception saying Toma was on the phone and my complaining, empty-for-a-day stomach.
And that was my first day in Belgrade :)