And now for my general observations about Serbia (or everything in my blog notes that didn’t find its way into any of the preceding posts)…
- Serbia seems like the perfect “linguistic segway” into Ukraine. Whereas Ukraine almost exclusively uses Russian/Ukrainian (writing only in the Cyrillic alphabet), Serbia actually uses both the Cyrillic and Roman writing systems simultaneously – meaning that street signs, menus, maps, and transit tickets are all doubled up. The perfect way to practice!
- One funny word I’ve noticed constantly throughout this part of the world is “Super.” They say it when anything good happens: a deal is made, a reservation is complete, a plan is understood, etc. It doesn’t sound so funny now that I’m writing it – but somehow their pronunciation always makes me chuckle. “Alright, we’ll meet up at 8.” “Sooouuu-pehhhr!”
- There are quite a large number of stray dogs in Belgrade…which is weird considering there were so many stray cats in Croatia.
- For as famous as it is, nightlife in Belgrade is also remarkably cheap. Splavs never charge admission, and beers are rarely more than 2 euros.
- One thing I’ve noticed about Serbians, and indeed people of this whole region, is that they’re remarkably friendly and helpful. As I mentioned previously, almost every hostel in Belgrade boasts reviews of “the most kind and helpful staff I’ve ever experienced.” Just like Igor at Manga Hostel, the owner of Sun Hostel, and the Bosnian woman in Mostar – people just seem to go out of their way to be nice and welcoming. It’s really a pleasant feeling.
- One thing I didn’t notice until the ride from Sarajevo to Belgrade was that I hadn’t seen even a single Mc Donald’s since Budapest – and no Starbuck’s since Paris! I think this is the first time I’ve been anywhere with so few Mc Donald’s, which populate virtually every street corner in every major city from Shanghai to Cairo. But here in Eastern Europe, even the capitals don’t seem to have them – or if they do, they certainly aren’t very common.
- I’m not sure if I quite emphasized just how huge electronic and house music are in Serbia. Not only clubs, but everywhere from McDonalds to hair salons to supermarkets play the latest chart-topping hits. It feels like there’s a little party…virtually everywhere you go.