My first day in Belgrade I spent mostly just taking care of business. Peder’s arrival was only 48 hours away, and because it was still raining, I figured I’d be better served saving the tourism for later.
I started with a trip to the phone company to purchase a Serbian SIM card – which was remarkably cheap, barely 2 euros including an initial half hour or so of airtime. Then I found a local gym and got my first real workout in over a month – man did that ever feel good. It wasn’t until early evening, after kicking back for a few hours and catching up on some computer work, that I finally headed out for the day’s first bit of fun: I met up with a Jeca (pronounced “yay-tsuh”), a local friend who I’d been in touch with via Facebook for the preceding few weeks. Luckily the rain had let up, so we had an opportunity to stroll through the town’s main pedestrian walking street and through the park before settling into a small coffee shop for a few hours’ chat. Then when she had to head back to her hometown an hour or so outside Belgrade, I returned to the room in hopes of finding a group of travelers to go out with.
The hostel was even emptier than the previous night – down to only 4 guests, including myself. Apparently one of the couples decided to checkout early on account of the weather, and all the day’s planned arrivals had canceled. After spending a good twenty minutes milling over my options with Igor, the incredibly helpful and friendly staff at the front desk, we looked outside to find that it had once again started to pour. No matter how famous Belgrade’s nightlife might be, a cold and wet weeknight just wouldn’t be the best bet – so in my own private 10-bed dorm, it looked like I’d be calling it an early night.
Before moving on, I felt I should give Manga Hostel’s staff a bit more of a mention. Although Hostel Celica in Ljubljana still tops off my personal list of “Best Hostels,” I don’t think I’ve ever encountered more friendly and helpful staff than at Manga. Igor probably spent an hour with me pointing out every little interesting thing on the map, from castles to nightclubs, as well as helping me setup a cellphone and even reserve an apartment for Peder and myself for after I was to checkout. When I arrived the night before, the girl at the desk immediately offered a toast with a free shot of homemade Serbian brandy.
Although they maybe employees, Hostel Manga’s staff acts exactly like a group friends just putting you up for the weekend – going way out of their way to make sure you have a good time.
It really is a nice feeling 🙂