Friday, May 4, 2007

Serbia (Again)

Ok I promise this is the last bit about spring break, and you really don't have to read it all if you don't feel up to it. Jeff and I decided to stick it out for a day in Belgrade and get the night train while eveyrone else was getting the day train straight back to Budapest. So we all went to, yes I have to admit it, McDonalds for breakfast and a nice bathroom. The Balkans doesn't really do breakfast so my Big Mac at 7 am was a bit weird, but I dealt with it. Then we said good bye to the other 5 and headed for the Chinese Embassy. This is one site that is not in Lonely Planet. During the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999, they "accidentally" knocked bombed the Chinese Embassy which was located next to a radio tower. The Embassy just happened to have some radioactive material in the basement and is dangerous till this day. We found it, snapped a couple of pictures and then headed for Tito's grave.

This man was the dictator of Yugoslavia for 40 years and yet the people still revere him. It's a bit odd. The grave is also really odd because its in this park kind of and there is a really silent hall for him and then a musuem for all the gifts he received from foreign countries. The whole experience is quite surreal and it was nice to have Jeff there who had been through it before.

After Tito's tomb, we went to what I really wanted to see - the Nicola Tesla Musuem. Perhaps you heard of him in the Prestige played by David Bowie. In real life he was a graet scientist but a terrible businessman. He was a rival of Thomas Edison and worked for him for a time. His many achievements include inventing the radio, making mechanical engines work, and basically designing the Niagra Falls power station.

The musuem was free and we were almost the only ones there along with John who works for the WHO and has been to 130 countries and a very nationalistic Serbian that had emigrated to Canada. Quite a crowd. The young tour guide put on a demonstrationg that was really cool and made mechanical engines click in my head - at least for awhile.

After leaving the musuem, Jeff and I decided to leap frog our way back to Budapest. We were going to stop in two smaller towns along the way, both of which used to be Hungarian towns. We said good bye to Serbia and headed for Novi Sad.

We think this town had a soccer match going on because they cleared out an entire car of the train just for the hooligans destined for the town. We kind of had cramped quarters but not too bad. Once we arrived there were about 100 policemen in riot geer to escort the hooligans to the stadium. The one really cool thing about Novi Sad was the old fortress on the hill above the river. It was huge and every August hosts a huge musical festival with bands like the Killers and The Shins headlining. This clock tower was part of the fortress and designed with a bigger hour hand so everyone could see it. In fact everyone that could see it was charged a clock tax.

The town also had a beautiful baroque downtown and was quite lively, but we didn't discover this until we had to leave.

From here we caught another 2 hour train up to the town of Subotica which had a huge Hungarian influence. This dowtown was also beautiful though in a very different Art Noveau way. Seeing as we had been away from Hungary for almost 10 days, I was desperate for Hungarin food. Well the book recommended one such restaurant where we walked in the door and they greeted us in Hungarian. This dining experience was chaotic.
We walked in and there were two musicians playing. We ordered gulyas which came in a huge pot that could have served 5 people. This was the best gulyas I've had yet. Ok so then all the drunk Hungarian youth in this town paraded through the restaurant. They danced on tables, line danced, sang all the folk songs, and just generally had a party. We had our giant packs with us in the restaurant so we kind of stood out but nobody cared. I couldnt' take the noise for too long so we went to the town square and chilled for a bit. We basically were falling asleep sitting there so we journeyed over to the train station and watched an episode of West Wing on Jeff's laptop before the train came.
Wow were we tired. We fell asleep as soon as we were on the train, woke up for the border guards and then didn't even budge until the cleaning crew at Keleti swept through the train. Back in Budapest we both went home and slept, and then I had to prepare for guests from Paris.
What a way to end spring break. It was a hell of a trip and I don't regret any of it. I never thought we would make it thorugh with that many people but we had pretty good company throughout. Freshman year: New Orleans, Sophomore year: Western Virginia, Junior year: The Balkans, who knows what senior year will bring. Until then...stay classy San Diego.

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