An eye-opening pit stop.
Leaving Hungary, I began my journey to Belgrade, Serbia, a steppingstone on my way to Croatia. To be honest, I caught a bus rather than flying because it was like 5% of the cost and because I could tick off a few more countries along the way. Last-minute decisions and zero expectations — these are the conditions I live for!
Hopping off the bus, I had no place to stay and no working SIM card. I was in a little bit of strife, but nothing I couldn't handle. I asked for directions, but no one wanted to help the sleep-deprived foreigner who just stumbled out of an overnight bus. Once I got WiFi, I booked a nearby hostel room for literally $4. Throwing down my bags, I set out to explore the city and find me some Ćevapi!
In my explorations, I noticed a pretty confrontational theme — war. There were posters, banners, statues, and memorials, all pertaining to Serbia's involvement in previous wars. Walking through what was Yugoslavia only a couple of decades ago, I probably should have done some prior research. But, hey, learning from the locals is better than learning from the internet, right? Ascending to a lookout point at the Belgrade Fortress, it was clear to me that Serbia was proud of its wartime accomplishments, showcasing tanks and missiles all throughout the grounds. My interest was sparked. I searched for more.
Waking the next day, I set out to learn all that I could about Serbia's wartime history. Whipping out my phone and searching for landmarks of war, I learnt there was one within walking distance of my hostel. It was the Yugoslav Ministry of Defence building, which had been bombed by NATO in 1999 to instil "peace" with force after Serbia and Kosovo broke a ceasefire.
Taking the bus from Hungary to Croatia was panning out well. I'd gained an appetite to learn about a conflict I knew nothing about, and it made my experience that much better. It's going to be interesting putting all the pieces of history together as I make my way to Croatia. Next stop — Sarajevo, the capital city of Bosnia & Herzegovina.
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Written by Chad Gerber, Edited by Nick Petrou