I have literally just arrived here in Novi Sad a few minutes ago. I am now just waiting for my host but will write a couple of posts.
It was really hard to wake up today. I am never a morning person and do not like to wake up earlier than 8 am but I had my alarm set up for 7:00 as I wanted to start sticking my thumbs up early. I pressed the snooze button every 15 minutes until I finally woke up at around 9 pm. Much later than I wanted and I started to get even more nervous because of that.
It is Sunday and I am afraid that there will not be much traffic on the road to Novi Sad, Serbia. My hosts in Timisoara, Rocksan and Csaba gave me cardboard from the packaging of a new violin that they got recently. It was perfect for my sign. I wrote Novi Sad and Jimboala, Serbia on either side of the cardboard. Jimboala is a border town in Romania, about 30-something kilometers from Timisoara. Novi Sad is where I want to go – about 140- something kilometers away.
Csaba offered to walk me towards the hitchhiking spot that we found from hitchwiki last night. It was a chilly morning but a nice walk to the spot. I was feeling a bit nervous, scared and excited. I was sad that I was leaving Timisoara. It has been very good to me. It is always a bit sad to bid farewell to new friends that you’ve made. I should be so used to this as I’ve done so many goodbyes in my travel but I could never get used to saying goodbye. It is always a bit painful and sad for me. On the other hand, I have never been to Serbia before and so I was also feeling excited about the next adventures, the future hosts and new friends. I love this feeling of not knowing what’s happening next. It’s exciting and terrifying at the same time – a weird, intense feeling that stimulates every inch of my body.
As we walk along the empty streets of Timisoara, I felt that there is a big chance that I will not reach Novi Sad today. Sunday is the worst day to hitch hike.
I bid goodbye to Csaba, promising to keep in touch and to try to see each other next time.
I then raised my thumb out – a familiar gesture that I’ve done many times and waited for my 1st ride to the border.
Amy Winehouse is singing on my head. I listened to an album of hers in Dublin and she’s still singing in my head today. I might as well put her on speakers so I took out my phone and played her Back to Black album on loudspeakers.
Thirty minutes past easily. No one gave me a ride. I started to worry. The people at hitchwiki said they waited 20 minutes. Why then have I waited 30 minutes and still people havent picked me up?
Maybe it’s the hat. I took out my hat and hid it in my backpack. I then started to walk towards the next intersection. It is starting to get cold.
1 hour past. An older guy stopped and got out of his car while talking to me in a foreign language.
I was confused. I showed him my sign. “Novi Sad?” I asked.
“Money!” he said, looking at me curiously.
“Sorry, I am hitch hiking. No money.” I have been waiting for 1 hour. I was warned that some people would ask for money. I hesitated a bit and wanted to ask how much money he wanted but before my thoughts could finish, he left.
Shit. I could be stuck here forever. I should have given him some money. It can’t be that much. A train to Belgrade was about 10 euros.
I waited another 30 minutes, trying to keep my confidence high. I will get a ride, I mumbled to myself out loud while sticking my thumb out looking at each driver in the passing cars.
Finally, this older guy stopped. He started to talk to me in a foreign language that I am guessing is Romanian. Or Serbian.
“I am so happy you stopped! Thank you,” I said. He replied in the same language and gestured for me to go in. I went in excitedly and introduced myself. “Hurly from Canada.”
He answered, “Sorry, no English.”
“That’s fine! I speak Spanish, French and Portuguese too!” I declared in Spanish, Portuguese and French.
Oh no. I said to myself. I tried to converse to him in a mixture of French, Spanish, Portuguese and maybe Italian coz I heard that Romanian language is also close to Italian. I don’t even speak Italian. Anyway, he understood that I was going to the border and going to Novi Sad. He told me that could drop me of at Jimboala.
It was about an hour of silence and me occasionally trying to start a conversation but he would just look at me blankly, obviously not understanding my Italian which I don’t really speak. I didn’t want to annoy him so I just listened to the Romanian music on the radio with him. I don’t like to just sit and wait whenever someone picks me up from hitch hiking but then, it was better than trying to converse with him and annoying him with my English that he clearly doesn’t understand.
I expressed my gratitude and bid him goodbye when we reached the border.
The Romanian – Serbian border. It was like in the movies. I don’t even know which one but one of those mafia or horror movies I guess. There were a couple of old, empty and abandoned, even crumbling buildings. A couple of cars were parked near the small main immigration office but other than that, there was no traffic. I could hear my own footsteps as I walk towards one of the booths.
“Hello there, how are you?” I greeted the immigration officer as cheerfully as I could.
“You are from Canada!” he said checking my passport.
“Yes, sir. Just travelling around the world. It is my first time here in Serbia.” I said excitedly.
“Where are you going and will you be after Serbia?” he asked.
“I will be going to Novi Sad today and then, I will go to Osijek, maybe to Zagreb, Budapest and then back to Brussels.”
“You are going to Brussels! Are you a terrorist?”
Are you kidding me? I wanted to tell him. “No, of course not!” I smiled uneasily. Is he serious?
“Do you have a pistol in your backpack? Do you have drugs? Do you have marijauna? Illegal things in your backpack? ”
Omg, seriously, why do these guys ask these questions? Like someone would actually tell them that they carry drugs and guns with them!
“You can check my backpack if you like. It is just all clothes and maybe some food.” I replied politely with a smile.
He stamped my passport. “Ok!” he mumbled as he handed it to me.
“Thank you so much and have a wonderful day!” I said to him, glad to be out of there.
I walked away as fast as I can. Once again, I was the only one on the road, no traffic infront of me or behind me. Fuck. How will I get to Novi Sad?
The Serbian border town Srpska Crnja is about 5 kms away. From the border control to that town, there was nothing. There was a sign for a hotel but it doesn’t look like it is open. And the crazy thing is that there was no way to get there except to walk or hitch hike. There was no traffic so I started to walk. A few minutes past and a woman started to shout something at me in a different language -Serbian, I later learned. I turned around and saw that she was inside a car with someone on the wheel and after seeing her gesture to me to get inside, I hopped in and introduced myself.
Her name was Ivanka and the driver of the car was Slavolovb. She was really excited and chatty, telling me that she has been to Detroit and that I am welcome in Serbia. She spoke in very excited broken English and I can’t help but feel excited and happy as well. Her excitement was contagious. Slavolovb didn’t speak English but when he speaks in Serbian, Ivanka would translate for him. I told them that it is my first time in Serbia and that I am trying to go to Novi Sad.
As it turns out, Slavolovb was Ivanka’s friend (or family relative?) and was dropping her at her place but before she got dropped off, she made sure that Slavolovb understood what my situation was. They both decided that it is better for me to take the bus to Novi Sad because it is Sunday and there’s not a lot of people on the road.
“It’s only 7 euros to get to Novi Sad,” they told me. It wasn’t so much about the money, to be honest. It was the challenge and the fun of hitchhiking that made me want to do it. But then, they seem to be convinced that no one is going to pick me up today and that taking the bus is a better idea and so I followed their advice.
Slavolovb took me out for coffee while waiting for the bus which was due in 1 hour. That was really nice of him to wait with me! He called the bus company and made sure that there was a bus coming and helped me changed my euros to dinar for a really good rate. I couldn’t have been luckier to have met them!
It was a bit challenging to talk with Svalovb because he didn’t speak English. He only knew the days of the week and perhaps the numbers but that was it. I tried to speak with him in Spanish, Portuguese or French but it didn’t help much. We manage to share stories anyway and I found out that he lives in town with his 3 kids. He showed me videos and pictures of his older daughter. I felt his genuine interest and kindness towards me and it was such a wonderful, awesome feeling to get that from someone who just randomly picked me up from the border. I wish I could speak Serbian but somehow, being lost in translation was not a problem and it was even something that bonded us together.
I am now here in Novi Sad, waiting for my host. Everything seems familiar yet foreign. It’s a feeling that I am familiar with being in a new city, a new place, waiting for the new person to share their hospitality, their space and their friendship with me. I’ve had a long day but a wonderful day and I look forward to meeting my new host Nikola.