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Belgrade

Sunday, July 6th 2008

It was 7am and hot. I found a hostel across the road from the train station. It didn't look too nice from the outside, but as soon as I walked inside and found that it was air conditioned, I decided to stay.

I slept for a few hours. When I woke up I had a pounding caffeine withdrawal headache, and I set off urgently to have a look around Belgrade. In the blazing sun I walked up to the Kalemegdan, an ancient fortress that overlooks the confluence of the Sava and the Danube. In the park inside the fortress, I found someone selling coffee, and bought three.

Nicely caffeinated, I was able to think clearly again, and I walked through central Belgrade taking in the atmosphere. I passed a bakery and grabbed a couple of bureks, a fantastic Balkan snack that I'd discovered in Zagreb five years earlier. The guy serving me jokingly said "15 dollars" when he realised I was foreign, and then short-changed me by 3 dinars anyway.

In the evening there were more travellers at the hostel, most of them checking out Belgrade before they went to the EXIT festival. At the Kalemegdan earlier someone had given me a flier which seemed to suggest that there was some sort of free trance festival at the fortress, so we all headed up there. And it was all true, except for the 'free' bit. Not wanting to pay 1000 dinars to get in, we just sat outside enjoying the open air for a while.

We decided to go to a club. Two Serbs, Stefan and MiloŇ°, had got talking to us, and tried to show us the way to some clubs, but after a lot of walking we gradually realised that Stefan and MiloŇ° were not locals and had absolutely no idea where we were going. Eventually, with the assistance of some friendly passers-by, we found our way to the banks of the Sava, which is lined with clubs on boats.

As we arrived, someone was clambering up out of the river, covered in slime and filth. He was cut, and staggering, and it looked like his night had gone very very badly. As people helped him away, we queued for the club he'd fallen off the back of, but we weren't allowed in. Someone told us that the faller was a foreigner, and so the bouncers were not letting any more foreigners in. We went next door, and stayed there until 4am. We left just as the dawn was starting to break.

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