It felt important to me that Serbia be my next stop. It is part of a large area that was under conflict in my lifetime and I have strong memories of classmates who were refugees from the region. I’d like to see what it’s like, 20 years beyond peace. This is why I’m also hoping to make it to Sarajevo and Kosovo. Moreover, I wanted to see the contrast with Bulgaria, with one country well on its way to Westernization and the other still being aligned with Russia.
Having been in a tiny village for three months, I wanted an urban experience in Serbia. After doing much research, I came to the conclusion that my destination had to be Belgrade, even if Novi Sad or Nish, which is very close to Sofia, might be less expensive or have more to offer. Now that I’m expected in Spain just about this time next month, I’ve lost the opportunity to take advantage of a monthly rental. So I decided to look for a weekly rental in the heart of Belgrade and see from there how I will fill the three weeks following.
Thanks to Airbnb, I found this afternoon a listing that seems perfect. I am expected late Friday afternoon!
Now, to get to Belgrade.
Flying was my first thought, but there are few flights from Sofia straight to Belgrade. Many take the scenic route to Athens or Istanbul! The flights are surprisingly expensive (over 200CAD) and unless you get a direct one, they involve more than 12 hours of travel.
Next option that I investigated is the train. There is just one and it travels overnight. I did a lot of research, including spending time on Google Translate, and quickly wrote off this option. The train is considered quite “sketchy,” with lots of unsavoury characters riding it and frequent reports of theft. It would also require me to lose a night of sleep and arrive in Belgrade in the wee hours of the morning.
So that left the bus. Travel forums informed me I needed to take a bus from Sofia to Nish, just across the Serbian border, and then transfer to Belgrade. It took a lot of Googling for me to get information on that because the Centralna Avtogara website has nothing for Nish. I will do a “Sofia to Belgrade on the bus” post once I’ve gone through the experience successfully.
Thursday, I aim to be in Sofia by early afternoon. There, I will get the scoop on where to buy my Nish-bound bus ticket for the following morning. It would be then a 7:30 am departure for Nish Friday, to arrive around 10:30, which I believe is Bulgaria time, while it will be 9:30 in Serbia. I will then have an hour wait for the bus to Belgrade, to arrive by late afternoon. It will be a long day (about eight hours total door to door), I will get a chance to see a lot of Serbia since I’ll be driving clear across the country. Incredibly, the bus option is actually shorter than the train and the plane (unless you get a direct flight)!
I really don’t know why it feels so Important that I go to Belgrade next. It’s one of those intuition things, I think. There is an inexplicably strong pull and I look forward to seeing what I find there.