Why Serbia? Is it Serbia or Siberia? Are they not racist? Why would any black person go to Serbia? Is the war still going on? These are just a few of the numerous questions I was asked by my family and friends as soon as I mentioned I was travelling to Serbia in 2013. I have always been thirsty for Adventure and this Eastern European country sounded ideal.
As soon as I got off the plane I almost froze in shock when I saw about 6 Serbian police officers at the entrance of the airport staring at me sternly. I felt a cold chill down my spine as I wondered if I was in trouble and whether they would let me into the country. ‘’Could we please have a look at your passport?’’ one of them asked as he stretched his hand towards me. I forced a smile and tried my best to remain calm despite the fact that I was panicking. ‘’She has been to Sweden! let her in’’ he said to the other officers as they signaled to me to head towards the open window at the front. My passport was stamped immediately as I rolled my suitcases out of the airport to the parking lot.
The sky was grey and the atmosphere was as cool as a cucumber. I was fortunate enough to negotiate for a fair taxi price with a jolly driver that lent me his jacket and drove me towards the hotel I had booked. My intuition instantly communicated that I would love it here as I found the architecture of the buildings in Belgrade quite impressive as they portrayed the usual lovely Eastern European outlook. A few of the buildings were dilapidated and ramshackled as a result of rampant bombings during the NATO war in 1999. It was formerly known as Yugoslavia before disintegrating into various countries like Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Bulgaria and a few other minor states.
A few of the streets were littered with polythene bags and empty bottles. I would have never expected this in a European country because littering is a poor habit that is quite common in Africa and various other third world countries. It made me feel welcome as it was familiar to what I was accustomed to back at home. We drove to Hotel Slavija; my accommodation facility for the night. My room was tiny and smelt slightly damp, the red carpet had faded quite a bit but the view from the window was beautiful. A big part of the town was quite visible from my bedroom window and I immediately fell in love with it, I was informed about the vibrant party life this town offered and I was anxiously waiting to explore it myself.
Dinner was comprised of bread, cheese, krompir salata (potato salad), and cevapi –grilled dish of minced meat which was washed down with some authentic rakija (Vodka). I decided to visit a nearby bar after dinner and was amazed by the attention that I drew from the people inside. I had free drinks on my table and plenty of warm company as soon as I sat down. I was amazed by how friendly serbs were in general; the women loved my hair and complimented my skin colour. The men kept wondering if I was really from Africa and not Black America, it was a bit unusual for them. We shared a lot about politics, Adventure, Culture, Languages and food before I retired back to my hotel room.
The next two weeks in Belgrade and Serbia in general were adventure filled for me. I went Horse riding with newly found friends, I visited museums, old churches, attended music festivals, practiced shooting ducks in the open fields, played in the snow, went shopping in various shops in town, I even tried flying a small plane from the prince aviation flying school. After all the fun and discoveries, it was time to fly back home in Uganda after exploring such a beautiful country in Eastern Europe with such amazing people, rich cultures, delicious food and a sophisticated language.