Week 27: Whoa-Oh, We’re Halfway There (AKA Serbtember)

We hit the halfway mark this week. Six months down on this crazy adventure, six months to go. Time is playing tricks on me: it feels like I’ve been gone a lifetime, and also like it’s flying by. Each month seems shorter and shorter, saying goodbye to a new favorite place seemingly having just arrived.

I’m used to this lifestyle by now – I think we all are. I’m productive, I’ve figured out ways to experience the places I’m living and adapt my schedule, I’ve shortened the time it takes for me to feel comfortable in my new digs. I’m trying to move past and cope with the denial phase we’re all in about this ending one day: I’m setting up monthly sessions called re:work for personal and professional growth and accountability within the group. The biggest thing I’ve got going for me is there are 60 other people in the same boat.

Arriving in Belgrade was easy. I live really close to the center and our workspace, the layout made me feel at home quickly, my apartment is sweet (except for our weirdo shower, which evidently you’re supposed to sit in). The city isn’t beautiful everywhere like Prague was; remnants of socialist times speckle the city with gray buildings. But, it does have a certain charm. The people are friendlier. The cafes are full of chain-smoking locals at all hours of the day and night. My landlord is also a restauranteur, quick to buy Arestia and I shots of rakija (the local drink of choice, similar to a brandy).

Here I am, in a country I never expected to visit, loving Belgrade! It’s probably the weirdest place on our itinerary, one that no one in our group has ever been to or expected to go to, and one we know very little about.

In the first week, I…

  • Check out some funky coffee shops nearby, like Blaznavac, where I worked out of on Friday.
  • Go to a farmer’s market, picking out amazing tomatoes, veggies, feta, etc. to feast on for the next few days.
  • Have dinner on Skardalija, a bohemian street and one of the oldest and most charming in Belgrade, complete with mariachi-style Serbian musicians.
  • Attend a locally organized barbecue, with all-you-can-eat meat. They love meat here.
  • Have coffee with a local, whom I was connected with by a co-worker, who tells me all the tips and refuses to let me pay. “You have to accept some Serbian hospitality.”
  • Do yoga in the park near my place, led by our resident yogi Shawn.
  • Successfully Escape the Room with my Remote team, solving puzzles to get out of Tesla’s genius mind with 12 minutes to spare.
  • Take a kayaking trip around Great War Island, which used to be a military rest-stop between Ottoman Belgrade and the Austro-Hungarian Empire on the other side, and is situated at the confluence of the Sava & Danube Rivers. (Side note: prior to coming here, I had never heard the word confluence. I use it ten times a day now.)

Four days later, I’m at home here and ready for a great Serbtember… And ready to leave for a week because Sean is visiting again!

We spend 24 hours in Belgrade, doing a walking tour around the city and learning about Belgrade’s amazing history between the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires and its part in the Yugoslav Wars (I’m still figuring this one out), seeing Novak Djokovic’s tennis academy, and doing an awesome food tour with GastroBalkan.

Then, it’s off to our fancy Russian sleeper night train to traipse through Eastern Europe. Up next: Budapest, Vienna and Prague.

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