For July, the new country of the month was Serbia. This is also the month that the EXIT Festival takes place, so we made sure to align our travel dates with the music festival. It was a super short weekend, but we definitely made the most of it!
On July 5, 2019, we flew out from Zurich airport. We had to take an early morning train to get to Zurich. It takes about 2.5-3 hours by train from Lausanne to Zurich, depending on which train(s) you take.
We got to Zurich airport a bit later than anticipated, and the airport’s a lot larger than what we’re used to in Geneva. For our flight to Serbia, online check-in wasn’t available, so we had to get our tickets in person at the counter. It took us a while to figure out where to go. By the time we found our counter, the line was super long. I was pretty sure we were going to miss our flight.
They made an announcement in German, and various people in the line began moving to the front. I had no clue what they said, so in a quick panic I asked some guys who looked like they were part of a group who had begun to move forward. They were kind and translated for me that all ticket holders going to Serbia should quickly move to the front since it’s approaching departure time. The guys told me to go and follow the girl in the yellow dress.
Fast forward, we ended up getting onto our flight in time. Woohoo!
Landing in Serbia, we exchanged some cash and began looking for a way to get to the festival. The options were to either take a public bus or to take a taxi. This is when I saw the girl in the yellow dress again. Her name is also Sarah! And actually, the guys at the airport were her cousins seeing her off (how nice of them, right?). After chatting, we decided to wait for her friend Ruby, who was flying in from Berlin, to share a taxi together to Novi Sad.
The car and driver had a strong cigarette smell. During the drive we passed miles and miles of sunflowers. The taxi driver swerved a lot, making me wonder if he was drunk. We had to make a stop to fill up on gas. It was hot in the car, so we drove with the windows down on the freeway. Eventually we found out that he had AC, but just didn’t want to turn it on for us. It was really nice chatting with Sarah and Ruby during our hour long taxi ride.
Somewhere towards the end of the ride, things got weird. Sarah was talking with the driver (not in English btw), and the driver was becoming aggressive. Turns out he was trying to cheat us and was making up lies about the orders coming from his boss. The mood in the car went from friendly chatter with the taxi driver to getting kicked out of the taxi. We didn’t make it all the way to our destination, but at least we were in the city.
Sarah felt bad for what happened. It’s not her fault. There are always sh*ty people who exist. She bought all of us sim cards after our taxi ride, thank you for that! Afterwards we exchanged information with hopes that we’d see each other again later that night at the festival.
Erick and I made our way to our hotel slow, trying to only walk wherever there was shade. It was so unbelievably hot!
The walk was probably about 30 minutes long, but it felt like it was at least an hour. After settling down in our room and having taken a long nap, we went out in search for food.
We ate at a restaurant that Erick picked, Knin. It seemed pretty local, as I didn’t see anyone else there but family and old men. We ordered a meat platter, Serbian salad, kajmak (kind of like cream cheese), and a shot of rakija (like a really strong fruit vodka). They also gave complementary bread which went well with the kajmak. The combination meat platter was good, but the other meat dishes that we saw on everyone else’s table looked amazing. We screwed up, haha.
We were stuffed by the end of our meal. On the way back to our place, we bought some water, alcohol, chasers, and snacks to keep in our hotel room. The water was a great idea.
It was going to be a long night, so we took a nap. This was another great idea.
By the time we woke up, it was already night time. We got ready to go out, downed some shots, and asked the hotel to call us a taxi. When we got downstairs, we saw that there were others also going to the EXIT Festival.
We ended up sharing a taxi ride over to the festival. This is where we met Tara and her grandpa. Tara was there to see one of her favorite artists. It’s so nice that her grandpa went to accompany her, I hope I can be that kind of grandma when I’m older! He also paid for our taxi ride, thank you TT-TT.
It’s always really nice to meet other people from around the world, it makes the world feel just a little smaller. Here’s a photo of me and Tara. This is also when I got about 5 or 6 mosquito bites (the only bites that I got the entire night, too).
Inside of the festival, the night was just getting started. I can’t remember exactly what time we arrived, but according to my photos and IG, it looks to be around 9PM.
The EXIT Festival takes place at the Petrovaradin Fortress, a massive hilltop fortress that overlooks the Danube River. There were so many different stages of all sizes at this festival, it was a lot of fun to explore and made for a great venue.
This area was really chill. At the bar, we met another guy from California (Bay Area!!). He’s living in Serbia now with his wife whose from there. It’s amazing how many people we meet from the US who seem to always be from the bay area, lol.
There were also lots of different booths. This one was for drinking and driving, I think. They gave us free breathalyzers and other goodies. We also got a shirt and glow-in-the-dark temporary tattoos from Calvin Klein.
On one stage, there was traditional native american music playing. It was so strange to be so far from the US but also feel so close.
Nearby, there were telescopes to look at the moon and various planets.
At another booth, there were volunteers helping braid and style your hair, or paint your face. Erick got pink glittery whiskers and I opted for green glitter around the outside of my eyes.
Throughout the night, we snacked and drank, snacked and drank. So much that we had to keep reloading our wristbands with cash (it was a cashless festival).
Not too far from one of the main stages, we saw these couple of guys passed out on the grass. They had so many cups of (mostly full) beer sitting around them, and even cash stuffed into their pants! People were taking tons of selfies with them.
By now, it was almost 12:30AM, and the festival was beginning to get really crowded.
Just when we thought that we’d seen mostly all of the stages, we discovered another one (not pictured). It was tucked away within one of the tunnels. You had to go through a small opening, down through a smaller tunnel, and then BOOM!!! You’re in this crazy room with all these lights, mirrors, dj, and people dancing. It was wild.
Not too far nearby the hidden dj room was the silent disco.
At another stage, I found some indie music — The K’s from the UK. I dig them.
The EXIT Festival offered music from every genre. It was a great place to get a sampling of everything (even super niche genres and stage setups), or to just stick to what you know.
There were a few main headlines Friday, like the Chainsmokers, but we decided instead to meet our new friends Sarah and Ruby at Paul Kalkbrenner. Follow the green balloon Sarah said.
Just when I thought all hope was lost (after having pushed my way from the left side of the stage, all the way to front and center, then across to the right side), I saw the balloon. This green balloon that I thought didn’t actually exist. There weren’t any other balloons, really.
We found them, and a new one too, Mustafa from Turkey! Oh, and a random bag of unopened chips, haha, yes please.
It was nice to see them again. I can’t believe it, but while we were there, the sun began to rise at 4:15AM! Before we knew it, it was already bright as day.
Time for us to go home, ahhh! We didn’t expect to have this much fun and stay out this late. Totally expected to just “check out” the festival for a few hours, and then be in bed by 1 or 2AM at latest.
So we said our goodbyes and slowly made our way back to our hotel. The walk out of the festival was long, but eventually we found a taxi. We didn’t really care how much it cost and knew that we were overpaying, but we just really wanted to be in bed.
When we arrived at our hotel around 6AM, the front desk asked us if we wanted to pay extra for late checkout. YES! After waiting for a long while, they told us, oh nevermind, sorry, looks like it isn’t available. Lol, those precious minutes of sleep wasted and hope (that we didn’t ask for) crushed.
Checkout was at 10AM, which meant that we probably slept about 3 hours. I woke up hangry, dehydrated, and a little hungover.
We packed our bags and headed out in search for some food. There was a tiny hole in the wall restaurant, Domino, that served this tripe stew. The flavor was amazing, including the tripe itself (and I don’t like tripe). After so much of it however, I did start feeling a bit nauseous from the smell of the tripe. I would totally love this dish if the tripe was replaced with beef and tendon, yum.
Finishing up our breakfast, we walked towards the Novi Sad central bus station. For some reason, all of the trains had been permanently closed down (pictured below).
At the bus station, we bought tickets to Belgrade and waited patiently for the bus departure. When it was our turn to board the bus, someone was sitting in our seat. The guy was wearing headphones, told us he didn’t speak English, and refused to move. He was really rude the way he spoke and his behavior towards us, so much so that Erick wanted to throw his duffle bag off of the seat.
We got the bus manager to help move him. The manager asked for his ticket, looked at the seat number and made him sit in his assigned seat. Justice served. Too bad the guy had already made my seat super sweaty, gross.
Upon arriving in Belgrade, we walked towards our hotel. It was a really nice hotel actually, right near a ton of stores and restaurants.
Erick got a cup of ice cream along the way, the smallest scoop ever given to us by the most unenthusiastic worker. We thought that was strange, but it turns out, all the ice cream carts that we went to served ice cream the same way, haha.
For lunch, we ate at Zavičaj. I would recommend this place for delicious traditional Serbian cuisine. Just be careful, because you’ll want to eat everything!
We spent some time walking around the mall and shopping areas. Later we checked out Skadarlija, a nice street with lots of fancy looking restaurants, live music, and bars.
That pretty much sums up our Saturday night in Serbia. We grabbed a drink and went back to relax the rest of the night at our hotel.
The next morning on Sunday, we went to Kalemegdan Park.
It’s a fairly large park, which included all these dinosaurs.
As well as the Belgrade Fortress. Nearby, the park overlooked both the Sava and Danube rivers. Here you can see the intersection between the two rivers.
Belgrade is a beautiful city, and I love how the rivers run through it with the blue skies.
Having spent much of the morning strolling around the park and catching views, we walked towards Beton Hala, near Karadjordjeva street by the port.
It was pretty quiet for a Sunday afternoon, but we enjoyed another stroll around the area. I imagine at night time, there’s a lot going on. It looked like the place to be at night time, whether it’s for drinks, dinner, a show, or partying.
For some reason, the place that we went to, doesn’t match the name of the place that’s listed on Google. On Google, it says Communale.
At the restaurant, we sat outside and split a bottle of white wine, sparkling water, and dessert. There were mosquitos while we were sitting outside in the afternoon. The waitress was kind enough to give us mosquito repellent to use.
We didn’t do very much the rest of the day. You can call it a truly lazy Sunday. I think I was still recovering from having stayed up all Friday night, haha.
Back at the hotel, we relaxed in bed, tired from having done pretty much nothing all day except for walking around. This is during the time when I had gotten back into Pokemon Go. It was a short lived second run at the game, but I did spend a good amount of time the rest of the day catching new pokemon.
Later on at night, we ended up going out for dinner. We actually didn’t expect to leave the hotel again for the day, but our stomachs told us to. For dinner, we had mexican food at La Taqueria. This is by far the best mexican food I have ever had in Europe, even till this day — and I’ve been eating mexican in every country that I visit.
I might just have to go back to Belgrade just to eat this food again. But, maybe that’s crazy, because Serbian food is good, too.
When we finished dinner, we tried to pay with card, but the card reader was down. Erick had to quickly go out and look for a place to exchange cash. That’s always an awkward situation when you’re in a restaurant and unable to pay. Sometimes I feel like I’m being held hostage if I’m the one that has to sit behind and wait.
Luckily Erick came back with the cash and we were good to go. This is around the same time that the rain started pouring down. We hopped from cover to cover until we eventually made it back to our hotel. Nothing like getting caught in the rain unexpectedly!
Monday morning, we flew out from Serbia. We simply called a taxi and went straight to the airport. I had requested the day off from work, which turned out to be a good idea since we had a friend flying into the same airport as us in Zurich, Switzerland.
We met up at the airport and took the same train ride back to Lausanne. I’ll have the same the details of the rest of that shenanigan for later.
Happy 2020, see you in the next decade, in my next blog post.