How strange to be back in Novi Sad. It’s always strange to return somewhere on this journey, as though the time in-between is wiped out, a dream. Did I really go to Belgrade? Where is Sam?
I arrive at Aleksa’s house around 4pm, sunburnt and exhausted from a stressful journey. The journey itself is a whole other story, involving two kittens. I won’t go into it now, but I am writing the story for publication elsewhere, so maybe I’ll put a link in here later.
I’m greeted by Aleksa’s father, who tells me Aleksa is out for the night, but that I am to make myself at home. I’m looking forward to seeing Aleksa again, but also grateful for some alone time.
The following morning he arrives home and we have a big catch-up chat. We don’t get to hang out as much as last time, but I’m happy to be with a friend and we still get in lots of interesting conversations. It’s impossible not to with Aleksa.
Having already been to Novi Sad I feel less pressure about getting out and seeing things, which means I have time to properly recover from my recent traveling adventures. One thing I do want to do though, is go back to CK13. I see they are showing a film Thursday night: Mozart and the Whale.
I sit at the back and begin speaking with the man next to me, who’s from Montenegro. He’s telling me how much he liked England when he visited Dorset, but then suddenly comes out with loads of extremely racist comments about how we have “a big problem with the Pakis and the Blacks though”. I can’t believe it and can only stare at him, open mouthed. So he starts trying to reassure me, emphasizing that he means “FOREIGNERS, you know, THE BLACKS. Not the British people, they’re lovely.” “You’re really racsist” is all I can think to say, agape. To back up his theory, he goes on to tell me about an English man he met in montenegro who agreed with him and reliably informed him that black people go around in gangs beating people with bottles. I tell him I’m not going to listen to his bullshit anymore. I get up and take my bag over to the bar where I order another cup of tea and tell the guy working there that the man next to me is full of racist bullshit. He tells me he will find me a seat somewhere else. “Well yes, I can do that myself, but don’t you have a safer spaces policy here?” He’s never heard of such a thing, of course. But when I try to explain he just mutters something about freedom of speech. “Freedom of speech? But doesn’t Antifa meet here? What do they think about freedom of speech?” “Yes, this is the Antifa place.” Blimey! Sometimes I miss England, especially The Cowley Club. It’s not like we’d be chasing him out of the door with sticks, but for sure he would have been asked to leave, or at least people would collectively challenge his racism.
On Friday I go to meet up with another Couchsurfer. Mattieu is another nomadic-type from France who’s also bimbling around Eastern Europe. He’s delayed leaving for a day so we can meet up and will hitch to Croatia tomorrow. For once wish I didn’t have my bike with me so we could travel together. I even think about leaving her with Aleksa, but the thought of hitching with my panniers is a bit much. Next time. Mattieu and I swap travel tales and addresses of places we might like to visit. I take him to the vegan cafe and he dumpsters a bag of onions. So it is possible to dumpster dive in Serbia – he has been doing it regularly with some degree of success it seems.
The night before leaving I cook dinner for Aleksa and his dad, who it appears don’t eat so well since Aleksa’s mother moved out. I make them a good hearty English meal of veggie bangers and mash with onion gravy, which they have heard of from the song Gravy Train, but never eaten before. Aleksa says he learned all his English from music, which seems crazy since his English is almost perfect.
He rides out with me some of the way on the day I leave. It’s a sad goodbye, but I’m sure we’ll meet again someday.