The Balkans and Slovakia Trip
Published October 1, 2023
I lay in the bathtub in the Premier Inn, a disgraceful £4, ten minute bus ride away from Stansted Airport.
Soaking your body in the bath before a brutal trip is a real pleasure. At this point I had my perfect version of the trip planned. But some things you could call 'doubts' were knocking around my head. They would keep knocking around my head until I sat overlooking Belgrade from the fortress in the setting sun, there I decided definitively, 'I will complete the perfect version of this trip.'
It turns out I did. Seven new countries in 15 days. A 19 day trip overall. Balkans done, Slovakia done.
I stared in the mirror. And took photos that could be used in a documentary some day.
Sinister music. Voiceover. Lighting. Testimony. I looked like I was about to smash the mirror and eat the shattered pieces.
I was annoyed that my one shirt for the trip had a faint white stain on it.
A part of me didn't want to be on this trip, a part of me wanted to head back to my laptop, my desk chair, my bathtub. But here I was, and I had my mission, my Special Mission. I had to go and get more countries. Countries are my main supply right now and it was time to add more to the list!
I finished off some blueberry pancakes I bought the day before, packed up all my luggage into the pockets of my new jacket, and headed out the door.
I originally wrote a long post for this trip while I was travelling. After a long bus ride or day out in the city I would open the notepad app on my phone and get writing, detailing the story within each country. I love the post that I wrote, but it just doesn't feel right as a blog post. It doesn't feel like the blog post for this trip. So I'm going to keep that version to myself for now. I think this shorter, smash of words and lines for each nation is a better public facing representation of this trip. It's what I want this trip's blog post to be.
a happy wander, paper-thin duvet, hard bed, exposed stone walls, cross-eyed gypsy man, SPAR food, a helpful croat officer, arse, a ruined icon, bubblewrapped behind silly steel, dirt market, scaffolded cathedral, dancing, shadowboxing, a green bus
dip nose cheap ugly blonde inferior border skank, three disabled border police, cheap knock-off parts of a cheap knock-off state, they're on the list, belgrade streets, nice ladies with nice arses, vitamins in the trash, friendly snorting bulldog, love hotel hostel circle bed, a burning sun, dead atms, fried chicken, black man, soviet skylines, american rip-off psycho, a flying russian, the atr 72 again this time more steady more smooth
Bosnia and Herzegovina
beauty, airport trees, mountains, helpful little bus driver, qiuet, peaceful, a joyous mountain town, siege city long-gone, Princip, Ferdinand, the yellow fortress, crystal vision, old flying purple gypsy muslim woman with the cigarette and the crocked little finger, the hotel saraj on the hill with that cave in the window, the redhead receptionist with the slutty eyes, bombadier a quick sharp fuck
'airport train station', shabby concrete hut with a toddler-drawn crayon 'aerodrom', queer taxi driver with the flappy hands bullying the russian couple, taxi driver trying and failing with me, a spotter on a bicycle, tightening belt, transferring my pen to attack the carotid, a punch from a taxi driver a harder punch back, a boiled potato dead man smoking a cigarette, a broken country, a lost country, a disgraceful uncaring country, a stone tower, a stone bridge, a new bridge they'd build in a place like birmingham, happy to leave
the ease, swings around the mountain bends, a dopey old man with no change, a dirty homeless man with a lotta hair stuck to a pole, sewage river with a pleasant aesthetic, soviet square, music and broken noses , a pyramid and a lost girl in red, traffic lights and arse cheeks
the ease, rough roads, windowless houses, statue bridges, a dull young man with glasses, salty kebabs and salty chips, perfect position, arse and tits and tits and arse, blue tinted windows, fun stuff, happy birthday to me, the hot young pharmacy woman, 50 tablets, the mall, the annoyance of waiting for fried chicken, a spriteless sprite, a look a determination, a fortress, a walk, their vulnerability
a solid red bus, a walk in the dark, quiet, drunken piss fool, there is no danger here I AM THE DANGER, peacehappyjoy, venus, the skyline, the flashing red lights, the sparkling water and that familiar croissant, big soft pillows and a suicidal balcony, a castle slapped up white, hiden behind the concrete, swastika under boot, dead russian soldiers in these mass graves, noisy children colliding on rollerblades, amusing pain, a shrieking teenage tourist breaks her phone, amusing pain, a soft rain
I left the McDonald's and headed back towards the Presidential Palace, beyond that was the train station and from there only a short bus ride to the airport. The skies threatened to open up, but they held long enough for the airport bus to pull up.
I boarded the bus and decided not to pay, I sat on the seat and looked at my shorts, not washed once for the whole trip. I looked at my blue shirt pierced with holes. I could feel the itch of the mosquito bites I had all over. My face a blended brown and pink. I didn't even feel tired. I love this. You don't get tired in love.
At the airport I took my time testing the furniture, I moved from one set of seats to another. Sometime before midnight I ate a large submarine sandwhich, stuffed full of fried chicken strips and spicy sauce, I drank a bottle of Fanta and jumped through the rectangle of my phone and into The Internet. A few hours in, a homeless man laid down next to me for his sleep, I decided not to hate him.
Past security I listened to the latest episode of BRAD NICHOLLS Podcast. When the episode was done I took the earbuds out of my ears, placed them back in the charging case and walked to passport control. The non-schengen terminal was chilly but the women were prettier. Rectangle, The Internet.
I flew out in the early morning light and landed back in England ahead of schedule.
Travel is the secret.
It's time travel.
I squeeze and bend and stretch time.
All in all this trip, it was 19 days from when I left my desk. 18 days outside England, seven countries within a 15 day period. It felt far longer.
FORTY SEVEN countries done! ONE HUNDRED FIFTY to go!