Week 7: July 10-16
Thursday, July 10
I woke up very early Thursday morning. I was excited for my trip to Serbia and the adrenaline helped me get out of bed. I had packed the night before so I didn’t have to worry about forgetting anything. I threw my brush in the bag, ate the rest of my cheerios and grabbed the garbage from my room to dispose of on my way out. I thought I had made a stealthy escape but as I left the building, I heard Paras call my name. He was standing on the balcony and wanted to make sure I had left my keys. We have two sets of keys to the apartment for three people, so while I was gone I was letting him use my set. The sun was just starting to rise and the quiet was broken only by the squawks of the crow-like birds. The songbirds rose with the sun and chirped relentlessly, announcing to all that were awake that it was morning.
I arrived at the bus station a few minutes after 6am. There were a few other passengers mulling around the station, sitting in the caffe and reading newspapers. The bus pulled up to the station at 6:10, half an hour before it was scheduled to leave. After seeing a woman with pink hair board the bus, I approached it and handed my backpack to the man standing in the doorway. “One bag, one mark,” he said and tagged my bag, placing it in the compartment under the bus. I found a seat near the front and settled in as a few more passengers slowly joined us. A man with dreadlocks boarded the bus and greeted the woman with pink hair. They must have known each other and were both going to the Exit Festival. An American wearing a Washington Redskins jersey got on the bus and sat a few rows behind me. By the time we pulled out of the station we had less than ten riders on the bus.
The clouds were blocking the sun and it was quite cold on the bus. There were twenty stops in between Sarajevo and Novi Sad. After driving for about an hour, we ascended into the surrounding mountains. These narrow, winding streets did not intimidate the driver and he only sped up, expertly navigating around hairpin turns. I was too pumped up on adrenaline to sleep and the countryside was beautiful. Small farms dotted the hills and sheep grazed lazily on the grass. There were a few logging companies situated out in the wilderness and they had their sawmills along the road. The trip was scheduled to arrive in Novi Sad at 14:55, for a total travel time of
8 hours and 15 minutes.
At some of the stations we would had 10-15 minutes to stretch our legs, use the WC, and smoke. We stopped at one restaurant up in the mountains that had a fountain from a natural spring.
I ate my grapefruit while we took a short break here, then we all got back on the bus and continued on our way. We made it to the border at around 11am. First we stopped at the BiH checkpoint and I got my passport stamped signifying my departure from Bosnia. Then we crossed the Drina River and stopped at the entrance checkpoint to Serbia.
My passport was faintly stamped again. The woman with the pink hair and the man with the dreadlocks were chosen to be searched more thoroughly. They had to bring their luggage from underneath the bus into the station to be checked. This took about ten minutes each and once they were cleared we were moving again. The bus driver and the ticket collector switched places. Directly across the border was mostly agriculture with small, single-family farms growing corn. As we drove along the river, I could see how high the water had gotten during the floods because there was trash hanging from trees and water damaged buildings along the banks. Now that we were out of the mountains, passing was allowed on the small highways. I never would have expected a bus to pass so many trucks and cars but I was surprised by the acceleration capabilities of the bus. When we stopped in Ruma, our second to last stop, it began to storm. It rained hard and fast but the bus driver never slowed down. We powered through deep puddles, spraying water high into the air.
Luckily the storm had passed by the time we pulled into the Novi Sad bus station. image source
Similar to the other bus stations in the region, the bus station was next to the train station. They dropped us off at the train station and handed out the luggage. I went into the train station and exchanged 100 marks for about 6000 dinars. I grabbed my jacket and the map I had printed out, and headed off in the direction of the fortress. I had decided that it would be easiest to first visit the fortress to collect my wristband, and from there get directions to the camp. There were signs directing traffic to the fortress and once I got to the bridge that crossed the Danube River, the sidewalks were filling up with festival goers.
After crossing the bridge, there were Exit Festival signs with directions to the entrance and ticket areas. I traded my E-ticket for a red, plastic wristband signifying that I would have access for the entire weekend. Single-day tickets did not need wristbands. Blue, cloth writbands were provided to partiers that had bought the Exit Adventure package which included a ticket to the Sea Dance Festival, a beach festival in Montenegro which continued for the rest of the week. On my way from the fortress to the camp, I missed a turn and ended up walking along the river until I found a beach bar/club where I was able to ask for directions. They sent me off in the correct direction and after passing through the University campus, I arrived at the camp ground that had been set up on the lawn in front of the SPENS Sports Center. To my dismay, there was a huge, blob shaped line for the camp registration. Charter buses pulled up and added more weary travelers to the ever-growing mass of tired and hungry people. Surprisingly, people were drinking alcohol in line. I had assumed that they would at least wait until they had set up their tents to drink, but they wanted to get the party started. A Serbian local was making his way through the crowd selling bottles of rakija, “the national drink of Serbia” (and the rest of the Balkans).
Finally, at around 8pm, I had made it to the front of the line. They photocopied my passport and then I was directed to the desk. I exchanged the photocopy, my E-ticket, and a form with my expected departure date and emergency contact information for a green wristband. Once inside the camp, I tried to buy a small tent. I was told I had to first acquire an Exit money card before I could make any purchases. The card was used for merchandise and drinks, but cash was needed for food. I found the money tent and got my card. There was a 100din deposit that would be returned, along with a refund for any money left on the card, when I left, as long as I kept the original receipt. After buying the small “two-person” tent for 3500din ($40), I proceeded to wander around the grounds looking for an open spot to claim as my own.
There were two sides to the camp. The side with the showers, food, and ATM was full, so I crossed over to the more residential side. I found a spot at the far end of the site, near the bathrooms and the back entrance. On one side were two small single-person tents, and on the other side I was next to some roots. The tiny 4'x6’ tent fit snugly, and it was a plus to not have neighbors on the one side. Here is my blue tent with bright yellow accents.
The instructions provided with the tent were in multiple languages, but unfortunately only languages found in the Balkans. Thankfully the tent was a breeze to put up. It had two crossing support beams and the smallest rain cover that went over the one vent at the top. Once I was all settled in, I made my way to the shower area to fill all of my water bottles.
On the left are all of the showers, and on the right are the faucets. image source
If I had known that Hornsman Coyote would be playing at 8pm on Thursday, I would have gone to the festival earlier, but without a schedule, I decided to take a nap before heading out because I was exhausted from my long day. I left the camp at about midnight and walked back towards the bridge. Fireworks were being launched above the fortress and I wished I had left earlier in order to see them. I came across a group of young Serbians who were selling rakija in test tubes. They were only 19 but did not have tickets to the festival and were just selling the rakija to make some money. They explained the high unemployment rates in Serbia to me, which were similar to the issues in Bosnia. They were walking with a man from Belgrade who was also going to the festival alone, but just for one night. The walkway along the river was full of young people drinking and hanging out. Not all had tickets for the festival, but the street was almost a party on its own. Bottles and cans littered the walkway and there were more locals selling rakija. image source
The bridge had lights on it and they changed colors. Here we left the young Serbians and I continued with the man from Belgrade over the bridge and to the Festival. The bridge was lined with more venders selling hladno pivo (cold beer), plastic ponchos, and all kinds of glowstick accessories. Once we were across the bridge, the street was closed to all traffic except buses and it was full of people. image source
The man I was with stopped to buy a single-day ticket and Exit money card and then we headed into the festival. First they had a gate with a large dumpster for everyone to dispose of their bottles. Further up the path, the workers scanned the barcodes on the tickets and writsbands. There was no in and out access in order to deter any ticket-sharing; once I was in, I would have to stay until I was done. Another 20 yards up the hill was the security area. They checked bags and jackets for contraband which included any food, water, and, of course, drugs.
We entered through the main entrance and just inside the fortress walls there was a booth handing out schedules and maps. image source
In all, there were 13 different stages. The thick stone walls of the fortress insulated the stages from each other very well. The first stage we encountered was the Main Stage and we arrived in the middle of the Pet Shop Boys concert. The music was good and everyone was singing along and dancing. They had two dancers that would change outfits every song. They had silver suits, black suits with stiff arms that reached the ground, red body-suits with large brain hats, the list goes on and on. image source
At one point, the man from Belgrade saw some people he knew, and I wanted to move closer to the stage so we split up. After the encore performance I headed to the next stage, ready to boogie down to some bumpin’ grooves. I arrived at the Radio AS FM Stage and found some space near the front to dance. image source
Soon after I began dancing, I was approached by a young Serbian woman who invited me to join her group. They were all 26-27 years old and were very welcoming. They were from another town but had come to Novi Sad for the festival. I danced with them for a while and then we decided to move to the next stage. We went to the Gaia eXperiment Trance Stage which was small enough for them to meet one of their friends. image source
After meeting their friend, we went back to the AS FM stage for the rest of the night. We left the Festival at 5am. It had started to rain and two of the group members invited me to sleep on their couch so that I would not have to camp in the rain. They were staying at the apartment of one of their brothers and it was close to the festival. The guy told me about how his father was a fishing permit officer on the Danube River but he rarely ticketed anyone because the unlicensed fishers needed to fish in order to have something to eat. We stayed up and talked and went to bed around 7am, they shared the pull-out couch while I slept on the other couch.
Friday, July 11
In the morning (2pm), we drank coffee while watching Adventure Time on Cartoon Network, a favorite show that we had in common. image source
They gave me their phone number and we made plans to meet later with the rest of the group. After we grabbed a quick meal from the pekara down the street, I headed back to the camp around 4 to change and relax. It started to rain pretty hard in the evening, but the lowered temperatures enabled me to nap. They had written the meeting place on a post-it note for me and by asking enough locals, I was eventually directed to the Novi Sad Fair. image source
From there I borrowed a phone to call them and a few minutes later he came down to meet me and take me to the friend’s apartment. After a 4 floor ride in the smallest elevator I have ever been in, we rejoined the group. There were about 10 people sitting around in the living room. The resident, Nikola, was playing music through a set of small speakers. Two of the girls had made snacks: small croissant shaped pastries with salama and cheese rolled inside. I sat next to a man who had traveled to Iran, so he could relate to my experience of being in a country where I didn’t really speak the language. They shared everything with me, including their Vinjak, which is a Serbian brandy. image source
After a while we headed out to the bus stop. A few of the members of the group stayed behind because they only had Saturday night tickets. It had stopped raining but the bus was packed. We were lucky enough to squeeze in the back. We got off at the stop right before the bridge where there were promo girls handing out free bottles of Burn, an energy drink made by Coca Cola. image source
Small newsstands were selling tiny, 50ml bottles of alcohol and they were very popular because they were the perfect size for smuggling into the festival. We joined the flow of people crossing the bridge. When we came across a vendor selling rain ponchos, Nikola bought two and gave one to me. When we made it to the entrance, we threw out all of the leftover Burn and headed through. First we went to the Main Stage to see Rudimental. image source
We spent the rest of the night hopping from stage to stage, dancing and having fun. We stopped by the Fusion Stage to see Asian Dub Foundation. image source
We ended the night at the Main Stage with My Nu Leng. image source
I headed back to the camp and fell asleep as soon as I laid down in my tent.
Saturday, July 12
I awoke to the sound of a very loud motor. It sounded like someone was riding a motorcycle right outside of my tent! I could only assume that they were emptying the port-o-potties at 8 o'clock in the morning, but I had no windows. When the motor shut off, a woman with a thick Serbian accent yelled, “Thank you! It sucks to sleep with that noise!” and everyone in the camp started cheering and clapping. Why they scheduled the cleaning at 8am for a camp catering to festival goers escapes me. Now that everyone was awake, the camp was full of tired, hungover people, milling about in the bright sun. Once the morning had warmed up, it was too hot to sleep in the tents. It felt like a sauna because the heat from the sun penetrated the tents but the breeze could not. Most of the campers were not done sleeping and simply moved their bedding to the shade. image source
I decided to take a quick walk around town to see what Novi Sad was all about. My original plan was to find a place to grab brunch, so I did not bring my camera. I ended up stumbling into the center of the city. This blog that is linked here has many pictures from the center of town and descriptions for each. The most prominent building was the Crkva imena Marijinog, the Roman Catholic Parish Church of St Mary’s Name. It had a beautiful, multi-colored roof. The door was open and when I went inside I was amazed by the full height of the ceilings and the intricate stained glass. image source
When I returned to the camp, more people were up. There was a pool in the sports center that had music playing and many people from the camp were sunbathing by the pool. There were puddles inside my tent where the rain had leaked in and I used a plastic spoon to scoop the water (and mud from my boots) into an empty can of corn before dumping it outside of my tent. This hack was quite effective and once the puddles were gone, the heat evaporated the damp spots. I put my bedding out in the sun the dry off and I spent the rest of the day relaxing the shade. Once it was cool enough, I took a nap before heading over to the festival around 9pm. I was planning on seeing Afrojack that night, but he would not be playing until 1:45am. I decided to check out the other stages. My first stop was the Silent Disco Stage. image source
This stage was nestled in between the Latin Stage and the Metal Stage. I showed up at the perfect time before the line got long. I went down the stairs and was handed a set of headphones. There were 2 channel options and volume control. It was very interesting to see people dancing to different beats. This stage turned out to be my favorite part of the festival, I stayed and danced for a long time. I eventually made my way to the Dance Arena Stage, stopping at the Reggae stage and the Green Village on my way. The Green Village was an area with bean bags and lights for people to relax in. They sold cigarettes and had a few stations around the festival as well as one station at the camp. When I made it to the Dance Arena Stage, they were still finishing the previous set. They had two women dressed as robots dancing and a woman performing aerial silk acrobatics. This picture is from the 2009 Exit festival, but it is the same stage. image source
When it was finally time for Afrojack vs Quintino, the crowd was packed tightly, and more people continued to push their way in. image source
I started down in the ground level part of the audience, but it was too full, so I moved up behind the sound tent and there was a lot of empty space. I was exhausted from my lack of sleep the night before and after dancing for an hour or so I sat down and accidentally fell asleep! I woke up as the show was ending around 3:45 and took advantage of the migrating crowd to slip out and go back to the camp.
Sunday, July 13
I had originally planned to skip Sunday night and return to Sarajevo in time for work on Monday, but seeing that Pretty Lights and Adventure Club were scheduled, I decided to stay and sent Amer an email from a cafe with wifi. I was rudely awoken again by the motor at 8am and it was already heating up. I took another walk, and this time visited the old part of the town next to the fortress. I walked along the Danube River and stopped at a memorial statue. Around the statue was a list of names. The description was in Serbian, but after asking my co-workers when I returned, I had enough information to research it online.
“The statue was built in 1971 and it stands for the mass shooting of Serbs, Jews and Gypsies by Hungarian fascists in 1942.”
Along the river they had large barges moored to the bank with caffes, and there was even a floating Citroen dealership.
The Danube River is much bigger than the Miljacka that flows by my apartment. “You can see in the Danube river two pillars of the Franc Josef bridge that was built in 1883. It was destroyed in April 11, 1941 by the military of the former Kingdom of Yugoslavia to prevent Germans from entering the city.”
During the day, this quiet street is relatively empty, but at night it is full of partiers walking to the festival. I was amused by the weeds growing out of the gutters on this old building.
Everything on this side of the river was very old.
To get to the main entrance to the festival, all of the participants had to pass through this gate.
There were volunteers picking up trash and people sleeping in the shade. I honestly think these people never made it home and spent the morning on the grass. The sun was blazing hot and I took a break in the shade outside of the fortress entrance.
After my short break, I headed back towards the bridge. I passed some marine-themed street art.
Here I am next to the Danube River.
When I got back to the camp around noon, I was starving! I stopped at the ATM then waited in line at one of the food stalls. I ordered an Index Sendvic, which is a local specialty in Novi Sad. image source
According to my Lonely Planet guidebook, the Index sandwich was created in the 1990s and named after a local football team. It was delicious and consisted of mushrooms melted into cheese inside of thick slices of ham on a long sub with any choice of toppings. I took my sandwich across the street to a grassy area with trees. I settled under a small tree and ate in the shade. After eating, I copied the rest of the people on the lawn and took a nap in the grass. I must have laid down on some little critter because when I woke up I had two small bug bites on the back of my hand. After waking up from my nap, I stopped by the small grocery store next to the camp. I bought an iced tea and headed to the park next to the river. I found another good nap spot and fell asleep in the shade. Around 4 I headed back to the camp and sat in the shade in the Green Village, enjoying the music and staying out of the sun. After a few hours, a big dark cloud came rolling in and the pressure dropped. I stopped at the gyro stall for dinner. image source
I ordered a chicken gyro and was pleasantly surprised when they put french fries inside of it. This reminded me of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where it is not uncommon to find fries in sandwiches and salads. I made it back to my tent just in time before it started raining. The weather had changed so quickly, but at least it was cool enough to be inside the tent. I headed back over to the festival around 9pm; I was aiming to arrive right when the Silent Disco opened so that I wouldn’t have to wait in a long line.
After a satisfactory dance at the Silent Disco, I stopped by the main stage to see a band called Suede around midnight. I wasn’t in the mood for their style of music and after a few songs I headed over to the Urban Bug stage to see what exactly an urban bug was. image source
The pumpin’ beats made me feel energized and I danced until it was time to head back to the Main Stage to see Pretty Lights around 2am. image source
I had seen Pretty Lights for the first time last summer at Outside Lands and his light show never disappointed. The music was good and the entire audience was dancing. When his set was over, I walked around the festival, looking to see if there was a stage that I wanted to check out. I bought a slice of pizza and settled down in the Green Village to take a break before the final show I wanted to see: Adventure Club at 5:15am.
My friend and I had gone to a small Adventure Club show in Pittsburgh last fall and I remember enjoying it. When I found a spot to watch the show from, I was pleasantly surprised to be right behind one of the Serbians that I had hung out with a few days prior. The sky was getting lighter as the morning progressed. By the time they were done, I was practically asleep on my feet, I made it back to the camp and wiggled into my tent.
Monday, July 14
My original plan had been to leave immediately and slowly walk to the bus station, but I made the mistake of laying down and woke up at 9:30 Monday morning. I had missed my 8:30am bus! I quickly took down my tent and returned my Exit money card. I was glad to have the extra cash on hand because I ended up needing it at the station. I struck out towards the bus station, it was a straight shot down a big street. When I arrived, I went first to the information desk. I was relieved to learn that the next bus to Sarajevo would be leaving at 12:15. I settled in for the short wait, repacked my tent and tried to scrape some of the mud off of my shoes.
With all of the rain, the fortress had turned into a mud pit! Luckily, I wore my boots so my feet stayed dry. Next to the bus station were small vendors selling magazines, sandwiches, and drinks. image source
I grabbed a ham and cheese sendvic and an iced tea. I then headed into the station to have my return ticket validated. It cost 120 dinars, about $1, to get the bar-coded receipt that I needed to enter the boarding area. When the bus pulled up at noon, I had my bag tagged and stowed and I got a seat in the back. I fell asleep as soon as we started moving. I must have been exhausted because I was awoken by my British seat-mate shaking my shoulder. The ticket collector was making the rounds. I gave her my ticket and paid 60din for the checked bag. Then I fell back asleep. I slept for most of the ride home, waking up only to eat my sandwich. The sandwich was really tasty with fresh bread, a generous heaping of shredded cheese, and slices of hard boiled eggs.
We arrived back in Sarajevo around 8:30pm. I hopped off the bus and headed straight for the trolley station down the street. Because it was the end of the line, there was plenty of room for me and my bag when the empty trolley pulled up. The stop closest to my apartment is in the middle of the street that is being repaved. As I was walking the few blocks home, I saw a gypsy woman and her daughter sneaking off with one of the metal pipes from the construction site! They leave the construction areas open to the public in order to save money on fencing and surveillance, but they run the risk of their supplies walking off during the night. The doors were unlocked when I got back to the apartment and my roommates were chilling in their room. I took a shower, unpacked, and checked my emails. Even after sleeping the majority of the day, I had still not caught up and slept soundly all night.
Tuesday, July 15
I walked back into the office Tuesday morning to find my desk covered in large P&ID printouts. My co-workers asked about my weekend and welcomed me back to work. For lunch, I ordered a doner from Fenix and it was filling. While we were eating, Drina gave me suggestions of places to visit while I am in Mostar. In the afternoon, I asked Zoran if I could have Thursday and Friday off again to go down to Mostar for the Blues Festival. image source
I had to choose between this festival in Mostar and the Demofest in Banja Luka this weekend, but my love for blues and the lack of English information about the Demofest ultimately swayed my decision. After work I headed down to the Baščaršija to buy my festival ticket, but the hostel that was listed as the Stari Grad ticket vendor was locked. I went home empty handed, did a load of laundry, and had a few skype calls, reassuring my mother and friends that I had survived camping alone at the festival in Serbia. I bought my festival ticket online for 40km ($27) and made a packing list. I had to wait for my clothes to dry before I could pack them.
Wednesday, July 16
I woke up early Wednesday morning and packed my damp clothes, some snacks, and my camera into my small daypack. When I left to go to work, I gave my keys to my roommate so that he could have a set for the weekend. At work I was able to print my ticket, look up bus times, and find a hostel. In my Lonely Planet guidebook, there was a section on accommodation. I saw a hip looking hostel in a converted bar that was presumably run by “music-lovers”. It took me a while to find this hostel online because they had since changed their name and closed the website that was listed. I eventually found the new name and some extremely positive reviews on TripAdvisor. I booked a standard dorm room with a shared bathroom for 4 nights. For lunch we went to the small restaurant in the mostly abandoned area behind our office. I ordered the cevapi again, they were good, but not as good as the ones from the Stari Grad.
The beginning of the trip to Mostar will be part of next weeks post.