The Balkan Kettle

The Balkan Kettle

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We tried three times to get there. And finally after two great months spent in Norway we decided that we needed a change. So we went from a well organized, highly developed country, but also a country of really kind and helpful people to a totally different part of Europe. Balkans showed us that we can find kindness everywhere and we can fall in love in the least predictable places.

It all started as always in a huge truck with a Turkish driver, grapes from Izmir, cookies from Tesco and Mediterranean climate – and I got sick. Classic. After a night in a tent Wiola got sick too. But it didn’t stop us from enjoying our time in Budapest. We’ll always try to go back to this city, no matter where we’re going. We could really feel there that the proverb “Pole and Hungarian, two good friends” is true.


We got cold, but it was a great excuse to stay in our favourite hostel in Budapest a day longer. The first time we visited David Hasselhostel a year ago we had a great time in this place full of David Hasselhoff’s pictures and souvenirs. This time we tried to learn how to use our new gadget, little Gopro. We met my friend from high-school who was on Erasmus there and enjoyed nice weather sitting in a park. We left Budapest feeling better and we were ready to go to Romania.

We got excited to be so close to the border and we were reminding ourselves of all the best Romanian drivers who rescued us so many times. Fortunately, this time after a few minutes a car stopped by. We looked at a the license plate – Romania! A second later we were sitting in the car driving straight to Timisoara. Unfortunately nobody spoke English, so conversation was pretty poor, just few sentences and an awkward silence had filled the car.

The first surprise was the border control between Hungary and Romania. Even if they joined the EU they still can’t be a part of Schengen zone because of the opposition of some member states.

We always thought that Poland is flat and we heard this many times from our drivers, but you should see the northern parts of Romania. It’s sooo flat. We crossed the Hungarian-Romanian border and time has moved, literally, we’ve totally forgot that we’re changing time zone. Fortunately, our CS host wasn’t mad at us for being late, he just had good reason to laugh.

When we got to Timisoara our driver asked us :

– Where should I drop you off?

– Anywhere is fine!

– I can drive you close to the city center.

– That would be great.

We got out of the car and we took our backpacks.

– Ok, so thank you again and bye bye!

– You need to pay.

– But… we were hitch-hiking?

– You need to pay. (he was getting mad)

– We don’t have money. (we really didn’t have any cash).

Then he just told some nice words in Romanian, bang a door and just drove. We were quite embarrassed, because it was the first time when someone expected us to pay. We heard that there are countries where hitchhiking is a kind of transportation, but we didn’t expect this. From our past experience we loved Romanian drivers, who saved us many times in the middle of nowhere either in Italy or Germany.

Probably because of our late arrival and unpleasant conversation with the first Romanian driver we felt strange in Timisoara. Even if it was the first European city with street lights, nowadays it’s dark and almost the entire city is under construction. We had some problems with meeting our host, but when we finally found each other it was obvious that he’s great guy and we spent a few hours talking about Romania while drinking local beer. We decided to come back there when the renovation is over to see its common beauty. The way to the Serbian border was quite an interesting experience in this, let’s say, oldschool train. You can see in the picture. To the final point we were taken by the border guard, it was late but our Serbian adventure was about to begin. 2b

Just when we arrived in Serbia we had already known it’s great country for hitch-hikers. The first truck driver that picked us up was convinced that we’d manage to get to Belgrade that night, so we were optimistic. Serbian folk songs put us in an even better mood and as soon as we left the truck we wanted to continue hitch-hiking. We didn’t reach the nice spot, because we were stopped by a man. We thought he was our future driver, but then it turned out that he’s a guard of local school and he wanted us to stay there for a night. That’s how we landed on a spiderman couch in a classroom, eating peanut snacks and watching Serbian TV. He was supposed to end his work around 6 am, so we got up exceptionally early. So we ate freshly baked, warm, traditional “burek” for breakfast and started hitch-hiking again to the capital of Serbia.


Belgrade welcomed us with another great hostel, but so much different from Hasselhostel. Even if its name is a little pretentious, Star Hostel is like a real home for travellers. When a hungover receptionist opened the door we knew we would enjoy staying in this small, but cosy hostel. Then it got better and better. We couldn’t force ourselves to get up from the couch and go to the city. We were drinking coffee, playing with an adorable kitty and talking to newly-met “the American”.

We finally decided to go out and our favorite, ironic Serbian receptionist decided to inform us that there is a gay parade in the city and almost everything is closed. So we just walked around, ate almost all traditional Serbian dishes, bought beers and came back to the hostel. The whole evening passed on with us talking with other travellers. We met Billy, who’s currently on her bicycle trip to India and James who told us his story about teaching English in Kyrgyzstan. In Serbia we had found the main purpose of our trip which was finding out at least in some part about the Balkan war and trying to understand different points of view.

The Serbians were so nice that we were almost running away from their kindness. We wanted to go further to Kosovo, so we needed to catch a car quickly, as it was getting late. Traffic was low, so we were sitting on the road side waiting for our next driver. An ambulance was approaching us, so Wiola, who’s always ready to catch the least ordinary vehicles started to wave her hand. And she did it. A few minutes later we were travelling straight to Pristina with three Kosovars. At that moment we realized we love Kosovo. The capital of the youngest country in Europe, recently absorbed by the war, looks better than you could expected.

5b In the capital, Pristina, we loved the openness of the people and the ability to talk about difficult subjects. In regards to scenery, the impact of American culture is seen everywhere. Streets and monuments are named after presidents – Bill Clinton and George Bush. However our host, a medical student, told us that most of the residents see themselves as Albanians. Instead of the Kosovo flag above his bed hung a huge red-and-black flag of Albania, which after a few days spent in the country became an important symbol even for us.

9abcThe combination of good people and good food (in a good price) meant that we could not leave the country. We attempted to go to Macedonia, but in the end, our goal was Greece, and we ended up on a few hours’ ride to Skopje with three rappers we met while hitch-hiking. As a result we changed the route and I didn’t have to complain to Wiola any more that I would like to see Prizren.

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We've met each other during classes the least associated with our faculty at the university and it couldn't be an accident. Silly grinning at our English teacher telling about his hitch-hiking adventures, we haven't known yet that we will begin to travel together. The series of unfortunate events made us share a tent, a camera and memories. Now almost nothing can stop us from hitch-hiking.

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