Across Continents

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Holidaying in Serbia

For a brief moment I thought I’d inadvertently checked into a hostel for the homeless. It was close to midnight when the elderly gentleman arrived. A very late arrival. The noise I didn’t mind so much, it was the smell. I thought only dogs could get canker. My Japanese room mate slept on.

In the morning there were bodies in the corridor, barely clothed, mostly lying on the cold floor. This I didn’t mind so much, it was harmless and didn’t make my stomach heave. Not even the faintest smell of alcohol. A few poor souls had been hammering for a while on the doors of what, I assumed, were their rooms, trying to rouse someone to let them back in.

I’d risen early, mainly because I’d noticed there were just a handful of toilets and showers between about 60 people. And, with over 600 beds in the hostel, you just knew they’d be a queue for breakfast. There was, even at 7am. Shame, because I don’t generally do queuing, no one’s ever given me a convincing reason why I should. Being English isn’t the answer. I wandered back to the room.

My unwashed room mate reappeared. He spoke a little English. He’d come to Vienna to visit an art exhibition and, in between the loud burps, showed me a poster of the event. I tactfully pointed out it had closed a few weeks earlier. There was bound to be other things to see in Vienna, I suggested. He was Ukrainian, off to holiday in Serbia. He mentioned Novi Sad, a Serbian town on the Danube. I remembered it, had a youth hostel, one of just a few in the entire country. Quickly crossed off my list. I decided it was time to join the queue for breakfast.


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