I entered Serbia in early November. The days were colder and shorter. Mornings were shrouded in fog that slowly faded away. People cleared the fields and gardens, cut wood, prepared salted preserves … everyone was preparing: “winter is coming” …
I tried to visit as much as possible, beautiful places, wild nature, incredible geological formations. The cold penetrated my bones. The sky was often veiled in grey or soaked in rain. Positive was that the tourist season was in hibernation so many places were all for me. Amazing places.
The endless back roads took me to remote places, rugged valleys, hidden villages, sleepy forests and magnificent monasteries. I visited typical ancient villages, modern museums preserving Neolithic remains, many many archaeological sites everywhere (mostly roman time), even in the middle of cities. Who knows how many wonders still lie beneath the ground! …
But it was not easy. It was not easy to get out of the cosy sleeping bag on frosty mornings. It was not easy to find a open restaurant where I could get a hot meal. It was not easy to find a facility where I could shower and/or do laundry. Sure, there were hotels, but they were not suitable for two cats. Everything was closed. Everything.
What worried me the most was when I parked somewhere remote to sleep and it started snowing. What would I do if a lot (too much) snow fell? It was also becoming more and more difficult to start the Pajero in the mornings… the nights outside were now too cold. Even the cats started sleeping in the sleeping bag with me. Winter arrived.
I could have gone further south, towards milder temperatures, but on the one hand I couldn’t enter Montenegro because Cecilia lacked some paperwork (I didn’t want to risk) and on the other hand the borders with Kosovo were closed at that very moment because the situation was becoming tense … and my gut was not really very motivated to go south.
I found some warmth in the various natural thermal baths in the country. I admit, the first impressions of the infrastructure were not reassuring. Everything was felling apart … I felt like I was in one of those documentaries from the communist period. What was in complete disrepair today was for sure a gem in the 1970s. Apart from the aesthetics of the place I have to say that it was the best thermal bath I have ever had.
I looked for a cabin to rent where I could spend the winter. I also looked for a small job related to winter tourism, but without Serbian knowledge it was practically impossible. On colder days I rented small flats from families, mostly elderly people who didn’t know a word of English, but absolutely lovely. For a few dinars per day (12 to 20 euros) I had a flat for myself, completely equipped and with plenty of wood for the fireplace. Lovely romantic evenings in front of the fire with my cats….
Thanks to winter, I came into more contact with local families. To enter their homes, to breathe in the atmosphere of the small villages, the little well-stocked shops, the time passing slowly, the life regulated by the daylight, the grandmothers’ excellent cooking … Lovely people, very sweet, hospitable and friendly. After 2 months practically on my own a bit of human warmth did me good, very good.
But I was tired. Tired of the cold. Of the lack of a hot shower. Bad, grey days. I was tired of going out on freezing nights to pee. Serbia did not have what I needed for the winter (a small house to stay in) so I tried my luck in Bulgaria but even there I soon realised that I would not find what I was looking for. I followed my instincts: ‘Go back to Switzerland for the winter and start the journey again in the spring’. And so I did.
… but winter is over now … This means that … She is around.
Stef, Popone & Cecilia