Sunday, April 06, 2008

Belgraded

I am home, in the nest. My back hurts from having danced too long and not sleeping at all. I have to get up at 6am tomorrow. Let's talk about the last 24 hours briefly...


Got a ride to the airport with a couple of friends. Met other radio listeners who had won the contest. We went to the Business Lounge and had the run of the place for 2 hours, a very luxurious and relaxing lounge complete with full bar and cold drinks and small snacks at your disposal, comfortable leather lounge chairs to watch as planes slowly took off. Two pilots, one of them Italian speaking, sat there on the those chairs for like 30 minutes and it was a beautiful thing to see.


The Basel-Belgrade route is a new one for Swiss Airlines and so a representative from the airlines came with us. The plane left 90 minutes late. And so some of us drank expensive beers and others sat at chairs and read bad magazines. Ya see, we went to board and then it was delayed and we went back to the lounge and it had just closed for the day. More points to note: there were people on the flight already getting up and moving forward before the plane had stopped moving. I'd never really seen that before. Happened this morning on the flight back, too.


One of the girls with us was approached by a man near the currency exchange in the airport, and he said that she had to come with him. She looked startled and I was of course immediately suspicious, and we made him pull out his ID. His hand was shaking when he was opening the wallet. I don't think he spoke English so often. It turns out that the girl had left the "no man's land" to go to the money machine and came back where the currency thing was and apparently you're not allowed to go through that way, even if you only left a few seconds earlier. We cleared that up about 2 minutes later at his office 20 meters away.


And then we were outside, hard to tell who was a taxi driver and who wasn't, unmotivated, middle-aged men standing around, a couple of them with a taxi sign on their shirts. We asked the price for a taxi to the center, they said about 25euros. One of the organizers said his research had told him 10euros. I went to the Avis car rental and asked how much a taxi to the center should cost. He said 20. I reported this info back to them. So they arranged 70 euros for 3 taxis. Our return trip cost less than 15 euros.


We get dropped off in the center and end up walking into the first restaurant we see after ambling along like an insecure caterpillar with 11 loose parts for another 100 meters or so. It turns out the place was great, with some gypsy live music and of course the bill was about 15% higher but maybe he just threw his tip in for us. We was helpful and nice and we ended taking his suggestion and going to the bar next to his place. There was a strip tease place between them called Moulin Rouge. As we walked into the bar, there was strange live music with electronic drums and two singers, one a very attractive woman dressed in tight black. There were about 25 men and 7 girls in the place, including the singer. We stayed there almost too long, but long enough for sure to watch a drink's worth of WWF on a large screen next to where we were sitting. It was embarassing and yet riveting. Only a few of us were "trying" to have a good time, meaning, wanting to make the most of the evening. I'd say there were about 4 of us like that (me and my 3 friends) and a couple of more easily swayed and 2 anchors.


My friend alex went with some dudes to buy cigarettes, then came back and bought all 5 of them a tequila shot, and then got a recommendation for a club that was a 15-minute walk away. We were brougt there by the waiter at the restaurant who at this point is pretty much part of our group. He pointed out the national theater and the national museum, right across the street from each other. Walking down a large pedestrian shopping street that was empty at 2am, there were was loud, drunken chanting. I thought it was drunken soccer fans but apparently they were protesting Kosovo's independence.


We couldn't get into the first club and the second one we got in but it was pretty empty and closed less than an hour after we got there. We did do some shots, there was one girl dressed there that was so obvious, ya gotta check this out:


She was trying to get her boyfriend to dance with her in the middle and he wasn't going for it. That guy is an idiot. The DJ recommended an after-hours place that he was going to so around 4am we took off in 3 taxis. The taxi driver is in his late twenties, thick neck, shaved head. Starts talking about going to the same nightclub in Berlin 7 times in 10 days. The techno music on was classic, repeating over and over "They don't know what's what, they just wanna strut, what the fuck" over and over again. We were singing it by the end of our 5-minute taxi ride.
After-hours place is concret block separated into 3 small parts, and our group went into the back and claimed a spot but also danced up front but only some of the people were dancing, others were just hanging out, but whatever, it's fine. We stayed there until after 6am, I stole a beer glass and the DJ got us taxis to the airport. We got to go into the business lounge in belgrade and it was like a regular lounge but it was good for us to see the difference and really appreciate the Swiss lounge from the beginning.
I was half asleep in the lounge, some people awake and being annoying, and then we flew and I slept an hour uncomfortably, missed the breakfast, felt grumpy and wanted to be home. But first we had to say our goodbyes and then take a bus, hurry and buy train tickets, run to the train, take it one stop across the Rhein River to the "other" Basel and then had a few minutes to connect to our train to Freiburg.
The marathon was going on at that point so I opted for a taxi because the trams weren't going. I made it home, am tired as hell but not ready to sleep.
I was in Belgrade last night.
I was in Bratislava last Sunday.
I'll be in Amsterdam on Thursday.
I'm doing the best I can, cheers.

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