Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Niš, Serbia

Plotting our route for the day is something we do the night before or early in the morning of the day of our departuresometimes with the help of the locals. We had accomplished our task of finding Zagoriče and mentally are now on the way back to Germany. We have plenty of time left but finding Zagoriče yesterday was an underlying current of our travels in Macedonia. We can now leave Macedonia with a feeling of accomplishment.
We picked a very local road to cross into Serbia. Finding the road was OK and we proceeded through small towns, past plowed fields, over wooden sections over a not so great road towards the border control. Getting out of Macedonia was easy enough. Even though the control at the border was as slow as molasses, we got out. A bit down the road we ran into the Serbian control and were turned back. Oh, our passports were OK, our bike papers were OK, all of our papers were OK but this border crossing did not have a booth that could sell us the needed Insurance for Serbia.
In Europe you need a ‘green’ card to show that you have Insurance when you cross the borders. Stefan Knopf did the paperwork for us and got us coverage for a lot of countries through the ADAC Insurance group. ADAC is a German Insurance group that underwrites Insurances for a lot of European countries; well, for almost all European Countries but not all. Some of the former Eastern Bloc countries are not included in the all encompassing coverage. We had to pay extra Insurance in Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia and now Serbia. I am not sure how the prices are calculated but I am sure it is a rip off as we paid anywhere from 10 Euros to 62 Euros per bike for the required insurance. So now we are stuck in nowhere land. We are out of Macedonia but not into Serbia. What to do? Our Passports are stamped rejected and we are sent back to Macedonia. The exit from Macedonia now became our entry again. When entering Macedonia the first time I fudged a little, I had 2 motorcycles written on one policy. Not exactly legal but it was good enough to get an entry into Macedonia and save some money. Nobody checked that closely the first time but now? Will they let me into Macedonia with the fudged policy? I noticed even the Macedonian side on this small outpost did not have an Insurance booth. All this legal mumbo-jumbo could be a disaster for us. So I played the clown on the way back from the rejected Serbian side and with a lot of talking, with asking for help instead of just being inactive and quiet and we entered Macedonia once more. Nobody noticed the not so valid Macedonian Policy; I just flashed it around without letting them read the details. I made a clown of myself, they all had a laugh and I rode away after my performance glad that I managed to get back into Macedonia.
The next border crossing was 90 minutes away but involved a ride all the way back the not so great road and a complicated search for the right road in the town of Kumanovo. We also ended up on the toll road. Well, all went well this time, we got out of Macedonia and into Serbia after paying the 62 Euros for each bike for insurance for a 2 week stay in Serbia. I am not sure how good the coverage is anyhow, how effective the Insurance would be in case it is needed. I just pay, like anybody else. I have no choice. Those are the expenses of the road.
Naturally we had to get our money exchanged again. Selling the Macedonia money, of course created a loss. Then buying Serbian money, the Dinar, created another loss. This exchange of currencies, the constant calculations of new values for anything is complicated. I like the Euro System. One currency for everything; no matter what country you are in. Like the US Dollar, no matter the State you are in, all States take the Dollar. With so many small countries, all having their own jurisdictions, all having their own sovereignty, all having their own currency, travelling becomes cumbersome and irksome.
So how far do we travel in Serbia before we stop for the day? The next big, meaningful city is Niš. We arrive in Niš in the late afternoon and I immediately see a sign for a hostel. Perfect! The road to Hostel Europa is under severe construction and we slide and slip on the gravel getting in but we make it to a nice place. The entire inside of the building is new; all the amenities are there including Wi-Fi. Yes, it is away from the town but that makes for quiet sleeping. The rooms are great, clean and large. The shower, after so many home made showers is a blessing. This is the latest in shower design. You can dial up a rain shower, let the music play while splashing yourself with water, have a blue light give you a great look, adjust the volume of the music built in, have 8 side jets hit you with water wherever you want to be hit and adjust the spray level and pressure points, too. If only we had hot water. It took me a while to figure out we had to put the hot water heater on to get hot water but after some time, all was well. The shower was great.
We took the local bus to town. The receptionist wrote down our stop in Cyrillic and with the help of the locals we made it to town and later back to the hostel without much difficulty. People are amazingly helpful if you ask for help.
Carol and I had an exploratory trip. We discovered an underground shopping street that went on forever. We traipsed from shop to shop only to get lost in this underground world. Coming back up to reality and some fresh air, we discovered ourselves in the middle of Niš and had to find our way back to a more recognizable spot. As luck would have it, we found the old part of town. An old castle, near the river gave us a respite and we joined the local tourists in taking a small toy train ride around the ancient complex. It was getting dark so now we experienced Niš at night. A rather modern town with some ancient roots, it was a good stop over for the day.
The bus took us back to our hostel and we slept well on our first night in Serbia.

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