We parked in Niš and were immediately passed by a donkey-drawn cart racing down the road. The carriage was piled high with buckets and the driver used a branch to spur it on, making them faster. This was then followed by an old military truck its canvas body packed with brush. “We’re not in Vienna anymore,” I thought, remembering the horse drawn carriages that pulled tourists around the cobbled streets.
The two previous cities (Vienna and Budapest) had definite similarities between them, the style of architecture and regal beauty. However, somewhere on the drive between Hungary and Serbia, a line was crossed and the similarities lost. Maybe it was when we passed a young girl begging by the side of the road holding a scrawny kitten. Maybe the similarities extended only to the wealth of the cities we were in and because of the nature of our travel we had cherry picked nice destinations in the brief time we were countries, and this was the first time we were seeing a different side to society. That was probably it. But the differences were stark.
Rivers that were once filled with five-star cruise ships were now dotted with fishermen waist deep, alongside stray dogs that played in the shallows. In the town square, there was a statue celebrating the four times, within forty years, that the city was liberated. This, to me, highlighted how volatile of the region is/was.
I don’t mean to be painting a negative picture of Niš, it was an interesting city steeped in history, that also contained a modern beat. It just a wake up call in a trip that had thus far marvelled at wealth and power.
(Unfortunately, I’ve lost all the photos from the couple of days we were in Serbia, so this one is the stairway from the hostel we stayed at in Sophia.)