How-to-Serbia

Fongy’s guide to Serbia

It’s been exactly one week now since I arrived back down under. There really is no place like home and, for the most part, it’s been great! I always seem to appreciate the little things we usually take for granted (clean water, clean streets, nice people, people who speak English etc) more.

Now, in somewhat of a sequel to my previous guide, how-to-Argentina, comes my new guide to the mysterious, crude and wonderful land of Serbia. Enjoy.

Language

  • ‘Srpski’ is the native dialect of Serbia
  • It’s not quite the most poetic language going around as it doesn´t quite roll of the tongue or sooth the ears but when you realise that they’re not actually shouting or angry with you and that’s just how they talk you get used to it.
  • A lot more people than you would think speak English, going out on a limb here, I would say that 85% of people under the age of 40 speak good English. The same amount speak good Russian funnily enough.
  • Serbians, Croatians, Bosnians, Montenegroans? and to a much lesser extent Bulgarians, all understand each other even though they speak different dialects
  • They can also spell words without vowels: trg, krv, grb (are all words)

Women

  • Ahahahahahhaahhahahahahaha… they’re a joke. There’s seriously something in the water. You would be seriously hard pressed to find a dozen ugly girls in an hour. (anyone who has been to Belgrade or Novi Sad would back me up on this one)
  • Heels: going clubbing, going out for dinner, going shopping, going to the park, walking the dog, going to the corner store, going for a run, walking around the house.. they never come off!
  • I was once told a joke reflecting Serbian women’s preferences in men:               There was this guy who just bought himself the new BMW M3 and he went driving through the streets of Belgrade. As he stopped at his usual coffee shop he saw the hottest, sexiest, most stunning woman he had ever seen in his life. He thought ‘what the hell’ and decided to ask her out. A few days later after their second date, he said sadly: ‘I have something to confess’.. the stunning young woman put her hands to her mouth ‘oh no what is it?’.. ‘I have a wife and two kids’ he confessed.. with a great big laugh and a sigh of relief she replied ‘Oh thank god, I thought you were going to say the car isn’t yours!’ 
  • Again honestly the average woman in Serbia is a solid 7 out of 10, if she’s a 6 then she’s probably not Serbian.

Sport

  • I mean Djokovic truly is the son of Serbia. Everyone loves him. He has is own ridiculously pretentious tennis center in the heart of Belgrade: with his name and face on everything, from the walls right down to the cutlery.
  • Fanatics: You know when you go to a sporting event and there are those crazy people at the back screaming, shouting and chanting, wearing red, blue and white with their faces painted.. that’s always them.

Serbia. Serbia. Serbia

Night-life

  • Belgrade is renowned for having the best night life in the eastern block
  • Cheap drinks, club boats on the river and ridonkulously hot girls.. can you have a bad night?
  • If you go to Belgrade: Freestyler and Sounds are the two main(best) clubs on the Danube, also there are a few good clubs at ‘Ada’ which is near the river Sava in Belgrade close to the city.

This is on a boat mind you

People & Culture

  • Serbia is a poor country, it’s not somewhere you go if you’re looking for 7 star hotels and relaxing beaches. The streets are dirty, the police are corrupt, i wouldn’t advise drinking the tap water and a lot of people have guns. But you should go there knowing that and realise it’s somewhere where you go to appreciate another culture, a different style of living and, as most people do, PARTY.
  • The thing I love most about Serbia, is people’s attitude towards life. Everyone in Serbia lives for now, they earn $5 and spend $30. Nobody worries about mortgages, savings or even tomorrow.
  • A lot of people are like ‘oh you went to Serbia are you ok?’, YESS! It’s really not as dangerous as everyone makes it out to be. You’ll only get shot if your being an idiot.
  • The people are actually genuinely nice and almost always try to help you even when they don’t speak english

Did you know?

  • The ongoing Croatia/Serbia dilemma is still very confusing but what I’ve gathered is, that Serbs don’t like Cro’s and Cro’s HATE Serbs. So try not to get in the middle and any Serb/Cro arguments.
  • AUD $1 = DIN 99.7. ‘Dinar’ is the local currency and, just to give you an idea, a loaf of bread would cost you around 40 dinars.
  • 500ml of Beer is 70 Din, 700ml of Beer is 60 Din and 1L of Beer is 50 Din… wait what?
  • Like Argentina, and a lot of countries for that matter, tax on imported goods is quite high at around 70%. So mail it somewhere else!
  • Serbia isn’t part of the EU and you don’t need a visa for Serbia
  • NOVI SAD is the holy grail of Serbia: I guarantee you will fall in love at least twice a day everyday while you are there as the finnest women in Serbia flock there. Known to the locals as the ‘Romantic city’ its for sure is Serbia’s best kept secret (when EXIT festival is not on)
  • Gypsies.. worst breed of people going around. Do NOT give them money. Little kids beg – get money – give to their parents – the parents buy cigarettes and alcohol. Seen it a million times
  • Police bribes range from 20 Euros to 50 Euro, if they ask you for more give them 50 and tell them to call your lawyer.. they wont.

‘Srbija’

There you go kids, my travellers-only ultimate guide to Serbia. It really is a great place, I highly suggest a visit at least once in your life.. especially if you’re a guy. Anyway, as I mentioned before I’m back home just taking a little break from tennis but I’ll be back. If you have any questions or want to know more feel free to comment or email me!

(These are just my experiences: I am not responisble if something happens.. do not try this at home?)

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I’m coming home, i’m coming home, tell the world i’m coming home.

The 2 week rule

Packed and ready

I always had a 2 week rule, that is when your on a trip (longer than 3 months) 2 weeks before you leave, when your flight is booked, you start to miss home. Then as the days progress closer to your departure you begin to miss home more and more.

Today is my last day in Berlin, which puts me about 38 hours away from home so you can imagine how much i miss home. Even my horrible flight plan isn’t phasing me (4 more hours in Berlin, 1.5 hour Flight to Amsterdam, 5 layover, 12 hour flight to Kala Lumpur, 7 lay over, 8 hour flight to SYDNEY) (In KL now!! 13 hours to go!)

This is my 2nd 6 month trip and my experiences are always different; different countries, different cultures, different travel buds, different tournaments, new friends, old friends and yet I always manage to have an amazing time.

If this is the first time your reading my blog or your a friend wondering what it is exactly that I did this trip, ‘the count’ should help you out:

The count:

  • 23 Weeks (161 days)
  • 9 Tournaments (18 matches) (9 wins/ 9 losses). Results
  • 2 Attempted robberies (1 successful)
  • 34 New facebook friends
  • 3 Different countries (Argentina 3 months, Serbia 2.5 months, Germany 1 week)
  • 12 Different cities
  • 1 Broken racquet
  • 3 New racquets
  • 5 Flights (3 to go)
  • 2 Twenty plus hour buses
  • 2 New languages learnt (Spanish, Serbian)
  • 40+ hours of COD
  • 822 Photos and 24 videos
  • 1 Shoulder injury
  • 2 Pink eyes
  • 2 Police officers bribed
  • $250 Taxes
  • $300 Extra Baggage
  • 22 Blog posts (4481 views)
  • 3 New snow globes (I have one from every major city I’ve been to)
  • 2nd year in a row finishing 2nd in Fantasy
  • Unlimited ‘thank you’s’ to all the people who helped me along the way
  • One amazing trip

Fortunately for everyone this blog is not quite over. As I lived in Serbia for 2.5 months this year, last year and the year before I believe I qualify to be a travel aid in all matters reguarding Serbia so… Stay tuned for ‘Fongy’s ultimate guide to Serbia’

Zlatibor

I’d like to thank Zlatibor for taking my altitude virginity.

 

Zlatibor, a small ski town by winter and a quiet family retreat by summer and was the perfect place to hold a tournament. While it’s a bit of a death trap negotiating the winding roads on the 3 and half hour drive from Belgrade to get there it was still very worth it.

If you like little community based ski towns then this is on your level. Located up in the mountains lies this popular summer retreat (if your serb), with friendly locals, cheap accommodation and amazing scenery you really couldn’t go wrong.

Speaking of mountains, for those of you who don’t know what or how altitude affects tennis let me explain it to you quickly.

  1. Since the air is thinner you get tired quicker because you’re getting less oxygen into your blood per breath.
  2. I’m not sure if it’s also because the air is the thinner but whatever the reason the ball flies! Rendering heavy topspin utterly useless.
  3. Again, whatever the reason is the ball bounces extra high, so if your short you better be able to jump

Zlatibor was the final tournament in my Euro tour and while I didn’t do amazing (results) I finally feel like I’m playing better, which is a big relief from not playing my best for the last 6 or 7 tournaments.

Highlight of the week: Getting pink eye, FYI the term ‘pink eye’ is another term for conjunctivitis and contrary to popular belief there are other ways of getting it other than someone farting on your pillow.

40 hours in Berlin

Wow.

Bear of Berlin

There are a lot of preconceived ideas and feelings towards Germany and it´s people, given it´s dark history I must say I don´t blame people but honestly Germany would have to be the most underrated country in all of Europe.

As for Berlin, well, what can I say? For me, it has to be one of the most amazing, mesmerizing and enchanting cities I have ever encountered in my entire life. Guilty for being a bit of history junkie, I completely frothed all over Berlins old buildings and landmarks.

Map ‘o’ berlin

Thanking jet lag for my 5am body clock, an X-large coffee helped me cover about 10kms by 9am. Blisters on my feet, thinking I’ve seen it all, I arrived back at St. Christopher’s hostel (which was actually really nice for anyone wanting to go) and was greeted by small 5”6 spanish women who was asking me if I wanted to go on a free walking tour. ‘Free you say?’ count me in.

Victoria Statue

Best idea ever. Whether it was my legendary, hung over, French hating, comedic English guide or the fact that I was now learning the story behind each of the buildings I had sprinted passed earlier that morning, I throughly enjoyed my tour.

I highly recommend that tour to anyone that wants to do about 4 hours of walking and learn a whole heap of interesting and historical facts. And i mean its free* what do you have to lose?

Anyway Berlin was and is more than amazing to me and I could probably ramble on for hours but luckily for you I won’t. I’ll just give you some of my highlights and facts followed by about 26 photos:

  • Touched the Berlin wall, twice, with both hands
  • Walked for a total of 8 hours and covered 15kms on day one
  • Met 357,000 people from Perth
  • Tequilla shots cost 1 Euro
  • Stood on top the place Hitler was killed (it’s now a car park)
  • You can be jailed for up to 6 weeks in Berlin for doing the Hitler salute
  • I took 187 photos all together
  • Hitlers Third Reich HQ still stands today and has been converted into… the German Tax office
  • Bullet holes still mark most of the Building in Berlin
  • Realised just how bad my german actually is.. even after 5 years of lessons
  • *Free walking tour.. yeah well it is free but they work of donations. So if your guide was awesome like mine you can give them a fair 10-15 Euros if they suck you can give them a handshake

The blog must go on

EuroBlog

Kinda inappropriate seeing as most of the countries I travel in aren´t part of the EU

Apparently I´ve been in Europe for a month already so I guess I have a bit of filling in to do. Firstly I´d like to apologise for the lack of blogging as technology just seems to continually fail around me with the internet at my house in Belgrade kicking the bucket the day before I arrived swiftly followed by the death of my laptop charger.

Never the less the blog must go on, even if it’s a month later. Since so many weeks have passed since my last post I´ve decided not to bore you with a step by step but rather bore you with some meaningless highlights:

  • Added a Netherlands immigration stamp to my passport
  • Got my tourist-on in Berlin (story coming soon)
  • My hair is now the longest its been in years and is about an inch from being tie-upable
  • Played 3 very below average tournaments
  • Realised that HEAD PRO tennis balls are the worst tennis ball ever invented
  • Team Sydney (Sean Wheatley, Marious Zelba, Jono Cooper and myself) are taking on the rest of the Serbian circuit
  • Bribed two police officers in one night (w. Sean Wheatley in Belgrade)
  • Learned some more inappropriate Serbian words
  • This is my third consecutive year in Serbia
  • My Fantasy football team has won it´s last 11 matches in a row

Where am I now?

I´m currently in Kikinda, Serbia. It´s a small town of about 5000 people and I´m pretty sure 4999 of them don´t work because, when it´s not raining, every person is either at a coffee shop or sinking beers from 8am.

I´m here for the Kikinda F5 Future, I´m still in the tournament though only for doubles as I played like I´ve never picked up a racquet before in my singles. Unfortunately, heavy rains have suspended play for the past two days which has made the courts look like that Uncle Tobys ad from a few years back.

Anyway in the spirit of pretty much every tennis player having some form of gambling problem, we´ve all decided to pass the time playing a few ´friendly´ games of poker. I´ll be sure to keep you updated on the rest of the tournament/tournaments.

For those of you wondering which UT ad i was referring too

How-to-Argentina

Fongy´s guide to Argentina.

As it is my last night in Argentina, I felt it would be appropriate to leave you with some parting wisdom that I have come to know first hand in the three months that I´ve been here. This information isn´t quite what you would find in your typical tourist guide but you may be thankful that you´ve now stumbled upon it.

Language

  • ´Castellano´ (ca-ste-sha-no) is the native dialect, which is of course still spanish but just their version and it sounds like… sex on wheels.
  • Even though Argentina is a very popular South American tourist destination, finding someone who speaks really good English may be difficult. In saying this, generally, anyone under the age of 30 knows a little bit of English even if they say they don´t, so feel free to pester them until they come up with answers you’re looking for.
  • If you have a very basic understanding of spanish you´ll still struggle, they talk so fast it´s not even funny.

Women

  • Yes, most of the rumors are true. While the average woman is just above the ´good´ bar, the top end women of Argentina are absolute jaw droppers; 99% brunette, skinny with a good amount of curves and KILLER fuckin accents.
  • The juvies (sprouters, jail bait, youngens whatever you want to call them) are far too mature for their age. I´ve felt violated on more than one occasion, always when I pass a group of school girls they continuously wolf whistle at me.
  • Here are some useful lines, use them wisely
  • ¨Si la belleza fuera un pecado, no tendrias perdon de Dios¨ –  means if beauty was a sin you wouldn´t need god´s permission. Let´s face it guys, that, is a great line.
  • ¨Tenés novio¨ – ´Do you have a boyfriend?´ Generally a good idea to check first 😉  
  • ¨Sos la persona mas linda que vi en mi vida¨ – ´You are the most beautiful girl I have ever seen in my entire life´. You´d be surprised at how many times you actually need to use this one.

This photo may be a little bias…. to their faces

Tennis

  • If you’re coming from Australia like me just know that.. EVERYBODY HERE HATES HEWITT, like proper hate the bloke so beware.
  • Argentina is genuine dirt ballers territory
  • As most players are predominately baseliners, once they stink their teeth in the baseline they are very hard to throw off but their volleys and serves are generally below par so it evens out.
  • Unlike the typical French and Italian players, who are great front-runners but can´t fight out a win from a set and a break down, everyone here has a big heart and they will fight to the death for every point.

The face of tennis Argentina

Night Life
  • One word: Out-fucking-rageous
  • The typical night out starts at 2am and finishes at around 8am
  • Fernette is the most favoured drink in Argentina, if someone offers you some, whatever you do, DONT TRY IT. That shit is toxic and tastes horrible!!
  • Refer to All day. All night. for more info

Discoteca

Culture

  • MESSI

Pretty sure some people pray to him

Safety

  • You´ve probably already heard that pick pockets are chronic in South America, well, this is absolutely true.
  • On more than one occasion I´ve had items swiftly stolen from my person. Even now, I received a Facebook message from a friend who i was supposed to meet for drinks. She had to cancel because someone stole her bag while she was having dinner at a restaurant. Taking her wallet and camera.
  • Pickpockets thrive on us tourists as well as the occasional unsuspecting local, their hunting ground is everywhere but they do most of their damage on public transport i.e buses and trains. Refer to my Pick Pocket story, for more information
  • For those of you wishing to avoid such occurrences my safety tips are: 1. Don´t catch public transport but that sometimes can´t be helped. 2. Be aware, they travel in groups between 2-8, most of the time at least 2 women are involved. 3. To avoid getting pick pocketed wear pants with zipper pockets or wear skinny jeans like me. I can barely get it out to pee so imagine how hard it is for them to steal my wallet!
  • Oh and for the love of god don´t go to the old train station in Buenos Aires. It’s a huge pink building, mark my words: you. will. die. That place makes Redfern look like Disneyworld.

People

  • Besides the horrible people mentioned above, Argentinian people are actually very friendly people.
  • They may be a little ´loco´ when it comes to football (people die on a regular basis) but they are soft at heart.
  • Something you will notice if you come to Argentina is everyone’s eyebrows. I mean those things are intense.

Other important but not so important facts

  • I, probably like most of you, came to Argentina thinking it would be cheap as chips. WRONG. Cost of living such as rent and groceries are relatively cheap but everything else like eating out and clothes are expensive.
  • Never ever ever ever get goods mailed or sent to this country. I had a package sent from America (just some basic tennis supplies that I needed) and i was charged 110% tax! Yes you heard right. The package cost me $200 USD and I paid $230 USD in tax.
  • Make sure you take all the cash out of your clothes before you wash them, as their currency is made from paper.
  • They have, on average, more than two public holidays a month.
  • Must try ´Pancho con papas y ketchup´ which is basically a hotdog with tomato sauce and chips, might not sound exotic but damn it tastes good.
  • Argentina may seem tropical and all but don´t be fooled, its snows in winter.
  • It cost $100 USD to enter Argentina if your from Australia

Argie!!

Well there you have it everyone, my not so ultimate guide to Argentina. Alas, I fly to Europe tomorrow to kick-start the European leg of the tour. If you enjoyed reading or wish to hear more please leave a comment below, I´d love to hear your thoughts. Or maybe if your feeling really lucky, subscribe! and never miss a post.

2 Minutes of Fame.

Follow up.

All in all I had an awesome time in la Plata, I´d like to thank ´Radio Cuarto de Libra´ for having me on the show! Even though I didn´t fully understand everything you were saying, I heard a lot of laughing so I´m sure you guys are funny.

I had quite a few more lines than this but this is all i was able to record. If you haven´t already checked out my previous post then you would probably have no idea what this video is about so be sure to check it out: I´m on the Radio.

Also I´ve put up a few other videos on the Photo Gallery page. Have a quick squizz if your not too busy 🙂

I`m on the Radio.

Estas escuchando Radio Cuarto de Libra.. (you are listening to Radio de Libra) 

What`s up world? Radio Cuarto de Libra coming at ya

While `estas escuchando Radio Cuarto de Libra` maybe very well be my one and only line on this show, I`m still pretty stoked. You never know my spanish has improved exponentially over the last 3 months so I may be able to throw in a few more lines.

Testing one, two, one, two

Earlier today I decided to join my friend Juani on his weekly trip down to la Plata (a small city about an hour from Buenos Aires). Where he and three other friends, and the occasional guest speaker, band together and take over international air waves from 11pm – 1am on a Saturday night. Together they call themselves `Radio Cuarto de Libre`, talking about nothing in general and playing a mix of rock, house, reggaetton and, tonight only, some good old Aussie tunes (at my request of course).

Not going to lie here guys, it`s a pretty sweet little operation they got going here. Making pizza`s, drinking beer and playing some awesome tunes. This is my first time listening/talking but I think it should be your first time too!

Here`s the link, we`ll be on the air right now!!!! TUNE IN

http://radiocuartodelibra.listen2myradio.com/

This is a Cuarto de Libra just incase anyone was wondering

I`m not sure if i mentioned it earlier but the whole show will be….. in Spanish. But i`ll be speaking both just for you!!

(I`ll keep updating this as we go along)

Update: Ok everyone we just finished. Radio virginity gone but it was good fun! Unfortunately I had a bit to drink and my spanish virtually went out the window but I tried to keep up valiantly. Heres a few photos (I`ll post a video later)

It´s not really a montage.. part 2

Corrientes

The view from my Hotel of the city square

This picture may not do this small town as much justice as it deserves but Corrientes is actually very nice. As it is in the Northern half of Argentina, which is closer to the equator, the weather is warmer and more tropical than Buenos Aires. Alas I was not shown this courtesy and it was rainy and cold for the whole 5 days I was there.

The main street in Corrientes

Now for those of you that aren´t too familiar with South America or more specifically Argentina, all the shops close around 1pm – 3pm for siesta. The photo above was taken at around 1pm and shows everyone heading home for their little nap, that or nobody in this town has a job.

Main street by night

I don´t know what it is about Argentina but everyone must hibernate during the day because night-time is when everything really comes to life.

Some say I´m messy, I prefer unconventionally organised

When I room with others, which is often the case, I try to be neat and tidy and I succeed most of the time. On the occasions I stay by myself.. well.. that’s another story.

About to bomb one down the ´T´ 

I know sometimes it seems like I do everything but tennis, so I decided to throw in a photo to prove that I actually play. This was taken by the tournament photographer in my second round match. Unfortunately I lost this match to the same guy I lost to last week. I hate losing but god I hate losing to the same person.. twice!

Show courts one and two

It´s not really a montage.. part 1

Posadas

Sometimes my inner genius manages to find it´s way to the surface and things just tend to happen or in this case not happen. Like forgetting to pack my camera charger, camera cable and toiletries. For this reason i was unable to upload any photos, had to be a little ´economical´ with my battery while I was away and look like a homeless person because I havent shaved in two weeks.

Anyway, because I´m about two weeks behind on my blogging, sorry about that, I´ve decided that a little montage would probably the appropriate way to keep you up to date.

A short 14 hour bus trip from Buenos Aires you will find Posadas. Located in the province of Misiones, where it is the capital and most populated city. While Misiones as whole boarders Brazil and Paraguay. Posadas itself shares a river/border with Paraguay.

The main plaza in Posadas. While normally over populated with school girls, I managed to snag a quiet photo

Before arriving in Posadas a lot of people warned me that Posadas was one of the most beautiful cities in all of Argentina and surprisingly they weren´t wrong.

So on this side of the river is Argentina and on the other side is Paraguay

Personally I think one of the coolest things about Posadas is the fact that you can see Paraguay just across the river. I suppose the whole ´see another country´ notion might not be as exciting for everyone else as it is for me but coming from Australia, I think its pretty damn nifty.

Someone correct me if I´m wrong but I´m pretty sure the river is called ´Rio Parana´

Located just behind me connecting the gap between the two nations is ´Bridge San Roque Gonzalez de Santa Cruz´. You can drive across it and even walk across it but obviously if you plan to do so you will need your passport.

Posadas es moy lindo

Onto the tennis side of things:

  • It rained non stop for about 3 days so the courts and the balls were slow as hell
  • Heaps devo, lost in the last round of qualifying to some Colombian guy. Nice bloke though
  • Check the results page for more