[Manasija Monastery+ Resavska Pécina = photo album]
Last night after some photo-Googling (if one can coin such a verb) and reading, I decided that I don’t necessarily have to see Zemun; if I am to spend three nights in Belgrade, two of the days should be spent in Despotovac and Smederevo respectively.
I got to bus station early and found out about the schedule. (Tourist information, how come you don’t have any information? And bus website, how come you never work?) The bus ride to Despotovac takes 2.5 hours, and the returning buses leave at 1.55pm and 4pm; there’re no buses in the evening. As for Smederevo, it’s offered in another bus station, which is 300 meters from here, so/but they don’t know the information. Fair enough. I decided to do the farther Despotovac first.
(Despotovac looks a lot closer to Niš, but the book doesn’t say anything, and tourist infos couldn’t provide any info, so I decided that I should still depart from Belgrade.)
The departure at 9am was still more than one hour away, so I sat in a café inside the bus station. There are strong wi-fi signals, but the café owner doesn’t know the password (and probably also doesn’t know how to smile). While I can live pretty unwell “unplugged,” I decided to go check with one of the ticketing clerks. The clerk I asked was probably a bit surprised, but she immediately checked her smart phone and wrote down the password for me: the password = indijanci@321. Lalala. Sipping my coffee (which turned out to be Turkish), I noticed that two kids sitting in a nearby table stared at me with uttermost interest.
For this bus station I was given a token to pass the gate to enter the platform. The gate didn’t work, so there were serious people in uniform guarding the gate and taking the tokens. For Despotovac it was a mini-bus, and later I found out that the driver SMOKED from time to time. He did crack the window when he smoked, but passengers could still share the smoke. Loverly. I tried to duck my head, but well. At least the air-con wasn’t bad.
The several tourist infos in Belgrade told me that there is also a tourist info in Despotovac. Well, there ain’t. The first café-restaurant I got into were two young waitresses and one young man who were not ready to help anyway, and the first money exchange place also doesn’t speak any English and the clerk whisked me out, so I continued to walk on the very small pedestrian street, thinking whether I would end up being forced to give up the visits to Manasija Monastery and Resavska Pécina (Resavska Cave). Well, that would be fun, at least if Despotovac is indeed “postcard pretty” as LP describes. Honestly, the person who wrote that sentence and people who dare to make this kind of postcards should be beheaded. Postcard pretty my ass.
At the end of the pedestrian zone I turned right and found another money exchange and decided to give it another shot. Just my luck: this time the two ladies there speak English, (and their place also sells some makeup kits,) and one of them was very kind and directed me to a travel agency, and she even told me which place has the best pizza when I asked her about food. (It’s “Viking Pizza.”) The agency has a couple of long-legged young girls and an early-fourty-ish man sitting behind a desk. Basically what he could tell me is that (a) he doesn’t know anything; (b) there isn’t an organized tour anywhere; and (c) I should negotiate with one of the taxis on the street right in front of us. Well, he was kind enough.
Most taxi drivers seemed to be on their lunch breaks – it was roughly 12.30 – except for an older driver. He asked me in rudimentary English what I needed, and from his reaction it seems that not many people go there by taxi. Originally he said one hour (either driving or waiting) costs 1250RSD, so two costs 2500RSD, but he looked humble and honest enough and keen to accommodate, and he told me to wait while he called his “chief.” Then it was settled: 2000RSD for the return trip including waiting time. He told me to give him twenty minutes to “change,” so I went to check out the pizza place.
Basically, the one at the pizza place relatively more wiling to help speaks not much English, and the one who likely understands more was busy shoveling pizzas in the oven and not keen to rummage English words. And the others focused more on enjoying the “Asian-guy-who-speaks-no-Slavic-languages-in-town” show. As soon as I managed to order something, the driver came to me and said he was ready to go. He didn’t mind waiting, but I thought for ten seconds and decided to tell the pizza parlor to wait (while they very likely didn’t understand) and went for the ride first.
It was some silence in the rather tidy car until the driver finally volunteered to tell me that he learned English “a long time ago, in primary school and high school.” And I was a bit surprised to hear him say that May and June are the busier tourist season here – quite some kids would come visit the places I want to see. (But surely they would ride some hired buses instead of taxis, I thought?)
We first went to the cave. I didn’t notice until now that LP says the temperature in the cave can be as low as 7 degrees Celsius. Well, too late. Upon arrival the taxi driver swiftly went up and talked to the guy at the cashier, and then another girl ushered me to enter the cave. There were already one guide and three tourists there, and as soon as the guide found out that I don’t speak Serbian, she told me that she was going to explain things in Serbian and then translate for me in English. She was very accommodating and also asked me/others whether we have questions. At the “musical chamber” she even offered to take photos for us.
The cave tour didn’t take long. The next stop was the monastery, which hangs a sign at the entrance prohibiting photos and inappropriate clothing. I was a bit worried, since I was wearing a pair of shorts. Luckily I was still allowed to enter the church in the middle. After a very quick round I went out, and the taxi driver gestured me to go to a place where one can climb up to a certain part of the walls. Not that there’s much to see there, but it was fun and nice that he offered so.
After we went back, I went to check another restaurant, which has English (without spelling errors, but well) in their menu. Eventually I still went back to that pizza place. Some businessman (I guess) sitting at the next table was working with a notebook, and indeed here they have wi-fi (aside from a flat-screen broadcasting Olympic Games) too. I asked for chili sauce, which turned out to be more sweet and pasty than normal chili sauce.
The ride back to Belgrade turned out to feature the same smoking driver. And while the ride takes in much more passengers and took longer, I was not very successful at walling asleep, unlike in the morning ride – it is always quite a bliss to take a nap on a moving vehicle.
Upon arrival I checked again with the tourist info at the train station. This time it’s a late-thirties-early-fourties woman with black hair, shiny eyes, who wore a white dress and big golden earrings, all of which brought out her smiling and strong features. She was very helpful and told me how to find the “biggest Orthodox church” in the world, which happens to be in Belgrade. She advised me to take Tram 9, but after seeing several Tram 9L’s pass by, which aren’t even on the plate, I decided to walk. (Later I discovered that 9L is 9.)
The church is big enough, but everything inside was under renovation. At least I tried.
On the way back I saw a nice little bakery, and one of the pastries have a treble clef (高音譜記號) on it. Although the weather was hot and I didn’t feel very hungry, I still asked about that pastry. I was told by two interested clerks that it has ham and cheese inside, and one of them even gave me two small triangular-shaped pieces of cinnamon apple pies for free. (Maybe they intended to close up early?)
On the way back I bought water, another pack of waffle cookies, and a can of Coke Zero. I haven’t drunk coke or anything like that for long, but there’s no appropriate liquor right now, and it’d be at least nice to drink up something cold.
I decided to leave Belgrade tomorrow, thinking that the mighty fortress ruins in Smederevo won’t be worth it. I felt a bit lonely.
7/31記帳：（1RSD = 0.317TWD；1TWD = 3.184RSD；1EUR = 117.91RSD）