As can be expected we’re late to wake. There was a bus from here to Skopje, North Macedonia at 1040 that we’d toyed with the idea of being on. It is now 1027. Daaaaah. Twist-toss my legs to the floor. Rough. Stand up. Derf. Turn to look out the window. How’s Niš this morning?
I go to take a leak and walk out of my room bleary eyed into the kitchen. There are four Serbs there, three guys and one girl, having a lively discussion when I open the door to our room. They are all late twenties -> early thirties. I surprise them when I come into the kitchen, I don’t think they knew anyone else was here.
They pause their discussion and address me in Serbian. I wave my hand, “Sorry, sorry. Do you speak English?”, “Ahh English, yes ok. Where are you from?”, “From Canada”, “Wow a Canadian in Serbia. Why is this?”, “We’re on a big trip, travelling through the Balkans…”, I describe our trip and they’re super excited about it.
“Whoa ok. This is very fun trip. Where to next?”, “Well we were supposed to catch the 1040 bus to Macedonia…”, “Haha sorry my friend, but that is not going to happen”, the girl corroborates, “Nope, Canadian man, you are out of luck there”, “Ya, we’ll figure it out. In rough shape at the moment though. Crazy hungover”, “Oh haha, were you at the concert too?”, “There was a concert?”, “Yes, yes my friend. Manu Chau concert”, “What the fuck?! There was a Manu Chau concert here last night?”, “Yes, yes there was!”, “Like.. ‘King of Bongo Bong’, Manu Chau?”, “You know Manu Chau? Yes, yes! It was so good!”
This must have been what they were excitedly talking about, the girl already has the videos queued up on her phone. “Look, look. We were right here in the front.” Like any phone recorded concert video it is grainy and mostly blown out, but I get the vibe of things and it looks super fun. “Whaa.. this is great”, “It was so great. Here you watch, I will make you coffee”, she hands me her phone. “No, no that’s ok, really”, “Oh please, it is nothing”, “Yes, have some coffee. Serbian style. Much stronger than what you know”, “Yes, it will bring you back from the dead”, “Lol ok. I have to try it”, the girl is already making it, “You do, you do. It is no bother, really.”
These four are insanely nice and personable. They’re wondering what we got into last night and it was time for me to show them my phone and the stupid drinks Fortress Bar Guy was making us. “Oh well, yes, this will make you miss the bus for sure haha”, “That is really crazy drink. All of these shots are for you?”, “Unfortunately. Well my friend too. He’s still asleep”, “Ahhh you do need the coffee, see?”
They introduce themselves as Nick, Nadjia, Meletia, and Kounstk. I repeat the last three as best I can to make sure I’m getting them right, “Ooh you’re pronunciation is very good!”, “Wow, first time. Americans can not say our names. Nadjia is just Nhiajiahajah.”
They get very patriotic and start telling me about a lot of small towns I should have visited. “I know, I know. It is not enough time. What about Novi Sad? I wanted to get there. Is that a cool city?”, “Ohh no, you did not go to Novi Sad? This is best place for sure”, “No, really?”, “Yes, yes. Very beautiful city. Lots of history and the Danube river”, “Very fun place too. He is right. It is best place, really”, “Ahh man. I will have to come back”, “There see? Come back again!”
Nadjia hands me the coffee and pats my head like the poor helpless creature that I currently am. It is dark and dense. “Smells terrific. Thank-you”, “Nothing.” What a great crew. They all live around Belgrade and were just here for the Manu Chau concert. “He may be playing in Macedonia, you should check”, “Oh ya. That would be great”, “Ok, Jonathan we will leave you. We also have a bus to make.” I get up and shake everyone’s hands, “So nice to meet you all”, “Yes, come back, come back”, “Bye bye now. Have a fun trip.” And they’re off, waving their way through the door. I hear them descend the stairs hurriedly, off to the bus station.
Soon after, a cleaning lady opens the door and spots me at the kitchen table, head in one hand, Serbian coffee in the other. She just points at her wrist, politely reminding me that check out is 11. Which is the time right now. I nod and start getting up. She eyes me up. I’m probably projecting exactly how shitty I feel. She says to just leave the key on the table. She gets it, it’s cool. Interesting that the cleaning lady’s English is better than the owners.
James has come to and is just getting up. He’s still buzzed and admits he’s ‘mostly useless’. He’s going to shower, “Check out times be damned, eh?”, “Dude. I’m a mess.” I slept in my clothes. Feeling dgaf though. Shower in Macedonia maybe. We get our shit together and leave the key on the table.
We take our bags down the white spiral stairs out to the street by the river. Another beauty day. There are a few cafes over by the bridge to the fortress. “Get a coffee and figure shit out?”, “For sure.” We take a seat at a table overlooking the river. Damn. This is nice.
Looks like this spot is just pastries and coffee. Whatever, that’ll do for now. I check on bus times and the next one isn’t for a few hours. “Suits me just fine”, look out across the scene, “This may be my favorite city on planet Earth”, “Definitely something about it. I mean.. that’s two for two”, “One hundred percent of the time, it works.. every time.”
There are two hypoallergenic terrier-types bombing around the area, “I’m watching you dog. Don’t piss on my bag”, “I feel fine but don’t ask me to do anything. I’m only ok because I’m not doing anything right now”, “Fuck we got annihilated last night”, “And the night before. But that’s by design”, “Right. Serbia for the weekend. Plan B is fantastic.”
We down our coffees and order up a couple more. “I don’t care if these are a million dollars each, this is all I can do right now”, “It’s Niš dude. This is gonna cost us two bucks max”, “Do we have a place in Skopje?”, “No dude. I don’t even know how to pronounce the place properly. Don’t know the currency. I don’t even know what the native language is. Do we have a place to stay? Pfffft this guy”, “Haha ok ok. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves”, “Couldn’t get much more behind really”, “I’m having deja vu.”
We decide that real food is going to be necessary to overcome our hangovers and before the bus ride. We’d found a breakfast joint called Pleasure Center yesterday on our hunt for Marshmallow Vodka that looked good. It’s just around the corner.
We come through the back entrance to an open patio area. Looks posh. Well well.
A hostess walks up to us and I inquire if they’re still serving breakfast. “Yes”, and she motions for us to follow her to a table on their lovely covered patio. We immediately order up two more coffees and some water while she hands us menus. Nice place here.
When she brings out the coffee she places some little heart shaped pancakes on the table. “Oh sweet!”, MacKay is going right for them, “Whoa whoa dude let me get a pic first”, “Fuck off with your Instagram bullshit”, “Haha It’s for the blog man. Remember? We have a blog”, “Fuck the blog. The blog is the new Instagram”, “Ok there Hangover Guy. Ok, calm down.”
Dip in the coffee. Slight lemon flavor. These are great.
Something on the menu catches my eye, “Maybe a couple of bloody Mary’s?”, “Macedonia border guards are gonna love us. ‘Oh you’re the new Instagram? Well come on innnnnnn!”, “I like how you’re so hungover feisty that you’re dissing your own blog”, “Are we talking about Distance From Normal? The new Instagram?”, “Hah fuck. I don’t know what the fuck we’re talking about anymore. Want a Pepsi?”
“Cooking Pepsi in the sun. Nobody’s drinking that shit”, “Faded Labels Hot Pepsi-Cloa, dude. A Serbian delicacy.”
And this is our morning in Niš. A couple of crotchety, hungover assholes complaining about our own existence and making fun of everything around us. But it is another super chill, all laughs and no cares type of day. What we’ve come to call Wroclaw Days on this trip. Actually, this type of dgaf hangover day on our travels can probably be traced back to a town in the Czech Republic named Ceske Budejovice. After waking up and still drunk from the Mongol Rally Czech-Out party in Klenova castle, we were only able to get an hour and a half down the road before deciding it’d be best to just check into the next town and ride this one out. Worked out for the best, but that’s a story for another time.
Food comes out. Oh ya, this will do.
Still some time to kill. Maybe an after-breaky mimosa. Yep, couple of those. They’re playing good music in here and we’re perfectly content to just talk shit and kill a few pre-bus cocktails. Just Jammin by Gramatik has us chair grooving
After some jazzy electro trip hop a reggae tune comes on. “Isn’t this Phil Collins Think Twice”, “Yep. The original Doctor Phil.”
After this the reggae trend continues with a little Whitney Houston, I Will Always Love You. “What the hell is happening? Where are we?”, “Serbia dude, duh. Pretty good background music actually”, “Add it to your Best of the Balkans playlist”
Alright, time to split. A few coffees, some food, a few more drinks, a nice morning in Niš. Met some great new peeps. Deepened our love of this random place we happened to hit up twice now. Time to move on.
One last crossing of the Nišava river before hitting the bus outta this country.
A little sketchier on this side of the river by the bus station.
Get to the ticket counter and ask about tickets to Skopje. Yep, leaves in 25 minutes. Perfect. North Macedonia, here we come.