James Jackman / June 29, 2016
An Interrail Adventure - Blog 3: Nis
A few days ago, my entry from Sofia ended with me valiantly ready to leave the country and depart to Serbia. There I was, on the train, ready to go, and... nothing. The departure time came and went and we sat in the station. After 20 minutes though, we were away! This was until about 500 yards down the track, where our train trundled to a halt. Then, with a shunt, our train was decoupled from its engine car – to then have another one attached to pull us back to the station! So there we were, sat at the station with no explanation. No matter, just an opportunity to get stuck into my book as the clock ticked on. 15 minutes, 30, 45 – still nothing. Then suddenly, at the hour mark and without warning – the train shuddered. A new engine, we were back in business. So after an unexpected hour and a quarter delay, I was on my way to Serbia.
The Serbian landscape from a train
After two long passport checks and having snaked our way through the Serbian hills, I arrived at Nis. A smaller city, the train station lacked some of the pizzazz as seen at other stations, but I didn’t mind. I just wanted to find my hostel and, more importantly, get some food! It didn’t take long to find the hostel (thank God for the maps on my phone) and after a look on TripAdvisor, I found my restaurant – tasty, traditional food in a warm setting, perfect!
Arriving at the restaurant I was greeted warmly, shown to my seat and then informed... that there was no English menu. However, not wanting to lose a customer, my waiter asked whether I liked beef grill (the answer was yes) and whether I liked salad (the answer was also yes). Then, he was gone and I was left wondering what I’d actually ordered. Well, he soon reappeared with a mixed salad, which I happily started munching on. Then, halfway through my (quite large) salad, the rest of my meal appeared – the beef. I was suddenly faced with 4 large plates of heavy Serbian food. Regretting slightly the decision to stay when no English menu was offered, I carried on consuming.
A rather large amount of Serbian food
Now, I wish I could tell you I finished it all in one sitting, I really do. However, not all stories have a fairytale ending and my stomach eventually ordered me to stop, just short of the remaining half of the burger. Still, not a bad effort and I was able to take the rest home to tackle another day! A lesson to be learned here folks, always make sure you know what the portion sizes are when ordering – or make sure you have a large appetite!
Yesterday was a day for exploring. As it is quite a small city with few tourists, Nis had no walking tour. So, it was up to me to find things to see. Highlights of my day were the fortress, skull tower and the Nazi concentration camp. The skull tower was, as the name suggests, a tower of skulls from Serbian soldiers, after a conflict with the Turks. Fascinating but quite macabre, it was well worth the visit, even if just to see a lot of real-life human skulls. The concentration camp was the Red Cross concentration camp, set up in 1941 by the Gestapo and the only concentration camp where inmates managed to escape - I’m definitely glad I visited.
Today, I sit writing this in a small cafe near the train station – have I missed my train? No, the reason is that my train never existed in the first place! After checking for trains using the Interrail timetable app, I found a train for 13:35 from Nis to Belgrade. Arriving at the station, I ask an attendant which train is to Belgrade, only to be met with blank faces all around! I soon find out the only train to Belgrade is at 15:30, a good two and a half hour wait! Not wanting to sit in the station for that time, I made my way to the nearby cafe, ordered a beer and started typing! As I look at the clock now, it’s only an hour and a half to go...