Tuesday 19 September 2023

To Belgrade!

“This will be my second new country this year.”

“Good for you, Ronald.” Dolores says unenthusiastically

“You don’t sound very enthusiastic.”

“Don’t make such a big thing out of everything.” That’s me telt.

We rise pretty early, at six. Our flight is fairly early. But not early enough to require us getting at quite that ungodly an hour. We just want to get in some lounge time. Why waste time and money making breakfast when we can get one for free?

A cab whisks us to the airport a little after seven.

The airport is busier than I’ve seen it recently. But that could well be because of the time of day. Most of my recent flights out of Schiphol have been in the late afternoon.

My bag is soon checked in, and we head for security. I’m not looking forward to the confrontation with the gatekeeper of priority security. Then I notice that the escalator isn’t working. Which a good excuse to take the lift up. Which also has the advantage of dodging the gatekeeper.

It’s all been a doddle so far. Then we get to passport control. Where there’s quite a queue. Again. The wait looks about as long for the EU and non-EU queues. We pick one randomly.

No duty free for me today. “You can buy something in Belgrade. It’ll be a lot cheaper there.” Dolores suggests. And I’m not going to argue with her. I know where that will get me. To not a good place.

As soon as we hit the lounge, it’s breakfast time. I let Dolores go first, gentleman that I am. She returns with a couple of plates of food. Good thinking, as the plates are tiny.

Before venturing for food, I visit the bar.

“One Teachers and one Jim Beam, please. No ice in either.” My usual order. OK, it’s not yet 8 AM. But we are in an airport. So, it’s fine.

“Do you want a coffee, Ronald.”

“Go on. It’ll help wash the whisky down.”

Once I’ve got a whisky/coffee combination inside me, I assemble my breakfast. No scrambled egg today, unfortunately. Just some weird round egg thing. It’ll have to do. Along with some sausages and a token bit of veg, in the form of spuds and mushrooms.

“Do you want anything from the bar, Dolores?”

“A rosé wine, please.”

“I see you’re applying airport rules, too.”

“What do you mean.”

“That it’s acceptable to drink alcohol in an airport at any time of day.” Dolores doesn’t normally drink wine just after breakfast.”

“Well, you can talk with your whiskies.”

“I didn’t mean it in any kind of negative way.”


One wine is enough for Dolores. At least until we get on the plane. Me, I need more whisky.

“Are those both for you, sir?”

“No.” I lie unconvincingly.

“You’re getting through the drinks quickly.”

“I’m a nervous flyer. I need to build up some courage.” I lie, ever so slightly more convincingly.

I’m just polishing off my third brace of whiskies when Dolores notices that the flight has been delayed by thirty minutes.

“Time for another drink, then.”

“Don’t go crazy, Ronald.”

“When did I ever go crazy?”

I head for the bar before Dolores has time to reply.

After my last encounter with the barmaid, I’m slightly nervous. And decide to play it safe.

“A Pils, please.”

It’s a bit of a walk to our gate. So, we allow plenty of time. It’ll take at least ten minutes. Trudging through airports is so much fun.

“This is so much fun.”

“Your comments are really helping, Ronald.”

We have to wait around a bit for boarding. I’d have cut it finer, myself. Dolores is more cautious. Like Andrew.

“Andrew gets quite nervous as it gets close to boarding time. I did leave it a bit late in Incheon earlier this year. We were the last to board and the ground crew had started to look for us.”

“Lovely. Don’t do that with me.” I wouldn’t dare.

The flight isn’t very full. As no-one is in the window seat next to us, Dolores moves there. Giving us more room. Which is cool.

They feed us a sandwich and ask what we’d like to drink.

“I’ll have a red wine, please.”

“A white wine for me.” Dolores says.

“Still applying airport rules, I see.”

“And what about you?”

“I’m just a hopeless pisshead. Totally different rules apply to me.”

“I’ve noticed.”

While we’re waiting for our bags to flop onto the carousel, I notice that they’re selling Serbian sims. It’s only four euros for a week. Which seems a pretty good deal. I get myself one.

It takes a while queueing and then having the sim fitted. But my bag still hasn’t emerged. After consulting with other baggage-less passengers, Dolores has a look on the other carousels. Sure enough, my bag is there. I assume that the luggage that has been circling our carousel for 40 minutes is from a random other flight.

After getting some Serbian dinars, we head off in search of the number 72 bus stop. Which should take us to within a couple of hundred metres of our hotel.

One eventually rolls up. Paying is a challenge. It’s not possible to buy a ticket from the driver. He points us at a poster. About a quarter of the way into the journey, I manage to work out what it says. You need to pay using a phone app. Great.

On the other hand, the driver being pretty uninterested in our success at ticket purchasing, we travel for free. 

More about our first day in Belgrade next. When we get to some pubs and drink some beer.


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you left the kids behind because it would have been huge fun reading about the three of them ganging up on you.

Looking forward to the rest of the dispatches, all the same.

Rob Sterowski said...

Always order the bourbon first and then the Scotch so you can pretend you’re John Lee Hooker.