Sunday, October 03, 2010

Serbia 01. Strong Start: Improvization

When I wrote the proposal, I had no idea that the point of departure was about to change, as during my documentation I found out that the new Patriarch, His Holiness Irinej, was soon to be enthroned in Pećka Patrijaršija - or the Patriarchate of Peć - a beautiful monastery now in Kosovo. A few days later I was on the night train to Belgrade.

Marko (another participant in the masterclass) waited for me in Belgrade, armed with contacts' phone numbers, possible fixers and a large, confident smile. That helped a bit, considering I had little control over what was going to happen next, which is always somewhat disheartening.

He put me on a bus to Mitrovica. The plan was to spend the night there, where I had already reserved a room, and head over to Pec in the morning. For some reason, no one, including Marko, had any idea of how to get from Pec to Mitrovica.

Mitrovica must be a lovely city. I wouldn't know. By the time the bus got there, after an eight-hour ride, I didn't even know where to get off. The main power generator in the area was down and everything looked like Easter night in my hometown: candles left and right.

I finally got to my hotel, where I had cautiously reserved a room. "Andrej?" asks the guy at the front desk and points to my name, mispelled at the top of a page somewhere towards the back of a math notebook. "Yes, sir, that's me!" I answer, vaguely pointing my chin up, as if to show I knew they were waiting for my arrival. "Sorry, your reservation is October 10". It's October 2nd, the enthronement was the following day and something told me they were not going to wait for me. You can imagine how fast the chin dropped, back to where it should have prudently stayed.

We got into a slight argument about the reservation phonecall, but, while I totally trust my girlfiend's English skills - she was the one who called - I realized there was no point and moved on. On to another hotel, that is. The guy who took the reservation was really nice and walked me through the dark to this fancy hotel where I was lucky enough to get a room and, once the power came back - in a couple of hours - a really great meal.

No one in this hotel knew how I could get to Pec from Mitrovica (keep in mind this in Northern Mitrovica, where most inhabitants are Serbian), but they all agreed on one thing. I needed to get up at five in the morning.

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