When we were in Austria, we worked with a number of people, very few of them actually Austrians. Aside from the Finnish girls who we befriended immediately, we became friends with one of the other guys working there, Djordje from Serbia. We didn’t have much time to get to know him, as his time at the farm ended only days after ours started, but we liked him instantly and he promised to give us advice down the road when we were traversing through his home country.
Fast forward over three months and here we are in Serbia. Djordje has been in touch as we’ve drawn ever nearer, and even sent us a complete itinerary of things not to miss here. By pure luck, it turned out that Djordje would actually be in Serbia around the same time we were driving through (he’s currently working in Holland with his girlfriend, Annika, one of our Finnish friends). We made tentative plans to try and meet up, and low and behold, as we sat down yesterday for dinner at a McDonalds rest stop, Djordje messaged to say that we were a mere 15 minutes from his hometown. Thrilled to be able to make the meet up work, we arranged to meet just off the highway and join him for a drink.
One of the things we’ve really loved about the Balkan countries so far is how unbelievably warm and welcoming the people are here. It’s not like this in the States, England, or the rest of Western Europe. Here, it’s not just good manners, but genuine joy that these people feel welcoming strangers in to their midst. And Serbia is the same. Djordje’s family not only welcomed us with warm smiles, they let us use their shower, insisted on feeding us a home cooked meal, and offered us both beds inside for the night (I opted to stay with the dogs in the caravan cause I really can’t sleep without them, but Travis was thrilled to take advantage of a night out of the drivers seat).
In the morning, Djordje went to the bakery with Travis and brought back a late breakfast of traditional items. We spent the day relaxing in the house watching Animal Planet (I was shocked to see so many American TV channels here). We were originally planning to head onwards to Bulgaria today, but Djordje wanted to introduce us to his maternal grandmother (we’re staying with the paternal one; she’s head over heels in love with Travis). So we extended our stay another night and how glad we are we did.
Djordje’s family has pigs (the babies piglets are so stinking cute!) including the biggest sow I’ve ever seen in my life. This sow needed to be moved to his uncle’s farm as she will soon be having another litter of piglets and needs more room. A few days prior to our arrival, they had attempted this transport for the first time, and 100 metres in to the drive, the pig had jumped out of the horse trailer she was travelling in… which they didn’t discover until they’d arrived at his uncle’s farm. This was a shocking feat, as even a horse would struggle to make that leap, let alone a 300 kg pig! This time, they were prepared to prevent any escapes. Unfortunately, the sow seemed less then impressed with her last trip, and point blank refused to get in the trailer. No amount of coaxing, bribery with food, or pure pushing would budge her up that ramp. After 45 minutes, where I was impressed to see the genuine love they had of this animal who was clearly trying everyone’s patience, they managed to convince her to go in by putting one of her piglets in there. Djordje’s brother was so impressed by the little piglets quick accomplishment of the mission that he insisted I take photos of the little miracle worker. No hardship, the piglet was adorable!
The sow made the trip without incident this time, and we were introduced to an uncle, an aunt, a cousin, a grandfather in law, and a friend while enjoying coffee and rakia at the farm. From there we went to Djordje’s grandmother’s house, where we met another uncle (twin to the first) and had a home cooked Serbian meal. His grandmother’s stuffed paprika peppers were the best thing I’ve eaten on this trip hands down.
In 24 hours, we’ve met half of Djordje’s family and been made to feel like honoured guests… there’s few places where such an overwhelming welcome would be extended to strangers that Djordje literally knew for less then four days before we parted ways. This is why we travel, because such amazing experiences exist, with amazing people that we would never meet otherwise. Serbia will long remain one of our most treasured stops of this journey.