“Play Hard, Meet the Green(s)”, the summer university organized by AEGEE-Niš and AEGEE-Novi Sad focused on eco-friendly lifestyle, has made my summer one of the most unforgettable ones. In the following lines I’ll try to put my memories to words – at least the ones I still remember in spite of the rakia.
This story begins on a Friday night. After a journey of more than fifteen hours, some other Spanish and me finally got to Novi Sad – a Serbian city famous, among other reasons, for being the place where Exit festival takes place. Although the festival has ended, there was still live music in the city. The rest of the participants have been singing in a karaoke bar for hours. Luckily their voices were not completely destroyed, because they would need them the next morning during the city rally. The fortress, the catacombs and the Liberty Square were just some of the places visited in Novi Sad. That was, -let’s say- the first contact with Serbian ground. For some, literally because the catacomb visit was full of accidental falls.
Of course, Novi Sad had even more to offer. We were able take a dive into the Danube river with its artificial beach, we learned some Cyrillic, we tasted some local wines in Karlovci- a small city 5 km away from Novi Sad, we learned a little about ecology in Serbia and the terrible floods that took place some months ago, we danced traditional Serbian dances and we even survived an orinetation activity in the middle of the mountain the morning after a hard night of drinking.
Because yes, Novi Sad was also all about nightlife. The first night during a pub crawl we discovered the countless kinds of rakia. After that night, we learned more about others participant’s (drinking) traditions and cooking in the European night. And finally, the last night in the sex change party we discovered that some participants (names are removed to keep their privacy) seemed more comfortable disguised in clothes that belong to the other sex.
The morning after, with the mascara still on some participants’ eyelashes, we headed to Belgrade. Fortunately the train was comfortable enough to take a little nap – that situation was taken advantage of by others to make a wonderful sleeping beauties album. The visit to the city was short but sweet and did not consist of only sightseeing. The capital of Serbia is well-known not only for its centuries of culture but also for its nightlife. So to fully get to know the city, we spent the night on an incredible party boat situated at the river bank.
Next morning we changed the boat for a bus, and hit the road to Rtanj, a small village 200 km away from Belgrade which gets its name from the nearby mountain. This mountain has an unusual appearance which resembles a pyramid and is a topic for many local legends. Among others, it is thought to house a ‘pyramidal’ structure left behind by alien visitors. That was precisely one of the reasons of our visit. We were supposed to climb the mountain at midnight and meet our green friends on the top. But unfortunately we did not leave a great first impression and they sent us some rainy clouds. Therefore, the plan had to be rescheduled to the morning after (which proved to be a blessing for our physical integrity).
Apart from the unexpected weather, our time in Rtanj was great and relaxing. We had time for workshops, games, tell scary stories at the camp fire and even become actors and cinema directors for a couple of hours (we hope our independent films win a lot of awards at the next Sundance Film Festival).
And slowly but surely we approach the end of this story. Our last destination was Niš, one of the oldest cities in the Balkans and the third-largest city in Serbia. Many moments come to my mind when I think about our stay there. The city rally, the day at the swimming pool, the pub crawling, the delicious dinner at the “kafana”, the relaxing day at the spa or the always bustling student dorm. The same student dorm that filled itself with “goodbyes” and “hope to see you soon” and an emotional roller-coaster of happiness and sadness.
Now that a little more time has passed since this adventure ended, I have been gathering all my memories for writing this article. And I am feeling lucky for the decision I made at the end of April choosing this summer university.
I guess that like me, most of the participants didn’t know so much about Serbia or had a wrong impression about the country. However, Serbia proved itself a beautiful, hospitable and open-minded country with a lot to offer. Needless to say that the experience wouldn’t have been the same without the 27 participants and organizers who were part of this adventure.
So I just can say, Hvala (or koala) to all those who made it possible.
Written by Irene Arregui, AEGEE-Zaragoza