If you Google “Sexiest Tourist Destinations of 2015,” I can almost guarantee you that Belgrade won’t populate your results. But that didn’t deter me from eagerly accepting Krassy and Nadiya’s invitation to join them and 11 of their closest Bulgarian friends on a road trip to Serbia’s capital. Lindsey flew in to join us, and we all had a fantastic weekend celebrating Nadiya’s birthday with delicious food, live Serbian music, and of course a little rakia.
While Belgrade was fun, perhaps the most entertaining part of the weekend was the 10 hour car ride from Silistra. As you might remember from previous posts, Krassy is quite a character, but the excitement of a road trip gave him an extra boyish energy that was hysterical.
Our journey started early. The two quick doorbell bursts that typically signal Krassy’s arrival came at 4:30 a.m. instead of the more normal 6:30 p.m. Krassy, Nadiya, and I lugged our bags down four flights of stairs, and met up with Stefka and Yavko–friends and our travel buddies for the day. Once we’d loaded the luggage, Yavko and Stefka sat up front, while Krassy was squished between Nadiya and me in the backseat. Time to leave!
Groggy from the early start, I was looking forward to shutting my eyes, and hopefully grabbing a couple more hours of sleep. I quickly realized that wouldn’t be an option.
4:35 a.m. – Krassy enthusiastically shows me all the bells and whistles on Yavko’s car. The cameras, the warning beeps when you’re in danger of hitting something in reverse, the air conditioning, the seat belt–nothing was too mundane to overlook mentioning.
4:47 a.m. – Krassy sees I have my Bulgarian words notebook, and suggests that in order to learn more Bulgarian, I ought to write down new words, cut them into small strips, dissolve those strips in wine, and drink them. There’s nothing I won’t try…it was about this time I decided I should also document all of Krassy’s shenanigans for retelling.
5:35 a.m. – A song comes on that everybody loves, but can’t identify. I proceed to BLOW THEIR MINDS with Shazam, the app used to identify songs after listening to just a few seconds. Krassy inspected the app carefully, fascinated by the technology.
6:12 a.m. – We discuss the mental health system in Bulgaria, and Krassy begins acting out what ADHD is to help me understand. Priceless.
7:45 a.m. – Krassy begins explaining the entire history of the Russo-Turkish War.
Somewhere around 8:00 a.m. – I drift off to sleep (have you ever tried listening to the history of the Russo-Turkish War at 7:45 AM?)
8:57 a.m. – Krassy wakes me up and says in Bulgarian, “You can’t make memories if you’re sleeping, Michael.” I guess he has a point. I can only imagine he had finished telling the history of the Russo-Turkish War just before waking me up.
9:14 a.m. – Nadiya receives her 6th happy birthday phone call of the day. Based on the number of phone calls she received that day, I could swear she is a borderline celebrity, and the picture with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov hanging in their living room corroborates that observation.
9:35 a.m. – Krassy makes the exact same joke he made at 4:47, only this time he suggests using beer instead of wine. I consider trying it for the second time in 5 hours.
9:57 a.m. – We make our first stop of the day to fill up the gas tank. I’m standing outside with Krassy, who is frantically trying to fit in a couple of cigarettes before getting back in the car. As we’re making small talk, a big bird flies towards us, looking to pass just above our heads. Suddenly, Krassy snaps up his hand and connects with the bird’s tail as it passes. “Michael!,” he exclaims as a boyish grin forms from ear to ear. Krassy beamed with pride over his successful “tag” as we made our way back to the car.
10:10 a.m. – Arriving in Serbia was probably the easiest border crossing I’ve ever experienced. Our car rolled up to the border and Yavko handed our passports over, and said we were heading to Belgrade for a birthday celebration. Never one to be left out, Krassy yelled from the backseat “Обичаме Сербска скара” or “We love Serbian Grill!”
10:52 a.m. – Out of nowhere: “Michael, what instrument does Bulgarian sound like?”
10:53 a.m. – Once he was satisfied with my answer (I think I said a trumpet for no reason whatsoever), he moved on to his next question. “Michael…In Spain, they speak Spanish. In France, they speak French. In Bulgaria, they speak Bulgarian. In England, they speak English. Why don’t they speak American in America?” I gave what I felt was a thoughtful answer about colonization and said it was a similar reason to why Brazilians speak Portuguese and Peruvians speak Spanish. Krassy wasn’t so convinced, and told me to ask Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton once I returned to the States. I’ll get right on that.
10:57 a.m. – Still tired from the early start, I briefly doze off, only to be immediately awakened by Krassy. Determined not to give anyone a moment to rest, he wakes Nadiya up right after me. To prevent us from falling asleep again, he goes on a streak of basically just telling us to look at things. For example…
11:10 a.m. – “Michael, look at this big tunnel.”
11:11 a.m. – “Michael, look at those rocks.”
11:13 a.m. – “Michael, look at this second tunnel. There are eleven in total that we will pass through.”
11:16 a.m. – “Michael, who do you think made these mountains? Was it Nostradamus? Julius Caesar? Aliens? Do you think it was the same people who made the pyramids?”
11:18 a.m. – “Michael, what is влак (pronounced vlak) in English?” (It’s train, if you’re interested).
12:17 p.m. – Krassy requests we listen to Serbian music, and we do for the rest of the trip.
12:40 p.m. – As we approach Belgrade, a motorcycle blows by us, and Krassy turns to me and says, “I hope he’s an organ donor.”
The rest of the trip was a blast, and being part of a birthday celebration with a big group of Bulgarians (there were 13 of us in total) is one of the coolest cultural experiences I’ve ever had. I feel incredibly lucky to have been included in the weekend, and am especially pleased that I got to witness Krassy’s antics on the ride. Here are some pictures from the rest of the trip!