“Duševní pohoda” is a expression I’ve just learnt. It’s Czech and means “peace of mind”. And that’s what I’ve been experiencing in the past couple of days. I’m on the Croatian island of Brač. It takes 50 minutes by ferry from Split to get here. It’s probably a crowded and touristic place in summer but in November everything is closed, the beaches are empty and you hardly meet anyone when you explore those narrow paths along the coast.
My bus left at 11:30 am and I spend those 8 hours knitting, reading and admiring the amazing landscape. We arrived in Sarajevo about 30 minutes earlier than scheduled – and at the wrong bus station, not the central one but one a bit outside. One of the other passengers arranged a taxi for me and I arrived at my host’s place at 7:30 pm.
My first border crossing to a non-EU country by train and actually my first stay in a non-EU country since 2002. The train ride went smoothly. We stopped at the Romanian-Serbian border for about 45 minutes and Romanian border police collected the passports of all non-EU citizens. After they had returned the passports, we continued our journey to Vršac where the train ended. However, before we were allowed to get off, Serbian border police came and collected all passports of non-Serbian citizens. So now my passport finally has a stamp in it. After half an hour waiting time, the train to Belgrade arrived, a two-hour journey from Vršac. I arrived around 9 pm and was very pleased with my new accomodation, a nice large room with a bed, a sofa, a table and two chairs. No children, a clean kitchen and an extremely nice host. And perfect internet.
The two weeks in Timișoara were totally different from the six weeks in Bucharest. In Bucharest I had the apartment mostly for myself but here I stayed with a Romanian couple and their two-years old son. They were really nice but it wasn’t the best choice. Small children are simply not my cup of tea and the boy cried far too often for my liking. As he and his father were at home almost all day long (the mother was working), I felt like having no choice but leaving the apartment for at least 3 – 5 hours every day.
Now that I have left it, I have mixed feelings about Bucharest. The city simply can’t compare to Budapest or Prague. It’s very noisy and the traffic is crazy. Even when it’s green for pedestrians, cars will only stop when they’re half a meter away from you and give you the feeling of having to hurry up to cross the street. As someone who dislikes cars anyway, this is unacceptable for me and in the last two weeks I found myself mumbling something about stupid Romanian car drivers whenever I crossed a street.
It took me a while to decide whether I should take part in this challenge or rather wait for the next one. The reason is simple: I had no idea what language to choose. I had thought about Hungarian, Albanian and Romanian which are all languages I’m currently studying. At first sight Romanian seemed most logical because I’ll be in Romania for the first half of the challenge. However, I soon decided against it because I had just experienced that leaving the country before the end of the challenge is not good for my motivation.
The four days in Mannheim were quite nice. My daughter has now moved into her room in Heidelberg and seems to be doing fine. I visited my ex-colleagues at the psychiatric clinic which was great but it also showed me that my decision was right. I don’t miss anything and surely not that job. My former boss is still as stupid as ever and loves to abuse that tiny bit of power that running a ward gives her.
From Budapest to Frankfurt by train. The first part of the journey was pretty exhausting because the train was that crowded until it reached Vienna that the people were standing next to the seats like on a bus. So first I escaped to the dining car which was also full, though and then to the first class – also full but less crowded. Just as it had been reported in the newspapers before, there were many refugees on the train. Most of them obviously left in Vienna, afterwards the train was much emptier and I even found a seat. I had to change trains in Linz/Austria and although the second train was also full, I managed to find a seat at once, so I’m now writing this while travelling from Linz to Frankfurt.
Budapest again – and alone from now on. After spending almost two months in Prague with me, Jaci left for Brazil one day after her 18th birthday. She went with her father but will stay longer than him and is now meeting all her relatives who last saw her when she was 1 ½ years old. I’m sure it’s very emotional for all of them. I’m especially happy that her grandmother is still alive and healthy.