Team Middlesex in Serbia
What happens in Serbia, stays in Serbia! That was what was initially agreed upon, but does it stay there? I mean what fun was it if you guys could not make it on the trip with us?
A sleepless night, prior to the 22nd of May, due to the excitement for ‘The Day’ was endured by most of us. Reporting just after the sunrise at Costa Coffee, Dubai Airport Terminal 2, was a great decision as everyone needed to energise their bodies and keep awake.
The commonly quiet and unexciting terminal of the Dubai Airports was filled with laughter, enthusiasm, excitement and the suitcases of 52 students and staff members. Grabbing their coffee, hot chocolate or anything to fill their tummies to keep them fresh and awake while waiting for the few that were yet to make it, the journey to an expectedly gorgeous destination began.
A five-hour long journey, sleepy for some, thrilling for the rest, leaves us waiting for what’s to come but here we’ve reached, and there’s no time for jet lag to kick in. Right across the subway, we check into the trendy Belgrade City Hotel and leave immediately for the House of Flowers.
Exhilarated and intrigued, we walked amidst the luscious green flora, accompanied by cool breezes dancing through our hair. The House of Flowers also called Mausoleum is home to the Yugoslavian Communist Revolutionary Titos’ tomb. It also houses a museum showing the history of Serbia before and after the revolution.
Guided by our very knowledgeable, young and friendly tour guide, Tamara, it was time for our little cruise on the river Sava. Not long after informing us about the different places we could see from the cruise boat, we heard a very familiar song being played, can you guess which song it was?
It was the classic ‘My Heart Will Go On’ by Celine Dion, with two of our favourites Jade and Saud, acting like Jack and Rose. That performance earned them the title of Couple Goals.
Evening settled in, and it was dinner time where we all gathered at a restaurant nearby our hotel in Belgrade with our very loved Ms Dragana who had pre-booked a set menu for us to try traditional Serbian food. I mean, come on guys, kebabs and soup, who doesn’t enjoy that and moreover with such fantastic company??
The most liberating aspect about Serbia was exploring the places ourselves. After dinner we set off on our own, venturing through the cobbled streets of Belgrade, taking in the incredible architecture. Google maps became our best friend when it was time to make our way back to the hotel. I believe we all got the best sleep of our lives that night.
Day two called for an early morning breakfast, and a quick check-out by 8.30am as we made our way to Zlatibor Mountain, a journey that lasted longer than our flight itself. Ms Dragana, Selma, Coach Slavko, Coach Sasa and Nabeela were the best to be around with. Trust me when I tell you that they are way more fun than all of us combined.
Music in the back where the Indians got a little too free to jam to the old Bollywood hits, entertaining everyone on the ride.
Stopping at multiple fuel stations for snacks and washroom breaks and finally at our first destination spot Bajina Basta, the House on Drina river. Can you believe it? It is a house in the middle of the river, where the owner would have to row each time he had to get to the city and back. Imagine rowing to the banks of the river when your McDelivery has arrived. That being said, it was a picturesque destination with Bosnia on the other side of the river. Fun fact – some of us received messages from Etisalat that said Welcome to Bosnia. We decided we could fool people that we had been to both Serbia and Bosnia, so let this secret remain in Middlesex.
Our journey continued towards the Tara National Park where we got to see what I like to call heaven on earth at the top of Tara mountain. A little trekking on a slippery mountain did not stop us. Being surrounded by nature and fresh high-altitude air gave us all a completely new experience from the usual humid conglomerate Dubai.
“The scenery left me spellbound.”Gaitlin George, Year 3 UG Student
“Easily one of the best places to catch a glance of the ever so scenic Serbia, Tara National Park is a must visit. The view from the peak is definitely one that will leave you breathless.”Surbhi Bhatia, PG Student
After about 30 minutes we drove off to Hotel Iris in Zlatibor where we had dinner and later explored the town by foot in the chilly weather. Most of the team stopped for some delicious desserts at one of the small restaurants in the city and then laid back in their rooms to rest in preparation for day three.
Yet another early morning where we began our journey from Zlatibor back to Belgrade. On our way, we first stopped at a local market to pick up souvenirs and most importantly locally sourced Acacia organic honey and honey made from Linden Trees. In Eastern Europe, honey produced from the Linden tree is typically used to treat sore throats, rhinitis, and laryngitis. However, we mainly picked it up because it’s HONEY.
Our next stop was the Wooden City, where everything was obviously made from wood. Small houses, shops, and amazing viewpoints.
The Sargan Eight train ride, which was where we halted next got us highly excited. Anybody remembers the cartoon Thomas and Friends? Well, it became a reality for us.
“The train ride refreshed childhood memories of the cartoon Thomas and Friends and younger attempts to imitate Shahrukh Khan in DDLJ.”Farhaan Hassan, Year 2 UG student
We finally reached Belgrade around 9 pm, checked in at the Belgrade City Hotel and left straight for the Two Deer’s Restaurant at the historical Bohemian part of Belgrade, Skadarliji. Live Serbian music composed of a cellist, violinist, guitarist and singer. The entire ambience merged with the food made us feel like we were dancing to their tunes.
After dinner we decided to walk around town when we heard Bhangra music, trying to be the filmiest people ever, the entire group rushed to dance on the streets of Belgrade. A night like no other, a night to remember.
We were off to Novi Sad to explore the town and maybe do some shopping. Along with us, even the sky was sad that we were leaving the next day. It hailed heavily and with a force as we’ve never seen before.
After going around the town, it was time for food, at the banks of the river Danube in the very popular restaurant, Aquadoria. Again, delicious soups, kebabs, fries, sausages, pasta and salads. Serbia is known for its grilled food and mind you it was Yummy in our Tummies.
An astonishing view of the Danube was witnessed from the fort we hiked up to.
There was also a bridge filled with locks, where most of the people engraved their names together with friends and locked it on the bridge as a memory.
The next unexpected thing to happen was that we were on Serbian television! A few of us were interviewed for a TV show; our bhangra videos were also shown, as well as a video of us on the bus was on Serbian television. How cool is that?
That evening, after returning to our hotel in Belgrade, we were free to roam the streets of the city for coffee, pizzas, pasta and Serbian street food. We chose to go out as a group and make the most of our last night in Serbia.
“It was a great trip over all, we got to experience something completely new and different than what we usually see here in Dubai.”Mahima Trivedi, Year 2 UG Student
The next morning, sleepy eyes, gloomy faces, and with absolutely no energy breakfast and checkout were completed, and we set off to the airport. The next five hours on the flight were dull. For some reason, leaving Serbia, made us feel homesick. But then, everything comes to an end, and this had to end too. Because if this journey did not stop, how would we embark on a new one together?
“I am so pleased that 46 of our students visited Serbia this year! This is the 5th annual international trip organised by the Student Activities Department, and after visiting countries in the Far East and Western Europe, this year they explored my home country, a small but rich in history, set in the Balkans, birthplace of Novak Djokovic, and Tesla. We tried our best that MDX students taste our traditional food, our folklore and dance, climb the mountains and see some churches and monuments. MISSION COMPLETED. Next Year? Well, the world is our oyster!”Dragana Symons, Student Activities Manager at Middlesex University Dubai
We hope you’ll join us on the next one too.