Serenaded At Midnight

On my first night in Sarajevo I went for a night out with 3 guys at the hostel. Having not seen anything yet, just walking the streets felt like a delight as I saw monuments of significance. The eternal flame flickered in the night, it’s resilience radiating out. Then was the Sarajevo Memorial for Children Killed During Siege glowing the colour of jade within the water. Strong and full of respect, standing tall and reflecting the light in shards.

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We went to Kino Bosna, kino meaning cinema. This is because it was a renovated old cinema, with black and white images of movie stars lining the walls and a large old school projector commanding the room. It had been turned into a bar that hosted live music of a very traditional kind. This evening was a three man band of a guitar, a drum and an accordion. I got my cocktails and grinning from ear to ear, I watched and clapped along to the jolly music while the rest of the audience sang enthusiastically. It reached the point where they spotted my enjoyment and came to our table. Then they began giving us our own improvised performance and serenaded us. It was such a lovely and personal experience that we stayed there for a while.

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Next we went to Zlatna Ribica or the Goldfish (named after an actual goldfish that is swimming around in the centre of the bar). The style was like my dream, filled with antique clocks, old pulley systems, tiny black and white TVs and adorned with golden jewellery and masks. Even the toilets were special, with an electronic voice welcoming you in and decorated even more grand. The waitress, dressed in full black lace corset and jewelled necklace, took our orders and we all sat around taking in our surroundings. The bar is normally very busy so we were lucky to get a table. We chatted the quiet night away, sharing travel tales and exciting adventures, just 4 strangers sharing a drink.

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Risking My Life For A View

We started the day road tripping to Plovdiv and spent the day there. Enjoying wandering around such a beautiful town and indulging in some fancy day time cocktails and unique food like frogs legs and liver. We decided to make the extra trip to Buzludzha, a communist monument less than 2 hours from us. We went from small town to smaller town, enjoying the little significant landmarks and cute landscapes shining in the intense sun. Then all of sudden, all hell broke loose in a storm. Aggressive rain poured down and quickly turned to hail. Not a few frozen drops – the kind of giant rocks that forced us to pull over because the smashing against the car sounded like we were being shot at (I would know, I’ve shot a sniper rifle). Eventually it lightened up and we continued our drive, until we reached the important part.

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Driving up the squiggle roads (our adopted technical term) we climbed the mountain, each time so high that every ledge looked like it led to the abyss. We arrived at the “abandoned Communist UFO” and it was on a very grand scale. We were miniscule in comparison to the height this monument stood at. Circling round it, we saw the beautiful various styles of street art covering the base. Then we reached the “entrance”; the rumoured tiny, dangerous and claustrophobic hole in the ground that lead inside.

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I looked into the hole and paused. I did not hesitate for one second for bungee jumping, paragliding or skydiving, but this….this had no guarantee. No guarantee that I’d be okay, in fact it was the opposite because so much was ready to go wrong. When I say wrong I mean claustrophobic fix, serious injury or fatal fall on the remains of construction. I may have been with pros used to this risk but I’d grown up on instructors and harnesses. If I’m honest, my personal pride and adventurous curiosity was at stake. I am a risk taker, thrill seeker, danger lover. I’m the person that goes down that hole because my heart needs to know – what if?

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So I did it, I agreed to go in. With the help of  new friends/heroes, I clambered down large distances into the collapsed in hole, steadying myself on metal spikes and broken concrete. The guys were incredible in holding me tight the whole time and making me *know* I was safe. I dropped down the several levels and had achieved the underground stage of the discovery. My heart was pumping and adrenaline punching my chest, but I had made it. We ventured through the debris, through the dank tunnels, up the destroyed stairs and through the amphitheatre remains. Then came the view, the view that made it all worth it. I climbed up and dangled my feet over the edge of the monument, looking down at my ant sized friends. I was shaking from the high of the situation, grinning and nervous laughing, saying I was “on top of the world”. We soaked in what we had achieved together, somehow the best experience of my life.

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As I sat over the edge I was peaceful, quiet and swinging my feet….that was until my shoe fell off, falling who knows how far, disappearing into the fields. This began the ‘oh no, I’m screwed’ portion of the trip. Luckily my heroes came to the rescue again and we bundled up my bare foot in 4 socks and my wrapped up hoodie. We began the even more dangerous route back. With the sun setting, our light was fading fast. I limped through broken glass, puddles, over giant rocks and fallen in ceiling. We made it to the exit and for the large climb up the wall on unsteady structures I was supported and then proudly for the final climb, I made it myself, probably on pure adrenaline. We made it out in one piece and had officially conquered the abandoned Buzludzha.

I hobbled back to the car, resumed my navigator’s seat and we drove home for 4 hours in the pitch black and pouring rain. The lightning lighting up the darkness like a camera flash. Arriving at the hostel at 2am I went to bed, left with cuts, bruises and memories; I’ll take that combo any day.

My Night of Sophistication

So it was my first night in Kiev, I’d just made a couple new friends at Kiev Central Station Hostel and we had decided to go for a night out. I was in charge of sourcing the nightlife so after some quick googling we were off.

Our first stop was The Caribbean Club, with me thinking this was going to be some traditional clubbing in Europe. But we step inside and it turned out to be the most stunning jazz club I’ve ever seen (not that I had many to compare it to). I headed to the bar to get my bearings, ordered a blue lagoon cocktail and we took a table in the back. I was captivated by the band on stage and the atmosphere they were creating. The singer’s silky smooth voice echoed out and the low lights warmed the room with their colours.

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I decided to continue sampling their fantastic cocktail menu and ordered a loud orgasm, I promise for the ingredients and not the funny name. The bartender’s style when making our drinks reminded me why I wanted to take a serious course in cocktail making. The drinks were finished, the performance over and it was time for the next stop of the evening.

We went to B-Hush Rooftop Bar, again a choice of mine from the thorough googling endeavours. Instead of a cheap bar with a DJ like I was expecting, we were lead to the top of a luxurious hotel and seated with the kind of respect where they called me ma’am. Thanks to the shockingly cheap prices of Ukraine, we were actually able to fake it and enjoy the high life of luxurious drinking. While enjoying an apple martini and avocado maki I took in the view, a panoramic lit up city, as alive and bright on the ground as the stars above.

Finally our night ended at a local bar themed as a hospital with staff dressed in nurse and doctor outfits; cheap, good food and mildly entertaining. We headed back to the hostel and I went to bed with a smile on my face. Some would say our night of luxury was just a lucky mistake, but I’d call it serendipity.