By Vladd Ruttley-Wolf
You could run
forever, row or sail, or travel at the speed of sound and you would never be
any closer or further from the horizon. You can raise your head up to the mast
of a ship or stand on a mountain to see a little further, but you will never
get there. Just the same, we are all born to try and the futility of our
efforts does not make them any less worthwhile. So we go on, drifting through.
It was not so cold anymore but I still looked forward to heading south towards
the equator and the freedom of shorts. Budapest was a great city, a fun city, a
working city that was traveller friendly but not tourist orientated. But I had
been now and it was time to go and see what lay a little further on. And I wish
I lived in an age of blank spaces on maps, sea monsters and rumours of great
civilizations hidden in mountains and across the seas. And god bless all those
great explorers! God bless you Vasco De Gama! God bless you James Cook! God
bless you Laika! I live in an age with Google Maps on my iPod and it’s just not
The train station was muggy, whistles blew and the announcements echoed around
the large hall.
“Which platform was it” Jack said
“I think it’s platform two?”
So we picked up all our belongings and moved the hundred meters or so to the
It was the right train and we looked down at our tickets and tried to decipher
the seat numbers, carriage or class hidden somewhere in Hungarian. No luck and
we gave up and asked a man who looked like he worked for the railways which
carriage was ours. He pointed us in a direction and finally we were where we
needed to be.
There were soldiers on the train to Belgrade dressed in full kit, each with
identical haircuts. Everyone was smoking. The country was completely flat with
empty fields of grass and only water towers, antenna’s and small towns
intervening. I slept some and listened to music. I wrote a letter to my dad I
never sent. Some girls chatted excitedly and giggled. I had some more
dreamless, broken sleep and looked at an old guide book for things to do in
Towards the end of the trip we got a coffee from the cafeteria. The barista
bumped his head and all the staff laughed and so we laughed a little as well.
We drank the Nescafe standing at a table looking out the widow while still more
flat countryside went past.
“I think Belgrade will be really good”
“Yeah” I said
“We’ll go out tonight, what do you reckon?” Said Jack “It is
“I’m a bit tired” I said “But it is Friday”
We got into Belgrade at around 8pm and found the Hostel without too much
trouble. There are good hostels in this world, but this was not one of them.
There were no keys, no lockers, no maps and everything else falling short of
Some German guys at the hostel were drinking, listening to Eurotrash dance
music and getting ready to go out. Mind if we tag along? No problem. So we
drank our beers fast and I ate the biggest hamburger you can imagine on the way
to the club. Huge. I couldn’t finish it.
The city was dirty, full of run down cars, the smell of Diesel in the air. The
pavements were uneven and full of potholes. I should have worn a clean shirt to
go out in, but I had run out of clean clothes about a week ago and I refused to
pay the rates hostels charge. I was shower washing as a stop gap, but nothing
lasts forever and eventually I would have to do washing again and suffer what I
The club was in a tower not far from the hostel. Bare concrete walls, a metal
detector and half a dozen doormen with shaved heads and black bomber jackets
greeted us in the foyer. I was frisked properly before being led through to the
elevator. The elevator had only two floors on it: G and 26. The other numbers
were covered over with sheet metal. I had a bad feeling about the place and I
thought the doors would open and a Serbian would beat me to death with a brick.
The doors opened and I have never seen so many good looking women in my life.
Full time models dancing and drinking shots. I looked for ordinary looking
girls but couldn’t find anything less than a 10. And the music was so loud that
we yelled in each others ears to no avail and so we signed a great deal and
tried to shout louder.
We got beers and stood on the edge of the dance floor. The place was so packed
people were forever running into each other. I was in a state of perpetual
shock, unable to say or do anything. The girls were so beautiful I wanted to
have faith, if only for a little while. The girls were so gorgeous I wanted to
believe in god.
The place was loose. People danced on the bar, a girl took off her shirt and a
barman emptied a fire extinguisher into the air. I was too tired, too sober,
too shocked to do anything more than just stand there and occasionally shake my
head slowly from side to side. I wanted to talk to a girl but the music was too
loud. I wanted to dance with a girl but I couldn’t find the courage. So we left
out into the cold and I wished I was better looking, more confident, more
charming and I felt alone.
My ears were ringing from the music during the walk home. We all talked about
how amazing the girls were and made excuses for ourselves knowing we were out
of our depth. Just the same we dreamed of things that never were, that never
could be, and maybe, for just a while, believed that we were better men than we
really were. The horizon was just as far away as it always would be.