Sometimes you hear about something so unique, so left-field, and so totally up your street, that your whole brain does a double take. Does ‘insert niche topic here’ really exist?
Cue my overland adventure to Serbia and to one of the world’s most famous trumpet festivals.
Yes, a trumpet festival.
Yes, it was glorious.
I had learnt about this free (that’s right!) festival from an Australian guy I had met when backpacking in the remote parts of Romania. My ears had instantly pricked up because one of my quintessential loves are big old brass sections. I was easily swayed and I vowed to be reunited with my Australian friend and to get my skank on to some big brass bad boys.
A month or so later I made the arduous journey across Romania, hitchhiking some of the way and into the realms of nationalistic Serbia. One of my all time favourite high and low points of hitchhiking occurred on the border. I had been waiting for hours and my moral was drastically low, yet another car drove past me and in my frustration I put my hands into the air and asked for God’s help. Suddenly I saw the car’s brake lights come on, the car reversed towards me and I was pulled into a crowded Serbian family car, none of whom spoke English and I was on my way to Belgrade! Maybe there is a God?
Once into Belgrade, it was a matter of finding the local bus station and figuring out how exactly to make the trip to trumpet land. Luckily it wasn’t just me who had the thought of heading to see the horns and so a couple of other travellers and I set off to find the bus station and the transport that would take me to my heaven on earth.
We made it to Guca in one piece and looked for a place to pitch our tents and were informed that we could pitch in the middle of a sparse field for free of charge. What is it with Europe and these awesome cheap festivals?
Over the next few days, more and more people arrived and I was reunited with my friend from Australia. What I really can’t put into words is the amount of horn sections that occupy every nook and cranny of the town. I was in a restaurant and there was not one, not two, but THREE brass bands going around to each table playing. It was a sight to behold and pretty intense on the old eardrums.
And so the dancing, drinking and mingling carried on over the weekend. I met locals who had dreamed of visiting English castles, I met locals who offered me the ‘face of the lamb’ as a symbol of friendship (it is literally the face of the lamb which you eat…I politely declined) and I met locals who blamed me and my stupid country for bombing his city and had the scars to show for it. It was all very Serbian and I absolutely loved it.
And so my trip to Guca did not disappoint and it was everything you could have wished for from a slightly random European festival. However, the story did not end there and it was at this point where my next adventure swiftly began.
Remember that site called Couchsurfing? It was all the rage nearly ten years ago and this festival was no exception. A Couchsurfing meet-up had been organised for any travellers wishing to meet and just hang out. That meeting started off all very innocently but ended with me undertaking one of my finest acts of spontaneity.
For at that meeting I met a girl.
A girl with a bicycle.
And that bicycle was given to me.
So I guess it was time to cycle to Albania then.
Until next time!