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Published: March 8th 2011
I was flattered and happy that Rodica and Nelu asked me to stay for another night. The only downside was that I was expected to meet my next couchsurfing host two countries away the same day I left Oradea. So I was up early and after a tasty breakfast I was zooming down the backroads through Romania, then through a bit of Hungary on my way to Serbia. I was pretty darned proud of my navigation through the city of Szeged, Hungary until I got out of town a few miles and realized I was on the same road I came in on. But eventually I was on the right track, through another border and into Palic, Serbia.
There were no house numbers so I drove around awhile and eventually asked a girl in a convenience store to call Tom, my host, and with her help I soon found myself in his driveway.
I don’t think I can describe how quickly my day changed at that point. For hours I had been at the height of solitude, not talking to anyone except maybe three or four words to a gas station attendant. The next thing I knew, we were
in Tom’s MG convertible, top down and driving through town. Tom has lived in Palic all of his sixty or so years and he seems to know everyone there, many of them since his grade school days. So it was almost like being in a parade, waving and smiling at people every block or two on our jaunt, all the while chatting away with Tom. Then it was back to his nice house for drinks, appetizers and desserts on the veranda, all before dinner!
The next day was a busy one. First was a trip to the neighboring town, Subotica. Tom had some chores so I had a great walk around town and a cup of coffee. After five countries and five currencies in about ten days, I couldn’t figure out if the coffee was $.85 or $8.50 but it sure was good. It turned out it was $.85. Later we were driving around and Tom asked me if I was married. I told him yes and he was rather quiet for awhile. Then he mentioned that we were going to meet a girl named Sondra for a drink. She was very pretty, very nice and very single. I
think Tom was trying to set me up. Now THAT is a gracious host!
Then it was a few miles up the road to a large winery. While we were sitting in the bar there, the owner happened to walk by and (surprise!) he was a friend of Tom’s. This led to a personal tour of the facility and a stop at the private tasting room at the end of this long low secret looking hall that was full of barrels of wine. There I got to taste a variety of fancy and expensive wines and they even made me wine king for the day or something. I even got to wear some fancy silk robe and hat.
The following morning we made the rounds to the butcher and the baker to get fresh ingredients for breakfast. Later it was a walk at the lake where Tom and Ilona casually pointed out where a bomb had exploded in the Bosnian war in about 1992.
Then it was time for work. Tom and Ilona own an orchard and it was the time of year to make the most important product, the apple brandy! So Tom gave me some
work clothes and we were on the way to the farm. The apples were already picked and our chore this day was to make apple mash. So we set this big apple grinder on top of a barrel and fed in crates of apples until the barrel was full of mash. Then we moved the grinder onto another empty barrel and did it again. We filled about eight barrels this way. It was super loud, super messy and super fun. My pay? A bottle of last years apple brandy, complete with their own personal label.
Our dinner was at a nice restaurant complete with live traditional Serbian music and Sondra.
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