Zornitza and Balkan had been wandering around Monte Negro and Croatia for the last couple of days. Zvezditza, Zornitza´s little sister, had come back from a distant Saxon land where she manifested the height of her talent, labor and integrity in the sphere of cosmic technology. Yep, that´s right. The wagons that are going to get us across the skies to the stars where we shall meet the gods but this time it will be as equals.
So we had to arrive at Chachack at a given date and time in August 2013. Getting a bus from our favorite Sofia to the bus station in Nish. From there walking to the exit of the city, a quick stop for a boza and local style of bakery, delicious by the way, thumbs up and down, boredom, lurking waves of pessimism, but in the end all is fine and we ended in Chachak, at the gas station, right where we were supposed to be. A couple of minutes later Zornitza and Balkan arrived, all fresh and nice from Monte Negro and Croatia. They had just been strolling around from place to place. First they did some kayaking in the Tara river, then they chilled at some guest houses with nice views, homemade food from A to Z and a strongly emphasized wine experience. So they showed up all mellowed out and serene already. It did not take long before a general puddle-like substance became our common state of mind. No stress, no everyday life, all the mundane heroes from Tuesday, Wednesday and Monday in a regular January are gone. Four people, one plasma of liquefied-serene-dontgiveafuck-mutually pleasant presence that brings along lots of laughter and slightly strange behavior.
Hey, village, village, fucking village! The moment I saw it I knew. There was this vague and shapeless but nevertheless definite and instinctive knowledge… “Shit´s about to blow up, brother, this is it, you can´t miss it”. It´s just the way this little, filthy, choked in its own spittle river is dragging itself diagonally across the valley; just as if to stand out in the landscape and show off with its curves and with a couple of bridges here and there. The situation as we find it is worthy of being sung of by a weeping and scornful trumpet in memory of the devastating damage done by one night of Balkan madness with about 10 000 participants. A disaster. Western Europeans start looking around timidly at about 22.30 – 23.00. Then they slowly disappear. It´s a party up to a certain point, then they just don´t get it. They can´t. Just as we can´t understand the construction of the harmony seemingly inherent to the societies forged in the frost, so they can´t get the slight trance that most of the people around are already in. And we have only just begun.
Right upon our arrival in Guča we hit possibly the best deal in the whole area. A spot on the parking lot in the yard of a house with space for two tents and a common bathroom. All that for 3 euros a night per person, 6 euros for two days, pha! Since the very first moment there was this flicker of fleeting love-like emotive connectedness that sometimes sparks between landlord (or landlady in our case) and tenants. She made us coffee three times on the house just because we were „връло лепи и фини“/”vrulo lepi i fini”. Total mellow-out. After we got set, we started walking up and down the streets organized between the abundant piles of beer and meat everywhere. We then reached the village football stadium. This was the place where the semi-finals were supposed to take place that day. That´s it. That´s what our company got to know. Semi-finals 2013. Guča open, Guča limited or Guča Champion´s League, Guča finals or something else, not a clue but it didn´t matter.
WHAT MATTERED WAS THAT SHIT WAS OFF THE HOOK!!!
Semi- finals? What semi-finals, mada faka? These people didn´t let us be for hours and hours. You reach a point where you start begging for the music to stop because you are already a slave to it. When it sounds, there is no stopping; your legs belong to it and not to you long ago now. Top this with people walking around the crowd beefing things up a little selling 100 g of rakia in festival ash-trays. You know, the ones that are actually plastic water bottles that have not been blown. So these, full to the top with “krushovica” or “djulavica”, Guča´s own, no mistake about it. And no stopping, no stopping at all. It´s just like jazz. They set the base in the beginning and on top of it one after the other, one over the other and together in all types of combos, start improvising the instruments, solo, duets and all together till a total pass out. At least 12 times, I swear. Screaming and shouting, ecstatic seizures, sweat and mud, people on the ground, people in the air around, people in the stratosphere.
There is something that scares those immune to this music, those with manners, civilization and other achievements; neo-hippies, hipsters of all types, all them scumbags; British, German, French, Danes, Swedes, other Nordic white, reasonable people. Even the not so white, Spanish, Italians. They just can’t get it. They can’t. They just stand there blinking and something does not feel right. Yeeah, boys. Odin and Thor got nothing on us. They tried to come but they winded up counting teeth with broken fingers in the “La Tropicana” in Pernik. Yep, the same “Tropicana”, dude, the one right next to the bus station. When you have this music played by the people that created it, playing it to their own people, it´s getting intense.Thousands and thousands from the countries around gathered to celebrate their music. This is dangerous. Years and epochs of deliberate, international efforts have been made to divide these people. English language even boasts a souvenir from the golden epoch of these strivings. The verb “to balkanise”.
“Balkanise – divide (a region or body) into smaller mutually hostile states or groups.
“Ambitious neighbors would snatch pieces of territory, balkanising the country“
The word comes into existence, guess when? Well, in the period of the Balkan wars, I wonder why… and everything went just as planned. Almost. With the exception of three things: The spirit, the music and the rakia. Undestroyed and indestructible. The keys which gather the pieces of the puzzle and bring back to life the so feared colossus, whom they had been torturing for so long. They are afraid of what we can do when we are drunk and listen to our music and our hearts. They are afraid that after that it will dawn on us that we don’t need to be drunk to be in that state…
“See that one over there? That’s where I got the apples for this one” says the owner of the house pointing to the hill right in front of us and holding a bottle of apple rakia in the other hand. You even don’t know how exactly you reached this guy’s yard. But you are there anyway, your brain’s all in the shape and cognitive condition of a bowl of mashed potatoes. You are already in the la-la land so anything that keeps it going is just about damn fine. So he told us about the rakia, which came from where, technology, process, a bit of know-how, you know. I suspect that he had known at least 30 minutes prior to our arrival that he would sell us those two bottles. Everything in his behaviour was in total consonance with it. That brings up the interesting question about free will but let’s not discuss that over rakia ,now, shall we?
The day was the next one, after the first. The place, on the outskirts of Guča. The phase of it was a cliché portrait of an August afternoon “on the meadowlet, by the rivulet” with two bottles of rakiichitza. They hadn’t warned us about one of the two, though. It was ice-cold. In this middle August swelter there was this chunk of iced glass filled with krushovitza with a color of pale gold that´s being caressed by the sun light. Yeah…so whatcha gonna do about it?
“Oh! Ouch! Yo…give me just a sip, just a little, cuz it´s just sitting there in my hands, and it´s cold and uncomfortable. Yep. Can you pass it along…yooo! That´s unbearable, you can´t hold this, man! Let me just have a quickie and I´ll pass it along…Balkane!!!E, Balkane!! Take the bottle, you son of a bitch!”
What we had meant to have as a day and where we ended up ending it up… Wasted by daylight. You can only do this two times in the year, the most. Without even planning it, we took one of our shots right on time. When if not in Guča, in Serbia, on a gipsy brass fest in the middle of August?
So all shiny with our snouts glistening in the sun, the four of us were walking, without shape or identity whatsoever, to the amalgam of meat, beer and music. We winded up on the stadium once again, this time for the finals. Fuck the finals! Total misunderstanding. Something was wrong there. Last night we had for the first time in written history naked human beings being sent straight into the stratosphere, and what are we doing today? Nah, weak, wack, shoddy,dumb. On top of all that it started raining cats, dogs and pleskavitzi. So you are all dumb and drunk like shit and now you are getting wet. But you don´t know what to do because you only have beer and meet where the decision center was previously located. But, hey, that´s ok, dude, we did it again this time! Guess what? What? It´s raining so fucking much that it doesn´t matter. What´s the point, when it really doesn’t matter? From the fifth minute on there is no getting wetter. There is no other drunkenness like this. The night has suddenly turned into a pouring abyss of liquid, wet, darkness. Its texture is now everywhere conveyed through the so crucial property of the water to be sticky and almost omni-permeating. It feels like it has sucked itself into us all and at the same time we are all thrown into it as if in a boiling cauldron. All drunk, as if unconscious, not know knowing but somehow understanding their own trance. The asphalt streets are like grey red carpets for the surges of water that are running down the roads carved and paved by man. And everybody is jumping, splashing water, screaming, singing, vomiting, pissing, dancing and circling around in some finely grotesque pirouettes of an indescribable and inexplicable but very specific rapture. Somehow we got home. We finally managed to get to a dry place under the shelter in the yard. The yabulkovitza had been long ago full having in mind it was supposed to be for our friends back home because we weren´t gonna drink because we all felt bad that day, right? Yeah, right. That´s why I saw people hand-walking up the road into the opposite lane. Mhm, that´s right…
We opened our confused eyes on our last morning in Guča. Some when about sunrise and through the cracks of eye gum on my eyes and my morning inadequacy I managed to look around. It was like a battle field after a battle in the Balkan wars. Thanks God, though, without the war! Just a whole lot of mainly Balkan people that blew the place up, that´s it. Swaying gently and chipping off eye gum I wonder what if that energy is suddenly invested with the same animalistic focus into something else as well. What could it bring to life? Whole roads and buildings, unity, a whole new future, maybe…
Our last breakfast in Guča. A chaotic order of 1kg of freshly grilled and roughly cut, tender pork; 4 coffees, 2 beers and 2 bottles of water. We gather some pathetic cognitive remnants of what’s available between the ears, muttering, moaning and groaning and in the yard of the inn there this massive gispy orchestra jamming as hard as fuck. We were lucky enough so we needn’t move in order to see the scene. A classic Balkan “MUTRA” in the depths of his rapture. It’s 11 o’clock a.m. and he has survived the last 16 hours of drinking, possibly about 9-10 liters of beer and between 1.5 – 1.8 liters of liquor. Still, he won’t stop, oh no. He is gasping a bit but he ain’t stopping. He feels the steep, almost wall-like slope in front of him in case he decides to continue but he is not going to quit. He takes a deep breath, hits a quick beer bottom-up for swift hydration and refreshment of the system, stretches out and up his neck to the sky and gives out something resembling the mighty mating call of the Alaskan moose (or was it an irregular one and thus “meese”, hm?) and calls for the orchestra. He then bursts out into an eruption of euro bills falling over the musicians and keeps going up the slope. To-ta-lly fucked up. Now repeat that once more with a Polish accent. If not Russian or any Eastern European would do.
We discretely burp ourselves out along with the residual scents of slightly processed pork and coffee that we leave behind like a gentle trail. Yet another place, yet another spectacular demonstration of roasted pork! For about 10 euros per kilo you are going to get world-glass pork grill, people! It is also highly recommended to check the “ svadbarski kupus”/ “wedding-style cabbage”. Bounties of meat and beer. Meat and beer everywhere! Go out there and get the jiggy with it!
We finally reached our car and slowly started crawling out of the sticky, almost homogenous mud-like substance that the collective pig-sty mode had created. We get back on track on the clean and tidy regional road winding up and down through this so pastoral and picturesque corner of Serbia. Turns and curves, tiny, tidy villages with nice houses and clean yards. Just the views that one can get from traveling from Sofia to Guča are a sufficient reason to make the trip. Totally.
Go there and see Guča for yourselves! Check it out; calmly and honestly judge your own level of tolerance to total swining, pigging, hogging and all that in the context of a chaotic gipsy-like camp situation where there is no silence at all for about a week. Please, have no illusions. It’s about the swining, do not think there will be something else! It is very interesting and exotic, indeed, but inevitably in a hoggish environment. Literally. Staying there for more than four days is an A-team thing. We went there as amateurs, got perfectly buzzed two times, we ate a lot and drank a lot of cold beer with it and we left. I heard that there were some groups of people that had been in Guča for seventh or eighth year in a row staying for about 10 days each time. However, I think these people were from Vratsa and that changes everything. The way to Sofia was full of turns until we reached the highway; easy, lazy beers on the back seat, sun is up in the sky and in our hearts and Johnny Cash on the radio. Yes. Lots of Johnny Cash.
As a recap, Guča is your perfect plot twist on your summer Balkan trip. You can combine it on your way to or coming from the Black sea, or coming from the Rhodopes or Rila; or on your way to the Adriatic Sea and possibly Italy. The scenarios and the roads are many. They are up to you. What is up to Guča is to make you go bananas in an entirely re-defined fashion never experienced before. That is certain. It is obligatory for both the gipsy and the Balkaner in you. Do it. Guča 2015.