Let’s talk fairs. The old-fashioned, creaking-metal mini coaster, deep fried everything, guess your weight for a buck, best of society kind of fair. I never thought I would say it, but I have new respect for Conklin. Those street-carnival, new city every three days because you gotta get in and out before the public realizes how much they’ve lost playing guessing games and balloon darts; frenzied with stomach-turning, brain-burning mini-donut withdrawals. Those kind. In North America, we yearn for fairs. Can’t wait for them. Spend our paychecks getting our kids on the rides, ensuring they go home with stuffed animals so large they need to be zip-tied to the roof for the slow ride home. We also laugh about the rusty machines, the ride-attendants that are more interested in short-shorts than the safety of our children, the garbage, the over-the-top nutrient-deficient, calorie overload.
Serbia is no different, really. Our experience at the Zajecar Fair on Saturday leads me to believe they love a good fair like the rest of us. After touring Felix Romuliana, Roman ruins circa 300 A.D, and enjoying a mammoth meat platter at a local restaurant, we took the girls to the Zajecar Fair. My first thought was that we had stumbled upon a Roma encampment. Though rides were mostly clustered together, there was no organization. Grocery bags, by the hundreds, blew like tumbleweeds across the field which was cluttered with makeshift tents, garbage, open hatchbacks, shirtless old men, and the most curious assortment of wares I’d ever seen at a fair. There were beautiful handmade baskets, knives, carvings and furniture crafted by talented women and men. Beside these, and often in the same stalls by the same vendors, you might find underwear, a table top full of branded pop bottles (ie. Pepsi, Coke, Fanta) filled with motor oil instead of pop, used toys laid atop blankets (think headless, naked Barbies), knock-off purses (Coach, Chanel, Gucci), Chinese throwing stars, VERY realistic toy guns, and, of course, beer for a buck. Beside this, pigs on spits.
We rode the bumper cars first. They weren’t the typical speed-limiting cars we drive in NA. Nope. Slam your foot down and drive an amusement-part Autobahn, half of you wearing seatbelts, the other half thrown around like rocks in a dryer. We survived.
Next, Bekah went into a giant inflatable ball that she rolled along a pool of water like a hamster on a wheel while Laura went on a giant inflatable slide. While the girls had fun, Chris and I mused at how no ride had the safety setups that we were used to in Canada. There were no fences around anything, no barricades or barriers. You had to watch where you walked and where you stood, careful not to be run over by a small roller coaster or smacked in the head by the swings. Safety costs money and so most often isn’t a priority in Serbia. This is evident everywhere.
Once you’re on a ride? Well, you’re not necessarily safe there either. The girls went on an inflatable obstacle course and I noted two people flanking the entrance at the corners, holding tight to the netting and pillars as though to hold the inflatable pillars up. The girls went in and Chris and I watched when, maybe 5 minutes later, the girl holding one of the corners up walked away and the pillar lost its strength and fell over. Then the maze swallowed the girls. I quickly called to them to come out and that was the end of that bit of fun.
Nothing, however, shocked me more than the sheer amount of garbage just lying around. There were no garbage cans. Not one. People would get their roast pig and fried donuts and cotton candy or beer and simply toss the garbage on the ground. I made the girls give me their garbage so we could bring it home with us.
Overall, the girls had a great time, and we left with my North American senses thoroughly shocked. I’ll leave you with some pictures that will give you a clearer idea of what we experienced on Saturday.