I Survived The Guca Trumpet Festival
I dreamed of Guca for months before the festival ever began. But dreams and reality inevitably take different paths, so it was no surprise that the festival was not quite the experience I imagined. I had fabulous fun, but mostly I feel like I SURVIVED Guca. I went with my two Czech friends, Michal and Stanislav, who drove to Guca from Prague, and thank goodness– being there alone and without a car probably wouldn’t have been as enjoyable.
During the day the festival was hot– sweltering the first two days, around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Everywhere we went there was meat, cevapi and pljeskavica and whole pigs roasting on spits. Coming from Turkey, all that pork was delicious and delightful, but with the pig-smoke and the heat and the sweaty bodies everywhere, I felt quickly overwhelmed and exhausted.
But I was determined to have a good time, and thus began the quest for little hidden pleasures at Guca. We found the pool, which turned a sweaty morning into a silly summer afternoon: we swam and splashed and the boys taught me a card game that we played for hours.
We climbed a massive hill and found a crowd of people tucked away into the small corners of shade at the top.
One afternoon we wandered past a graveyard and into a wildflower field and stumbled upon a group of Serbians who had picked this out-of-the-way location for their camp. They invited us over and gave us their homemade rakija (an intense Serbian brandy) and told us stories about their lives. I say “us,” but the main host only made eye contact with the guys and readily ignored me; I took it as an opportunity to wander around their campsite and snap some pictures.
Other days, we drove out of the town to seek adventures and friends of the Czechs in Cacak and Arilije. Cacak is the fourth-largest city in Serbia, but it feels like a lovely rambly town, with cute storefronts and churches resplendent with icons.
In Arilije, we picked up Michal and Stanislav’s friend Ana, who also shoots film and became a fast friend.
The town itself is tucked next to the Rzav river, so on Ana’s suggestion we embarked on a jolly summer swim… and found heaven. The Rzav snaked in a cool emerald line through semi-shaded woods and felt as fresh and clear as peppermint. We played water polo and floated on our backs and acted like happy children.
Another day, we set out to find a monastery. After a long hot climb up wooded paths, we found the church and the nuns who maintain it; they offered us sweets and water and a place to sit and reflect.
The festival at night was divine– the air cooled off and everyone just danced, danced, danced. I saw the famous trumpeter Goran Bregovic and was supposed to see (the even more famous) Boban Markovic, but a massive thunderstorm rained out his set. However, the downpour didn’t deter the dancing—after the sky cracked open with a burst of thunder we ran, along with everyone else, and found ourselves huddled under the awning of a popcorn stand with a bunch of other drenched revelers. Eventually, when our sneakers were soaked and the trumpets continued to play through the rain, we went out to the saturated stadium and danced madly well into the night. It was a moment of collective effervescence that made me glad to be alive.