It's not where you are going, but where you are from

One of the helpers here - and it is a real mix of characters is a young 18 year old from Ghana - all the Serbs talk enviously of his football abilities and he laughs nervously and proudly. Football he says is one of the important distractions that he can give the young guys as they await their papers, their fate and their future.

The collection of Serbs who are here is a greater level of diversity than I have seen in my many visits to this country.  But in a situation where they need people who understand the Middle East and North Africa, the Russian Caucusus and a collection of languages that would impress most universities, they have gathered a very diverse set of Serbs.

Where in the world are we and am I?

Yesterday I got to Sid, Serbia, on the border with Croatia, where refugees and migrants gather and are being processes - something of what I saw and heard follows.

There are a few hundred people here - mostly men - mostly young. The ones wandering round on their own are late-teens to mid-late twenties. One lad has clearly been reclothed, got a newly packed rucksack and carrier bags - I sense from his optimism and demeanour he has a permit to travel. I look at him closely, he is talking excitedly and I am struck at just how handsome he is. In any other walk of life he could be an actor, a model, someone's boyfriend, partner, fiancé. And yet, here, in this small Balkan village he is stateless and homeless.

So I'm here in Serbia again and this time it's out to the western mountainous uplands of Zlatibor - a part I do not know at all and have never been to. First impressions are leaving me excited and an early morning walk will be the priority tomorrow (beating breakfast I think). Having seen the deep rich farming fields of north western Serbia and the deep flow of the Suva and Danube this is a very different landscape indeed.

But the political and news landscape here in Serbia is also very different from last time I was here. Only last year the European news outlets were rushing to Belgrade to get images of the streams of refugees and the construction of the fence by Hungary and closing of Croatia's borders (temporary). But now the modern refugee 'silk road' takes a different route and the news agenda has moved on.

Processing the refugees whilst in transit

Today I got to Sid, Serbia, where refugees and migrants are being handled.  I'm trying to digest what I saw and need a little time to process my thoughts - so a short first report (1 of 3 I think).

As we drove west from Belgrade we left the E70 motorway and passed through the village of Kukujevci, we approached Gibarac. A small lonely village - just a row of houses with a solitary shop and bar. Houses in this part of Serbia are very much of a type: low, functional, some have the 'hungarian' architectural style of bold arches and art deco charm. But most of all they are road side properties, the entrance is set to the side of the house, usually through a small gate and next to the parking for one car.  As there is no visible front door from the street, this enhances the image that the house and village it is shut and closed. This haunting quiet added to my sense of trepidation.

Ed in the parkThe Emperor Trajan Decius was born here and I love it

Coming to the Balkans has been one of the most special things ever. I have seen a set of countries that fascinate and amaze - hidden treasures and history.

But most of all I have met people who charm, and talk and sing with enthusiam. And more than that I have made friends.

Today I fly back to London, to my home, my partner, my family and other friends. I leave behind hopes and fond memories. But before I leave I have just been for a walk round my favourite park here in Belgrade - Academic Park - the site of the former Roman Baths of the city of Singidunun. As I wander through I see and sense the history, I construct the stories and re-enact the chatter gossip and news of ancient times. For me it brings history to life and I imagine that the bold statues are former Emperors, Senators and Poets. I see the crumbling features and I imagine the decline of the power of Rome.