My husband, who is a native Serb, our 10 year old son and me have all moved to Belgrade, Serbia’s lively capital for 8 months. This is day 11 of our big adventure.
In the morning we went to visit friends, who live in the city centre, near Zeleni Venac, which is surprise, surprise yet another pijac (green market). However, you’ll be relieved to know that I am not going to write more about the pijac today. After a chat and a coffee, we strolled down to Belgrade’s new waterfront area on the Sava River. On the way there we passed by the old bus station, half of it was demolished. It looked like a bomb site! Dodging the cars and buses we managed to get to Belgrade Waterfront . Two enormous luxury apartment blocks are being built and are quite controversial, because very little is known about them and who is funding the project. But, the path by the river is lovely. There are small cafes and kids play areas dotted along the way.
We then walked inland towards the city and crossed a railway line near ‘Brankov Most’ (a bridge that connects old Belgrade with New Belgrade) . I was shocked that there were no warning signs, no barriers on the railway. It made me nervous, but our friends reassured us that the trains are very infrequent and slow. I took a photo of Dragan standing on the tracks, but felt very uneasy about that!
This part of town is fairly derelict, but is in the process of being developed. We passed by a hostel for refugees; lots of Syrians came to Belgrade, as Serbia didn’t close its borders to them. Many refugees used to sleep in the park opposite the bus station before they could be accommodated or they moved on. We also passed a centre where refugees could get a meal and medical attention.
We stopped for lunch at a typical Serbian restaurant – very rustic in design, with red & white gingham tablecloths and terracotta dishes. The walls were decorated with 19th century style paintings of the countryside and the food was, as always, delicious and plentiful. I had ‘teleća čorba’ (veal soup) and a ’mala pljeskavica’ (small burger). It was however enormous, but good. To my surprise Aleks ordered ‘kupus salata’ (cabbage salad) with his chicken kebab. He is becoming naturalised. He never eats cabbage in England!
Waiters and waitresses in Serbia have a career, not a job. They are extremely professional, discreet and nothing is too difficult. They are able to carry a heavy tray full of drinks whilst opening, pouring and serving the drinks with one hand, usually with a flourish and with style. The service in Serbian restaurants is excellent. Dragan tells me in the time when he was young, the waiters were earning more from tips than from their salary. In fact some of them would gladly work for free, relying completely on tips. Tipping is still expected for good service in Serbia at a rate of about 10%.
Here’s a new word for you. ‘Ručak’, pronounced ‘roo-tchak’, meaning lunch. Lunch is normally eaten later than in England, often between 2pm and 4pm.
Today we visited Dragan’s mum and bought her loads of ready cooked ‘sarma’ at the supermarket. Lots of places now produce delicious hot homemade food. ‘Sarma’  is pickled cabbage rolls stuffed with mincemeat, rice and spices including paprika. It’s good. Dragan’s mum seems to be partial to it at the moment! We had lunch at Grandma’s including my absolute favourite, ‘boranija’ (yellow string bean stew).
On the way back to our flat it was twilight and the Christmas Decorations throughout the centre were lit up. ‘Skupština’ (Parliament or The National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia), building looked beautiful .
In the other direction on the same road, a police car was escorting a protest march of about 100 people. The protesters were carrying banners, Christian crosses and religious images. Aleks said it looks like they are protesting about a Church being demolished. Dragan said you are not far off, that protest is something to do with me and my engineering colleagues! Many years ago a dam was constructed near the city of Valjevo . Dragan worked on the design as a young engineer about 30 years ago, but the construction started in the late 1990s. The Dam is now complete and being filled. The protesters object to the flooding of a Church although a new one has been built above the flood-line and the Serbian Orthodox Church actually agreed to it being submerged. To my surprise the protest was on a busy road at dusk and even though it had a police escort the vehicles were still passing very close to the protesters walking on the road!