Diary of a British woman in Belgrade - Day 15 & 16

My husband who is a native Serb, our 10 year old son and me have moved from England to Belgrade for 8 months. This is day 15 & 16 of our stay.

 Pobednik Monument in Kalamegdan Park, Linocut by Ali Savic [4]

Pobednik Monument in Kalamegdan Park, Linocut by Ali Savic [4]

DAY 15

Dragan collected a hire car today. We thought we would be ok without a car, but visiting Grandma would be quite long winded by public transport as she lives on the other side of the city. I appreciate many people have no choice if they need to get to work. Some commutes can involve several modes of transport, ‘tramvaj’ (tram), ‘trolejbus’ (trolley bus - a tram and bus hydrid) or autobus.

 Trolejbus (Trolley bus attached to the electric cable like a tram)

Trolejbus (Trolley bus attached to the electric cable like a tram)

Aleks had school at 2pm and I popped a ‘rol viršla’ (frankfurter in puff pastry) in his backpack for his ½ hour break mid-afternoon.

After school we all piled in the car and drove over ‘Gazela Most’ (Gazelle Bridge) [1] to ‘Novi Beograd’ (New Belgrade) [2] to visit some friends for their ‘slava’. ‘Slava’ is unique to Serbia and is a family saint day celebration. Families in Serbia have a patron saint and the patron saint is passed down through the male line and from husband to wife. On the Saint’s Day, friends and family are invited into the home to enjoy a meal, drinks and good company. Traditionally ‘slava’ lasts for 3 days and it is an open house arrangement. Any tables available in the house are covered in the best table cloths and laid for a sumptuous meal in the living rooms of the house. All the chairs in the house are used, including office chairs and stools. Guests arrive in a continuous stream and after a group of people have spent a few hours eating & chatting and then said their goodbyes, that part of the table is reset. Sometimes the table is full of guests and at other times not many people are present.

On arrival guests will be offered ‘žito’ [3], which is a sweet and nutty offering containing wheat, ground walnuts and sugar. You eat a teaspoon of ’žito’ and some guests will cross themselves at this point. It is customary to say ’Srećna Slava’ (Happy Slava) to your hosts.

The meal will be elaborate, with a delicious soup to start, often followed by smoked meats, salads, pickles and also fish, ‘sarma’ (pickled cabbage rolls), roast meat and ‘prebranac’ (Serbian baked beans). If the ‘slava’ falls on a fasting day, Wednesday or Friday or during lent, then the food will be vegan with the addition of fish.

'Kolači' (small cakes) are often served. These little cakes can be layered, are sweet, but not sickly and many contain nuts & chocolate. They are very dainty and delicious, some are iced and can come in many shapes, colours and flavours.

Our friends, live in an apartment in a striking group of tower blocks, built in the 1960s, which have a step like appearance. Aleks said they look like steps for giants! They are fine examples of Belgrade's 1960s architecture; solidly built and the apartments are gorgeous inside.

 Apartment blocks that resemble giant's steps

Apartment blocks that resemble giant's steps

[1] 'Gazela' is Serbian for 'gazelle'. Đorđje Lazarević, who was president of the competition commission [when the bridge was opened], said "this bridge leaped over the Sava like a jumping gazelle", and the name stuck. Wikipedia

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Belgrade 

[3] http://wonderfulserbia.com/destination/food/desserts/zito/ 

DAY 16

This morning Dragan and I went for a run and Aleks came to the park and took some photos. Mum looks more like she's taking a stroll!

 Dragan and Ali running in the park

Dragan and Ali running in the park

At 3.30pm I had my first Serbian lesson in the city centre, Dragan and Aleks dropped me off and they had a lovely time playing in the park at Kalamegden Fortress. The fortress itself, is strategically place on a hill above the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers and it is now an important tourist attraction in Belgrade with restaurants, museums, monuments and parks, plus beautiful views overlooking the rivers and New Belgrade. The linocut above is of a famous statue called 'Pobednik' (The Victor) [4], to celebrate Serbia's victory over the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires in The Balkan Wars of 1912/13 and in WW1.

 Fontana Borba, Kalamegdan Park

Fontana Borba, Kalamegdan Park

The Serbian lesson was 1½ hours long and I was the oldest person in the room by far. I felt I learnt a lot and I came away with a huge book (not cheap) that I must do my homework from. I have been quite vigilant and have practised my Serbian every day. The novelty might wear off! My next lesson is on Tuesday and I will make my way there myself.

I chatted with the other students after the class and a young American guy was very amused that I have been married to a Serb for 11 years and still can’t speak the language!

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pobednik

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