Diary of a British woman in Belgrade DAY 3 & 4

DAY 3

My husband, Dragan, our 10 year old son and I have set off from England, to spend 8 months in Dragan’s home city, Belgrade.

Nothing much happened today. We all needed rest, time to collect our thoughts and to adjust to the new environment – even Dragan. We also needed to go shopping for lots of things for the house, which we did. To the ‘pijac’ or ‘pijaca’ [1] (green or farmers market) for fruit and veg, although you can also find almost anything, even a Quidditch broom. Dragan said jokingly that I could fly home. It was unfair, as I was hoping to get home on a Nimbus 2000!

 Ali with her broom (metla)

Ali with her broom (metla)

There are 32 green markets in Belgrade, roughly one for each borough of the city. The stalls in the markets are piled high with freshly picked produce and are much higher quality than in the supermarkets. They are a photographer’s dream, full of colour and character.

We then went to the ‘Kineska Prodavnica’ (Chinese Shop), which is run by Chinese people and sells Chinese goods for the house. Daniela, our Kuma, was our guide. You can find just about anything you might need here, from slippers to salt shakers. Cheap and cheerful.

For lunch, we bought ready cooked food from one of the outlets or ‘prodavnica gotove hrane’ (meaning a finished food shop) popping up all over Belgrade. You can buy hot Serbian dishes to take away that taste home-made. We chose fried fish, as it was Friday, which is a fasting day. Very good.

[1] http://www.beligrad.com/kalenic_e.htm

DAY 4

Today we went to a ‘Svadba’ [1], a Serbian wedding. You’ve heard of ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’. Serbs are from the Balkans too and many traditions are the same. Although in the past these were normally 3 days long, this one was only one day.

Dragan drove to Arandjelovac, about 1 ½ hours from Belgrade. The groom was Dragan’s cousin’s son, so there were an awful lot of extended family there! Lots of kissing (three times) with rellies. Dragan was worried that we were going to be late (he is becoming anglicised, I was much more relaxed, am I becoming more Serbian?). We arrived just on time and people were still arriving 2 hours later!

Picture long tables in rows with white table cloths, a Serbian band with 2 accordions, a drum kit, 2 keyboards and 3 singers, and a top table for the bride and groom. The music is Serbian folk, everyone knows the words to hundreds of songs and it’s loud! It’s cool for the youngsters to join in with all of the songs and to dance the beautiful circle dance called the ‘Kolo’ [2]. In Serbia, folk is mainstream and is enjoyed by all generations.

October seems to be wedding season, summer is too hot and a lot of people leave the cities for the seaside in Montenegro or Greece and they also go to the mountains to cool off. We passed several convoys of wedding cars on their way to various weddings that day. The tradition is to blow the horn and tie towels around the wing mirrors of the car. Dragan has been to weddings in the past where guns were fired into the air and the wedding went on for three days.

‘Ručak’ – is lunch and a Serbian wedding lunch is something to behold. My daughter Mila, warned me years ago about the number of courses – Mila said ‘eat like a queen’, just a small amount and then push it around the plate!

1st course, hot yellow peppers stuffed with kaymak (fermented milk butter) and chicken terrine;
2nd course, smoked beef, smoked pork, salami and cheese (known as cold cuts);
3rd course, delicious chicken soup;
4th course, ‘svadbarski kupus’ – wedding cabbage (pickled cabbage with smoked meat) – super delicious;
5th course, spit roasted lamb and pork – truly amazing
6th course, ‘torta’ (cake), OMG everyone brings these amazing layered cakes with cream, custard, choc, and sponge. There were at least 50 of them at this wedding. The service is brilliant, the staff are attentive, unobtrusive, professional and nothing is too difficult.

The photographers set up shop in a small room next door and provide print outs of photos of the guests at the venue for 150 dinars (just over a Pound) each.

But the most important thing is to meet the rellies! I met lots of relatives that I have never met before and Dragan saw cousins, uncles, etc… that he had not seen for 30 years. Extraordinary to be in a room when half the people are relatives that you don’t know!

When we left we were given a whole tray of roast lamb and a complete torta by Dragan’s cousin, the groom’s father! Aleks was mightily impressed.

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[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kolo_(dance)

[2] http://www.serbia.com/big-fat-serbian-wedding/