Diary of a British woman in Belgrade DAY 5 & 6

DAY 5

 'čvarci' pork scratchings and 'sir' cheese

'čvarci' pork scratchings and 'sir' cheese

So, more shopping today. We went to Tempo, the big supermarket near Ada Ciganlija, Belgrade’s Lake, and did a big shop! On the way to Dragan’s mum’s place, we stopped at her local ‘pijac’ (open air market) called Vidikovac and bought yet more delicious food.

Baka Dana (Grandma Dana), Dragan’s mum, loves ‘čvarci’ (homemade pork scratchings) so we bought a huge bag for her. Dragan loves them too, but they’re not my cup of tea. He was relieved, there’s more for the two of them. We also bought some ‘pita sa višnjama’ (sour cherry pie with filo pastry), which was cooked in a round metal pan on hot coals. I took a photo of the pies cooking on the coals, which surprised the people working there.

There is also a tiled indoor section of the pijac, which has stalls selling cheese, ’kajmak’ (fermented milk butter), smoked meat and pastry. Filo pastry is a speciality here and still made by hand by some people. We bought fresh filo pastry and plan to make ’pita sa jabukama’ (apple pie). The lady selling the filo had a large photo of Putin on the wall and said we can only buy from her if we like Russia! Her son is living and working in Siberia.

Dragan has a relative who has a farm 40 miles away in a village where his father was born, who brings cheese and kajmak to sell at the pijac every Sunday. I have fond memories of a visit to that village when Aleks was a baby and Dragan’s parents used to spend summers on a small plot of land there. That particular summer was hot and I wandered off and started picking peppers from the veg patch on the plot. I only knew the toungue twister but had never picked a ’peck of peppers’ in my life. The peppers were big, deep red and lush. When I snapped them from their stalks it was a great feeling. I couldn’t stop! Dragan found me and said ’um darling, they’re not our peppers! A cousin is growing them here.’ For a split second I thought I could try and stick them all back on again, I didn’t want to upset my new parents-in-law! It all turned out fine and we ate some with BBQd meat later on.

Going back to Dragan’s relative, she sells cheese at the pijac at weekends (she’s 72). She kissed all 3 of us on the cheek 3 times and said ’oh lutko’ (which means ’doll’) to Aleks and gave him a cuddle. The cheese is all artisan, known as mladi (literally young - meaning mild) or stari (literally old – meaning mature). She tried to give Dragan some cheese to take home and for his mother, but he managed to evade her – this time. Dragan is very fond of her and promised to go and visit the family in the village. No more pepper picking though!

We bought a mountain of smoked beef and pork, which is deeply smokey, salty and dark. Wonderful for breakfast with ’paradajz’ (tomato) and olive oil from the Dalmatian Coast.

It’s very refreshing being the only tourist in Vidikovac Pijac. But to keep the prices down, I keep stum when we are buying goods from the stalls, because my English accent would invite higher prices.

DAY 6

A big day in Aleks’s life – today he went to school for the first time in Serbia. It was an early start 7.50am and his teacher met all 3 of us at the main entrance. She is very sweet and phoned us at 7.30am to say that she had been thinking about Aleks all weekend and how best to help him settle in. Dragan and I were very impressed with this. She only speaks a little bit of English and used Google translate to prepare some maths questions for Aleks.

In the foyer there is a large painting of Sveti Sava, the patron saint of education, by the stairs watching over the children. Children were arriving with their coats and backpacks, but they don’t have to wear uniform, which Aleks definitely approves of.

The school has an unusual name by British standards – ‘The School of the Defenders of Belgrade’. OK so we need to go carefully here, this does not mean that the school kids are the defenders of Belgrade! The school is right next to a park, which commemorates the fallen Serbian and Russian soldiers who liberated Belgrade toward the end of WW2. It is merely its location next to the park and cemetery of fallen liberators, which gives the school its name. With the propaganda that we were fed about Eastern Bloc countries by the West, this School’s name sounds strange to the Western ear.

Aleks had 4 lessons; PE, Maths, Serbian and ‘čuvari prirode’ (nature studies). Each class is 45 minutes long and there is a 5 minute break between classes. Halfway through the morning, there is a 25 minute break when Aleks had a sandwich and played football with his new friends.

Dragan and I picked him up at 12.30 and the class were with their teacher in the playground, playing a version of ‘stuck in the mud’ called ‘Jurke’. Aleks really enjoyed his first day at school and coped really well. He was chuffed to make some friends too.

Whilst Aleks was at school, Dragan and I stole some time together and went for a walk through the city. It was cold, windy and sunny. The air is dry, unlike Exeter, which is usually murky and grey.

So, Dragan and I walked to Palilulska Pijaca (permanent farmer’s market, one of many in the city) near our flat, had a little mosey and then wondered past St Marks Church and its small neighbour, the Russian Church. I was chatting to Dragan in English as a tall young man in jeans and a leather jacket turned to talk to me. He said, ‘where are you from?’ with a Serbian accent and I said ‘England’. He said ‘this is the Russian Church’ and I said ‘oh yes I know my husband is from Belgrade’. He instantly dropped into Serbian and apologised. Dragan reassured him and then said to him, ‘I know you from somewhere, are you an actor?’

It out turned he was Miloš Biković, one of the main actors in the Serbian film Montevideo. Naturally I ended up having my photo taken with him!

 Milos Biković & Ali

Milos Biković & Ali

On a tragic note, in that area, are the remains of the Serbian TV station that was bombed in 1999 by Nato. I took a few photos, the whole of one side of the building was blown off and a sink is still attached forlornly to the wall. 16 people were killed when the building was bombed.

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