Beograd

Things to do in Belgrade in Summer

My husband, Dragan, who is a native Serb, our 11 year old son, Aleks and I have embarked on an adventure, by moving to Belgrade from England for 8 months. These are excerpts from my diary.

Our time in Belgrade is nearly coming to an end, but my blog will continue when we travel to Sicily, the USA and Canada in a few weeks time. And of course we plan to return to Belgrade to stay with family as often as we can after that.

Kalemegdan Park & Belgrade Fortress

A must see at any time of the year are Kalemegdan Park and Belgrade's Fortress, which offer stunning views of the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers. Quickly retreat from the hustle and bustle of Belgrade's city centre to formal gardens, restaurants, souvenir stalls, sculptures and stacks of history. 

One evening, as the sun was setting over New Belgrade, I visited Kalemegdan Park and was pleased to discover some sculptures and activities that I was not aware of before then.

Sculpture of Despot Stefan, Belgrade's Fortress (can you spot someone scaling the wall in the background?)

Sculpture of Despot Stefan, Belgrade's Fortress (can you spot someone scaling the wall in the background?)

The fortress is not so impenetrable these days!

The fortress is not so impenetrable these days!

Art Gallery at Kalemegdan

Art Gallery at Kalemegdan

Archery Lessons with 'Belgrade Archery' from 11am to 11pm, Kalemegdan

Archery Lessons with 'Belgrade Archery' from 11am to 11pm, Kalemegdan

Ružica & St. Petka, Two Little Churches in Kalemegdan

Cascading down the side of the Fortress are two gorgeous churches, one above the other amongst pretty gardens with roses and greenery. A lovely place to watch the sunset.

View of the Sava River from the gardens of Ružica Church, Kalemegdan

View of the Sava River from the gardens of Ružica Church, Kalemegdan

Ružica Church (little rose church), Kalemegdan

Ružica Church, Kalemegdan

Ružica Church, Kalemegdan

Interior of Ružica Church

Interior of Ružica Church

Fresco, Ružica Church

Fresco, Ružica Church

St Petka's Church, Kalemegdan

Mosaics adorn the interior of St Petka's Church

Mosaics adorn the interior of St Petka's Church

Enjoy some holy water as you admire the mosaics in St Petka's Church

Enjoy some holy water as you admire the mosaics in St Petka's Church

The mosaics are full of life in St Petka's Church

The mosaics are full of life in St Petka's Church

Visiting one of Belgrade's many Fruit & Vegetable Market

Recently I made a Serbian conserve called 'Slatko' for the first time. Actually that was not the intention. I planned to make good old fashioned strawberry jam, because strawberries are abundant in May and June in Serbia. But my plan was thwarted, as the jam wouldn't set. Dragan, however was really chuffed with the result and said 'no worries, it's Slatko!' (a Serbian fruit conserve that doesn't set and preserves the integrity of the fruit)

Woman selling fruit & vegetables at the open air market.

Swimming in the lake at Ada Ciganlija

It's been pretty hot for weeks now and I guessed the water at Belgrade's 'Beach' may be warm enough to swim in. I caught the bus to Ada Ciganlija and went for a dip. The water was cool, but so refreshing. The lake has plenty of great restaurants, cafes, food outlets and more along its shores and I sat under a parasol and enjoyed an iced coffee close to the water's edge. It's possible to hire bikes, go water skiing and travel around the lake on a small train. There are many other activities to enjoy at Ada. It comes well recommended.

Belgradians swimming in Ada lake

Belgradians swimming in Ada lake

One of the many cafes and restaurants lining the shores of Belgrade's 'Beach'

One of the many cafes and restaurants lining the shores of Belgrade's 'Beach'

There's one more blog from Serbia to come, as there are still a whole lot of things we need to see before we leave! See you soon!

 

 

 

 

Interesting Ancestors & a trip to the city of Novi Sad

My husband, Dragan, who is a native Serb, our 11 year old son, Aleks and I have embarked on an adventure, by moving to Belgrade from England for 8 months. These are excerpts from my weekly diary.

Central Novi Sad

Central Novi Sad

Our daughter Mila is visiting from London and we have some must see places to visit whilst she’s here! Born in Belgrade, she loves spending time in Serbia and seeing her extended family.

We were invited for Sunday lunch by some relatives and our hostess made the most delicious food, including ‘Ruska Salata’ (Russian Salad), ‘Sarma’ (pickled cabbage rolls) and Pečenje (roast meat). Aleks ate at a separate table with his twin cousins who are also 11 and they both speak excellent English – their Dad blames Youtube for their language skills!

A Whole Host of Architects in the Family!

This side of the family is replete with female architects, including a fascinating woman called Natalija Matić-Zrnić, born in 1880. Our host that day, Mirko, is her Grandson and some years ago, he typed up her diaries, letters and memoirs, which were later published as a book. The book, 'Natalija: Life in the Balkan Powder Keg,' [1] has just been translated from Serbian and published in English - I plan to read it soon! The blurb at the back of the book says - "Natalija's diary is impressive in its scope; it covers more than half a century, five wars (including two world wars), four ideologies and numerous governments all told from the perspective of a remarkable, well educated middle class woman, mother of six, twice widowed, but never cowed." 

When I visited the Church of Aleksandar Nevski in Belgrade a few weeks ago, I was impressed to discover that the architect, Jelisaveta Načić (b.1878) was the first woman in Serbia to graduate as an architect. I asked Mirko if he thinks Natalija knew Jelisaveta Načić and he was pretty sure that she did.

Natalija Book Cover.jpg

Natalija

 

Life in the Balkan Powder Keg,
1880 - 1956

 

Edited by Jill A. Irvine & Carol S. Lilly

CEU PRESS

 

A Trip to Novi Sad

At the weekend Dragan, Mila, Aleks and I all piled in the car and set off for a two-night stay in the city of Novi Sad [2]. Novi Sad is in Northern Serbia, in an area called Vojvodina and is about 60 miles from Belgrade. Vojvodina is flat, really flat – it was a sea millions of years ago, known as the Pannonian Sea. So, the soil here is dark and rich and the area has become the bread basket of Serbia.

We met some friends from Novi Sad when we arrived and enjoyed a classic Serbian meal in a typical Serbian restaurant. You know the drill, gingham tablecloths, an acoustic Serbian band, top class waiting staff and traditional wine bottles and pickles in jars on display. Vojvodina was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the 19th century and influences can be seen in many areas of life including the architecture and in the food. One of our party ordered a Vojvodina dessert, 'rezanci sa orasima' made from cooked pasta, sprinkled with walnuts and sugar. As Mila said, ‘it's just dough, nuts and sugar’ –  very tasty!

Aleks and our friend’s son get on well and Aleks was invited for an impromptu sleepover. Both boys were chuffed. Mila, Dragan & I stayed at an Air B&B apartment, which was lovely, extremely modern and minimal – with a fabulous view of a park, some apartment blocks and Fruška Gora mountain topped with snow in the distance. (Fruška Gora mountain was an island in the Pannonian Sea.)

The Danube with the Petrovaradin Fortress on the opposite bank.

The Danube with the Petrovaradin Fortress on the opposite bank.

Along the Banks of the Danube

Our friends were happy to have Aleks all day the next day, so Mila, Dragan and I walked along the banks of the Danube River towards the famous Petrovaradin Fortress [3]. It’s a beautiful path with cycle tracks, cafes and a small beach to enjoy in summer. I asked about swimming in the Danube and unfortunately it’s too polluted, bit chilly in February anyway! Before crossing the bridge to the fortress, we stopped at a Holocaust memorial on the river bank. Fresh flowers were laid in remembrance of the Jews and Serbs who were killed by the Nazis at the site during WW2.

Holocaust Memorial, Novi Sad

Holocaust Memorial, Novi Sad

Petrovaradin Fortress - Exit Music Festival Venue

We crossed the bridge and walked up to the Fortress, the location of the famous Exit Music Festival [4], held here every summer. Notable musicians include Franz Ferdinand, Robert Plant & Lauryn Hill and it is now one of the biggest music festivals in Europe. The site of the fortress has seen some sort of settlement for over 20,000 years, evidenced by Palaeolithic archaeological finds, plus Roman, Austro-Hungarian and Turkish settlement. It’s an impressive structure built atop a natural rock. There is a maze of tunnels beneath the fortress where groups of soldiers would take cover. You can enter the tunnels, but I wasn’t too keen when I heard that some kids got lost (and found!) in the tunnels last summer!

The Clock Tower at Petrovaradin Fortress

The Clock Tower at Petrovaradin Fortress

Telling the Time isn't Easy Here!

The Clock Tower was a great photo opportunity and is unique in that the large hand of the clock represents the hours not minutes, so that fishermen on the Danube could see the time more easily. Serbs do the whole café/restaurant thing brilliantly and there were at least two places to eat or have coffee. We settled for coffee and then trundled back down the hill to Novi Sad city centre.

Having had a meat feast the previous night we chose squid and octopus for lunch at a lovely restaurant, called ‘Gondola' [5]. They even serve cake in a flower pot! Ultra modern with very high ceilings, a copper clad bar and industrial style light fittings.

Novi Sad's Catholic Cathedral

Novi Sad's Catholic Cathedral

Architecture in Novi Sad & Belgrade

We walked through the park to the city centre, passing the pastel-coloured buildings from the 19th century and Novi Sad’s Catholic Cathedral towards the Synagogue. The Jews were decimated in Vojvodina in WW2 and many Jewish people that survived left for Israel after the war. The Synagogue [6] no longer functions as a religious building but is now a cultural centre and concert hall.

Novi Sad's Synagogue, which is now a concert hall.

Novi Sad's Synagogue, which is now a concert hall.

We briefly met another friend from Novi Sad, Joviša, who used to work with Dragan at the University in our home city of Exeter, in the UK. He showed us around commenting on Novi Sad and the architecture. We made the typical comparisons between Belgrade and Novi Sad - there seems to be a bit of friendly rivalry between the two cities. Joviša, said to me, 'Can you guess which is my favourite building in Belgrade?' 'Glavna Pošta' (main post office) [7]. I was so surprised, because this is my favourite building too. Joviša pointed out that it is designed in the shape of a eagle spreading its wings. It's an unusual choice, as it is not exactly pretty!

Glavna Pošta (main post office), Belgrade

After the three of us had nearly completed a half marathon walking around Novi Sad we felt it was time to head back to the Air B&B for a rest.

That evening, with the promise of 'ćevapčići za poneti' (take away meat patties), the three of us walked to our friends' house to enjoy a meal and collect Aleks.

[1] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3382615-natalija 

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

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petrovaradin_Fortress 

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exit_(festival) 

[5] http://www.gondola-restoran.rs/ 

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novi_Sad_Synagogue 

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Post_Office,_Belgrade

Visiting A Spa Town & Monastery in Serbia.

My husband, who is a native Serb, our 10 year old son and I are spending 8 months in Belgrade, having moved from England. This is day 45, 46 & 47.

DAY 45

Our friends planned a weekend away for us all and we set off from Belgrade in lovely sunshine to a small 'banja' (spa) town, called Vrdnik [1]. Banja Vrdnik has natural hot springs and is in a beautiful region of Serbia called Fruška Gora, [2] about 1 hour from Belgrade. Fruška Gora is actually a small mountain rising out of the flat plains of Vojvodina and has been a National Park since the 1960s. Fruška Gora has gentle slopes, forests, farms, vineyards and many monasteries.

Vrdnik, Serbia

Vrdnik, Serbia

We arrived in Vrdnik and after we had settled in to Hotel Termal, [3] which is in the typical 1970s mountain style, we went for a walk past farms, orchards and chatted with a local shepherd who was tending his sheep.

On the way back we passed by a local shop, which seems to be run by some dodgy geezers from Peckham! 'Only Fools and Horses' is really popular in Serbia.

Would you hand your cash over in this establishment?

Would you hand your cash over in this establishment?

Bathing in the hot mineral water is the main draw of this town. Next stop the huge indoor 'bazen' (pool) for us. The natural hot spring water was 30 degrees with a cocktail of healing minerals. People in Serbia will often spend time at a 'banja' (spa) for therapy. Some of the guests have their stay as therapy prescribed by the doctor on Serbia's national health. It's definitely not a party hotel!

Most people seemed to walk in the water or gather in small groups and chat, they're not here to swim. There were other kids as well as Aleks, but it was all very peaceful and calm. After two hours in the pool we had dinner, which was very typical, tasty and basic. There is always soup to start, and the waiters are friendly, efficient and serve the food from a trolley. Dessert was only an healthy apple, so we decided to get in the car and head to the posh new Ethno Hotel to have cakes. I had the most delicious 'orasnice' (walnut cookies).

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vrdnik 

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fru%C5%A1ka_Gora

[3] http://www.termal-vrdnik.com/banja/

DAY 46

A must see in Fruška Gora are the many orthodox monasteries that sprung up here when the Turks invaded Serbia. The monks fled to Fruška Gora to preserve the holy relics and manuscripts and were accepted by the Austro- Hungarians who occupied this part of Serbia at that time.

Vrdnik Monastery

Vrdnik Monastery

We walked to Vrdnik Monastery [1]. The church has a cool exterior, with white render and is classical in style. The interior is exquisite and houses a few small relics of Sveti Tsar Lazar (Saint Lazar), [2] an important medieval Serbian ruler/saint. As an aside, the Serbian Orthodox Church in Birmingham is dedicated to Sveti Tsar Lazar. 

A nun from the monastery opened up the church for us and we bought a few trinkets in the little shop. We lit candles and headed back to the hotel.

It was snowing on the way back, so we warmed up with 'topli nes' (frothy milky instant coffee) before heading to the pool. It's very healthy in the pool, but I noticed there were no lifeguards, only one attendant! We swam in the indoor pool but there is an outdoor pool too, also with hot spring water, but it is only open in summer. In the cold weather the steam was rising from the water!

The outdoor pool with hot spring water is only open in summer.

The outdoor pool with hot spring water is only open in summer.

After lunch, Aleks and I had a snowball fight outside the hotel, as it had been snowing all day and had settled well. Dragan crept up on Aleks and made a stealthy attack. We all got a bit chilly, so It was about time for another swim. I decided 'when in Rome...', so I walked around in the pool and hardly swam at all!

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vrdnik-Ravanica_Monastery 

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

DAY 47

We woke up to clear bright sunshine and a snowy landscape, so after checking out of the hotel we walked up to a hamlet with little mining cottages. Coal was mined here in the 20th century. Aleks was sad to leave Vrdnik, especially the pool. I think it did us all the power of good. 

Near the disused coal mine in Vrdnik

Near the disused coal mine in Vrdnik

Vrdnik

Vrdnik

Diary of a British woman in Belgrade Day 42 & 44

Detail of Cityscape IV, Belgrade, monoprint by Ali Savic [1]

Detail of Cityscape IV, Belgrade, monoprint by Ali Savic [1]

My husband, who is a native Serb, our 10 year old son and I are spending 8 months in Belgrade, having moved from England. This is day 42 and 44. Not much happened on Day 43!

DAY 42

We made the most of the melting snow and had a snowball fight in the park. Snow is a real novelty for us living in the SW of England.

Snowball Fight Park.jpg

My Serbian lesson was fairly straightforward and on the way back I stopped at the lovely little ‘kore’ (filo pastry) shop. It is only really a little hatch – you can’t enter the shop, but the shop assistant was making fresh pasta, so I took a few photos. They also make fresh noodles to be cooked in soup, as well as cakes and other goodies. I bought some fresh pasta and it was cut into strips to the size of my choice. Later on I cooked the pasta with fresh tomatoes, garlic and olive oil. Absolutely delish.

Soup is very often served as a starter in Serbia and there are two main types of ‘soup’ [1]. ‘Supa’ is a usually a clear soup with a few vegetables and possibly meat and often fine noodles. ‘Čorba’ is usually thicker and has more veg, fish or meat. It is unusual in Serbia to use a blender to thicken the soup, ‘čorba’ is usually thickened with 'zaprška' (like a roux). Serbian people love soup and feel it is very healthy.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serbian_cuisine#Soups 

DAY 44

On my way to my next Serbian language lesson, I stopped off at a ‘Kineska Prodavnica’ (Chinese Shop) that sells hats, clothes and just about everything else. Since my sister had suggested I get a ‘Julie Christie’ hat (Dr Zhivago style) to combat the cold, I thought I would try a few Chinese versions on. Hilarious, not quite Julie Christie, more like Davy Crocket!

We learnt the genitive case today in the Serbian lesson, along with telling the time and we struggled through some quick fire questions. The work is piling on now.

After the lesson I walked to the big bookshop in ‘Trg Republike’ (Republic Square) near the statue of Prince Michael and bought Aleks a couple of Agatha Christie books (in English). Good man, Aleks likes her writing and she comes from our neck of the woods in Devon, England.

A friend had recommended a super gallery that is right in the centre called ‘Galerija Grafički Kolektiv’ (Print Collective Gallery) [1]. I popped in to have a look. Interesting digital print exhibition.

Galerija Grafički Kolektiv (Print Collective Gallery)

Galerija Grafički Kolektiv (Print Collective Gallery)

Next stop the Christmas Market with very pretty little chalets; mostly selling, ‘pljeskavice’ (Serbian burgers) [2], Serbian traditional woollen items and sweets. I have to say Serbian hand-knitted woollen socks are extremely toastie. They are known as 'nazuvice čarape'. [3]

Christmas Market Belgrade

Christmas Market Belgrade

A bunch of football fans were in good voice in a café near the market and some young men were drinking beer from cans on the street (I guessed that they weren’t Serbs, it’s not usually their style). It turns out there was a football match between ‘Crvena Zvezda’ (Red Star, Belgrade) and Cologne. There were about 15 riot police waiting near the cafe for any possible clashes, but all was calm. I caught the bus home, it’s cheap and convenient.

A little tangent. I first came to Serbia in 2006, with my Serbian husband, Dragan and our son Aleks, who was 7 months old at the time. All our Serbian relatives fussed and cuddled Aleks. I was puzzled though, they all kept saying ‘gde su čarape’. Eventually I asked Dragan, “what on earth are charapey??” (čarape). He roared with laughter, “they’re socks, everybody is asking why Aleks isn’t wearing any socks”. It was 25 degrees!

[1] https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/AliSavicPRINTS?ref=seller-platform-mcnav 

[2] http://www.grafickikolektiv.org/html/en/

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pljeskavica

[4] http://www.wool-art.com/en/accessories/wool-socks/3/-

Diary of a British woman in Belgrade Day 34 & 35

My husband, who is a native Serb, our 10 year old son and I have moved to Belgrade from England for 8 months. We have been here for over a month now.

Marshall Tito's Cadillac in Belgrade's Car Museum

Marshall Tito's Cadillac in Belgrade's Car Museum

 DAY 34

Blimey these early school starts (8am) are a killer, but Aleks is actually getting used to it. Well, finally winter is kicking in and hats were essential today. I popped to a lovely little corner shop this morning, which would be described as a deli in England. It specialises in cheese, dairy products and smoked meats and also a few everyday items. I asked for ‘dve lepinje, molim vas’ and the lady serving was very impressed with my Serbian; I got my endings right and I knew the word for 'lepinje'. Lepinje are round flattish bread rolls.

Aleks had a folk tune to practise on his violin today and it is very pretty ‘Ah, kad tebe ljubit ne smem’  (Ah, when I'm not allowed to love you). Of course Dragan knows all the words and gave us a rendition! Aleks was inspired and had a go at recording himself playing the violin and uploading it to YouTube.

Dragan returned from the University and we all walked to the ‘Muzej Automobila Beograd’, Belgrade Car Museum [1] near the city centre. Definitely comes recommended, housed in Belgrade’s first garage building, there are some cracking cars here, including my favourite, Tito’s Cadillac. I asked Dragan if he had seen the Cadillac in his youth in Yugoslavia and he remembers having to wave to Tito as the cavalcade passed by, probably in the same Cadillac!

'Moj Kiosk' (My Kiosk), Belgrade

'Moj Kiosk' (My Kiosk), Belgrade

On the walk home we passed a 'Kiosk', these are little newsagents that are dotted all around Belgrade. You can top up your phone, top up your bus pass and buy papers, sweets ect.... It was time to head home. Dragan and I got a bit cold on the way back – I had an ice-cream headache which lasted for the rest of the evening. The winter is definitely coming.

DAY 35

Today is the first day of the Orthodox Christian fast before 'Božić' (Christmas), which in Serbia is celebrated on 7th January. If you observe the fast then you are required to cut out all meat, dairy and eggs, but you can eat fish. In a country where meat is eaten so often and in such huge quantities, it is interesting that there are lots of vegan foods available. Known as ‘posna hrana’ (fasting food), it is completely vegan and very tasty. This would be the time for vegans to visit the country!

I have a routine now and stop to buy a takeaway coffee on my way to my Serbian class. We are working on our first ‘case’ – Locative. When you ask a question about where (Gde?) something is located then the nouns will need a particular ending. In this case 'u'.

Gde je Dragan?’ ‘Dragan je na fakultetu’ (Where is Dragan? He is at the University).

This evening we went to an amateur Serbian Folk Dance practise, with a view to joining as beginners. Known as ‘Folklore,’ [2 - this is a professional troupe] it is practised all over the country and every region has its own style, songs and subtle differences in traditional dress. We watched as the dancers whirled around with delicate footwork, often forming lines and circles. Much to Aleks’ embarrassment, Dragan and I had a go. Some steps were familiar, I’ve tried to dance the lovely circle dance called the ‘Kolo’ at Serbian weddings. Other steps got us in a muddle, but it was fun and we were made to feel very welcome. We will be back!

[1] http://www.automuseumbgd.com/en/ 

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6WLxMsnQv-g&list=RD2LDCUxgrHwI&index=5

 

Diary of a British woman in Belgrade - Day 29 & 30

My husband who is a native Serb, our 10 year old son and I have moved from England to Belgrade for 8 months. This is day 29 & 30 of our stay.

DAY 29

Skadarlija, the Bohemian Quarter of Belgrade

Skadarlija, the Bohemian Quarter of Belgrade

This morning was surprisingly busy with Aleks’ homework (he has some everyday) and violin practise. Dragan was in charge of making ‘pita sa pečurkama’ (mushroom pie with filo pastry) ready to take to our Kum and Kuma’s second day of ‘Slava’ (family patron saint day celebration) later on.

When Aleks was at school, Dragan and I went for a run. He showed me the quick route to my Serbian lesson, so that I can go that way tomorrow. It’s about 3 miles there and back. We went through the Bohemian district called Skadarlija [1], which has cobbled streets and quirky restaurants. It was so mild for November that people were even sitting outside. We passed by a really rickety book binding shop, that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Diagon Alley.

Bookbinding Shop in Skadarlija

Bookbinding Shop in Skadarlija

Sculpture of the Serbian poet, Djura Jakšić, by sculptor Jovan Soldatović, Skadarlija

Sculpture of the Serbian poet, Djura Jakšić, by sculptor Jovan Soldatović, Skadarlija

Our Kum’s patron saint is Archangel Michael and we spent the evening chatting to Ljuba’s relatives and friends to celebrate ‘Slava’. The pies were good and the ‘domači kolači’ (small homemade cakes, a bit like petit fours) were delicate and lovely.

DAY 30

For lunch we had ‘pola kila ćevapa’ (half a kilo of ćevapa – pork & beef meat patties) from the ‘mesara’ (butcher) which they cooked on the grill there and then!

To get some exercise, Dragan walked with me to my Serbian lesson and this week we were learning the locative case. ‘I go to the park’ etc… Sounds easy doesn’t it?

After the lesson I stopped at ‘Hleb i Kifle’ (a bakery/café) for a salad. Aha! Finally a place to sit and eat where smoking is not allowed! The salad was good, loads of chicken, not so much salad!

I had time to potter around the city centre because I was meeting the boys later for a concert. I wondered down to Belgrade’s ‘Saborna Crkva’ (Cathedral) [2]. I’ve been calling St Sava the cathedral, turns out that’s a temple and this is the cathedral. It has a distinctive verdigris and gold decorative spire and the frescoes were painted in the 19th century which are stylistically very much of the period. Prince Miloš Obrenović and his son, Prince Milhailo are buried here, as well as Vuk Karadžić, the reformer of the Serbian language. Apparently he simplified the language, not that I've noticed!

'Saborna Crkva', Cathedral Church of St Michael the Archangel

'Saborna Crkva', Cathedral Church of St Michael the Archangel

The boys came into town by car and we walked to the 1930s Kolarac Concert Hall [3], with gorgeous leather seats, a wooden interior and frosted glass features. As we entered the building I was surprised to see the official photographer taking photos of the arriving concert goers, including us. I regretted wearing jeans and big boots! We were also being filmed.

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was followed by Tchaikowsky’s Serenade for Strings in C. The soloist, Quan Yuan, directed the Serbian ‘International Prodigy Orchestra’, with Jovana Topalov playing the harpsichord. Very beautiful and afterwards Aleks said, ‘I shall never forget this’.

But most importantly after that we had to go to the ice-cream parlour called ‘Icebox’ for ice-cream with toppings.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skadarlija 

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Michael%27s_Cathedral,_Belgrade 

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilija_M._Kolarac_Endowment 

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/AliSavicPRINTS

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.

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/AliSavicPRINTS