Brits abroad

Diary of a British woman in Belgrade - DAY 23 & 24

DAY 23

'Crkva Svetog Marka' (St Mark's Church) & the Russian Church (right)

'Crkva Svetog Marka' (St Mark's Church) & the Russian Church (right)

I knew this would happen, things are getting busy now and time is flying by. School finished at 12.25, then Aleks had a violin lesson via Skype. He’s nearly cracked the Vivaldi piece he is practising. Dragan went to the 'fakultet' (university), so Aleks needed some company whilst I went to my Serbian language lesson. Luckily my Kuma (godmother) could babysit.

I decided to walk, having had a few practises with the boys to find my way. My route took me past 'Crkva Svetog Marka' (St Mark's Church) and the Russian Church. I was the only person who wasn't wearing a coat, because I was roasting; I tend to walk quite fast. Serbian people always wrap up warm, as there is danger in the wind, known as 'promaja' (draught). It’s a killer you know! With this knowledge, I felt almost guilty and didn’t last long without my coat. Maybe the cold air is as dangerous as they say.

The lessons are entertaining, with several people from all around the world. We’re learning possessive pronouns and did you know there are about 42 in Serbian and I think only 8 in English! Phew no wonder I am confused, but Dragan and I practise as we jog around the park.

Dragan: 'Da li je ovo tvoja kapa?' (Is that your hat?)

Ali: 'Da, to je moja kapa.' (Yes, this is my hat) and so on….

‘J’ is pronounced ‘Y’ in Serbian (as in the English word 'yellow'). All the other letters in the above Serbian sentences are pronounced more or less the same as English, except all vowels are short. Have a go yourself!

The boys met me after the lesson and we booked tickets for a concert, Vivaldi's Four Seasons at the Kolarac Cultural Centre [1].

Aleks has an instinct for the latest gimmick. He led his befuddled parents to an ice cream parlour called ‘Icebox’ [2], where you add your own toppings, sauce, sweets, fruit and nuts to a little takeaway box of icecream. I had the obligatory pizza slice to go and we headed back home on foot.

Adding toppings to IceBox icecream.

Adding toppings to IceBox icecream.

DAY 24

It’s tradition that Dragan goes to the ‘pekara’ (bakery) most mornings to buy ‘doručak’ (breakfast), but to break with tradition I decided to go and I ordered everything in Serbian. I am determined to crack this pesky language!

A run round the park for 4 miles, whilst we practised more personal pronouns in Serbian. A puzzled passer-by turned his head as Dragan waved his arms and asked me (in Serbian), ‘are these your arms?’ I replied ‘no, those are not my arms, those are your arms!’

After the school pick-up, we set off to pick up Baka Dana (Grandma Dana). All four of us went to our relatives’ place in ‘Arandjelovac’[3] to their ‘Slava’ (saint day celebration) [4]. ‘Slava’, which is listed by UNESCO as, ‘a representative of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity’, is celebrated all over Serbia on Saint days. On the menu this evening was ‘Ruska Salata’ (Russian Salad, much nicer than Heinz) [5], ‘kiseli kupus’ (sauerkraut) [6] and roast meat. Our hostess cooked the cabbage on a lovely old stove in a huge pot. She stoked the stove with wood in between making salads and coffee for the guests. Our niece and nephew’s wife served the steady stream of friends and relatives food and drinks.

Roast meat and 'kiseli kupus' (sour cabbage) cooking on the stove

Roast meat and 'kiseli kupus' (sour cabbage) cooking on the stove

Aleks played with his cousin and had a lovely time. We chatted with our relatives, but my Serbian just couldn’t hack it and I gave up after an hour or so. The banter was just too quick for me! We arrived back in Belgrade at midnight.

[1] http://www.kolarac.rs/?lang=en 

[2] http://www.icebox.rs/en/ 

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aran%C4%91elovac

[4] https://ich.unesco.org/en/RL/slava-celebration-of-family-saint-patrons-day-01010

[5] http://www.serbiancookbook.com/food-recipes/salads/russian-salad-ruska-salata-recipe/

[6] https://www.google.rs/search?q=kisela+kupus&oq=kisela+kupus&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.7117j0j8&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

Diary of a British Woman in Belgrade - Day 1

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.

Early start, our flight was at 6.30am from Bristol. Three suit cases, two violins, three rucksacks full of tech and devices, a handbag and three big warm coats. Oh, and me, Dragan and Aleks! The first leg was from Bristol to Munich in a lovely little Embraer jet. It flew quite low and being an uneasy flyer, I felt happy in a small plane — it was more like sailing. The descent into the airport is over a flat plain with villages dotted over a network of black soil fields and copses of trees. We spied the Alps cutting the horizon like a set of jagged teeth. Munich airport is very clean with little cabins to sleep in, but we just munched our way through loads of Pringles, whilst we spotted other Serbs arriving at the gate. We then boarded our flight to Belgrade. Bigger plane, so I was less happy, but to make up for it we were nearly rubbing shoulders with the Partisan basketball team on the flight. The Partisan team is one of the best teams in Serbia. Can’t be fun flying, when you’re a basketball player — tall folk! They had played a match against Bilbao the previous night.

We hired a car at Belgrade airport — so simple, quick and cheap. Dragan drove to our new flat in the centre of the city. Dragan says switching from the left to the right is easy and his driving style switches with amazing ease too! (More about that soon). He naturally doesn’t agree with that.

The flat is spacious, with parquet flooring and an open plan kitchen/living room. The ceilings are high, which is very relaxing and the walls are at least a foot thick. We have a wonderful view of a beautiful park called Spomen Park Oslobodiocima Beograda (Remembrance Park of the Liberators of Belgrade), which is next to the graveyard where the WW2 Serbian and Russian soldiers who liberated Belgrade are buried. Aleks has chatted to his friends on WhatsApp and they think it’s very cool that he lives next to a graveyard!

We met our ‘Kum’ and ‘Kuma’. Kum means godfather and much more[3] in Serbian, and Kuma means godmother. Our Kum is Ljuba and our Kuma is Daniela, his wife. They helped us settle in, something they would happily see as their duty as Kum & Kuma.

In the evening we went to visit some friends. They’re a lovely family with three children, so Aleks had some playmates. Our Kum, Ljuba, is also Kum to our host, the dad. It was a birthday party for the middle child. Kids often have two birthday parties in Serbia, one for the kids and one for the adults. No party food here as it was the adult party, it was good old fashioned delicious Serbian fayre. Prazan Burek (layered pastry pie), potato salad with onion and French dressing, Sarmica od zelja (meat pie layered with spinach, no pastry) and pickles and cold meats. Some of the food was vegan or fasting food (‘posna hrana’), as the birthday fell on a Wednesday (which is one of the two fasting days in a normal week, Friday being the other) [4]. The house is in the typical Serbian design, with a courtyard sheltered by a grapevine. The front room had a long table set for all the guests and relatives, with a huge wooden mirror propped against the wall and a cabinet full of Serbian china and ornaments. Our host is often involved in projects as an architect and structural engineer for local churches and his house has many interesting drawings and paintings adorning the walls. It might be described as ‘shabby chic’, but that would do it a disservice.

The kids played Monopoly, the Belgrade version! All in Cyrillic.

That night we all slept well!

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

[1] https://alisavicprints.com

[2] www.etsy.com/uk/shop/AliSavicPRINTS

[3] https://www.slavorum.org/the-godfather-probably-the-most-respected-person-in-slavic-culture/

[4] https://www.crkvenikalendar.com/post/post-rules.php

Belgrade Skyline Mixed media image.jpg