Serbian Blog

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

20th century Arts + Traditional Crafts in Belgrade

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.

Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade

Museum Contemp Art exterior.jpg

A visit to Belgrade's recently renovated Museum of Contemporary Art [1] was an astonishing experience. The building, built in 1965 (the same age as me!) is the perfect space to show-off art from the last 100 years or so of former Yugoslavia, Serbia and internationally. Dragan was delighted to see a painting by one of his classmates from the 70s, he recognised the artist's name from his nickname, 'Đile,' on the label. The artist is now an art critic.

Detail of 'Crowd' by Srđan Marković Đile, painted in 1991

Detail of 'Crowd' by Srđan Marković Đile, painted in 1991

The museum is a very photogenic and thought provoking space, here are some of the fascinating artworks, including some wonderful woodcut prints by Sergije Glumac. 

'Hippy Top', painted wood sculpture by Tomislav Kauzlarič, made in 1967

'Hippy Top', painted wood sculpture by Tomislav Kauzlarič, made in 1967

Silver Sculpture & Dragan.jpg
Coloured acrylic sculpture.jpg

'Subway' woodcuts by Sergije Glumac, made c. 1928

Belgrade's Ethnographic Museum

It was a weekend of museums, and Belgrade's Ethnographic Museum [2] gives a charming insight into traditional life in Serbia and the Balkans. (Aleks was on a school ski trip to Kopaonik mountain - art museums are not high on his list of exciting things to do!) Dragan particularly loved the recreated farm house interiors filled with chunky wooden furniture, hand embroidered textiles and 'ćilim' (hand woven carpets) [3]. He has fond memories of living with his grandparents in a village in Serbia when he was young. His other Grandma, Baba Simana, who lived in Montenegro, used to carry a 'burilo', a rectangular shaped barrel filled with water from the local spring up the hill to the farm every day. She lived to the age of 99.

Cottage interior with hand embroidered textiles

Cottage interior with hand embroidered textiles

Beautiful ćilim (woven carpet) in a 19th century interior

Beautiful ćilim (woven carpet) in a 19th century interior

In the past a Serbian woman's headscarf had meaning! 

Traditional dress was worn daily well into the 20th century in some areas of the Balkans. Different styles and designs represented different places and the way a woman tied her head scarf would identify the village she came from. Dragan's grandmother from Serbia, Grandma Tomka wore a scarf every day. The bridal dresses in the museum were particularly lovely and were often embellished with silver coins as part of the bride's dowry.

Serbian folk dancing, known as 'Folklore', is very much alive today and the dancers wear traditional dress, depending on which part of Serbia the dance is from. The costumes are made of wool and with many layers, so the dancers must get pretty hot!

Serbian National Costume at Belgrade's Ethnographic Museum

Serbian National Costume at Belgrade's Ethnographic Museum

Bridal Head-dress with silver coins as part of the bride's dowry

Bridal Head-dress with silver coins as part of the bride's dowry

A Serbian phrase for you!

It's snowing as I write, so here's a new Serbian phrase for you, 'pada sneg', meaning 'it's snowing!'

[1] http://eng.msub.org.rs/o-muzeju 

[2] http://etnografskimuzej.rs/en/zbirke/

[3] http://www.serbia.com/about-serbia/culture/intangible-cultural-heritage-of-serbia/following-the-footsteps-of-intangible-cultural-heritage/pirot-kilim/ 

 

 

 

Bach & Japanese Bark! Music, Art (& Food) in Belgrade

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.

'New Trinity Baroque' Ensemble play Bach in Belgrade

This was our third trip to 'Kolarac' Concert Hall [1] in Belgrade and once again the three of us had a wonderful time. 'New Trinity Baroque,' [2] an ensemble, who play on Baroque instruments [3], gave a beautiful performance of JS Bach's works, including the A minor violin concerto, which is coming up in Aleks' violin tutor book soon!

During the 'pausa' (interval), I was pontificating to Aleks about baroque violins and how the violin strings were made from cat gut. Aleks looked horrified and asked me if the guts are taken out when the cat is still alive! I must admit I wasn't really expecting that reaction. (in fact 'cat gut' is usually sheep or goat intestine taken from dead animals!).

Kolarac Concert Hall, Belgrade City Centre

Kolarac Concert Hall, Belgrade City Centre

Roasted Pies on Hot Coals

After the concert, Aleks was 'starving,' but luckily we had some 'pita sa višnjama' (sour cherry pie) [4] in the boot of the car. Earlier that day we had been to the hand-made pie shop in Vidikovac Pijac (green market). I love watching the pies being roasted on hot coals. To make the pies, sour cherries are placed in a strip on a sheet of filo pastry and then rolled into a long sausage shape. The pastry roll is then coiled into the round metal pan and placed on the hot coals to bake. The filo is deliciously crunchy and the sour cherry filling oozes out. Icing sugar is often sprinkled onto the hot pie before serving.

Lifting the lid on how to roast 'pita sa višnjama' (sour cherry pie) on hot coals!

Lifting the lid on how to roast 'pita sa višnjama' (sour cherry pie) on hot coals!

Japanese Printing Paper made from Mulberry Tree Bark

Since living in Serbia, I have been printmaking at the 'Centar za Grafiku' (printmaking centre) in Belgrade to make linocut prints. One of the printmakers at the centre recently showed me how to print on Japanese paper with just a dessert spoon. I inked up my lino plate, placed the Japanese paper on the plate and started burnishing the paper with the back of the spoon. To reduce the static electricity created by the burnishing and prevent the paper from lifting, I had to touch my hair with the spoon every now and again!

Japanese Printmaking Paper is made from tree bark. The long fibres make the paper strong.

Linocut print (left) based on a drawing made in 'Spomen Park Oslobodiocima', Belgrade, by Ali Savic

City Slickers need some Fresh Air from Time to Time!

Some fresh air was needed, so we all walked up to the 'vidikovac' (viewpoint) in 'Zvezdarska Šuma (Zvezdara Forest). We had a pit-stop for a game of 'Fliper' (pin-ball, a first for Aleks) and a coffee in the rough & ready forester's bar. Very photogenic and atmospheric, plus quite a lot of lunchtime rakija going down! You'll notice the tinsel on the window, it seems, most establishments still have Christmas decorations in February!

Aleks and Ali looking out over the Dunav (Danube) river from the 'vidikovac' (viewpoint) and having a coffee in the forester's bar! 

A Useful Word, if you Plan to Visit Serbia!

To finish off, here's a useful Serbian word that is often heard in shops and restaurants, 'izvolite' (pronounced 'izvolitay'), meaning, 'can I help you?' or 'come in'.

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

[2] https://www.facebook.com/newtrinitybaroque/

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

[4] https://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/sour-cherry-filo-pie-pita-sa-visnjama 

 

 

 

Christmas in January? It's all about calendars!

We burned our 'Badnjak' (Yule Log) outside the Church of St Sava on Christmas Eve (6th January)

We burned our 'Badnjak' (Yule Log) outside the Church of St Sava on Christmas Eve (6th January)

My husband, Dragan, who is a native Serb, our 10 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.

Srećan Božić (Happy Christmas)

If you thought Christmas was all wrapped up until next year, then read on! We are lucky enough to have two Christmases in our family, one of the benefits of coming from two different cultures, English and Serbian.

When we returned to Exeter for two weeks in December, Aleks had the whole Western Christmas thing on the 25th December, with a stocking full of presents, more presents under the Christmas tree, roast turkey and then yet more presents. But Serbs rarely exchange presents on 'Božić' (Christmas) [1], although children sometimes receive a small gift. Presents are more likely to be exchanged on New Year's Eve. Božić is celebrated on the 7th January in Serbia, because the Serbian Orthodox Church follows the old Julian calendar for its religious festivals. In the West, the Gregorian calendar is used. 

Burning of the 'Badnjak' (Yule Tide Log)

So, we are back in Serbia, where Aleks has now experienced a whole new set of Christmas traditions, starting on the 6th January (Orthodox Christmas Eve), with the burning of the ‘badnjaks’ (pronounced badnyaks) [2]! Christmas Eve is known as 'Badnji Dan' and after sunset, 'Badnje Veče'.

We attended the local Church service on Christmas Eve, where a large pile of ready prepared 'badnjaks' were blessed with holy water by the priest. The rush to grab a 'badnjak' by the congregation at the end of the service was a bit of a squish, but Aleks ducked down and rescued a fine sprig! 

Instead of a log, the city 'badnjak' is a bundle of oak sprigs, replete with dried oak leaves, often arranged in a flat fan shape and is a symbol of renewal. Wheat, straw and a small packet of corn and nuts in a hessian bag are attached with ribbon. 

'Badnjak' seller. The green shoots in decorated pots are wheat, symbolising new growth.

'Badnjak' seller. The green shoots in decorated pots are wheat, symbolising new growth.

Sharing 'Česnica' (Christmas Loaf)

There was a jolly and playful atmosphere, especially after the service, when the priest broke the 'česnica' (Christmas bread) with the congregation and the children grabbed a piece. He said 'watch your teeth', because one lucky person would find a coin in their chunk of bread. (Just like a sixpence in Christmas pudding!). In the old times, this used to be a gold coin, but that night the priest exchanged a simple coin for a 20 Euro note!

Later on we walked to St Sava Church, where 'badnjaks' are burned on a bonfire outside the church. Aleks enjoyed throwing his into the flames.

Our very own Special Person

After church on 'Božić' (Christmas Day), we visited our Kum and Kuma. Aleks entered their flat first and thus became the special person for the day. He was prepped to say 'Hristos se Rodi!' (Christ is born!) and our Kum replied with the traditional response, 'Vaistinu se Rodi!' (Born Indeed!). Aleks received a gift, then we had a coffee and chatted with our Kum's parents. Dragan's brother had arranged a delicious Christmas lunch of spit-roasted pork which was provided by a relative. This was served with soup, pickles and salads.

When we sat at the table I noticed something crunchy underfoot? A 'badnjak' was laid neatly under the table, I haven't worked out yet if this is a tradition or it had ended up there by accident!? I must ask my brother-in-law.

'Belgrade in Winter', photo-etching by Ali Savic [4]

'Belgrade in Winter', photo-etching by Ali Savic [4]

Marshall Tito, the Yugoslav Museum & Art in Belgrade

Ali & Marshall Tito

Ali & Marshall Tito

My husband, who is a native Serb, our 10 year old son and I have moved from England to Belgrade for 8 months. Here is week eight of our stay.

Paintings by Svetlana Pavlović Džindo

Paintings by Svetlana Pavlović Džindo

On the Tuesday, I discovered a small art gallery called ‘Kuća Đure Jakšića’ (House of Đura Jakšić) [1] in ‘Skadarlija’, the Bohemian district of Belgrade. Đura Jakšić was a 19th century Serbian Romantic poet and painter who lived a Bohemian life in Skadarlija and his house is now an art gallery, which has an extensive programme of events. The interior of the building is charming, with dark wooden features and I just happened upon a wonderful exhibition of figure and landscape paintings by Svetlana Pavlović Džindo.

Kuća Đure Jakšića, with Svetlana Pavlović Džindo's paintings

Kuća Đure Jakšića, with Svetlana Pavlović Džindo's paintings

Later on that evening I decided to pop into a Print Workshop opposite Kalemegdan [2]. The workshop was buzzing with printmaking activity and there was a contemporary exhibition of abstract paintings in the gallery. I have visited before and received a warm welcome. I hope to print at the workshop in January!

On Friday, (bearing in mind I write this in December) I decided to go Christmas shopping. We’re heading back to England soon and I needed presents to celebrate Western Christmas (25th December). Božić, Serbian Christmas, is celebrated on the 7th January. So, I have to say, it was the most relaxed Christmas shopping experience I have ever had. There were very few people shopping and the Christmas decorations etc… were pretty low key. Not many gifts are exchanged at Božić and any way that’s next month!

On Saturday we visited ‘Muzej Jugoslavije’ (Museum of Yugoslavia) [3]. First stop a photo with a commanding, larger than life sculpture of Marshall Josip Broz Tito. After passing through the sculpture garden we entered the old museum, which is full of fascinating documents, posters, art and treasures from Yugoslavia from the last 100 years or so. I particularly liked the gifts to Tito from world leaders and royals from around the world. Haile Selassie and Prince Charles both gave signed photos as did Richard Nixon amongst others.

From left to right, Yugoslav national costume, One billion dinar notes, Nixon's gift of a photo and an artist's portrait made in the Nazi concentration camp in Belgrade.

There is an interesting link between the University of Exeter (in my home town) and Muzej Jugoslavije. Academics from both institutions have curated an exhibition of photos of Tito’s visits to Africa. It is currently on display at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, England until the 8th April 2018. [4]

Aleks was taken with the beautiful ceremonial batons that were given as gifts to Tito during his birthday celebrations. Relays were run by different youth groups who passed the batons on. The batons eventually ended up at a stadium where thousands gathered for Tito’s birthday parade and he was presented with each baton. It was apparently, a huge honour for the participants.

Tito's batons

Tito's batons

I was excited to see some beautiful original prints, drawings and posters displayed. Many of them were created by artists in various prisons and Nazi concentration camps during and leading up to WW2. Here is a small selection.

We then visited the ‘Kuća Cveća’ (House of Flowers), Tito’s Mausoleum [5], which is on the same site. Tito died in 1980 and his wife, Jovanka, who died later, is also buried here.

Tito's grave.jpg

Preparations are beginning for our ‘Slava’, St Nikolas, [6] on the 19th & 20th of December. Dragan and our Kum and Kuma keep appearing with interesting ingredients to make various dishes for the big event. Daniela has popped in with a bread making machine, some homemade chocolate sweets and all manner of things. Dragan is in charge and is happy to cook the bread, pies, beans and desserts. More about that in my next blog.

[1] http://www.kucadjurejaksica.rs/?lang=en (apologies this link is only in Serbian)

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

[3] https://www.muzej-jugoslavije.org/

[4] https://www.prm.ox.ac.uk/exhibitions-and-case-displays 

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Flowers_(mausoleum) 

[6] http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/serbia/

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 27 & 28

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 27 & 28 of our stay.

DAY 27

Don Quixote by Jovan Soldatović in Tašmajdan Park

Don Quixote by Jovan Soldatović in Tašmajdan Park

When Aleks was at school, Dragan and I went for a run around Tašmajdan Park [1]. The trams have a turning circle here and St Mark’s Church overlooks the whole park. There are some wonderful sculptures, including an eerie headless horseman, Soldatović's [2] 'Don Quixote'. This park is steeped in history.

Crkva Svetog Marka (St Mark's Church), Tašmajdan Park

Crkva Svetog Marka (St Mark's Church), Tašmajdan Park

Aleks had yet another school trip. His class walked to the Children’s Cultural Centre and watched some children singing and playing instruments. He’s only been at school for 3 weeks and has been on three school outings already!

Poor Dragan went on a bit of a wild goose chase today. We have to provide materials for school, so Dragan went to buy paint, but couldn’t remember which colours Aleks needed. Mine and Aleks’ phones were switched off and the landline was off the hook by mistake, so he couldn’t ask us. Very frustrating. Aleks didn’t even need any paint today, he was too busy going on a school trip.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ta%C5%A1majdan_Park 

[2] https://translate.google.rs/translate?hl=en&sl=sr&u=http://www.skulpture-srbija.com/soldatovic-jovan-272/&prev=search 

DAY 28

It’s a special day, our Kum & Kuma are celebrating their ‘slava’ (family saint day celebration) of Archangel Michael and Dragan joined them at the ‘crkva’ (church) to be present when the priest blesses the ‘slavski kolač’ (slava bread) [1] and the ‘žito’ [2] (sweet paste that you eat in remembrance of the dead). Families take their own bread and ’žito’ to be blessed.

Aleks and I went to the ‘pijac’ (green market) in the morning, but we made sure we only bought food from the stalls that had the prices displayed. My English accent will send the prices up! We made a good team. I was in charge of asking for the veggies etc… and Aleks (because he understands Serbian numbers quicker than me) was in charge of the dinars! I was glad that I knew enough Serbian to order what I wanted and also that Dragan had filled me in on a few unusual Serbian expressions! Ok, so ‘sine’* means son in Serbian. I know this and luckily I also know that when somebody calls you ‘sine’ (son) when you are a woman it is not rude, but it’s a term of endearment! One of the older women who served me called me ‘sine’. The only other time in my life I have been called ‘sonny’ was when I was about 9 and had very short hair!

It’s hilarious but true, that some Serbian people may call all their children ‘sine’ (son), including their daughters! Equally, some of them can call a son by using another term of endearment, 'ćero' (meaning daughter). Go figure!

It was lovely to visit our Kum and Kuma for their ‘slava’, not least because Dragan made the ‘kisela kupus pita’ (pickled cabbage pie). The evening was a very gentle and civilised affair, with a few relatives, ‘komširi’ (neighbours) and friends.

* Apologies to my dear Serbian readers, I think it is easier for my dear English readers if I just use one word for ‘son’, in the vocative case, ‘sine’.

[1] https://www.thespruce.com/slava-bread-recipe-slavski-kolac-1136570

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

Diary of a British woman in Belgrade - DAY 25 & 26

My Serbian husband, our 10 year old son and I are spending 8 months in Belgrade. Our home is in England and this is the next instalment of our trip.

DAY 25

Domača kafa (Serbian coffee)

Domača kafa (Serbian coffee)

Life has picked up a pace and so we all had a much needed lie in today. We visited Baka Dana (Grandma Dana) for a coffee and popped some food in her fridge. I tried to practise my possessive pronouns again and said to her in Serbian, ‘is that your glass?’ and she jokingly replied ‘well of course it’s my glass, it’s in my house isn’t it?’ Lol, she quite understandably didn’t feel like practising Serbian with me.

Years ago, when Grandpa Aca* (Dragan’s Dad) was alive I thought I would try and ask Grandpa Aca if he would like a drink. My question was ‘hoćeš li da piš?’ Aca’s jaw dropped and Dragan looked as though he was going to explode with laughter. A slight mispronunciation meant that this batty 'Engleskinja' (English woman) had asked her elderly father-in-law if he would like a pee, not a drink! (I should have said ‘piješ’ not ‘piš’.)

* Aca is a nickname for Aleksandar and is pronounced 'Artsa'

At home later on, Dragan made ‘pita sa pečurkama’ (mushroom pie) with filo pastry. Fry onions & mushrooms in oil and roll the filling in layers of filo. Bake for about 25 mins. Very good. To help our Kum with his 'Slava' (Saint day celebration) next week, Dragan is in charge of the mushroom and cabbage filo pastry pies!

'Pita sa pečurkama', mushroom pie

'Pita sa pečurkama', mushroom pie

DAY 26

It was a chilly but bright Sunday morning and we all attended the liturgy at ‘Crkva Svetog Nikole’ (St Nicholas’ Church) [1] in ‘Novo groblje’ (New Cemetery). The interior of the church is covered in beautiful frescoes of saints and biblical scenes. The icons are Serbian in style and some parts of the church are being repainted by artists, I spied the paint brushes and scaffolding behind the iconostasis. A crown of lights hang from the central dome and to my amusement have rather ugly eco light bulbs. The congregation stand throughout the whole service, but there are a few chairs at the back. The liturgy is sung by the priests at times alone and sometimes with the choir and congregation. To my amazement it is sung in 4 part harmony and as far as I can tell the congregation choose a part to sing as they go along? A group of school children arrived with their teachers, they must have chosen religious studies, not civil studies at school. (School on Sunday - imagine this in England!) The acoustics are great and our Kum and Kuma were in good voice singing the liturgy in old Slavonic, whilst the priest swung the ‘kadionica’ (censer) with burning incense. All three of us had a good dose of incense and we smelt sweet all day!

Beautiful interior of 'Crvka Svetog Nikole' (St Nicholas' Church)

Beautiful interior of 'Crvka Svetog Nikole' (St Nicholas' Church)

After coffee with our Kuma, we set off for ‘Kafana kod Neša’ (Neša’s Restaurant), to celebrate our sister-in-law’s birthday. We met with Dragan’s brother & family for ‘ručak’ (lunch). It was typically Serbian, with lots of polished wooden items decorating the walls, a bit like a hunting lodge. Copious amounts of food as always.

Kafana Kod Neša (Nesha's Restaurant)

Kafana Kod Neša (Nesha's Restaurant)

A quick visit to Grandma followed, who was on form. When we got home Dragan and our Kum, Ljuba (pronounced Lyoo-bah) made some little chocolates for Ljuba’s 'Slava', called ‘suve šljive u čokoladi’ (dried plums stuffed with walnuts & dipped in chocolate) [2]. Nice work if you can get it!

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

[2] https://translate.google.rs/translate?hl=en&sl=sr&u=http://www.kuvamo.com/recept/suve-sljive-u-cokoladi-1003&prev=search

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