Srbija

A Myriad of Delicious Reasons to go to Serbian Slava (Saint Day Celebration)

My husband, who is a native Serb, our 10 year old son and I have moved from England to Belgrade for 8 months. These are excerpts from my weekly diary.

Patron Saint Day Offerings

Slavski Kolač (Slava Bread), ours is the tall one at the back! The 'Žito' has a candle in it.

Slavski Kolač (Slava Bread), ours is the tall one at the back! The 'Žito' has a candle in it.

In preparation for our ‘Slava’ (saint day celebration), we all went to the ‘Crkva’ (church) to have our ‘Slavski Kolač’ (Slava bread) and ’Žito’ (wheat dessert) blessed by the priest. Several families were present with their bread etc.. and Dragan noted that our bread was the tallest! The priest cut a cross in the bottom of the bread with a knife and poured some red wine into the cross. The bread is then kissed by the family and turned three times.

Aleks & Daniela Making the ‘Slavski Kolač’ (Slava bread)

Click on the images below to see the finished bread.

It turns out I am a ‘Snajka’… read on….

It should be said here that Dragan, Aleks and Daniela made the ’Slavski Kolač’, complete with braided dough, a little bird and an Orthodox Christian stamp. I wasn’t helping much as I was in the middle of a ‘Snajka’ crisis! I am a ‘Snajka’ (pronounced sniker), because I am the daughter-in-law and it is accepted that the ‘Snajka’ will be the perfect hostess. For some, ‘Snajka’ appears to be a sweet and pleasant term, for others it is less comfortable. I still haven’t got to the bottom of this! Anyway my crisis was pre Slava as an ‘Engleskinja’ (English woman). Luckily my husband loves cooking Serbian food from scratch and all the cooking was left up to him.

More Serbian Fayre cooked by Dragan

Dragan made ‘prebranac’ (Serbian baked beans), ‘pita’ (pie) with cabbage and mushrooms and we ordered some (dimljeni šaran) smoked carp. I insisted that we have lemon with the fish, but Dragan wasn’t convinced people would want it. So, having sent Dragan out to get some, I carefully sliced some lemon and arranged it daintily on the fish. Not one person took the lemon and it was neatly pushed to the side of the serving dish. Not to be thwarted, I rearranged the fish and placed the lemon engagingly on top of the fish. Didn’t work. I had to admit defeat, lemon was not required!! I think I was trying to exert my power as ‘snajka’! Ha ha!

Dragan making mushroom pie

Dragan making mushroom pie

Chocolate covered plums filled with walnuts!

Chocolate covered plums filled with walnuts!

'Prebranac' (pronounced prebrarnats), Serbian baked beans being laid in layers

'Prebranac' (pronounced prebrarnats), Serbian baked beans being laid in layers

Slava isn’t Slava without Home-Distilled Rakija! (plum brandy)

The family joined us on the Tuesday, bringing a whole host of goodies, including artisan cheese from a relative’s farm and home-distilled 'rakija' (plum brandy). By the way, distilling brandy at home is still legal in Serbia [2]. Wednesday was lovely too, with friends who all seemed to really enjoy the food.

This is the first time Dragan and I have hosted Slava in Serbia, although we do it regularly in Exeter. Our English friends love prebranac!

We bought the Slava candle from Vrdnik Monastery

We bought the Slava candle from Vrdnik Monastery

Folk Dancing is Mainstream in Serbia & I can see why…

A friend is a coach of a ‘Folklore’ (National Folk Dance) group called ‘Despot Stefan’ [1] and this week we were invited to a concert at a local cultural centre. The dancers were from about the age of 8 to 20 and the groups wore different costumes depending on where the dance was from, e.g. Eastern Serbia, Southern Serbia, etc… It was a real pleasure to watch, with high jinks and complicated footwork. 'Folklore'comes well recommended. (The link is from a previous concert in 2015)

Me & Vesna Goldsworthy — a Professor at the University of Exeter & a Serbian Writer who Publishes in Serbian & English

All was back to normal on Thursday and after my Serbian lesson, I met a friend, who had found a non-smoking restaurant for us to have a meal. (She guessed that the place was full of foreigners like me trying to avoid cigarette smoke!). Next stop, the Cultural Centre of Belgrade [3], for a book launch of ‘Gospodin Ka’ (Monsieur Ka) by the author Vesna Goldsworthy. She is a Serbian writer and poet [4], who has recently been appointed Professor at the University of Exeter. I really enjoyed her book ‘Gorski’, but will have to wait until ‘Monsieur Ka’ is published in English, unless I learn Serbian really quickly over the next few months!

Vesna Goldsworthy is a great representative of Serbian culture in British society (like Novak Djoković in sport). Although I am not a native Serb, I like creating artworks that show the unique architecture and landscape of Serbia.

St Sava Orthodox Church in Belgrade, Linocut by Ali Savic [5]

St Sava Orthodox Church in Belgrade, Linocut by Ali Savic [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 

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