belgrade

Personal Space in Belgrade! A British woman's musings about Serbia's vibrant capital

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.

A bit of a Squish with the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra

Harry Potter film music played by the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra [2]

Harry Potter film music played by the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra [2]

Serbia is a very musical country - people love singing here. Just turn on the TV and you're bound to find a programme with live music, often with singers crooning beautiful Serbian songs. or perhaps a recital, or a wedding band playing 'Kolo' [1] music. The 'Kolo' is a traditional Serbian dance and at a 'svadba' (wedding), everybody joins hands to form a circle/line that threads all round the dancefloor and between the tables. The steps are simple, but delicate and stylish and it looks very beautiful as the dancers move around the room. The music is instrumental, usually with accordions, violins, keyboards and drums and it is lively, rhythmic and exciting.

So, we were lucky enough to see the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Aleksandar Kojić, at the weekend. The orchestra gave a free children's concert at 'Kolarac' concert hall [3]. The idea behind the concert was to give the audience a guide to the orchestra through John Williams' Harry Potter film music. Narrated by Branislava Podrumac, (who was dressed as Harry Potter), the orchestra played excerpts from the score to highlight various sections of the orchestra, including the harp, the celeste and guest recorder players. (Williams cleverly included a typical school instrument, the recorder, in his music)

We got there early, but not early enough, as the auditorium was completely full, and kids were also sitting on extra chairs, sitting on the floor and on parent's laps. And still people kept arriving... We were about to give up, when we found a small space to stand and a kind mum offered Aleks a seat. Don't even ask about fire exits or health and safety!

It was a wonderful concert, despite being squashed and Aleks loved it. Talking about getting squashed...

My take on personal space in Belgrade

Not sure the notion of personal space exists in Belgrade, well not my British version anyway. If two people in Britain bump into each other, then they usually both apologise. We even keep a reasonable distance in our famous queues and the skill with which people in Britain keep their personal space on a crowded underground train in London is breathtaking. I have discovered that if I go out in Belgrade and am already in a grumpy mood, the amount of people that will bump my bag, nudge we out of the way, push past me and generally ignore my notion of personal space will send me nearly over the edge! I have come to realise that this is normal and quite acceptable - how else is anyone going to get anywhere? So, I no longer feel aggrieved, and I had no need to feel that way anyway. Serbs are extremely polite, but they don't waste time on unnecessary apologies. It also saves energy I believe. I have even become more cunning when queuing at the supermarket checkout, I have been known to push past someone who is a little slow on their way to the queue. My apologies if it's seen as rude! (can't help apologising!)

What do I do when I'm not blogging?

Over the last week, I have been busy getting some artwork ready as I am going printing soon at a print workshop called Centar Za Grafika (Printmaking Centre) [4] in Belgrade. I have designed some small images of Belgrade, including some traditional Serbian folk dancers performing the 'kolo' and here is a video of me cutting the design out on a lino plate. At the print workshop, I plan to ink up the lino plate and run it through the press with posh paper. The design will then be transferred to the paper. The end result will appear in my next blog-post!

Ali's artwork can also be found at https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/AliSavicPRINTS

How's your Serbian?

I promised one of my readers a new Serbian word to learn each blog-post. So here goes, the next Serbian word, well phrase actually, is 'kako si?', meaning 'how are you?' 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kolo_(dance) 

[2] http://www.bgf.rs/en/

[3] http://www.kolarac.rs/?lang=en

[4] http://www.fluc.org/en/index.php?str=radionica

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]

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 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 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

Diary of a British woman in Belgrade - Day 2

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.

So today we went shopping with our Kuma, Daniela. We loved the ‘Prodavnica Zdrave Hrane’ (health food shop), with lots of nuts, dried fruit and goodies in square glass compartments, which is sold by weight. Aleks had some red, blue & purple jelly sweets (not very healthy!).

Prodavnica Zdrave Hrane

Prodavnica Zdrave Hrane

The most important event was a visit to Aleks’ Serbian school. We were all pretty nervous, maybe the parents more than the pupil, but were very impressed in the end. Aleks’ teacher (učiteljica) is very sweet and gentle. We liked her very much. We also met the School secretary, who was friendly and said to Dragan that Serbian school is so different now from when he was a schoolboy in Yugoslavia, much more child centred and gentle. Dragan said that he certainly hoped so, because his schooling in the 1960s & 70s was pretty strict. He also says that living with a former teacher (me) brings back traumatic memories! The school has a resident psychologist who is responsible for the children’s well-being. We also met the English teacher and the headteacher, both of whom were very welcoming. In fact the room was packed with people chatting to us. Dragan and I were offered ‘domaća kafa’[1] (Serbian coffee), which was served with a glass of water by one of the house keeping staff. The coffee has coffee grounds at the bottom, is generally drunk without milk and always comes with a glass of water, so you don’t have to order it separately. I really like Serbian coffee, but only in the morning! The school building was boiling hot; interiors in Serbia in winter-time are always very toastie.

The school itself is very typical for Serbia, with stone floors and wooden desks. The outside area is pretty big with some trees, grass and playground areas for football and basketball. Aleks was very impressed with the small kiosk on the ground floor of the school, where the kids can buy pastries, drinks and hot chocolate!

We watched a PE lesson in the gym where the kids were playing dodgeball and chatted to some of the kids who were keen to speak English with us.

Aleks is looking forward with trepidation to next Monday morning when he starts his new school at 8am sharp. As am I.

As a finisher I thought I would give you a new Serbian word 'Prodavnica' (pronounced Prodavnitsa) meaning 'Shop'.

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

[1] http://www.serbiatouristguide.com/live/Food_and_drink/Drinks/Coffee

[2] https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/221956799/belgrade-in-winter-fine-art-photo?ref=ss_listing

Belgrade in Winter, Photo etching by Ali Savic [2]

Belgrade in Winter, Photo etching by Ali Savic [2]

Three Days to Go

I think I have nearly done everything to prepare for our extended stay in Belgrade, Serbia which starts next Wednesday. Our 10 year old is about to embark on a challenging adventure, he'll be going to school there, which is a world away from his school experience in the UK. Half the children in the school attend in the morning and half in the afternoon! It's an 8 o'clock start for the first week and then a 1pm start for the second and repeat...!

So, TWO different starting times AND TWO different alphabets, Latin (mostly the same as English) and Serbian Cyrillic (hardly like English at all!) You'd think TWO alphabets might be ok, but each alphabet has its own hand-written form too!

So as not to feel left out, I'll be going to language school to learn Serbian when I'm there too. I was hoping by now, (11 lovely years of marriage to a Serbian guy) that I'd be fluent! But am I 'eck as like.

The most important things are packed, the contents of my online art shop, all packed into an A3 portfolio, a sketch book, my camera, some lino and some lino cutting tools. 

Once we’ve settled, first stop Grafika Kolectiv, a lovely Gallery for Printmakers in Belgrade est. 1949. Next stop Serbian Coffee & 'Torta' (Serbian cake) in the Hotel Moskva....

OK as a finisher, I thought I would give you a new Serbian word on each blogpost.... here goes....

'Zdravo' - an informal hello!

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

Belgrade Landmarks #3 image.jpg