It was a working day today, which was tough since I really don’t have a suitable workstation. The best I could do was sit on the credenza and lean against the wall! Needless to say, I worked in short bursts with lots of breaks! But I appreciate discovering that I can work in conditions like these. In Plovdiv, I had a twin bed with the long side against the wall, so I was able to sit on the bed, lean against the wall, and type from my lap. So I’m definitely learning to make my job more portable.
I went out in the early afternoon for a jig around the block and got a chicken gyros to go for my lunch. Yum! I think I got a free upgrade because my sandwich today was bigger than the one the other night!
After much reflection, I decided not to prolong my stay in Belgrade/Serbia and to move on to Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina. So I’m expected there very late Friday night. The bus situation to get there sounds complicated, so I think I’ll put figuring that out on Thursday’s to-do list (tomorrow!) so I know what I’m doing Friday. Housing in Sarajevo is so cheap there are no weekly rates. So I’m only staying six nights, to avoid having to travel again on a Friday, which messes with my work availability over the weekend.
Bosnian and Serbian are essentially the same language, more like dialects, so the bit of linguistic progress I’ve made here will serve me well there! It’s rather surreal to be going to Sarajevo, to be honest. It’s one of those places that I grew up to believe was a nightmare. But I know better and look forward to experiencing this historic city that I’m told has a distinctly Eastern feel and strong Islamic culture.
I gave up on work around 6:30 and headed to Skadarlija Street for an authentic Serbian meal. I never did do that in Bulgaria and I knew Serbian is very similar, with plain grilled meats and even featuring the same “shopska salata,” so that would ease my guilt a bit. All the restaurants on the street are rated at about the same level, so I picked one pretty much at random and ordered a glass of white wine.
The street didn’t have a lot of people, but it wasn’t quiet as there was some nice music playing. The temperature was just comfortable enough to sit outside in a tee shirt. So the ambiance was truly lovely.
Dinner was pretty bad, though, and now I am going to stop kicking myself over never having a proper Bulgarian meal at a restaurant. The salad was excellent, but that’s only because of how fresh the produce is. There’s no dressing on it. You just get chopped tomatoes, sweet red peppers, onions, cucumber, and lettuce, with a salty grated cheese over top. You’re supposed to add your own oil and vinegar, but with the veggies being so fresh, I just had the salad plain rather than try to get the dressing proportions right. I could see myself enjoying the salad with a side of cold salami and bread, but, really, if this is pretty much the national food of Bulgaria and Serbia, it says a lot about how unimaginative the cuisine is and how terrible it must be when there’s no fresh produce.
Dinner turned out to be what was essentially “pork Kiev,” meat rolled around cheese and butter and deep fried. As is the case in Bulgaria, the food was served cold to tepid, to the point that the frozen veggies that I would have normally enjoyed were not edible. I do have to say that the anemic looking fries were actually tasty! The sauce was mayonnaise-based, so I did not have any.
I cut into the meat thing and a real torrent of butter poured out, which is why I liken the dish to chicken Kiev.
I had a choice of cheese or no cheese on the salad. I chose cheese and refused bread. I chose wisely. Yum!
Tipping is slowly becoming part of the cultural and expectations in Serbia and servers are not shy to ask for one! The service tonight was impeccable, so I would have tipped anyway. The meal wasn’t cheap, 1,550RSD, 1,800RSD with the tip (23CAD) and I know I could have had a lot more for my money elsewhere. But of that, a full third of the price was for the salad and wine, which I felt were well worth what I paid for them, I got dinner in a nice setting, and now I can stop kicking myself over not having any traditional Bulgarian meals. I know from talking to locals and reading other restaurant menus that what I had tonight was perfectly average Serbian food at an average price and that I didn’t get taken by this restaurant because of its location.
I then ambled over to Knez Mihailova Street to check out the vibe after dark (sedate on a weeknight) and find an ice cream. I encountered what appears to be the only young person in Belgrade who doesn’t speak a word of English, but I know “chocolate,” “small,” “cone,” “please,” “thank you,” and my numbers, so the transaction went smoothly. Chocolate is pretty much a universally similar word, small is very close to the Bulgarian for small (which was part of the name of the village where I lived, so easy to remember), cone is just like the French but with a K (kornet), I’ve been practicing please and thank you, and the numbers are similar to Bulgarian. So once again, let me remind you that I’m not some sort of linguistic genius. Just take this as further proof that the more languages you are exposed to, the easier it gets to pick up bits and pieces of other ones!
Coming back, I noticed this sign at the Belgrade Cultural Centre just off Trg Republike and did a double take. That’s the chorus of “the French song” my friends Saskia and Darrel (The Great Plains) sing. I promptly emailed them the picture! Oh, you’re probably wondering what that says: “The joy of love lasts but a moment. Heartbreak lasts a lifetime.” It’s not a happy song. 🙂
This was my first day living my “normal” life in Belgrade and lack of a workspace notwithstanding, it was pretty good! The location here really is amazing. If I’d been at the other apartment I’d booked, I would have been twice as far away from the square. Still close, but not close enough that I would have headed to Skadarlija tonight and detoured by way of Knez Mihailova. I hope that my location in “old town” Sarajevo is as good!