expat blogger

living in Serbia

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas trip to Novi Sad and Belgrade part 1 (& Smederevo)

For Christmas this year we planned a trip to Novi Sad and Beograd (Belgrade). Our trips as always was filled with excitement. We left our sleepy little town early Christmas Eve Morning. An adventure  ahead of us..., Meeting American friends in Novi Sad, and seeing friends and family in Beograd. We were excited! Oh, and not to mention the jacuzzi tub awaiting us at our hotel!!! :)) good times, I would have been giddy with excitement if I weren't so tired from baking pumpkin pies, and lots of cookies for Christmas, as well as wrapping presents.

Not long into the trip  the oil light kept coming on, we stopped to check the oil and it was fine, so we were afraid there was something really wrong with the engine. We made a pit stop in Jagodina, (Strawberryland is a literal translation).

Not far of the toll road there was a mechanic. We had to wait about a half an hour before they could fit us in and soon our car was up in the air for an exam. The news was good, unbelievably GOOD! It was just a little part that breaks easily and is quickly and cheaply replaced! Less than $20. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO US!!!! Thank you GOD!   We were thinking we would have to return to Knjazevac and wait for a lengthy and costly repair. In no time we were back on the road for our Christmas vacation, first stop, Smederevo.

Smederevo is a town that has a gorgeous fort on the Danube. The entire city was at one time enclosed in the walls of the fort and within that was the kings home. It was the last town penetrated by the Turks. But it took great effort for them to take it. Not it is a large town outside of the fort, with a beautiful Fort that is now basically a city park. It is being restored, it will take time, but we recommend a visit. Both of us loved this place. Though,  I am sure it would be much lovelier in the summertime.

The town itself seemed to be a thriving metropolis. Close to the fort is a large beautiful Crkva Svetog Georgija or Church of Saint George (V) The town was decorated for Christmas and New Years and had a lovely ice skating rink close to the church.
This was a quick stopover on our way to Novi Sad, and we arrived there in short order. After a short rest in our place, we had coffee and some wine with my delightful friend Sanja. I was so excited! Finally I got to meet her, her children, her mom, and her best friend. We had been emailing, skyping, and talking on the phone for the last 2 or 3 months and now we got to see each other in person. :))) OH the JOY!

That evening was a short meet and greet before retiring to our hotel or more accurately Apt for rent, for the rest of the evening.

We had stayed at the same place last time we came to NS. This time we got a room with a jacuzzi. It was relaxing, but not without a Serbian hitch. The hot water heater was so small we had to plan ahead to taking advantage of it. First we had to fill it full with hot water, and then wait for the tank to fill up again so we would have enough warm water in the tub for the jets to work. ;p  yep it was a bit of work to get it worked out, but once we were in, it was well worth it.

And having a place to ourselves  with no phone ringing, or sister popping up, or someone knocking on the door was complete heaven!!! There were no dirty dishes, or messes left anywhere. Lets just say my Christmas was perfect!! I was only missing our little cat Tomo.

Christmas day we went over to Sanja's house, gave the children their presents, and got some warm hugs. Then while making our improvised Green bean casserole Sanja and I had some girl talk. Again, I must say I was in Heaven! it was so good to talk to someone who understands what it is like to live trans-culturally and married inter-culturally. It is harder for her in some ways because she has kids, and that creates complications I cannot understand. 

After Spending the day with Sanja and family, we took a short walk in Novi Sad, it was cold and snowy, but we managed to get a few pics that weren't ruined by the snow falling on the camera's lense.

I have only one regret, I didn't take pictures of Sanja and the kids. Drugi put! (another time!)

Overall, it was a memorable Christmas to savor. I hope you all had as great of a time!
A little late Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!

lots of love,

Friday, December 17, 2010

Snowy Knjazevac, Restaurants and Friends

Snow Angel and then snow removal equipment. no, I am not kidding.
Beautiful Husky at  home in the snow
Timok River  running through beautiful Knjazevac
I am loving the first snow here in Knjazevac. I took a walk this morning and the snow was coming down so hard that most of the pictures looked blurry.

 I am not sure how well you can see it in this photograph, but there is a snow covered spider web. Snow covers everything. As this is still much more of a walking culture, people carry umbrellas so that the snow does cover their clothes, melt, and chill them to the bone.

I saw lots more big stray dogs than normal. Usually we only see small to medium size dogs. The snow is driving them out.  Food is harder to scrounge for in the snow, and I am glad our kitten Tomo is not out on the streets anymore or he might have been on the menu.

Milan and I had an impromptu dinner The other night at a typical Serbian Restaurant. The restaurant  was in the basement as many of the restaurants are, it is complimented with original antique style arches you see in classic Italian restaurants. Not much differes from there, but the food. There is much of the same look, and feel. The service was spectacular and the food was amazing and CHEAP.
There is a new law here to prohibit smoking, I was thrilled to hear about it, and then realized there was a huge hitch. You can pay a little extra to make your place smoking. Most places pay this fee as most Serbians smoke. But on all the restrooms there seems to be a no smoking signs. Does this seem odd to anyone else?

Last night I went out with friends to enjoys a band that plays every Thursday at a local kafana, called Pivnitsa. Tamburitse music is Serbian, but reminds me of Italian, and Greek music. There was a guitar, a bass, something that looked like an oud, and of course an accordian. I don't think you can have Serbian music with out an accordian. Seriously!

It was a wonderful time with great company, but I think I got cancer from all the side smoke. I had to wash all my clothes and my hair when I got home. I forgot how lovely it is that the US is non-smoking primarily.

All in all I am having a good time this winter. I love seeing my old friends, making new ones and learning more, but I still slacking on my Serbian. There is just so much to do and I am really enjoying writing.

I am gearing up to make Christmas cookies, if you want to share any easy recipes with me I would love them. I didn't bring recipes with me, but I do have the internet. :)

Today I had coffee again with the lady from Zimbawe. She is so gorgeous. We had a lovely time. She is so nice, I hope I will see her again soon. We have much more in common than I previously thought.

Sending love from Serbia! Enjoy your Christmas season, don't stress, just enjoy the decor and spread the spirit!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Best Cherries In Europe!

The best quality of cherries in Europe is Knjazevac, Serbia and in the surounding Villages: Vina, Valevac, Sastavok, Kalicina...
More than 2000 hectors of cherry orchards are in this region. There are more than 2million trees bare fruit each year. 26,000,000 kg of the best cherries in the world.

Najbolji kvalitet visanja u Evropi je na teritoriji Knjaževca, u Srbiji, u selima Vina, Valevac, Sastavak, Kaličina...
Na više od 2.000 hektara pod višnjama, odnosno od oko 2.000.000 stabala godišnje se dobije preko 26 miliona kilograma najkvalitetnijih višsnja.
 I posted this for my Father-in-Law. Our family and many other Families have beautiful orchards with the tastiest Cherries! We will export!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Rebel with out a clue (Take 2)

 We got a new kitten.
Tomo  a.k.a. Tomo da voz ( or Thomas the train)
He is a little spitfire tomkitten from the street.
I was was running the stairs in our apt building for the second time. And after a little while I heard a meowing coming from the first level. I thought a little kitten had gotten trapped inside so I went to investigate. There he was coming toward the steps crying, and when I bent down he came straight to me.

Then I saw a neighbor lady. The little kitten jumped straight from my arms to the arms of my neighbor. With a little hacking up of the Serbian language, I got that the cat was a stray and they just allowed him into feed him a bit and let him back out.  I wasn't sure I understood correctly, so when she offered me the cat I declined. I misunderstand a lot. I went on running the stairs. A little while later at the bottom of the steps I saw her letting him out, I asked again in my limited Serbian,  "he is not yours?" She said no and offered him to me again. I said, maybe I will take him up to play. Needless to say, Milan and I were instantly hooked.

 The day before I had gone on the great Christmas tree hunt. I went on an adventurous hike to the nearest  Chinese store and bought a little "Charlie Brown" tree for 200 dinars, or less than $4. I brought it home and decorated it as a toy for our future kitten. Tomo loves playing with the lower branches.

Strange but true (I am thinking there should be a strange but true section in all the notes, what do you think?)
I got pulled over walking down the street here. Pretty funny, huh? I was taking pics in a neighborhood and freaked out the residents... I was taking picture of interesting houses and other culturally things and I guess some strange blond girl walking around with the camera puts people on edge.

The weather here has been beyond strange. The entire month of November was unseasonably warm. And now December is having it's share of warm days as well. Yesterday is was too nice to wear a coat,  I wore a sweater and ballet flats with no socks. It was appropriate. Yet, when I went to visit a friends mom she had a heart attack when she saw I had on no socks. "It's December!" she said. I got the same reply from my Mama when I went to visit. And she freaked out when she found out I didn't have a coat either. I assured Mama I had been doing this my entire life and I had been fine, but I doubt she believed me. I suppose if it is December I should layer up no matter what the weather is.

 Honey tooth paste
A little while ago Milan got us honey toothpaste for when we ran out of ours. We just finished our tube and I tried the honey "flavored" colgate. It is Minty and nothing like honey. I think that is good. I  can't imagine brushing with honey would be good for my coffee strained, not so pearly whites.

Back to the kitchen
I have beat the fear of the strange oven here. I started baking and cooking. Today I successfully made two Pumpkin pies from scratch, along with scratch crusts. I am happy to report, they came out very tastey in spite of some substitutions that were necessary.

I have also made liver and onions. Well, it was actually liver, kidneys, and lungs with onions. They turned out well, but it's not how Milan's mom makes it, so he didn't like it. Too bad. he he he It is closer to how my grandma used to make it and that makes me happy. Tomo likes it too, so that is two against one!

I also made curry Chicken with Basmati rice. I love this, I could make it every day. I have also made some other lovely meals, but I just had to let you know I have conquered the fear of cooking here. Next should probably be driving.

Hog Heaven
A couple of days later we went to the village. Our purpose there was to help Uncle Milosh kill the pigs.... well, not exactly my purpose. ;)
It was my first double pig day. I am to much of a wuss to watch the killing, but once the the last breath has escaped and the piggies were "eating from the eternal pig trough in the sky", I don't feel bad looking over the remaining process. Maybe one day I will be able to watch and photograph from beginning to end, and then again, maybe not.

My help was not needed for most of the two days they spent cutting, cleaning, grinding, boiling, and stirring. I went on a walk-a-bout in the village and on the second day all the way to the next village. I did try to help, for the record.

On our second day there I got to help prepare some food. I discovered our house had a green house in the back! Milan and I went  into the covered garden and picked fresh celery root. We also had fresh potatoes. We brought them all to the courtyard in the front of the house, still covered in dirt. Aunt Slavica gave me a bowl to put them in once they were peeled. She also told me I should clean them first. He he he  (dripping with sarcasm) Why?

The soil was really like clay. Cleaning off the veggies was difficult. The dirt in my garden growing up was much easier to dispel with water.

Potato Peels or part 2 of strange but true
While I was peeling the potatoes, Milan was telling Uncle Milosh that in the US we sometimes eat potato peels with the rest of the potato. Milosh didn't believe him. There are a few reasons for this. First,  the peels seem to be different, thicker and rougher. Second, There are no birds that eat the potato bugs here. Pesticides must be used heavily to ensure a crop of potatoes. The pesticide resides mainly in the skins. They say here if you eat the skins you will get sick. And I hear if you eat them raw you get a fever. Eww raw potatoes, doesn't sound good at all anyway.
Deda still thinks we are making it all up. People don't eat potato peels, that is just nonsense!

In the wonderful village of Vina I ran into an old friends from my last trip. The little lady Dobrila, lit up when I called down to her. She walked with me a little while and showed me her barn. I got to meet her husband, Sveta. He's known as a talker in the village and he didn't disappoint.  Both Dobrila and Sveta are warm and friendly. It was great to see her again and meet her husband.

Their barn is a little ways down the road from the house and I got a tour. They even let the calves in to feed while I was there for the full effect. Here are some of the other inhabitants...
the sheep with Sveta, and the piggies with their mommy.

At the end of my first days trot around the to take in the sites I came upon my Great Aunt's house. Baba Lubinka always invites me in for coffee and sends me away with treats no matter how much I protest. I sat with here a while and we looked a pictures.  She is such a gentle little woman. 

I must tell you lately I have been seeing a lot of dried gourds used for ladles. I even saw one on Lubinka's stove. Notice she has an electric stove and a wood burning one. This is normal in the villages and in some town homes as well.

While walking by the school, I was happy to see the village children out waiting to be released. I got a few nice pics.

The following day I had a nice hike down to Slatina, the neighboring village. This village was much different than Vina. It was smaller and it seemed older.  When I asked Milan about it, he said it was because Vina had a mine there for so many years and brought a bit of wealth to the village. Slatina was lovely just the same.

I walked from one end of the village to the other. I saw just a few people along the way, as well as several dogs chained or fenced during my the walk. At the far end of the village I was confronted by a large dog and then another. I thought they might be some of the stray dogs that run around scavenging for food. Just the day before, my Uncle Milosh had warned me about a pack of dogs in Vina, and I was alert. When I saw one and then another coming toward me, I knew I had to appear fearless. I took a step forward and yelled loudly. The closest dog turned around retreated. The other dog did the same. I did too. Back the way I came from and then back to Vina. Maybe they were wild and maybe they weren't. But all that matters is I didn't get attacked.

Enjoy the last few pics. Thank you for reading! as always I love to hear what you think. Thanks for commenting! Enjoy the Slatina pics below.

This is an ancient cross. The writing very old Cyrilic script.
An old house in Slatina and then a view of some of the newer homes.

When I came home I found out the house here on the right is a cousin's house. 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Bathtub, Bands (wedding), and Long-tailed Sheep

 Good morning America, Serbia, and the rest of the world. 

~More Random info
Some bath tubs, or Kada, are painted here. I am not sure if this is normal, but ours is. It started peeling, not that I care. But it is just an interesting fact. Paint peels on some old bathtubs.

I finally found a bathtub stopper. It's a big deal. Now I can shave my legs in the tub and just sit and relax a bit. Yesterday was an epic day. I think after getting out of the bathtub I shook some of the paralyzation that takes over me on arrival here. Wahoo! I am breaking out.

This paralysis is real. I remember reading about it in my cross-culture studies class, but never understood it till I came here. There is such a huge difference mentally taking a trip for a few weeks or a month than living somewhere. I know I will only be here for 5 1/2 months, but I still get it. And thinking of living here permanently, makes it more real than I would like it to be sometimes.

Let me explain what I mean by paralysis, it is a mental handicap. Just getting out of bed sometimes is a huge task, and I am always tired, even though I am sleeping 12 hours a night. Trying to get the energy to go to see friends and family I haven't spent time with yet has been more than I can handle. And exercise has been too much to think about.

Strangely enough, I was discussing this with a Serbian I met at the piatz. He works in the US half the year and comes back here in the winter to his family. I thought it would be the same for him when he went to the states, but he said it is when he comes back to Serbia, the lack of opportunities and difficulties to start business or make money from a business does the same to him. 

 I am shaking off the quick sand and moving on. Yesterday was raining, but I still wanted to run a bit so I ran up and down the stairs in my 5 story condo. It was fun listening to my music and kinda dancing along the way. I hope no one was looking through their peepholes at what a dork I am.

Today I have a full day planned to further shatter the mental paralysis that had been making me a prisoner of my condo. I am going to the post office, the cleaners, the hospital to see mama, and the piatz early this morning. Plus I will fit in a visit to a few friends. I think it will be a good day. Later I will skype with a friend up north in NS.

I woke up at the crack of 6, so I am definitely cracking the sleep thing. Out of bed and writing before 7AM or coffee. Oh, that is what I need to get cracking on most. Coffee. Some things never change, here or in the states... Love my coffee. 

~Two Grannies were sitting in the goal area of a soccer field tending their sheep. It's a bummer I didn't get a decent picture of it. :((( It was classic! The above pic is the best one I got. The ladies declined a photo shoot, so I had to sneak some shots.

I am so in love with the shepherds here, usually they are the Babas and Dedas, (grandmas and grandpas) who live in the villages. Youngsters have made a mass exodus out of the villages I am sad to say. So they are only the animals and mainly the older folks. 

I think Monday was our last unseasonably warm day. Milan and I took advantage of it with a road trip to a village not to far away. He wanted to show me  an old traditional weekend house his family had there. This house hasn't been in use for some time and a trees limb has created a leak in the roof that has caused massive damage to the home, but it was still a lovely place to visit.

Living in one of these little villages with all this beauty is such a romantic idea, I though a lot about it in the states, but I think the romance wears off a bit when you live here and see how REAL it is.

~I have started wearing my wedding band on my right hand. Orthodox people wear their rings on this hand. Catholics, Protestants and many other various peoples wear their rings on the left hand. I also have stopped wearing any rings with diamonds with it. Most people here only wear a wedding band, so I decided to do the same. I look less conspicuous or at least less flashy this way. 

~Sheep tails are unusually long here. Milan said the ones we saw are a breed only found in eastern Serbia. After doing research on Sheep tails, there are many more breeds and different kinds of tails than you would even imagine. Most sheep have their tails docked when they are young. That is why is was so shocking for me to see these long tails. Our Sheep just have little nubs to wag. The well endowed sheep tails here could put most any other sheep to shame, especially if they have been docked!
They really do wag their tails behind them, although, I can't imagine these sheep getting lost. They followed their shepherd so closely there was no chance of that. I am sure there is a Biblical lesson in that.

This shepherd was so nice he invited us to his house for coffee, and when we declined he told us where he lived so the next time we came we could stop in for a visit.

On our way back to the car, we past 3 men making Rakjia. That national liquor I've written about in previous Chronicles. One of the men asked me to take a picture of them and them invited us in for a spell. I did take a few pics, but declined the latter offer. The sun was getting low and we had one more stop to make. Bigar falls!

Bigar area has been improved. There are picnic tables, a nice parking area, and debris has been cleared beyond the falls revealing another cave and a little spring within.