expat blogger

living in Serbia

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Serbian New Year with the Orthodox Celts and Sofija, Bulgaria 2011

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 The Church above is the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Nikola in Sofija, St. Nikola is the patron saint of Serbia, and my family.  Some how when I was taking the photo, the picture was distorted, because it is not as "bendy" as it looks here. Below it is pictured as it really appears.

Serbian New Year is January 14, and it was just as fun as the first!
 Our little town of Knjazevac sprang for the Orthodox Celts, and I love them. The Orthodox Celts are a Serbian band who sing REAL Irish Music. And WELL! I heard the lead singer lived in Ireland for 15 years and I believe it, his accent is "spot on".
If you don't believe me, click on the link below.

I first heard this band while I was still dating Milan. On a road trip he played me their CD, and then told me they were Serbian. I couldn't believe it. Then when I heard they were coming to our town here in Serbia, I was so excited.

On this fun eve, we were joined by a bunch of friends at the center of town for the concert. The first band was Borderline, a local group. There weren't half bad, I enjoyed listening  (even to the slightly butchered English in a few of the songs). Overall the lead singer did well. I know I couldn't do better in Serbian.

In short order the Orthodox Celts came on and they were Fantastic! I was so happy to hear English, and with such a lovely accent. The scenery wasn't bad either ;).

The funny thing about listening to the Orthodox Celts is when they stop singing and the lead singer speaks, all of a sudden you are jolted back to Serbia. But not the ordinary redneck Serbian to which I have be accustom. His Serbian is more proper. I had to ask to be sure I was right, but shockingly I was. It an interesting change to my ear. Still it was shocking every time he stopped singing.

After the concert I went inside. I wanted to speak to the lead singer, but there were so many adults and even more small children who were waiting. I didn't want to take any more of his time. I just wanted to ask some questions. I talked first to the violinist, but his English was not so good and he was really new to the band. The Guitar player, Vladav Jovkovic's English was much better and he had been with the band awhile so I was able to ask some questions and get some answers. It was a nice chat.

Vladan told me it was the former violinist, a female who started the band and had even written some of their songs. They started in the early nineties, and the lead singer joined soon after they came together.

Thursday, January 13, Serbian New years eve was a glorious evening with friends. There was even a spectacular display of fireworks at midnight!  When all of the festivities died down, our crew moved on to a traditional restaurant down the road. While on my way to the WC at the restaurant, I ran into a friend, and then a bunch of her friends who had lived in the US. I am always shocked in this town by the number of people who have worked in the states.It's funny sometimes I am overwhelmed by the feeling of loneliness, segregated by language and other times I am surrounded by other internationals. Life is strange.

This was my second trip to Sofija and I was excited to revisit this lepa grad (beautiful city). This trip was much different than my first. This time Milan and were accompanying our friends for a dog show in the capital city.

Of course we all needed passports, even the dog! The dog also had to have a microchip and a doctors note assuring he was healthy. When we crossed the border, our passports were stamped and so was the dogs. and then both times we crossed the inspectors stopped us again to check out the dog. It was pretty painless, just a short bit of a wait. This was the way it was for us on both legs of the trip. On the way back to Serbia, just after crossing through the border, I saw a lineup of maybe twenty buses and trucks waiting to go through to Bulgaria. I am glad I was not at the end of that line.

On our way into Bulgaria it was important to make a quick stop to buy a sticker for the car that showed we paid a ecology tax.

The first time I went to Sofija I was with all English speaking people. If I had a choice, I would opt for that, or to go alone. It is better to be alone than feel alone when you are with others. And, I love traveling alone! I am much more used to that, sometimes it is a tough adjustment traveling with others. I think I am just a bit too selfish most of the time.

The weather was much friendlier this time around. Last time my friends and I had a white blanket of snow to schlep around in, that made walking the city a little less comfortable.

This time the weather was cool, but clear, great for walking the beautiful city.
The streets are all cobble stones or actually Yellow Brick, Wait! It's OZ! lol
Look they really are Yellow. Thank God, I am a strong capable woman, and I don't need a wizard. But if I did, I wouldn't know which way to go, the yellow streets are every where.

When we arrived in Sofija, we checked into our apt for rent, and T. and I went to check in at the dog show. She grabbed a catalog that listed all the dogs while we waited in line to register. There were just a few other dogs from Serbia, loads from Bulgaria, a few from the Ukraine, and lots that came all the way from Russia. There was a large charter bus in the parking lot that was filled with dogs and owners from Russia. That would be an interesting road trip.

As this was my first dog show, I didn't know too much about how things go. I mean, I have seen Eukanuba on TV. But it is a huge international affair. This was up close and personal. The show was held at one of the American University Gymnasiums. The entrance was filled with people lined up with their dogs waiting to register, and random people and dogs just standing around. To the side of the room was an area with ping pong tables, University students were playing there the entire weekend.

At 3:30 the doors to the gymnasium opened. In poured the dogs on leashes, cages with dogs, and their people. In short order there were dogs being lead around in circles in each of the three boxed arenas where they would be judged. Tables were set up at the edge of the bleachers and dogs were groomed as if they were at the salon. Some dogs watched all of this from their spacious cages and most were trying to get a sniff of another's bums. Below are some more politically correct dogs, showing some affection.
I don't think you can tell from the picture, but the floors were not well finished. Those who play handball or basketball on this floor must try no to fall, because the groves between the wood slats would prove to be like a grater to the skin.

Dog shows are most often held in the summer, and this one was not up to the standard the summer show set. T. said this one was kind of unorganized and lower quality show. Only first prize in each class got a trophy, and even some of those didn't. The show was interesting, none the less, and I saw some gorgeous dogs and some even more interesting people.

On Saturday evening, I was overjoyed to be reunited with two girls from Bulgaria who lived in OC and worked with me. Over cappuccino we gabbed about all that was going on and what was new in our lives. It was great to see them again.
 The Z00

cotton candy is called slatko vulna or sweet wool.
look ma, no genitals

here kitty kitty
down town
This statue towers over a busy crossroads in the centre of Sofia, on a spot where once stood a statue of Lenin. It was erected in the year 2000 as a millennial symbol of the city. The golden-skinned & black-robed female figure represents wisdom. She holds a laurel wreath and has an owl perched on her arm.

Changing of the guards at the presidents residence

Dedicated to Nicole, Marie Noelle and Xenia, I miss you guys. xoxo Special Thanks to Evelina and Borislava for coming to see me in Bulgaria!! and Happy Birthday Expat Women and many more.
Thank you again for reading and have a great day!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Part 3 of our Christmas Trip to NS and BG ,"Three Museums in Belgrade"

Milan posing beside a painting of Milos' battle against the Turks.
Before exiting the city of Beograd to go back to our sleepy little town, we made a few pit stops at the Museum of African art, the Konak of Milos, and the Red Star Stadium and museum.

The Museum of African Art was really nice. Many wooden carvings of animals dominated the main large room. One special Monkey was especially cute.

The bathroom there was the probably the best in Serbia I have seen so far! Clean, with TP, and nice! I have told people this, and the response is always the same, "No one goes there, that is why". It is a shame, Serbians have no idea how good they have it. Many things are not behind glass.  Looking at Art and Sculptures is much easier and fun here. I really enjoyed all the museums.

I was curious where all these cool African pieces came from and Milan supposes that Tito may have collected them on his hunting trips to Africa. He was the Communist ruler dictator from 1945 til he died in 1980.

The Konak (House) of Prince Milos was the next treat for the day. Milos is awarded the distinguishment of ridding Serbia of the Turks after their long unwelcome stay. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.  This place was breath taking.

This is a sitting room completely surrounded but windows overlooking the largest Plantanus tree in Europe. I would love to invite all my friends to have coffee and chat there... but it would be a long commute for coffee. :)

If you were sitting in this second story window nook and gazed out this would be the view, mostly tree and branches.

Here is the tree and the view of the house behind it:

There were loads of cool rooms in this mansion, but I will leave you with just one more. all the colors are like candy.
There is one story attached to this house that really makes me laugh. Milos, this "great" man  was found to be cheating by his wife, and he was kicked out of his home. I think they had a few houses, so I am not sure if this was the one or not, but it is amusing and encouraging that even though women appear to have their hands tied a bit here, women in history have stood up for themselves.

Below is the wikipedia site for the house if you want a bit more info.

The next Museum we went to was the Red Star Stadium and Museum. Cervena Zvezda or Red Star is Milan's favorite team. He has been to many games there and was so excited to show me, and I really enjoyed it. We got to look over the vast, snow covered stadium, and beyond to the city.
The pic above is of the stadium, and the Serbians beloved Sveti Sava Church in the background.

The gift shop was open and we went in for a quick look around.

There is so much to learn from every aspect of the society. Although the Symbol of this team is a Red star, something we all associate with communism, this team and its supporters had a large part in politics and ending communism in Serbia.

The Circle with a line through it is an 'F' that stands for Futbal. The 'K' stands for Klub.

I learned a lot on this trip and wish I could share more, but I always fear I will bore you with all the history.

On our way home, we stopped for a wonderful dinner in Svrlig, at Kamiondzije and ate only one half of the 2 half portions we ordered. One half portion is like half a pig!

Across the street from the Museum of African Art was the most fairytale-ish house I have ever seen. I thought Runzel, or Snow white might come walking out. Milan said this area is like the Beverly hills area of BG called Dedinje. Dedinje means it something that belonged to grandfathers.  I believe it. There were some really nice places.
or maybe it is Santa's house...

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Belgrade or Beograd Part 2 of my Christmas story....

My holiday season this year has seemed very long, and in truth it is not yet over. Serbian New Years on February 13. We have just had a delightful Orthodox Christmas, and I feel the joy of the season!

First a plug for our great Apt in Novi Sad. I wrote about in part 1, but would like to give them further recognition. Prenociste-Novi Sad, http://www.prenociste-novisad.com/ . We stayed their last time we went to tour the beautiful city. And we were not disappointed. This time we got a discount for our return trip two years later. Prenociste has even added a room to play Billiards, with tables and a bar for you to bring your own snacks and drinks and just relax and enjoy!
There is private parking that make you feel safe and sound while away from home.
The prices for this place are more than reasonable, and they have really inexpensive rooms with with just a bed and bath. If you are in the area in need of a bed check it out!
Apartments Stojic 
Partisan 47
21 000 Novi Sad
The Joy began in Novi Sad, and continued on in Beograd. When we arrived in BG we went straight to Milan's childhood chum's home. We had a wonderful time getting reacquainted over coffee, beer, wine and delightful tea sandwiches! The hospitality here in Serbia never ceases to amaze!

As always when Milan is having a good old chat with friends, I try for a while to understand and then tire of the strain and look about the room. On my visual adventure I spotted the Gossip Mag "Hello", and found that Tejlor Svift, (Taylor Swift) graced the cover. Wish I could have read the article that included huge photographs of her. I took a pic just to show the folks at home who might find it even slightly amusing.

While in BG we stayed in an Apt that a friend had rented and was ending the lease on at the end of the month. It was warm, comfortable and perfect! Just Milan and I anywhere would have been perfect. But I am so grateful that we got to stay there. The super bonus to this place was the location. In the morning we were meant to go find Milan's cousin in this great city. When Milan and she talked we found she was just across the street a little ways.

One thing I did find curious about our free diggs was the lock on the door. It was severe in the extreme. I think it was a remnant BG in a less secure time.

After the short walk over to the cousin's and a wonderful lunch I had a marvelous time playing with her new baby and she and Milan got to catch up. I honestly couldn't imagine holidays away from home being any better.

Feeding small children in Serbia is not the same as we all assume it is all over the world. Here, highchairs are not the rule they are exceptional. They are a luxury item,  I have only seen one here in someones home. baby swings are also not normal. I haven't seen one yet in a home. They are in Store in BG but not in our little town and both are dreadfully expensive.

BG was a snowy wonderland the entire few days we were there. It only made our time there more enchanted.
Much to Milan's dismay I wanted to go to McDonald's not because I love the food, but because it is just a taste of home. I wanted nuggets and fries. I got in trouble again with the establishment for taking pictures. Why don't the BG McDonald's want you to take pics??? I find this very odd!
Here is a contraband pic of the luscious dessert section? it is probably good we don't have this in the US!

It seems forever since we went to Novi Sad, and BG for my Christmas, December 25, but it was only 2 weeks ago. Looking forward to ending the season and the coming of SPRING, bring on the Green!

Part 3 coming soon!
Thanks for reading!! Happy January from Serbia.

Here is a picture of BG at night from the fort Kalmegdon. I think that is the Dunav or Danube river, but it may be the Sava. They join close to the fort.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Jan 6, Serbian Orthodox Christmas Eve

Today was filled with shopping, cooking, and finding the traditional Christmas tree. The hitch is that it is not an evergreen, and we burn a part of it and keep a bit of it for luck.
On the day before Christmas there is a fast, if you can all it that. They don't eat dairy and animal products. Our dinner was not lacking, I was full almost as soon as we started. I had so many different kinds of beans, Fun yummy bread, fish, and  too many desserts.

The bread was made with with symbols of the whole family, the house, our orchards, our pets and even a snake to protect us.

We could have gone to the town square for some hot wine with cinnamon, oompa bands, and Some kolo dancing, but we missed it with all the cooking and eating. maybe next year.
Tomorrow is my second Christmas in 2 weeks.
Party on!  I'll keep ya posted.