|Hotel Moscow on Terazije|
|Snow wrecked streets, near Slavija|
Dobre Dan, comrades! Greetings from Belgrade Serbia, where East meets West and past meets present!
I am serious. I am living a block away from a square where the Turkish invaders used to display the heads of Serbian warriors on spikes centuries ago! Further along we have buildings that were (quite recently) bombed by NATO, alongside Byzantine, Roman and Turkish ruins, plus statues depicting famous communists, Yugoslavs, and world War 2 heroes. Belgrade has been purportedly been destroyed 40 times throughout history, and yet they didn't manage to remove the evidence of the many phases this city has seen. In this city, the ghosts of the past are always with us.
A rogue, giant snow storm kept me huddled inside for a majority of the first weeks, eating the various incarnations of cabbage stew offered by my more than gracious hosts. (See below.) But now that the snow has melted I'm starting to venture out to kafanas (old-school cafes) and order the several vegan options- broiled mushrooms with rice, salads, stuffed or pickled peppers, and thick crusted bread. The food here tends to rely on the freshness of the produce rather than on elaborate sauces or herbs.
My daily meal lunch is obtained from a hole-in-the-wall cafeteria down the street from Slavia (a central roundabout.) Here, every day, you can get some form of fried vegetables, rice, and grated beet salad. Occasionally they have peppers stuffed with rice or stuffed cabbage. I can get a ginormous plate of all of this for circa 2 euros, which seems laughably cheap for such big portions and fresh food. As a result, I haven't ventured to test many of the other places in the area.
One way in which I have truly gone native is to start every day with a mug of thick Turkish coffee the consistency of mud. Every Belgrader has a different method of making it ("the correct way") but my technique works suitably well and I will demonstrate in a future post in case you wish to try it yourself.
All in all, I can't see I'm really comfortably settled in this city yet, and I certainly haven't uncovered the secret to eating regularly and healthily. But I've picked up a few more words, I'm getting lost less often, and the sun is out every day now, and I've bought a bottle of Tabasco, so things are looking up.