Tuesday, November 9, 2010

it aint cold in serbia

my long-losts

an over-belated post (and a few more coming at some point about events from recent weeks); sorry for the lack of chrono- logical order, but wanted to give a general update on la vie en belgrade.

first off, i'm embarrassed to say that prior to coming here i didn't really process that this is the former capital of yugoslavia and, as such, was a pretty prosperous and cosmo- politan city. now a decade of war obviously changes things, but you can still go downtown and see all the same shops you see in new york, get all the same stuff, and pay all the same prices. after 7 weeks of the alterity and curiosity of southeast asia (my last getaway), this familiarity was a little disappointing. instead of being a place where i could bring marlboros and hand them out like gold coins, i could buy marlboros from any kiosk while listening to lady gaga and checking out the newest nikes in a store window. so much for me being the risk-taking traveler.

furthermore, i failed to realize that belgrade is as far south as milan. everyone had been asking me how cold it would be, and i suspect it was some combination of associating serbia with siberia, the balkans with the baltics, and thinking of eastern europe through a russian/polish optic that made everyone (including myself) not remember the actual place on the map. strange. as it turned out, i sunbathed on my balcony in just boxers the first three days i was here. (photos mercifully suppressed)

on the food front, however, it has been pretty much as expected: LARGE quantities of meat.(the photo to the right represents some leftovers from a dinner where a single order netted you either 5 of the 8-inch sausages to the left or 5 of the meat/cheese stuffed polpette on the right. egads)

i did finally make it the central market, however, where i was delighted by pickled cabbages and peasants who look like they know how to pickle a cabbage in equal abundance. as you can see from the pic, i had a pretty good haul (exquisite smoked meat on the left, some incredible funky sort of cheese stuff in the plastic container on the right, an whole cabbage head -- pickled entire, of course -- beets, carrots, parsley, spinach, fresh pasta, radishes, delicious red/brown potatoes, tomatoes, and a cornbread with spinach in it). yum!

and last but not least, i've been delighting in the local rakija -- various types of brandy, this one a sljivovica (slivovitz, in the lower east side). i'm quite taken by this character and his orchiditis. this label actually seems to have more "subliminal" genitalia than the camel cigarette pack or Family Guy, but maybe that's just me.

in any case, zhivite! work's going well. i'll write again soon.


  1. love those pics of the city. is that first one a view from your window?

    what's the language situation--do people generally speak a little (or a lot of) english?

    agreed about the genitalia, though i'm finding it somewhat overt.

    great haul. glad you're finding an abundance of roots.

  2. We are raising a glass of proverbial rakija to you from New York, Jack. So sorry to hear about the nice weather and shopping, sounds dreadful. I love that they think subliminal blue balls is a good way to move liquor! Have fun and keep us posted, forgive the pun -- Rufus

  3. i'm quite surpised that it took you this long to find cabbage and even more surprised that you purchased anything else (except beets, of course). Rakija - strong and necessary. I'm pretty sure it's meant to be consumed in large quantities along with kilos of cabbage at various stages of its own fermentation. Brad Foote would be psyched.

    What is the sausage like? Germanic?

  4. Pickled cabbage, left over sausages, rakija, and chilly weather? Are you sure you are not at a Soldier Field tailgate? Hugs, JK