Tuesday, September 18, 2007

From Black Mountain to White City

Belgrade, SFR Yugoslavia Yugoslavia Serbia and Montenegro Serbia

Jenny, Dan and I went out for a meal again on our last night in Montenegro. We ended up in the restaurant next to the one we'd gone to the previous night (which was very good). It turned out that this restaurant was hilariously awful in comparison:
  • A moustachioed pianist who was clearly in love with high octaves, runs and trrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrills played muzak on an electric piano all night
  • The restaurant had no toilet, so we had to pay 50 cents to use the public conveniences next door
  • We had to wait over half an hour for a pizza and two spaghetti carbonaras
  • And oh boy, when the food came was it an experience. The menu had mentioned that the carbonara had some sour cream in, and we imagined that a taste of sour cream wouldn't go amiss. But the spaghetti was COVERED in sour cream. It was impossible even to slurp the spaghetti properly, and we couldn't come close to finishing the meal
  • To be fair, we did get our money back, and a funny story to remember
In Podgorica I found everything I would expect from a city formerly known as Titograd and less than 50 years old. Around the Trg Republike in the centre the atmosphere was nice for a Saturday night, but walking back to the station for my overnight train to Belgrade involved unlit streets, mangy dogs and dirt pavements - all the usuals. Waiting at the monolithic train station, the wooden bench under the flat concrete canopy offered little comfort except the promise of what was to come. Across the tracks, rust and grime raced to cover the stencilled cyrillic letters on the abandoned freight wagons, whilst passengers' cigarette smoke was doing a good job of further polluting the station.

The train, for which I'd paid a hefty 22 euros including couchette, was due to arrive in Belgrade at 6am. Mercifully it was an hour and a half late, which gave me a bit more sleep. Three hours later, after finding the Star Hostel and having breakfast, I turned up at church. Last week there had been a Synod meeting in Belgrade which had brought lots of Anglican missionaries to the city, and in true Christian style there was a big lunch provided afterwards to celebrate. I was of course only too happy to rekindle my dormant Anglican affiliation.

Belgrade is a funky city and I'm glad to have 3 days to explore it. Ten times bigger than any other city I've been to on this trip, it was the capital of the Yugoslav federation and now of Serbia. Its history is very much on display and in your face than most cities. Walking down one of the main streets you pass this building which was bombed only 8 years ago by NATO.

Given this raw history it is incredible how friendly the people are. Most young people speak superb English and are very open and chatty, whether in a bar, asked for directions or asking for directions (again). Another unique thing is the food on offer. For about 50 dinars (50p) you can buy any of the following:
  • a pack of chewing gum (for reference)
  • a can of beer from a convenience store
  • a roasted corn on the cob, sold by a guy on the street with a portable corn-roaster
  • a pack of popcorn, again made on the street in a portable corn-popper
  • an ice-cream, sold by an old lady with a portable freezer - she'll also peel off the wrapper for you to eat it straight away
Tomorrow I'll be heading to Sarajevo in Bosnia for a few days' exploration. The trip is beginning to draw to a close - just time to squeeze in one more country!

1 comment:

Matthew said...

back to real life now, eh? and what happened to your page style?