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Top 10 Things I miss About Living in Novi Sad, Serbia


 

My beautiful picture

It’s only been two months since I left Serbia, but i’m already missing a few things. I’m spending the summer on the island of Nantucket off the coast of Massachusetts with 8 of my Serbian students to see how they work and to make some money. One of my students from Novi Sad was even featured in BLIC for his awesome  summer experience. My return flight to Serbia is scheduled for Sept 17th when I fly from NYC to Amsterdam to Belgrade. I’ll be back just in time for the world’s largest work and travel conference which will be held in Belgrade. Work and Travel Group is one of the two representatives from Serbia who will be organizing this massive event. I’ll be giving a presentation to over 600 representatives from work and travel offices all over the world.

The boys and I are constantly discussing what we miss the most about Serbia so I thought i’d throw together a quick list of the things that I miss about Serbia. Let’s get started:

10. Srpski Sir

sjenicki-sir

I’m a big fan of cheese and Serbia is home to lots of it! We have a lot of cheeses here, but the homemade stuff you find in Serbia can’t be beat. I know an American who flew to Serbia to do a documentary on cheese. From Pirot to Zlatibor to Sijenica to Vojvodina, they have awesome cheeses!

 

9. Living alone in my $130 mo apartment 

 

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I moved into my own apartment when I was 17 and only had a roommate once in my life. It’s very difficult to go from living alone to living with 6 others. I have my own room, but feel so uncomfortable having so many others in my house. You don’t know when you can use the washing machine, bathroom, when you can cook and how quiet you must be. I pay $800 a month here in Nantucket for this accommodation, while my little apartment in the heart of Novi Sad was only $130 a month.

 

8. Pekara

pek

Who would think you would really miss a bakery? Well….. I sure as hell do. In Serbia, you are never more than a few blocks from a bakery filled with fresh burek, jogurt, and bread. You can’t go wrong with a 100 dinar slice of burek on your way to work.

 

7. Trafika

 

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We have a lot of 24/7 stores throughout the USA, but not here on the island of Nantucket. The 24/7 trafikas in Novi Sad really had me spoiled. If you needed a soda, chips, sweets or phone credits at 4 am, no problem. The stores close at 10 here so if you forgot something, too bad.

 

6. Ajvar

 

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The first time I tried this stuff, I hated it. That was back in 2010 and now it’s one thing that I eat on a daily basis. You will find many Serbians growing lots and lots of peppers. They use them to prepare one of the most delicious condiments on the globe. You can find it in some American stores, but nothing beats the homemade ajvar that my friends bring me each fall.

 

5. Sasa Matic 

sasa

Sasa has turned into one of my favorite Serbians.   This man has one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard. It took me a few years to get into the Serbian folk music scene, but i’m there. My favorite songs are : Kad Ljubav Zakasni, Nadji Novu Ljubav, Kralj Izgubljenih Stvari, Samo Ovu Noc, Reskiraj, Poklonite Mi Nju Za Rodjendan and almost anything else that comes out of his mouth. I listen to him each morning and on my IPOD, but miss hearing him in the bars and kafanas. My buddy is going to do his best to meet me with him.

4. Nightlife

 

kafa

The USA has some great nightlife in certain places, but not 7 days a week like you can find in many parts of Serbia. They just recently passed an ordinance in Novi Sad that has limited the hours, but it still beats Nantucket. The Serbian people like to party and you will find the bars full  Mon-Sunday. That’s not the case here. I like to go out for a few beers after work, but many of these bars in Nantucket close at 11 or 12. The majority are almost empty after 10pm through the week. The crowds give me a burst of energy and keep me from feeling like an alcoholic.🙂

 

3. Prices

 

Money

You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to go from Serbia to Nantucket which is one of the most expensive places in the USA. My average meal in a little restaurant is around $40. That usually includes a couple beers and main course. The beer is $7 in the bar that I like to go. A Serb, Macedonian and I went to this little bar by my house the other night. In one hour, we had a bill of $134!!  In Novi Sad, I could go out and have an amazing time on 1,000 dinars. Horus Nargile Bar is my daily hangout. I can smoke a nargile, drink a shot of rakija, two beers and still be under 1000. Living in Serbia with American money, can’t be beat.

 

 

 

2. Serbian summer festivals

belgrade-beer-fest-2013-reggae-rs1-950x532Serbia is home to some of the best festivals. They have Belgrade Beer Festival in Belgrade, Guca Trumpet Festival, Exit Festival in Novi Sad, Nisville Jazz Fest in Nis, Rostiljada in Leskovac,  and many many more. There is always something going on during the Serbian summer months.

 

 
1. Rostilj

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You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve dreamed of a big mixed meat platter with kajmak. The boys all miss the hell out of their meat. The first thing I’m going to do when I return on Sept 17th is hit up this great kafana in Belgrade for a big mixed meat platter! If you haven’t had Serbian rostilj, your life sucks.

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2016 in USA vs Serbia

 

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Spending Summer on Nantucket Island With 8 Serb Students


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My salary in Serbia isn’t the greatest, but there are some perks that go along with it. At Work and Travel Group, I solicit American business owners from September through January.  It allows me to meet many important folks in the hospitality industry. I explain to them about the summer work travel program and the positives of hiring our Serbian university kids for their hospitality businesses. You start to develop friendships with many of the managers and owner. One of them, the manager of the Nantucket Bike Shop, sent one of my student interview videos to the owner of the shop and the owner wanted me to work for him.  He loved my outgoing, talkative manner and thought I would be a great fit at his bike, scooter and jeep rental place. It was a little unexpected as I had already accepted a summer job at a fish processing plant in Anchorage, Alaska. It took me about 2 seconds to make my decision about where to spend the summer…… I was going to Nantucket!

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Nantucket is a little island located 30 miles off of the coast of Massachusetts. It’s well known in the USA for being one of the wealthiest places in the country. There are many famous folks who call Nantucket home: Secretary of State John Kerry, Uma Thurman, Sharon Stone, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, Alex Gorskey (CEO of Johnson & Johnson), and many more. It has 80 miles of beaches and is the setting for the novel “Moby Dick”.

Nantucket

Nantucket

The Nantucket Bike Shop is one of my best accounts. The students always have a great time and make great money so I handpick the best of the best for the interviews. They want guys who can speak English well and who have a very outgoing personalities. The manager loved my picks for the previous year so he was excited to interview the ones I picked for 2016. I settled on a great group of students for him to interview. The finalists were: Dusan Dragicevic, Nikola Pausic, Milos Pesic, Nebojsa Peric, Momir Amidzic, Stefan Radic, Bogdan Dakic and Nikola Uzelac. Dusan and Nikola were working at the Nantucket Bike Shop on the program the previous year and the bike shop  wanted them back. The others were first-time j-1 summer work travel participants, but they dominated in their interviews. He picked all the students that I had selected so I was going to be living and working with this group of young Serbs for 3 months. I was excited to see how the summer would go.

Let me introduce this amazing group of Serbs before I go any further:

Stefan Radic

Stefan Radic with his rakija

Stefan Radic is one of my oldest and dearest Serbian friends. We randomly bumped into each other in downtown Zrenjanin, Serbia on my first trip in 2010. We have continued our friendship over the last 6 years.  I can honestly say that I consider this young man as a brother. I’ve met his wonderful mother, beautiful sister and will soon be able to meet his nephew as soon as he comes into this world in late 2016! Stefan is in his final year of security studies in Belgrade and plans on enrolling in the master’s program when he returns in October. He works at the Nantucket Bike Shop where he gives scooter lessons. He also took a 2nd job at the pizza place. If you don’t know Stefan Radic, you are missing out.

Nebojsa Peric

Nebojsa Peric

Nebojsa  Peric is a young man from Becej, Serbia. There isn’t a more kind and likable guy on the planet. I can remember my first encounter with Nebojsa at the Work and Travel Group office. He was always coming in to ask for help or to seek some advice. He’s laid back, friendly,  and a huge fan of Crvena Zvezda (Red Star).  I always have fun when he’s working in the same shop as me. I love listening to the owner’s pronunciation of Nebojsa because it’s always a disaster. My favorite thing about him is his haircut.

Bogdan Dakic

Bogdan Dakic

Bogdan Dakic is another guy that I’ve known for years. He was with Stefan Radic on the same night we bumped into each other. Zrenjanin is his hometown, but he’s an English major who studies in Belgrade. He always has a big smile and a positive attitude.  I respect Bogdan a lot because he is always concerned about paying me back after I buy drinks for him. You don’t meet people like that everyday. He’s also one of the guys that likes to join me at the local sports bar.

Milos Pesic

Milos Pesic

Milos Pesic is a guy that words will be hard to describe. This guy reminds me a lot of myself. He’s has a ton of energy, a born leader, and a guy who you like the minute you meet him. We first met in the Work and Travel Group office. I instantly knew he would be one of the best candidates for the Nantucket Bike Shop because he has an amazing personality that you don’t see everyday. He’s big into fitness and loves spending his free time on the beaches. He’s also the guy who cuts my hair here on Nantucket. Milos Pesic will go far in life!

Dusan Dragicevic (standing) Nikola Pausic (sitting)

Dusan Dragicevic (standing) Nikola Pausic (sitting)

Dusan Dragicevic is one of the coolest guys anyone could ever meet. He was born and raised in Veternik and studies in Novi Sad.  We first met in 2015 when he came into my office to ask about going to Nantucket. I instantly loved the kid. He has a permanent smile attached to his face and a wonderful personality🙂 Dusan is one of the best workers at the bike shop. He gives scooter lessons and works a second job at a sports bar. The only thing I don’t like about Dusan is living with him.🙂 He’s one of my roommates and one of the ones that loves to party the most. We had a yelling match during my first week here because he woke me up by yelling Serbian swears at 12:30am. He also eats peanut butter and salami sandwiches! :O Who does that??????

Nikola Pausic is the other returning student to Nantucket. The manager of the Nantucket Bike Shop told me ” Nikola Pausic will have a job here anytime he wants to return” That doesn’t happen all the time! Nikola was a prized employ of the bike shop last year while working as a delivery driver. He knows the island like the back of his hand and is always friendly and respectful to everyone. He is the one that was able to defuse Dusan and me while we were yelling. If you don’t like Nikola Pausic, there is something wrong with you.

Momir Amidzic

Momir Amidzic

Momir Amidzic has one of the most confusing names imaginable. It’s rare to find someone who can say it correctly. This young man studies in Novi Sad and first came into my presence in early 2016. He walked into the office to signup and the same day I had him doing an interview with the bike shop manager. Momir is another one of those people that you just can’t dislike. He’s laid back, friendly, and always has a smile and a joke. He does his best to annoy the hell out of me, but it isn’t working. He tries to screw me out of money at times by claiming I haven’t paid for stuff (he’s only joking). He also has some of the best hair on the island.😉

 

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Nikola Uzelac and Kevin Spacey

Nikola Uzelac …… What can I say about this young man? I intentionally placed him last because I’m so jealous of him. This young man will be a very successful man in the very near future. He’s from Novi Sad and studies law. He works at the bike shop and found a second job as a doorman at one of the best bars in all of Nantucket. There isn’t a Serbian on this island who has better English than Nikola. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know him over this past month. We work great together at the bike shop and enjoy hanging out for some drinks when we are off work. He’s turned into a really good friend of mine and he’s helped me meet one of my heroes, Kevin Spacey.  Kevin Spacey, Nikola and I had a great conversation the other night. He comes into the bar that Nikola works at so Nikola knew where he would be sitting. We picked up the table right next to him and his two bodyguards. I bent over next to him with my beer in hand to offer a cheers which he accepted with a clink of glasses. He ended up turning around to ask us where we were from. He is one of the most down-to-earth movie stars that you could ever encounter. I asked him for a pic, but he refused. He said that he never gives pictures while in public because it will be never ending session. After going into the bar a few nights in a row, he promised to give snap one with Nikola before he left and he followed through on his promise by showing up on his last night on the island for the pic. Nikola was also featured in the Boston Globe with his picture of James Franco.

Nikola and James Franco

Nikola and James Franco

 

The summer has just begun! I can’t wait to see what’s on tap for the rest of the summer! I couldn’t have selected a better crew than the one we have now.  This experience is great for all of us. We have to learn how to live together, deal with different personality types, juggle difficult work schedules, and budget money on a very expensive island. The boys have really impressed me so far with their abilities to save money. They found a place called “Food Pantry” that provides free food to people on low incomes.

Boys taking a selfie at the food pantry

Boys taking a selfie at the food pantry

 

I’ll keep you updated on  our adventures as the summer continues.

Nantucket Bike Shop Serbs

Nantucket Bike Shop Serbs

 

Serbs, a Croat, and a Jamaican

Serbs, a Croat, and a Jamaican

Nikola, Milos I Stefan after work

Nikola, Milos I Stefan after work

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2016 in Through my eyes

 

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Awesome Investment Property Available ASAP


You guys remember that wonderful Serbian granny who showed me how to make sarama? If not, read this.  Well… She’s in a bit of a dilemma at the moment. She needs to sell her beautiful home in Sirig, Serbia.

house

She is one of the many Serbians from Croatia who were expelled from Croatia in the 90’s. She had some beautiful, expensive properties in Zagreb, but had to find a way to get rid of them before losing them. She found a Croatian family with ties to Zagreb who were preparing to leave for Croatia so they traded properties. She has been living in this lovely home for over 25 years now. The issue is the size of the home and property. She’s a widow and it takes too much work to take care of this massive home so she needs to sell it so she can buy a small apartment in Novi Sad.

sirig
Sirig, Serbia is a small, quiet village that’s located 20 km from Novi Sad. It’s in the municipality of Temerin and the first village you will encounter when heading north towards Sombor. It’s easily to reach with a bus leaving from Novi Sad every 15 minutes. Sirig has many of your basic needs such as : doctor’s office, pharmacy, schools, shops, churches and bars.

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The property itself is my favorite part.The home sits on roughly a 250sq mt lot with 100 of it being a massive backyard with outbuildings and many fruit and nut trees. It’s great for parties, slavas, bbqs or just private family gatherings. We had a great time at my friend’s birthday in June of last year

 

top floor

top floor (panorama with phone)

bottom floor (panorama with phone)

bottom floor (panorama with phone)

The home is two separated floors so two families could live there. They both have 100 sq meters and private entrances. Both of them have two bedrooms and separated kitchens, full bathrooms, living rooms, dining room, etc.

one downstairs bedroom

one downstairs bedroom

2nd downstairs bedroom

2nd downstairs bedroom

 

one upstairs bedroom

one upstairs bedroom

 

 

2nd upstairs bedroom

2nd upstairs bedroom

upstairs hallway

upstairs hallway

downstairs hallway

downstairs hallway

stairway to upstairs

stairway to upstairs

upstairs bathroom

upstairs bathroom

downstairs bathroom

downstairs bathroom

downstairs kitchen

downstairs kitchen

upstairs balcony

upstairs balcony

I can do a video walk through for anyone who is interested. The house will come fully furnished with the exception of the electronics (washing machine, tv). The price is starting at 75,000 euros which is way less than the value, but she needs to move quickly. She is a very motivated seller and for questions or offers you can contact her Norwegian/Serb grandson, William Nikola at will.jakobsen@gmail.com or +381621020546

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Thanksgiving for 500 in Serbia

Thanksgiving for 500 in Serbia

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Charles “The Host” Cather

The company I work for, Work and Travel Group, held the largest alumni summer work and travel event in the history of the world this past November.

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500 students from 2008-2016

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Mikser House in Belgrade

We had a massive Thanksgiving event at Mikser House in Belgrade Serbia on Thanksgiving.

upstairs displays

Upstairs displays

We had students from 2008-2016

We had students from 2008-2016

decor

Decor

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Throwing down Red Bull

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Checking in students

Work and Travel crew

Work and Travel Group crew

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Stage

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Can you feel the love?

 

Placing ribbons on each guest

Placing ribbons on each guest

 

We brought in over 500 former students from 2008- 2016 to experience an American Thanksgiving and to win some prizes.

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Students piling in

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Students having some free beverages

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Around 500 former students of summer work and travel

Once the students arrived, they were given coupons for two free alcoholic beverages and unlimited soda, juice and soft drinks. We started off serving some Serbian pies and American pie for them to snack on before our main course.

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Mixing Serbian and American foods. Serbian pie

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American apple pie

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Students enjoying some pie

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Two of my favorite students checking out the displays

We let the students mingle for an hour and then had the prize giveaway. We had the students from work and travel 2015 submit their favorite picture from their summer in the US. Once we received the photo, we placed it on our Facebook page to see which one received the most likes. The three with the most likes, received a refund of their program fee which was between $1,000 and  $1,300! The prize money came from CIEE and Work and Travel Group.

 

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Handing out prizes to the lucky winners

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The winners! Each one won their program fee back!🙂

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Free pictures from InstaPrint

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Main course of 10 turkeys, gravy, potatoes, cranberry sauce

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Juicy turkey

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Beautifully laid out turkeys

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Students enjoying the meal

I was the host of the entire event so I had to nibble around between talking and preparing for my next presentation. I hated that part of the event because I love to eat.

After dinner, it was time to interview a few of our students about their experiences in the USA.

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Students telling about their experience in the USA

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Some great kids!

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Filip Uzelac telling about his time in St. Louis

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Sinisa Vojvodic discussing Chatham, Massachusetts

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Selecting the winners

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Congratulating the winners

The last segment of the night was another prize giveaway. Puzzle Group donated three vacation packages to be given away at random. We used a lotto wheel to randomly select a number that was on top of their ticket.

The night ended around 11pm when the buses arrived to bring the Nis and Novi Sad students back to their cities. I felt my night was successful as the host. I only had a few minor errors in my presentations. Not bad for someone who hated public speaking in high school.

We had a 5 minutes video made about the whole entire event that you can watch here.  A great time was had by all of the attendees.

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2015 in Through my eyes

 

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Serbian Grandma and Sarma

Serbian Grandma and Sarma

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One of my dearest friends here in Serbia is a Norwegian from the northern region of Norway. We met up last winter at Horus Nargile Bar and have been great friends ever since. He was born and raised in Norway, but his father’s side of the family are Serbs from Croatia who were forced out of Zagreb during the 90’s. He’s in his 2nd year of English medical school here in Novi Sad.

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Church in Sirig

Last Sunday, he asked me to go with him and his beautiful girlfriend to his grandmother’s house in  Sirig, Serbia for lunch. Sirig is a pretty little village about 20km from Novi Sad. I knew all about his grandmother’s cooking because I was there for a birthday party last summer and she sent over some sarma for me a few times so I was thrilled to go. He tells me that his grandma is going to teach me to make sarma🙂
We arrived at his granny’s house around 1pm. She lives in a big, beautiful home right in the heart of Sirig. There are tons of fruit and nut trees in her back yard,  a large garage  and two floors of living space. She had the table all laid out and prepared for our arrival.  The older women in Serbia really know how to take care of a dinner guest. We had some of her homemade rakija and beer, and then she brings out this lovely homemade soup.
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Next round of food comes after she clears the soup and bowls from the table. The ladies seem to refuse your offer of assistance🙂 This round was some appetizers of cold meats, homemade cheese, cvarci (fried pork fat), cabbage salad and pickled red peppers.

DSC_1505_1280x851She also had these lovely homemade breaded things that reminded me of doughnuts. They were super!

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The next round of food was some delicious pork and beef goulash that was poured over pasta noodles, fried pork strips and some delicious fried cauliflower.  That’s the first time in my life I tried fried cauliflower, but it was really good.

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Nikola, grandma and Valerija

By now we have eaten ourselves into oblivion. We have to take a break for my sarma lesson. Sarma is one of my favorite foods here in Serbia. It’s a leaf of soured cabbage with meat and rice rolled up inside it.

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1/2 kg of pork with chopped onion in a bowl

She starts off by putting 1/2 kg of pork into a bowl with a cut up onion.

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1 carrot, one potato, and another onion

She likes to put a carrot and a potato in her sarama. You don’t have to, but it’s her way of making it. She throws one of each into the food processor and grinds them up.

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add it to the meat and break open an egg

Once it’s all ground up, she throws it in the bowl with the meat and adds one egg to it. You need to put in some salt, pepper and a little Vegeta (Serbian salty spice).

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Rice

Next, you want to add a cup of rice that has been sitting in water for a few minutes to the mixture of meat, etc and mash it around with your hands until it’s all mixed together.

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Soured cabbage leaves

Then you get your soured cabbage leaves ready.  You will then roll up your pork filling  into  balls and place a large ball in the middle of the cabbage leaf and then wrap the leaf around the meat filling

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placing filling into leaf

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Wrapping the sarma

Once you finish wrapping the sarama, you place a large poton the stove. She adds some bacon in the bottom to flavor it up.

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Strips of bacon in the pot

Stack the wrapped sarma around the entire pot, one row on top of the next, until you have it full.

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Filling pot with sarma

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Unused leaves on top

Once you have the pan full, place some unused leaves on top of the sarma and add some sausage , if you like , then place the lid on top. You can turn it on high heat until it gets hot, then turn it down to low heat and cook for 1.5 hours.

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Done

Remove the lid and let cool! It’s now ready to eat! Prepare yourself for a taste of heaven.🙂

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Delicious sarma

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Svargla

By time the sarma is ready, i’m hungry again. I eat 5 of them and then Nikola’s girlfriend asks me if I’ve ever tried something called svargla. I’m a guy who usually likes everything so I accept a slice. The second it hits my mouth it almost triggers my gag reflex. The taste is HORRIBLE. It’s soft and meaty and reminds me of a juicy meatloaf. Blah! My friends tell me not to eat anymore of it and that it’s mainly a food for old folks.🙂

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Barrel of sarma

After dinner, the grandmother takes me down to her basement to show me how she makes the soured cabbage. She has a large plastic barrel that she fills with full heads of cabbage, cuts a cross in the base and adds salt to it. After a few days, they are ready for sarma. She also has a lot of nuts from her walnut trees that she separates in the basement.

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Cabbage heads in barrel

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Walnuts

Nikola takes me upstairs to check out the living quarters up there. It’s massively big and beautiful just like a second house. They have a bar with many different kinds of alcohol in beautiful bottles.

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Decor

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Norwegian alcohol

Nikola and I throw down a shot of this Norwegian alcohol that he brought from home. It wasn’t too bad at all.

It’s time to head back to Novi Sad. The neighbor girls are driving back in their car so grandma calls to ask if we can ride with them. They have room so we all squeeze into her little car. Grandma sent me off with bottle of rakija, jar of peppers and a container full of sarma!🙂 What a great way to spend a lazy Sunday!  I learned a little something, filled my belly and had a slight buzz .🙂

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2015 in Through my eyes

 

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“Passage Women” of Novi Sad, Serbia

“Passage Women” of Novi Sad, Serbia

A confused man scratching his head wondering why

Passage women? o.O 

 

I can hear y’all right now “What the hell is a passage woman?”  Well, I’m about to tell you all about them.

I’ve lived in many different parts of Serbia : Zrenjanin, Nova Galenika, Kotez, Pancevo, Zemun, Nis, Sremska Mitrovica, and in Novi Sad. Novi Sad IS the most beautiful city in all of Serbia.

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Trg Slobode

My office is right smack in the center of Trg Slobode, the most beautiful and well known part of Novi Sad. I’ve called this city home for over 1 year now. Back in early June, I moved from one apartment right off Nikola Pasice to a small, 130 euro a month apartment in a passage off of Zmaj Jovina and Dunavska.

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Zmaj Jovina

 

People are usually blown away when I tell them I live there. It’s the busiest pedestrian area in the most beautiful part of the city. Could you live in the most beautiful part of the most beautiful city in any other country for 130 euros?🙂 It isn’t fancy or even nice, but it has a large bedroom with two beds, a hallway that leads to a big kitchen/dining room, large bathroom and a big balcony that overlooks the passage below.

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Passage off Dunavska

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Another example of a passage in Novi Sad

Most of the buildings in the center are connected so the only way to get through them is to stroll down one of the shop filled passages or walk all the way around.  The passages in Novi Sad are filled with an assortment of clothing stores, shoe stores, sports equipment, money exchanges, etc.

 

passage2

Another passage

 

So what hell are passage women? Are they some homeless ladies who live in these passages or  sleazy women who hang out in them and do “things” for a $1? NO, NO, NO!!!! Neither of the two. Let me continue with my little story. Once I moved into this apartment back in June, everything was pretty good with the exception of no a/c. The summers in Serbia can be brutal, especially when you live in the center. The whole entire center is concrete, brick and rock so the heat stays here. I had a fan that I would stick in the window each night and it made it bearable, but each morning around 8am I would be jolted from sleep by laughing and loud talking from below my balcony. The ‘passage women’ or ladies who work in the passage shops, had set out chairs right below my balcony. There are a number of shops and none of them do much business throughout the day so the ladies tend to sit out there for hours upon hours, smoking , gossiping and drinking coffee. passage 7

Living above the passage women is an absolute nightmare for those of us who look forward to sleeping in on our day off. Serbian village women have always been known for their nosy ways, but the young city gals are no better!

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Serbian surveillance

I dread walking out of my apartment each morning because every time I walk past their little 5 seat table, they get quiet. I’m always the first to wish them a “dobro jutro’  and they always reply with the  same greeting, but I know that the American is always the subject of their early morning gossip. I kept telling myself that winter would bring a little bit of silence, but the temps don’t seem to bother the gossipy passage women in Novi Sad. They just throw on a coat, make a cup of steaming coffee and sit below my balcony laughing and gossiping away the day.

Beware of the passage women………

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2015 in Through my eyes

 

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An American, a Croat and a Palestinian in Munze Konza


The title sounds like the start of a bad joke. Zemun or Munze Konza (Zemun Zakon= Zemun rules) as it’s known over here, has a bad reputation by those who live outside of Munze.🙂 It was known as a rough place in the 90’s and home to the Zemunski Klan. It’s a strange place to start this  crazy story.

 

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I reached out to the Palestinian Student Diaspora group in Serbia last year. I’ve always been interested in those folks who come from countries that my nation labels as “American haters”. You usually find out the total opposite is true. I made a post on their Facebook page and quickly received a message from the student president. We spoke for a bit and I told him that I’d love to meet up with him and a few of the 30+ Palestinian students who study in Serbian universities here. He told me not to get offended if some of them had some harsh words for the American government. I assured him that nothing could offend me and that we had plenty of Americans who had harsh things to say about American foreign policy.🙂

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The whole gang and me!

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Palestinian culture day

We all met at Yala Habibi, a nargile bar, over by Slavija in Belgrade. Sharar and his crew of 6 or 7 other Palestinians showed up. They were all very kind and happy to meet up with an American. It was an honor to meet them and to have  them share some of their heartbreaking stories about life in Palestine.😦 I also learned that Palestine is strong supporter of Serbia and they refuse to recognize Kosovo. They were one of the 50 brave nations that voted “NO’ to  Kosovo in UNESCO.

We parted ways, but kept in close contact. I took a few trips down to Kragujevac to visit Sharar and met a few of the other Palestinian boys and girls who study there at the medical and engineering faculty.

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Crazy Hassan

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My Palestinian pals and I in a kafana. The boys were singing some Miroslav Illic!

 

I stayed at their place for a few weekends and a few of them turned into some of my best friends over here. They come up and stay with me when i’m at my apartment in Zemun and here in Novi Sad. We are very different, but enjoy each other’s company. One of them even came over and taught me how to cook something called maqluba, a famous Palestinian meal.

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Suliman teaching me to make maqluba.

 

I happened to be at my Zemun apartment over last year’s Serbian New Year’s Eve holiday. Sharar was staying at his girlfriend’s apartment in New Belgrade so we agreed to meet up for a few drinks to celebrate. We met up at a little bar in downtown Zemun with his Serbian girlfriend’s Croatian cousin. We had a blast throwing down a few beers and talking about all the differences we had between us. It was last call and the bar was about to kick us out so we paid our bill and started to walk over to Glavna for them to catch a cab. The streets were almost totally deserted with the exception of two police officers talking to the guy working at the trafika. I never like walking up on police officers in a foreign country especially when I didn’t have my id anywhere near me. Serbia requires you to carry a picture ID and police registration card on you at all times. We were talking when I notice the police looking at us. They started to walk towards us and I started sweating. I told Sharar that I hoped they wouldn’t speak to us because I didn’t have my id. What did they do? They walked right over and asked for our passports! :O My Palestinian pal speaks perfect Serbian as he studies medicine in Serbian language. The guys pull out their passports and I’m thinking to myself…. “We are doomed! A Palestinian Muslim, a Croatian Catholic and an American with no passport on him!”  The cops look at the guys and seem shocked that they are both foreign. Sharar has to translate to me. I tell him to tell the police that I do have a legal right to be here, but I hate carrying my passport because a Gypsy stole my last one! The cops don’t seem to give two shits about my excuse. They ask what id I have in my wallet. I pull out a Bank of America ATM card. The guy gives me an annoyed look and he asks me “What are we supposed to do with this!”  :o I then tell Sharar to explain to them that I promote Serbia in a positive light and have been on many tv shows for it. The cop pulls out his phone and tells me to prove it. I go to Youtube and pull up the Prva Exploziv episode I was in where I sing “Tamo Daleko” figuring it might pull some heart strings on some big, mean Serbian cop. They both watch it for a few minutes and then the younger one smiles really big. He says “We knew who you were. We saw you and wanted to give you a scare!”🙂🙂🙂🙂 I’m saved!!!! They tell me that I must keep id on me at all times. The older cop hadn’t heard about me, but insisted all five of us go in for a coffee at the kladionica. He doesn’t speak English, but the others translate most of the conversation. He said ” It isn’t very often that they run into a Croat, a Palestinian and an American at 2am in Zemun!” We have our coffee and I wish the gentleman a very happy new year! The policemen both add me on Facebook and we head out of the kladionica with a big sigh of relief.

The moral of the story? Make sure that you carry id on you at all times when in Serbia. You might not bump into the same friendly cops that I did!

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2015 in Through my eyes

 

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