My Anxiety-ridden Trip: Addis Ababa to Somaliland

My Anxiety-ridden Trip: Addis Ababa to Somaliland



“Somaliland!? Why would anyone go to Somalia for their birthday!?” That was the common reaction from my friends and family when I told them about my upcoming Nov 7th birthday trip to Hargeisa, Somaliland.


Somaliland broke away from Somalia after a bloody war in 1991. They have their own flag, president, government, military, police, currency…. but no country on earth recognizes their sovereignty. I knew very little about the place until I reached out to a few Somali people online. They told me about the “peace and stability” that their country has and how they are doing everything right so the world will take notice and recognize them. It sparked an interest in me that just lingered around until one night in August of 2017.


I spend my summers on the beautiful island of Nantucket, Massachusetts from May-September and then my fall, winter and spring is spent in Serbia. I had just spent an exhausting day at work, showered and sat down on my bed to figure out where I was going to spend my 41st birthday. I’m a bit of an oddball; I don’t like the common tourist spots like Paris, Rome, etc… I like the off-the-beaten-track places that most folks have never heard of. I googled “Most Dangerous Places for Americans to Visit” and I stumbled upon this article. That did it, I had made up my mind, I was going to visit Somalia. I looked around for flights, read up on how to get the visa, checked out all the warnings from the U.S. State Department, and tried to find a tour agency that operated there. The only one that I found was through the awesome adventure travel company “Untamed Borders“.  The prices were high at $1295 for two days in Mogadisu, so I started looking at Somaliland instead.

I found a round-trip ticket from Belgrade, Serbia  to Rome to Addis Ababa and back from  Hargesia to Dubai to Belgrade for around $850. It took me less than 1 minute to click “purchase”. That was it, no going back!


Americans need a visa to visit Somaliland and it can’t be obtained at the airport in Hargeisa so it must be done before arrival. Somaliland isn’t recognized by any nation so you won’t find an embassy in the States or anywhere else. In reading blog postings from others who have been to Hargeisa, I learned you can obtain it at the Somaliland Representative Office in Addis Ababa, but they say it’s hard to find. My friend, Google, informed me that there was a Somaliland Mission in Alexandria, Virginia:

Somaliland Mission
6019 Tower ct
Alexandria, VA 22304

You need to email them for the application form. It took less than 24 hours before I received a friendly response from one of the office staff. Once you fill out the application and  attach a photo to it, you place an $80 money order in a self addressed stamped envelope, and mail it off to them. I received my 30 day validity visa in less than 6 business days. You need to be careful because the visa is only valid for 90 days from the date of issue so plan accordingly.



Let’s skip my arrival into Addis Ababa because it will deserve a post of it’s own. After 4 wonderful days exploring Addis Ababa and Adama, Ethiopia, it was time to finally decide how I was going to get to Hargeisa. I’m a bit of a spontaneous guy so I waited till my 2nd to last day in Addis to decide. The cheapest route was a bus from Addis Ababa to Jijiga and then catching a minibus to Tog Wajale, Ethiopia before taking a cab or walking across the border into Somaliland and catching a cab, private car or bus to Hargeisa. I was only going to be able to spend 5 days in Hargeisa so I didn’t want to waste over 24 hours getting there so this option was out. The other option was flying directly from Addis Ababa to Hargeisa. Ethiopian Air flies there a few times a day, but the prices aren’t cheap. It was going to be around $250- $300 for the short flight! Africa isn’t known for budget airlines. The other option was to fly from Addis Ababa to Jijiga, Ethiopia and bus/taxi/mini bus to Hargeisa from there. That one sounded very interesting to me so I did it. I purchased my flight from Addis Ababa to Jijiga the night before my flight for around $70 (you get a discount if you fly into the country on Ethiopian Air).



The airport shuttle driver was already down in the lobby waiting on me when I finally made it downstairs. The driver was a younger man who spoke nearly zero English, but was always very outgoing and friendly. He dropped me off at the domestic flight terminal at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa. I threw him $3 dollars and he was off with a wave and a smile.


Bole International Airport isn’t the prettiest airport on the planet, but is that really that important? The only thing I wanted was to arrive in Jijiga alive! My only complaint about Bole Airport is that the regular staff doesn’t speak English well. Security was very tight and we had to go through metal detectors and send your luggage through x-ray the minute you stepped through the airport doors. The staff was pointing and motioning people to go here and there and it was a bit chaotic. I was finally motioned through the x-ray, picked up my baggage, put on my shoes and went through the door to find the booking desk. The guy at the counter was very friendly and asked what I planned on doing in Jijiga. He wished me a safe trip and shoved my luggage onto the conveyor belt.


It was easy to find the departure gate, but there weren’t a lot of coffee shops, stores or kiosks to shop around at so I grabbed at a seat at my gate. I was surprised to find that Bole International Airport did have free wifi! This was going to be my last post before heading into the unknown. I hadn’t been too nervous until this very moment. Where would I be able to catch a bus to Hargeisa? How would I get from the Jijiga airport to the bus station? What if the bus was sold out? Those were some of a billion questions that were flowing through my brain. It was too late to worry about any of that now, we were starting to board the plane. It’ll have to be dealt with in Jijiga.

My Ethiopian Airline flight to Jijga was a pleasant one. The staff was very friendly, the plane was comfortable and it was only a short 2 hour flight. We did have a short layover in Dire Dawa, but we didn’t have to leave the plane. It just docked on the runway to let off some folks and allow a few more on.


On our descent into Jijiga, I started to really worry! There was nothing at all around the airport and I had no clue where the bus station was located.  The other scary thing, I didn’t have any Ethiopian Birr on me at all! How stupid can you be? I’m used to airports having lots of exchange offices so I didnt want to drag around a lot of it. Ethiopia is also very protective of their currency so every transaction is logged by your name and passport number. You aren’t allowed to leave Ethiopia with more than 200 birr in your pocket. What was I going to do if they didn’t have an exchange office in this tiny airport? Well, they didn’t have an exchange office or anything else for that matter. I waited around on my luggage to come through while trying to search for an open wifi connection. There was an open connection, but it wasn’t working so I couldn’t load a map or anything. Upon gathering my luggage, I stepped outside to the  empty parking lot.


There were three taxis sitting out in front with the drivers  helping folks get their luggage placed in the ancient, rust buckets. I saw two machine gun clad Ethiopian soldiers sitting next to the gate so I asked how to get a taxi to the bus station. The guard yelled out to the taxi guys and one of them quickly ran over to me. He was a big, unpleasant looking bearded guy who grabbed my bag and began walking it to his car. I followed him and asked him how much it would be in U.S. dollars since I didn’t have birr. The other taxi driver notices that i’m a “white tourist” and starts arguing with my driver. The other driver is motioning me to come with him and tries to get my bag out of the trunk. They were in some shouting match when I angrily yell out the window that I need to go. The other driver isn’t happy at all, but my driver finally gets away from him and into the driver’s seat. He says it will be 100 birr so I lay $4 on the seat next to him.

We are pulling out of the airport when the driver turns around and says he needs another 100 birr. I tell him that I already gave him $4 that we agreed upon and that I wasn’t going to pay more than $4 to go the short ride. He says it over and over so rather than get pulled out of the car and beaten up, I pull out a $5 and hand it to him. He then picks up the phone, calls someone and hands the phone to me. The guy on the other line has very broken English, but asks where I want to go. I tell him that I need to go to the bus station in Jijiga so I can catch a bus to Tog Wajale and on to Hargeisa. He says that this driver can drive me all the way to Hargeisa and I say in a very forceful manner ” NO! I want the bus station in Jijiga!” and hand the phone back to the driver. He mumbles around some more to the guy on the phone, but finally gets to the “bus station” in Jijiga.


The driver pulls off to the side of the road and tells me to get out. He grabs my suitcase and wheels it across the street to this very hectic, loud and dusty parking lot. He starts yelling out to people and finally points me to this minibus that is already leaving. He has one young man run up and stop it for me, but it keeps going. It finally stops and a big group of people are shoving their way on. The taxi driver hands me 100 birr and tells me to give him $5. I do as he says because he is chatting with one of the passengers sitting by the window in this old, dusty minibus that I need to get in. The guy in the seat takes my 100 birr, gives me his seat,  takes my suitcase and throws it on top of the minibus. Thank God, I’m done with that intimidating taxi driver, but this little minibus is overflowing with passengers and I have no idea where it’s heading.

Women wait in line on June 26, 2010 outs

The majority of passengers are Somali women dressed in their brightly colored clothing. The lady next to me has a little child on her lap and he stares at me for the majority of the journey. The young lady sitting in front of my speaks a little English and asks me where I’m from. I contemplate saying Canada, but I admit the fact that i’m an American. She smiles and tells those around her that i’m an American and then it seems that everyone wanted to have a closer look at me.  It’s an odd feeling being the only white, foreigner on a little bus, but I asked for this. I ask the young lady if she would be kind enough to let me know when I should get  off this bus so I could catch a bus to Hargeisa.


She says that it will only stop in Tog Wajale so I have nothing to worry about. Whew! My stress level is slowly starting to drop until the bus driver’s assistant comes back asking for  60 birr. I thought the taxi driver was going to pay for it with the money I handed him, but he didn’t. I didn’t have any birr , only American dollars in my wallet. I hand the guy five $1 bills which was way more than the bus ticket, but he says “We don’t take dollars”! Ughh! I tell him that I have nothing but dollars on me, but that I could exchange some at our next stop if I had to. The bus driver says something to the guy and he tells me that the dollars will be fine. 🙂 Thank God! We are finally on our little dusty, cramped journey to the Somaliland border.

The trip to Tog Walaje wasn’t dull, I’ll give it that. We buzzed over the bumpy roads, flew around slower moving vehicles and ended up hitting a goat. That wouldn’t seem like such a big deal back in the West, but it was here. The driver had dodged numerous animals that were darting across the roads, but this little goat wasn’t so lucky.


We heard a big thud and then everyone on the bus started yelling about something. The driver pulled over and then all of the passengers exited the bus besides me. They were all yelling and pointing while the driver was in some negotiations with the goat’s owner, a little old man with an orange beard and white dress. After nearly 10 minutes, everyone boarded the bus again along with the goat’s owner. We pulled into the next little village and they all got off the bus again. I noticed a policeman was getting involved at this point. A lot of village folks were walking by the bus while all this was happening, each one seemed to stop and stare at me.


One guy was sitting in front of a little shop chewing on some khat (narcotic leaf that’s common in Ethiopia, Somaliland and Yemen, but illegal in the US and Europe). He noticed me and started marching right over to my open window. He wasn’t smiling or making any kind of friendly gestures so I was a bit nervous. He came over, opened his khat-filled mouth and said ” Where are you from?” I told him that I was from the USA and here to visit Somaliland. He must not have known much more English or wasn’t thrilled with my answer because he started saying something in Somali and walked back to his chair.  The driver, police and goat owner must have worked out the situation because 5 minutes later everyone went their merry way. Somaliland and this part of Ethiopia are very dependent on herding and raising cattle, be it camels, goats, sheep or what not so losing a goat would be a big deal to them.

Once the bus gets going again, the little lady in front of me turns around and tells me that we are almost to Tog Walaje. Thank God for the kindness of this young lady. She had kept me informed about where the bus was going, when it was arriving, etc. We pulled up to the stopping point and everyone started departing. I started smiling and poking the little boy’s cheek who was sitting on his mom’s lap next to me. He was smiling and giggling at me all the while. All the ladies around me waved and smiled as they got off the bus in front of me so I bid them goodbye with a “Salam alykoum”. They responded with “Alykoum salam”. It was so refreshing to see and hear the kindness of these local folks.


Tog Walaje can only be described as hectic, chaotic and dusty! I’ve never been so intimidated in my entire life as I was stepping out into the hot air of Tog. The minute I get out of the bus, I’m bombarded with young men trying to help me with my bags. They kept grabbing at it which I didn’t like! I said ” NO! Don’t touch!” One guy spoke a bit of English and asked where I was going. I told him that I needed to get to Hargeisa. He pointed to a little shabby building with an Ethiopian flag on it so I walked over to it. These three shabbily dressed (no uniforms) guys with guns  came over and told me to open all of my bags. I’ve heard horror stories about people being harassed at the Ethiopian border for having too many electronics, etc, but these guys didn’t say anything. They just poked around in all of my things and told me to go. That same guy who spoke a bit of English had stayed really close to me so I asked him where the border crossing was.


He said that I’d have to take a “bajaj”, little three wheel carts or rickshaw, because it was around 2km away. He found a driver and had to beat off some of the other kids who were trying to help with my luggage. I paid the guy $3 and thanked him for helping me out. He told me that I needed to pay the driver $4 when I arrived at the border. The driver didn’t speak any English, but he was good at his job. He swerved around hoards of people and got me to border in no time.

The Ethiopian border guard was very friendly. He was in a dark little office with the front doors open. He didn’t ask me anything related to what I had been doing or where I was going; he only asked me which city I was from in the USA. He then slammed down the exit stamp on my passport and pointed me the Somaliland immigration office. The actual border is nothing but a little piece of rope that’s stretched across the road.


I notice a Somaliland flag hanging out in front of this little building. Right before I get to the gate, a group of men stop me. They ask me if I’m heading to Hargeisa, I confirm that Hargeisa was my desitation and they say that they can take me in a private taxi for $60. I tell the guy that it’s too much because a shared taxi can be had for way less. He asks how much I’d pay for a ride in their new van with a/c. I think back to my hellish ride in the cramped bus and we finally agree on $50. He said that the driver will be waiting for me in front of the immigration office. The minute I walk through the Somaliland immigration office, the two guards greet me with large smiles! They say “Welcome to Somaliland! Land of peace!”. You don’t get that kind of welcome from immigration police very often so It really calmed my nerves. The officer grabs my passport and tells me that he hasn’t seen an American on this border crossing in a long time. He chats, chats and chats about everything imaginable while even making a joke about his wife who had just dropped off the keys to his car.   “Do I look like Obama?” That is what he said after removing his sunglasses from his head. He said  that many people have told him that he resembled the former president. 🙂 The Somaliland immigration security methods are very strict and detailed. You have to give your fingerprints and do an eye scan before you are stamped and allowed to leave.


Once I’m finished, the guard comes out of his booth and allows me to take a selfie with him. He takes out a business card, jots down his cellphone number on it and tells me to call him if I have any problems at all in Somaliland. What a great impression this guy left on me! I had just arrived in Somaliland and the first two Somalilanders were amazingly kind to me.


I had done it! I had officially arrived in Somaliland! This guy from the middle of Illinois had navigated his way from Addis Ababa to Jijiga to Tog Wajale to Somaliland without too much trouble. What a feeling of accomplishment! It was time to load my suitcase in the private taxi and begin my 2 hour journey to Hargeisa, Somaliland!

……… Continued in next article








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Posted by on January 7, 2018 in Exploring the World, Through my eyes


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Bosnia & Herzogovina Village/Town/City Names Translated to English



If you are one of the lucky folks who have had a chance to visit the  little Balkan county of Bosnia & Herzegovina, you know how beautiful it is. The rolling hills, untouched forests, crystal clear streams, delicious food, diverse population, historic sites, and friendly people make it a vacationer’s delight.

Bosnia & Herzegovina does have it’s oddities. It has three presidents and is divided into two sections:   Republika Srpska (Majority Serb)is one of two constitutional and legal entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the other being the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Majority Bosnjak/Bosniak/Bosnian Muslim). The entities are largely autonomous with Banja Luka being the capital of Republika Srpska and Sarajevo being the capital of the Federation.

Enough of the talk, let’s get to the meat of this article. My buddy, Hristof Romanic, made a map of Serbia with funny English translations a few months ago. It went over so well that he decided to make one for his homeland of Bosnia & Herzegovina. It was made to make people laugh and to show some of the funny translations that exist in village/town and city names. We know that more professional translations exist, but this is made for comedic purposes. Grab a coffee, relax and enjoy!

17888785_1528178733881410_1652437158_nGornji Smrtići (Upper Death’s People)

Tišina (Silence)

Brčko (Splattered)

Bijeljina (Whiteness)

Ćele (Bald Men)

Bogovci (God’s People)

Brka (Mustache Guy)

Banja Luka (Spa Port)

Pjanići (Drunk People)

Stijena (D. Johnson “The Rock”)

Teslić (Small Tesla)

Tuzla (Here Evil)

Popovi (Priests)

Donja Kozica (Lower Little Goat)

Zavidovići (People Who Envy)

Debelo Brdo (Fat Hill)

Jajce (Small Egg)

Zenica (Pupil)

Ekonomija (Economy)

Motike (Hoes)

Babino Selo (Granny’s Village)

Kakanj (Shi**er)

Smrtići (Death’s People)

Zlosela (Evil Villages)

Dobrići (Good People)

Sarajevo (Sarah Is A Bull)

Rat (War) Ponor (Abyss)

Višegrad (More City)

Pale (Burning) Mokronoge (Wet Legs)

Rujan (September)

Mostar (Brigder)

Kukavice (Cowards)

Male Budalice (Little Fools)

Biograd (It Was City)

Obzir (Consideration)

Mesari (Butchers)



Do you like me so much that you feel like donating? I do accept tips! 🙂 Everyone has told me for years that I should put a donation button on my blog, but I think it makes you lose credibility. I’ve been talking about Serbia for nearly 7 years and have only done it out of love, but if you are so dead set on giving me a tip, I promise I’ll use it wisely. 🙂  My Paypal is 


Posted by on May 8, 2017 in Through my eyes


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American Expat in Serbia: What I Miss About the USA

Many folks will say ” Charles, You are an American in Serbia for over 6 years now. What do you miss the most about the USA?”. If I had to make a list of things that I miss about my life in the US, it would look something like this:

1. Being on the same continent as your family and old friends

It’s very hard to be away from home when a tragedy hits. I’ve been unable to attend the funeral of an old friend, the funerals of some family members and the funerals of some of my friends’ family members. I’ve also missed some very important weddings, birthdays and reunions all while living 8k kilometers from home. I get cheap airline tickets because of my job, but 600 euros is still a lot to shell out when you live in Serbia. That amount nearly covers 4 months of my rent and bills.

2. English language

It’s not always easy being an American expat in a country where English isn’t the native language. There are times when I get so absolutely frustrated with myself for not being able to explain some simple thing to someone. It’s annoying to have to buy a newspaper and slowly translate the meanings in your head. The same is true with listening to the radio or news broadcasts. It’s also tough to be sitting on a bus or waiting in a line and not being able to fully “shoot the shit” with the person next to you. When I’m sitting in a public place, I tend to let Serbian language blur together but the second I hear an English conversation, my ears perk up and I find myself eavesdropping on them. It’s my fault for not being fluent at this time, but i’m working on it.

3. Mexican food and convenient fast food places

I absolutely adore Tex-Mex cuisine. It’s different from the authentic Mexican food that I had while living in Mexico for 1.5 years as it’s more aimed at American taste buds. There isn’t much that can beat a chicken chimichanga smothered in cheese sauce with a nice margarita and nacho chips. We have very few Mexican restaurants in Serbia. They are pretty good, but the taste just isn’t the same. I also miss having an unlimited supply of fast food places like : Wendy’s, Subway, Taco Bell, Burger King, Rally’s, and the buffet places like Denny’s, IHOP, etc. Serbian rostilj is super duper in taste and quality, but I like being able to eat a different fast food place each day. That’s what us fat folks enjoy .

4. Clothing that fits

Serbian people don’t have an issue with obesity. The vast majority of the population is always out walking around town, riding bikes, and not just sitting on their butts eating junk food. That being said, it’s hard for a chubby (200lb) guy like myself to find shirts  that fit. I can walk into 5 or 6 different clothing stores and find very few shirts that will comfortably fit me. The fashion over here is slim fit EVERYTHING! Slim fit looks good on those who have a six pack, but it doesn’t on those of us with a barrel. It’s also annoying to buy pants in most of the stores here because the legs are way too tight and they have limited length sizes. You can’t usually find 29″ or 30″ with a size 34 waist. You have to buy them longer and bring them to a little store for a lady to cut them and hem them up. I had the same problems in Mexico. When you complain to a Serbian or a Mexican about it, they think you are nuts or just plain lazy. I like to buy something that’s ready to wear, not something I have to have altered.

5. Free public toilets

If you are from the US, you are probably scratching your head at this one. You take for granted the ability to stop at any fast food place or public toilet and go without paying a silly fee. It’s not like it’s a lot of money, but it’s the principle of the thing. You must purchase something at McDonalds in Serbia so you can get a restroom code to open the door. If you go to the bus station or any other public toilet, you must pay some Gypsy person 40-80 dinars to use a filthy bathroom.

With all that being said, I would still rather live in Serbia. It’s a more cheerful,lively, fun, relaxed and enjoyable place. It doesn’t matter how small the town is, they have outdoor cafe after outdoor cafe, large walking streets for pedestrians only, people walking and biking at all hours of the day or night, quality food, nightlife that goes 24/7 Mon-Sun, beautiful people, and no strict laws on smoking and drinking in public.

Do you like me so much that you feel like donating? I do accept tips! 🙂 Everyone has told me for years that I should put a donation button on my blog, but I think it makes you lose credibility. I’ve been talking about Serbia for nearly 7 years and have only done it out of love, but if you are so dead set on giving me a tip, I promise I’ll use it wisely. 🙂  My Paypal is 

Posted by on May 7, 2017 in Through my eyes, USA vs Serbia


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The World Media’s Assault on Serbia



We’ve all heard about the crimes that Serb troops committed in Bosnia, Croatia and in Kosovo I Metohija. I’m sure some of the acts we heard and read about in the western media were true, while many of them were intentionally fabricated. Don’t get me wrong, any crime committed is a horrible thing and should be investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice, but be fair!


One example of media fabrication  would be the claim that Serbs were setting up concentration camps in Bosnia and starving the victims. This  American gentleman explains the photo in detail in this short Youtube clip.


What about the Croats cleansing hundreds of thousands of Serbs from their birthplace? Why didn’t my media bombard me with newspaper headlines and news stories about that?


Serbs Being Forced out of Croatia

The Serbs have been tried and convicted for war crimes in the Hague at an alarming rate. Did former Croat general Ante Gotovina and ex-special police chief Mladen Markac receive just punishment for the atrocities committed against ethnic Serbs during Operation Storm in 1995? Nope…..


Albanian ripping cross off of a Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo

What about the Albanians destroying hundreds of homes and over 100+ churches? Did any of that make the headlines in my country? Nope….. They were friends of the US and NATO and we were about to make a lot of money off of their new “country”. Bill Clinton couldn’t allow Americans to see pics and video of our “friend” and “ally” ripping crosses off of churches. The people might have started asking a few more questions if they had.

The media doesn’t want to talk about that stuff, but they never take a break from finding things that could make the Serbs look bad.


Take the Serb football fans who chanted derogatory things at that Brazilian football player for instance, that made headlines in every corner of the globe.  It’s sad and uncalled for, but you can’t judge an entire nation by the words of a few football fans! If we judged every nation’s citizens by the acts of football fans, you’d probably think the world was filled with demons.

Serbia shouldn’t be labeled as a country of “racists”. It’s just not true. The U.S. and England aren’t ones that should be pointing fingers and calling anyone racist. If I remember correctly, both of them took part in the slave trade. Slavery wasn’t outlawed in the United States until 1863. Hell, Blacks couldn’t even vote until the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  Did Serbia ever have slaves? No!

I’m not black so it makes little sense for me to sit here and tell you that Serbia isn’t a racist country. You should listen to some of my friends who are:


Sheriff is a young man from Liberia who has been living in Norway for a number of years. I was able to sit down with him and ask him some questions about Serbia and if he had any issue with racism.


Arthur is another good friend of mine. He’s an American from the great state of New Jersey. He just completed his 6 trip to Serbia and will be back in May for his 7th. Has he experienced any racism? Listen to him and find out.



Dara is a lovely gal who lives in Ireland. She contacted me before her first visit with some concerns about being black in Serbia. She took the leap and loved every second of it! Here is my interview with her.

12936611_10105593675346795_5534105201918857505_nHeather is a beautiful young lady from the state of Louisiana. She has spent the last few summers in Serbia and has never had any negative situations. She said that Serbian people sometimes stare at her, but it’s a stare of curiosity, not a stare of contempt like happens in some places in the US.

There are more folks, but I didn’t get their permission to write about them. One is an African American gal who married a Serbian in a small village here in Vojvodina. She lives with her children and Serbian husband in a tiny village and has no issues with racism. There are tons of African American football players who come here each year and have nothing but great things to say about the hospitality and kindness of the Serbian people.

I’ve been living in this country for close to 6 years now and the media bias is so blatantly obvious. I’m always asking my Serbian friends how they can keep their cool and not let that get to them. It would be hard to have the whole world accusing you and vilifying you all the time. One of my friends said it best “We have gotten used to it. F*** the rest of the world. We have good looking women, good food, and great nightlife. We don’t need their approval”

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Posted by on March 5, 2017 in Through my eyes


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Serbian City/Town/Village Names Translated into English


Serbia has a lot of unique city/town/village names. A friend of mine from Republika Srpska, Hristof Romanic, decided to throw together some translations for some of them.


Can you guess the names without cheating?

Srpska Crnja
Bačka Palanka
Novi Sad
Crna bara
Velike Pčelice
Krivi Vir
Mokra Gora
Ribarska Banja
Novi Pazar
Gornje Žabsko
Baba boks


Posted by on January 29, 2017 in Through my eyes, What others think


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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


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 



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


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



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



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 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



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



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


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.




Posted by on July 22, 2016 in USA vs Serbia


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Spending Summer on Nantucket Island With 8 Serb Students


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!

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”.



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. 😉



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


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.


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, 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.


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 or +381621020546


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



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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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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


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.


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.
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!

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.


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.


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.


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.


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).



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.


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


placing filling into leaf


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.


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.


Filling pot with sarma


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.



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


Delicious sarma



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. 🙂


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.


Cabbage heads in barrel



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.







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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