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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:

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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.

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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.

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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 .

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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.

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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 charlesserbia@gmail.com. 
 
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Posted by on May 7, 2017 in Through my eyes, USA vs Serbia

 

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The World Media’s Assault on Serbia


 

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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!

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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.

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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?

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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…..

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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Can you guess the names without cheating?

Subotica
Srbobran
Srpska Crnja
Bačka Palanka
Novi Sad
Deliblato
Crna bara
Beograd
Kurjače
Zlokuće
Valjevo
Sisavci
Velike Pčelice
Bor
Krivi Vir
Mokra Gora
Kraljevo
Zasad
Sokobanja
Ribarska Banja
Novi Pazar
Niš
Prijepolje
Žitorađa
Peć
Gornje Žabsko
Baba boks
Begunci

 
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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


 

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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

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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

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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 

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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

 

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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

 

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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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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.

sirig

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.

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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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