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“Passage Women” of Novi Sad, Serbia

“Passage Women” of Novi Sad, Serbia

A confused man scratching his head wondering why

Passage women? o.O 

 

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

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

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Trg Slobode

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

novisad_nm-5633

Zmaj Jovina

 

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

Passage1

Passage off Dunavska

passage3

Another example of a passage in Novi Sad

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

 

passage2

Another passage

 

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

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

passage 6

Serbian surveillance

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

Beware of the passage women………

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Posted by on November 28, 2015 in Through my eyes

 

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My Emergency Visit to a Serbian Dentist


dentist No one in their right mind enjoys a visit to the dentist. I have a horrible fear of the dentist. Just thinking about the sound of the drill and the smell of the dentist office, makes the hair on the back of my neck start standing. I have had several impacted molars that my old dentist back home told me to remove, but I never did. I didn’t have the time, money nor courage to do so. That was a mistake! You should never let your dental issues drag on and on because they will only get worse. The last time I visited a dentist prior to this Serbian dentist was 2013 ! He  told me that my back molar was going to need some attention in the very near future. I was about to head back over to Serbia so I just asked them to give me an estimate on what the repairs would cost. The two cavities were going to cost around $230 a piece and the “possible” root canal would be $1,100! No way was I going to spend $2000 before I left for Serbia. They would have to wait! dentist1 Fast forward to December of 2014. I was eating some chocolate cake and it felt like a hammer had just been slammed down on my back molar! The pain was massive. I thought if I just  started avoiding that side of the mouth when I was chewing the pain would go away,  but it didn’t help. I had to find a dentist! I remembered a doctor had contacted me on Facebook a few months prior. He had mentioned that his girlfriend was a dentist and they were interested in getting into the “Dental tourism” business. I searched through my messages and found him. They told me to come over the next day so they could examine the tooth! That doesn’t happen very often back home! DSC_0289_1024x681 The office was very close to the center of Belgrade and was easy to find from the bus stop. I really had no idea what to expect from a Serbian dentist’s office, but it sure wasn’t the clean, modern office that I found. DSC_0288_1024x681 My dentist, Dr. Mirjana Filipovic,  was even a beautiful young woman who didn’t invoke instant fear in me like my other dentists. 🙂 She sat me down and asked me a little about about my problems. I apologized for eating some burek on the way over! 🙂 I can only imagine how nasty that was for her! 🙂 She found the issue and told me exactly what all I needed to have done. The cavities were 25E and the root canal that was a MUST, would be 100E. I couldn’t hardly imagine that would be possible. What was she going to use? Rusty pliers? Old, outdated equipment? She showed me all the tools that she would be using and even explained everything in detail to me.  All of their products and instruments come from Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Japan, just like my dentist back in the USA. She told me that most dentists use the old silver colored fillings instead of the white ones because they are cheaper. She ONLY uses the white ones and doesn’t charge an extra fee like most other dentists. She had me sold! 🙂 DSC_0622_1024x681 She started in on her work after giving me a few shots of something that numbed my entire mouth. She would constantly ask me if something hurt or if I felt anything uncomfortable. I felt NOTHING! She explained the roots in each tooth and how the root canal would be done. She opened both teeth and placed some meds in them before sealing them off. She said that I would need to return in one week.  ROUND 1… Complete with NO PAIN! debut I left the dentist’s office to shoot 8 hours of video for a  kitchen products company in Hong Kong! Thank God I was able to talk. My final round started the morning before I was heading to Uzice, Serbia for a speaking engagement in front of a few hundred students. The doctor met me by Sveti Sava church and told me that we would need to go next door for some x-rays of my teeth. We walked into a beautifully decorated office with a pretty young lady behind the desk. She took me right into the x-ray room, snapped the x-rays, and handed them to me within 5 minutes. The cost? Only 10E!!!  The lady was impressed with my few bits of Serbian that I uttered on the way out of her office. DSC_0620_1024x681 We bring the x-rays to the dentist for her to examine. She told me that there shouldn’t be any pain this time because the roots were dead. She was exactly right! The worst pain out of this whole entire project was the shots that she gave me in my mouth and it was only a little prick. I was amazed that a root canal could be done without any pain at all! The little devices that she had to shove down in the tooth looked horrible, but you couldn’t feel anything.  She finished up the procedure and told me that I could eat anytime I wanted to because she had heard my stomach growling. We all sat down over a coffee and discussed this whole procedure and how expensive it was in the USA. They told me that they can do porcelain caps and teeth replacement within 24-48 hours for around 120E too!  I told them that I wanted to use my outreach to bring them more businesses. We called my good friend, Boris Marunic (video producer from Belgrade), and asked him to help us with a short little video! Check it out by clicking here!  I can get you a dental price quote within 24 hours of you contacting me. If you have some dental procedures that you have been putting off, contact me asap!  You could fly over here, take some  exciting tours and get your teeth fixed and still pay less than you will at your dentist! Sound too good to be true? It isn’t! Everything is possible in Serbia 🙂 You have nothing to lose except thousands of dollars at your dentist 🙂 U.S. dentist was going to be around $1900 for all the work I had done while I got it done here for $150. Serbia wins this battle against the USA by saving us an enormous amount of money and time! 🙂

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2015 in Price difference

 

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Serbia’s Pride…. Patriarch Pavle


Patriarch Pavle

Patriarch Pavle

I am not a religious guy. It is one subject that always seems to divide people and has caused numerous wars. My family is made up of many different religions. We have Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, Catholics, Agnostics, and Atheists. I have lived and worked with Jews, Muslims, and every other type of religion you can imagine. The thing I always notice about religious people is how they tend to judge others and claim to have superiority. I am a believer in helping my neighbor, bringing people together, treating people with mutual respect, and not dividing people into little groups. If this will cause me to burn in the fiery depths of hell for eternity, so be it.

St Sava in Belgrade, Serbia

St Sava in Belgrade, Serbia

Serbia is a country that is dominated by the Orthodox faith. It is one of the most interesting things for me. Chicago is the 2nd largest Serbian city on the planet and we have a few Orthodox Churches, but I never paid that much attention to them until coming to Serbia. When I shut my eyes and think of Serbia I get visions of the ancient Orthodox churches that litter every corner of this country. Many of them are over 500 years old!!! They have that unique shape and style that you don’t see everyday. The Orthodox faith is the majority religion in many Eastern European countries including : Bulgaria, Russia, Greece, Belarus, Macedonia, Montenegro,Moldova, Romania and Ukraine.

Those of us from the USA know little about the Orthodox faith. The Catholic and Orthodox churches started their division in the year 1053. It was known as ” The Great Schism”. I am not a religious scholar and will not pretend to be. There are some significant differences between the two religions. You can find some of the differences here    http://www.ocf.org/OrthodoxPage/reading/ortho_cath.html Some of the most obvious differences are :

**the location of the “Holy City”. In the Eastern Orthodox religion it is Constantinople, Turkey and in the Roman Catholic it is Rome.
**the leader of the religion. In the Eastern Orthodox faith it is a Patriarch and in the Catholic faith it is the Pope.

** the way the make the sign of the cross. Roman Catholics tend to go left to right while Eastern Orthodox go right to left.

**the look of the church and the steeples. see pics below…

Catholic steeple

Catholic steeple

Orthodox steeple

Orthodox steeple

His Holiness Patriarch Pavle was born as Gojko Stojcevic in a small village in present day Croatia. He lost both of his parents at a young age and was raised by his aunt. He studied in Belgrade and was majoring in Theology and Medicine. He graduated from University of Belgrade in 1942. He worked as a construction worker after WWII and then took his monastic vows in Ovcar. That is when he received the monastic name Pavle. He later took post-graduate studies in Athens, Greece when he returned in 1957 he was elected as Bishop of Ras and Prizren. He held that position for 33 years before becoming Patriarch in 1990. He held that position until his death on November 15th, 2009.

Riding the bus in Belgrade

Riding the bus in Belgrade

His Holiness is known for his humility. My favorite quote of his was when he was asked why he always walked or took public transport. He replied “I will not purchase one until every Albanian and Serbian household in Kosovo and Metohija has an automobile.”

Here are a few great stories that show how humble of a man he was ……….

serb-patriarch-pavel

******Mercedes Story******

Patriarch Pavle, as he was known, continued to live a simple life even after he moved to the new residence – the Patriarchal Palace – in Belgrade. People form Belgrade often encountered him on the streets, riding the train or the bus … Once, while walking alone the hilly street of King Peter the I, towards the Patriarchate, a Mercedes – last model barely passed him, the driver – a priest from one of the well-known parish in Belgrade, stopped the car and said:
– Your Holiness, permit me to invite  you in! Just tell me where you heading …The Patriarch entered the car, and as  soon as it  started moving, asked:
– Tell me, Father, whose  car is this?
– It’s mine, your Holiness!
– Stop it! – the Patriarch replied, he then got off, made the sign of the Cross and said to the priest:
-May the Lord, watch over you!

*****The Black Automobile Story*****

The great session of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church had just ended. As it was the customary, his Holiness was heading to the vespers service at the Cathedral. When he exited the Patriarchal Palace, he saw many black limousines parked near and asked:
– So many luxury cars, who do you think they belong to?
– To our bishops, Your Holiness! They came with them to the Synod meeting-replied the priest who accompanied him. 

 Oh, God watch over them, what would they’ve traveled with, if they weren’t taken the monastic vows of  poverty?!

******The Travel Story******

In the Patriarchate building, it is often heard the story of the Patriarch dialogue with the deacon accompanying him everywhere; as they were ready to go to the church in Banovo Brdo, the deacon asked:
– So, how are we traveling? By car?
– By bus! – the Patriarch replied with determination.
– It’s crowded, it’s stuffy in the bus, and the church is not close …
– We’re going (by bus)! –
 His Holiness replied shortly.
– But … – the Deacon, following him, advance a new argument, — Your Holiness, it is summer, many people go to Ada Ciganlija [a famous pool] and buses are full of barely naked people. It is not appropriate...
– You know, Father – the Patriarch replied back – one can  see what he desires to see!

******Message to American Envoy*****

When bishop Pavle became Patriarch, (the director of BOS Museum recalls), many delegations and many foreign representatives have expressed their desire to meet him. The active American ambassador at that time in Belgrade, Warren Zimmermann, also came. The Patriarch received him in the Patriarchal Palace. The ambassador conveyed greetings and congratulations on behalf of the American people, himself and the President. At the end of the formal protocol, the ambassador had asked:
– How may we help you?
– Your Excellency, don’t intervene by setting obstacles, that is how you can help.
 (…)

*****Raising Salaries*****

 

Patriarch Pavle refused, in fact, to get paid. He only received a small pension he was entitled to as a formal bishop of Raska and Prizren. All his needs were modest, given that he sewed his mantle and repaired his shoes ... Yet, he still had some money left of that pension. What was left of it, he divided among poor or donated it to other purposes of civic good.

It remained memorable his reaction as a bishop in 1962, when a request from bishops was made to increase their salaries:

– “But why, since we are not able to spend what we already have?”.

He did, likewise with what he received as gifts. If he received mantle material, he keep it until he met a monk or a priest not been able to afford it. Then he would calculate how much they would need to sew a cassock (mantle) and give them exactly that, so he may share the rest with others.
Renowned historian Zika Stojkovich, who has worked with the bishop Pavle during his assignment in Raska and Prizren, when editing his work”Monuments of Kosovo”, complained once to the Patriarch of the difficulty of raising money to continue the print of the work-series he had started and belonging to one of the most prominent Serbian writers, Milos Crnjanski. After been listening to him, the Patriarch rose, went to his bed, raised the pillow, picked his wallet, took out three thousand marks and handed to Stojkovich:
– “Here, it’s my contribution for the printing of Crnjanski Milos’ books. May it be for your assistance. ”

funeral

funeral

Regardless of your religous philosophy, you can see why he was loved by the Serbian people. It is a shame that more religious leaders didn’t learn to lead by his example. May His Holiness Patriarch Pavle rest in peace for eternity!

 If you haven’t done so…. please join us at Say Serbia. It is a website a few friends and I created to show the world the REAL Serbia. http://www.sayserbia.com/

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2013 in Through my eyes

 

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Serbs Saved US Secretary of State


You probably know my political leaning after reading many of my blog posts. I am a Democrat that leans heavily to the left. President William J. Clinton was 1st elected president in Nov of 1992. He defeated George H.W Bush in a handy victory. I remember being a freshman in high school and watching the debates and the inauguration  at my grandmother’s home. It was a happy moment for me. It felt good that a member of my political party had been elected to the highest office in the land. I liked the fact that he was a small state governor and enjoyed mocking the “southern twang” in his voice.

 

The 90’s were a great time for me. I had just entered high school, was close to getting my driver’s license, and really enjoying my younger years. We did experience a terrible situation during this decade. My birth home burned to the ground in June of 1992. I was staying up a little later than normal watching the end of Robin Hood. I smelled smoke very strongly and went to my father’s room to wake him. He jumped up and got all of us out of the house. I had to run in a few times to get my baseball cards. 🙂 They drove down to my grandma’s house to call the fire department. They arrived in a timely manner, but the house was already a total loss. We lost all of our clothes, most of our pictures, furniture, and everything that you collect over a lifetime. 😦 My father has always been very talented at building homes. He built our new, larger home on the same spot as the old one. That was the only negative that I can remember about the 1990’s.

It was a totally different situation in Eastern Europe. Yugoslavia had started to break apart. There was war, destruction, OUTRAGEOUS inflation, sanctions, the end of the socialist era, etc… Things were really hard on all the families that I spoke to during my travels around Serbia. I couldn’t imagine living with the everyday problems they had to deal with! They told of working all month and receiving their salary and it would only buy one loaf of bread!!!!! UNREAL!  A few families told me that their income was higher than it had ever been. The sanctions had made it tough to find gasoline. One of my buddies told me about his father sneaking into Bulgaria and Hungary for large amounts of gasoline. They brought it back and sold it for large sums of money. Sad, sad times. 😦

On March, 24 1999, President Clinton and Secretary of State Madeline Albright decided to use military force to stop Serbias attempt to keep the southern portion of their country, Kosovo. The strikes lasted from March 24,
to June 10. It was known as “Operation Merciful Angel” or inside the US State Department ….. as “Albright’s War”! By all accounts, it was Madeleine Albright who convinced Clinton, against the better judgement of the Pentagon, that the Serb leader would back down after a little light bombing.She claimed that he was no more than a schoolyard bully who would retreat after one good punch on the nose”.

 Did the Serbs do something personal to Albright and her family?? YES, THEY DID! They saved them from  certain death in the Nazi concentration camps. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUDm9quq8XA

Madeline Albright (born Marie Jana Korbelová on May 15, 1937) was the first woman to become United States Secretary of State. She was appointed by President Bill Clinton on December 5, 1996 and was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate 99-0. She was sworn in on January 23, 1997.

Albright was born Marie Jana Korbelová in Prague, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) and raised as a Roman Catholic by her parents, Josef Korbel and Anna Spiegelova, who had converted from Judaism in order to escape persecution. She has a brother, John, who later became an economist, and a sister, Katherine. “Madeleine” was the French version of “Madlenka”, a nickname given by her grandmother. Albright adopted the new name when she attended a Swiss boarding school.

The Korbelovas fled Czechoslovakia in 1936 due to the advancing Nazi forces. They found a home with some friendly Serbs in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. From 1936 to 1939 the Korbel Family lived in Belgrade, and were given refuge and protection by Serbs. Many of her Jewish relatives in Czechoslovakia were killed in the Holocaust, including three of her grandparents. They returned to Czechoslovakia in 1939 only to flee the communists in 1948. They moved to Denver, Colorado where her father took a job at the University of Denver.

She was asked what her biggest regret was. She was  criticized for defending the sanctions of Iraq under Saddam Hussein in a 1996 interview with Lesley Stahl on CBS’s 60 Minutes. When asked by Stahl with regards to effect of sanctions against Iraq: “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” Albright replied: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it.” She expressed regret for this remark in her 2003 autobiography, where she wrote,”I never should have made it, it was stupid,” and that she still supported the concept of tailored sanctions.

It is amazing how one can quickly turn on their friends. I am not going to start an “Albright bashing” campaign here.I am just pointing out some facts that many are unaware of. My country needs to adopt Ron Paul’s approach to foreign policy. Pozdrav……..

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2012 in Through my eyes

 

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Another American Trying to Help Serbia


One thing I really enjoy in the morning is opening my mail and reading all my emails, comments, Facebook messages, and Youtube messages. Take it from me, they are not all positive. 🙂  I receive numerous amounts of “HATE MAIL” too. The mail I tend to enjoy the most is from other Americans and foreigners that traveled to Serbia and left with the same feelings as me.

Mr Robert Osborne sent me a letter on Monday. He is an American that  traveled to Serbia in 2010 out of curiosity. He left with many of the same feelings that I did. Since 2010, he travels to Serbia three or four times a year!!! He works for a very successful fundraising company and had the opportunity to meet with many Serbian owned charity organizations during his travels to Serbia. He said he was shocked at how passionate most of the employees were. They told him that many times they go without a salary, but realize how important their jobs are! He offered his assistance to a number of Serbian charity organizations. One of his speeches was delivered in Serbian!  He found out that the majority of Serbian owned charities throughout Serbia wanted his help reaching the SERBIAN DIASPORA!! In case the word “diaspora” is foreign to you, it means : someone who has to flee their homeland due to war, strife, persecution, etc. We all know that hundreds of thousands of Serbians were forced out of their homeland during the numerous wars they have encountered from the 1940’s till the early 2000’s. The large majority of them would do anything to see that their country and countrymen are taken care of. I have been honored to have met members of the Serbian community from many different countries…. Australia, Norway, Sweden, Canada, Germany,  France, England, Denmark, The Netherlands , Austria, Italy, Czech Republic, Switzerland, etc…. It is shocking to see and hear the amount of LOVE they still hold for their country. It is truly amazing!

Back to Mr Osborne…….. He decided to do something positive for the Serbian community and to assist the Serbian owned charities. He has created a fundraising campaign on the world-famous site IndieGoGo.           http://www.indiegogo.com/jaserbia?a=1145580           Please, please take a moment and watch the video and read about this fantastic mission. I threw in a few dollars and would love to see the rest of you DIASPORA do the same! I know money is hard thing to part with in this day and age, but everyone has $5. Why not ignore your craving and leave that  pack of smokes at the store, don’t drink that 6 pack this weekend, stay at home and eat a bologna sandwich tonight!  I am not a Serb, but will always hold them dear to my heart. If you are unable to donate ANYTHING…. PLEASE SHARE THE LINK or shoot him a message of THANKS!!! Exposure is what this campaign needs!

Robert also started a blog about Serbs. http://serbianngonetwork.org  I would appreciate you taking the time to check it out !! He is a good man with a big heart! People like him are hard to come by. He doesn’t get paid to do this, he just does it because he cares! These people need to be recognized in this greedy, corrupt, and cruel world. THANK YOU, ROBERT!

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2012 in Through my eyes

 

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