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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.

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Upstairs displays

We had students from 2008-2016

We had students from 2008-2016

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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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U.S.A. vs Serbia…… Stop Lights


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My friend picked me up at Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade, Serbia back in 2010.

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There were a few large Serbs and my scrawny ass crammed into a little red Yugo. We were on our way to my buddies house in a little village around Zrenjanin, Serbia. We stopped at a red light and were talking about pure randomness when I saw the light turn from red to yellow and then to green.us1 I found that so strange. The stop lights in the USA go from red to green. us I asked my buddies why they have the yellow before the light turns green. They thought my question was silly because they assumed all traffic lights were that way. 🙂 The more I live here, the more I think it’s a good thing. The VAST majority of Serbian automobiles are manual transmission while the VAST majority of American cars are automatic. The hardest part of driving a manual car, for most people, is getting it into 1st gear without killing it. Maybe the yellow light gives you that additional few seconds to get your car into gear without creating delays. It would also allow you some sort of break from staring at an “endless” red light. It might also allow you to shut your car off and save gasoline.

My opinion? Serbia wins this battle! 🙂

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2015 in USA vs Serbia

 

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Only in Serbia…. “F-117 Bife (Bar)” in Indjia, Serbia


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On March 27th, 1999….. The Serbian air defenses were able to blast an F-117 Stealth Nighthawk out of the sky. The only one ever to be shot down.

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The F-117 82-0806 (whose remains are exhibited at Belgrade Air Museum) was shot down by the 3rd Battalion of the 250th Air Defence Missile Brigade of the Army of Yugoslavia, with one of several missiles fired by an S-125 “Neva” missile system (NATO reporting name, SA-3 “Goa”) at a distance of about 8 miles.

According to Sergeant Dragan Matić, the soldier later identified as the operator who fired the missiles, the stealth plane was detected at a range of about 50 to 60 kilometres and the surface-to-air missile radar was switched on for no more than 17 seconds to prevent the site to be detected by the NATO’s SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defense) aircraft.

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Some pieces of the 82-0806 shot down near Novi Sad were reportedly sent to Russia, to be used in developing anti-stealth technology.

Fast forward to 2014……I was on a bus from Belgrade to Novi Sad. The bus had one stop in between, in the little city of Indjia, Serbia.  The window seat is usually my first choice. I’ve never liked to sit in the aisle and have folks bumping into me the whole time. I was gazing out the window while the bus was pulling around the back of the bus station in Indjia,

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when I noticed the words “F-117″ on the side of a little bar. I didn’t get a good look at the place, but noticed a few pictures in the window too. I had to get back over to see this place.

This afternoon,David Dautovic, contacted me for assistance. He is a young man from Pancevo who has been a Facebook friend for a long while. His sister is trying to gather a lot of pictures of people from around the world holding a sign that shows her love for her boyfriend. He asked me if I could help him out with one. I noticed that the bottom of his message said ” Indjia, Serbia”  I quickly asked him if he was anywhere close to the bus station. He was close by so I asked him to seek out this little bar and shoot me some pictures. He was kind enough to snap the following pictures:

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I’ll head over there in the next few weeks to do some videos from this location. I might wear my Canadian flag shirt ! It might be a little safer! 🙂
Everyone likes Canadians.

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Serbia’s British Friend


kev4What is one thing that can be very annoying about having so many Serbian Facebook friends? Having your inbox flooded with the same info and links on anything that is going on in Serbia. That is how I first heard of Kevin Shannon, the adventurer , who was planning to march all the way across Serbia. There were over 20-30 folks who were sending me something from the local newspapers and tv stations about him and his mission. We had connected over Facebook and he asked me to join in on part of journey. I wish I had taken the opportunity to do so not only for my health, but to experience a little bit of his adventure.

We bumped into each other again the “Exit Festival Global Adventures” tourism conference. I was there to giving a presentation on my social network and blog while he was there to present  “Walk Serbia”. I decided to quiz him with some more detailed questions about his time in Serbia.

1. Where are you from and what do you do?

So: my name is Kevin Shannon and I’m from the UK. Currently I run my own small creative design studio called Chips & Gravy studios

2. How in the world did you get the idea to “walk across Serbia”?
 

I originally visited Serbia the first time in the autumn of 2010 whilst on 10,000 km cycling expedition from the UK to the far end of Turkey and then back again. On that visit to Serbia I completely fell in love with the country and made some great friends. During the 3 to 4 months that I spent in Serbia I spend most my time in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Sabac and Nis. When I returned home I realised that I’d only seen a fraction of Serbia and although I had learnt about the country a little there was still Hell of a lot more to see. So I decided that one day I would return to Serbian  and walk the length of the country.kev2

3. What did you know about Serbia before you came here? 

Before I visited Serbia first time I didn’t really know that much about the country. I had simply drawn a line across Europe and Serbia happened to be on that path. I knew the region was obviously famous for conflicts and I had a they recollection of seeing the NATO bombings on television when I was younger, but that was really it. But as I was cycling through countries before I got to Serbia I was warned that Serbian people what do horrific things to me once I crossed the border. Of course I don’t believe this but when your cycling on your own across Europe these warnings do not fill you with confidence.


4. Prior to visiting Serbia for the first time, give me four words that you would used to describe it…
Unknown, War, Scary, New
5. How long did your walk take?
The walk is actually two walks. The first in February 2013 took me five weeks and during that time I walked from the border with Hungary down to the city of Nis. My second walk was in July 2013 and I walked from south west Serbia back to the north of the country, which also took five weeks.kev1
6. Biggest complication.
The biggest complication was issues from walking with such a heavy pack. My left knee became very sore during the first walk, and during the second walk I had horrific blisters on the sole of one of my feet.
7. Funniest situation.
I was in a small village about 75 km north of Nis, feeling very tired and the little homesick and out of nowhere a group of young kids came up to me with pieces of paper and pencils. The oldest had a hand written note in English which said that they were big fans and have been following my journey in the newspapers. Because they knew my route, they knew I would be passing through the village and so had taken it in turns to keep a eye out for me, just so they could get an autograph – they had been waiting for 3 days.kev5
8. Favorite part of your journey.
The end? No, i’m just kidding. It’s actually very hard to pick a favourite part of the journey because so much happened but if I had to say one thing it was the generous hospitality everybody that i met on the road.
9. How would you compare Serbian food to your normal cuisine back in England? 
Serbian food is very rich with strong flavours, and of course there’s a lot of meat. Which is really the case in England. I guess if I had to make a comparison I would say that Serbian food it’s very much like a traditional English roast dinner that is served in most households every Sunday – however in England you have that once a week  and in serbia you have it almost everyday
10. Did you ever feel threatened or in danger?

I never really felt threatened or in danger, even in small Kafanas in the middle of god knows where surrounded by big, burly Serbian guys. The biggest issue with regards to safety to me was the packs of wild dogs. They were always a concern when I was walking in the mountains or sleeping out at night.kev6

11. What 4 words would you use to describe Serbia after walking from top to bottom and back?

Beautiful, friendly, Great food, my second home 

 

12. Will you return to Serbia? What would you say to someone that is considering a visit to this part of the world?

Without shadow of a doubt I’ll be returning to Serbia – in fact I returned earlier this year for a conference where spoke about my was through Serbia. I already have plans to take my fiance to Serbia,  have my stag party there and maybe one day by small house somewhere where I can spend my summers (not walking)

 

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 13. You have decided to publish a book about this exciting adventure, right? Tell me a little about the project.

OK, So the project was quite simply to walk through Serbia to try and discover the real Serbia. In my original trip to the country i felt i’d only scratched the surface and was intrigued to see more of the country so i set up Walk Serbia. When you look around the internet looking for more info on Serbia you’re met with a lot negativity (except for a few sites included yours) and i decided that i wanted to create a document of my personal journey to not so much counteract the negativity but give a truthful view of a country. Now, don’t get me wrong, i expected it to be a positive trip due to prior experiences but i was open to negativity also – i essentially wanted to create a truthful account of spending 10 weeks tramping around the country. And this is, i hope, what i’ve done.
I’m still in the process of writing the book – i’ve rewritten some chapters 4 times – but i decided that i would set a date (in my head) for it’s release. So now i’ve set up a website – walkserbia.com – which will be the hub for all things to do with the book including, the opportunity to buy the book, perhaps some videos from the road, exclusive photos and information on speaking engagements and a potential book tour. For the moment i’ve thrown up a very simple landing page which has a small blurb about the book and an area to signup to the newsletter which will give you exclusive updates, a free chapter here or there and an exclusive discount on the final book. I set up the newsletter for the reasons i just mentioned, but something amazing happened when i did – i realised just how much interest there was in reading the book; not just from Serbia but from all over the world. Serb’s from Australia, the USA and Canada and even South Africa have sent me messages to tell me they would like to buy copies for friends, families and co-workers which is exciting…and daunting.
My plan for releasing the book was to self-publish and through friends in Serbia distribute the book there and of course here in the UK. But, with the response i’ve had so far i’m not looking at other options. I’m thinking about getting the book translated into Serbian, i’m going to start looking for distributors in the US and Australia AND if the list keeps growing i could have a great opportunity to promote the book to publishers around the world  which will then (if i’ve done my job right) help to give the world a better understanding of Serbia.
Just like the journeys themselves felt like a community – i had people tweeting, facebooking and emailing to help influence what i should visit and where during the walk – the book is starting to feel the same.

 

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2014 in What others think

 

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Searching for a Meal in Zemun


I had the craving for some home-cooked food today. The workers at the three little fast food stands think that I’m nuts because I am there every single night 🙂 I decided to hit up one of the boat restaurants along the quay here in Zemun.

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Today was a cruddy day here in Serbia. The city of Zemun was quiet with very few folks walking around besides a few old men fishing from the docks. This whole summer has been rainy and chilly. There are some major flooding issues down around Negotin. 😦 The people have had such a terrible year dealing with water over here. I walked down along the endless amount of boat restaurants and saw that no one was in “Sidro”.

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That was the selling feature for me. 🙂 I had been there a few times before for some beers and a quick bite to eat. Nothing freaks me out more than going into a packed place and ordering food. People tend to stare at you the minute you start in attempting to speak Serbian  . 🙂

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Nothing is better than  some alone time with my music blaring in my IPod,  some good food, and a cold beer. The song that started playing the minute that I sat down in a little corner table on the edge of the boat was “Thunder Rolls” . How ironic on a dreary, cloudy day.

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The waiter slowly sauntered over after seeing me sit there for 5 minutes. I avoided speaking English and told him that I wanted a big beer and a menu.

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There were so many  items on the menu that I had never seen before.  I didn’t know if they were some kind of fish or monkey brains. 🙂 I recognized my favorite salad, Sopska.

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Sopska salads  have some of the freshest veggies and this AMAZING cheese on top of them. What was I going to eat for the main course? I hated to ask questions to this waiter with an unsmiling face. Ummmmmmm.. I just selected the middle priced one “Bečka šnicla” in this one section because I recognized the word “snicla” but had no clue what “Bečka” meant. It reminded me of how the Serbians call the city of Vienna, Austria. It is called “Beč” over here. My selection had been made , but the waiter was no where in sight. I made some huffing noises, dropped the menu loudly, coughed a few times, and finally he sauntered over to see if I was ready to order. I ordered in Serbian and even asked him if the snicla was chicken or pork. He told  me that it was pork. That makes no difference to me as I’m a huge pork lover (sorry to my Muslim pals) 😛

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This waiter is on the typical “Serbian speed” which can be so frustrating for me. I guess it has caused me to be more of a laid back and patient guy than I ever was before. Serbia has even eliminated my need for ADHD medications that I used to take prior to living here. 🙂 The slowness and tardiness can still be very annoying for me. I’ve always been a guy that was on time or 10 minutes early for everything. That is useless over here in Serbia. The vast majority of my friends will tell me to be somewhere at 2PM so I get there at 1:50PM and they saunter in around 2:30PM without even a simple excuse or apology. 🙂 Time just doesn’t seem to have the same meaning as it does to us in the West. Well….. There is a time when Serbs seem to be extremely impatient. Behind the wheel of an automobile. I have never seen people that use their horn as much as they do over here in Serbia. It is a constant blaring of horns. Thank God that Serbia isn’t a “conceal and carry” country or there would be lots of shooting. My friend , Ivan, is a good example. He seems to always have his hand on the horn and uses it in the most ridiculous situations. You will get a ticket in the USA for “disturbing the peace” or “unlawful use of your horn” . I like that law because the sound of a car horn instantly pisses me off. 🙂

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My food finally arrived! It looked AMAZING! The veggies were glistening and the aroma of the snicla was overpowering my nostrils. I immediately recognized the  snicla . It is something like a breaded tenderloin in the USA, but this is high quality pork and 300 grams of it. 🙂 It came with some tarter sauce, a some fries and a few veggies that decorate the meal.

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It took me a good 15 minutes to shove every last bite of the salad and snicla down my throat. I even dabbed up every last drop of juice with my bread. You can’t eat a meal in Serbia without a big piece of bread. Serbs are always seeing me eat something and they say ” How can you eat it without bread?” Bread has slowly turned into a must have for me too!

I piled all my plates together and straightened up my table. A new waiter came over to collect the dishes and he remembered me from my previous visit. He was very friendly and spoke  pretty good English for a 42 year old man. He greeted me and told me that he is going to stop speaking to me in English and force me to speak Serbian. -_-  I had no time to object before he started spewing out something about how he had learned English by being forced to speak with English speaking customers in a Thai restaurant in Belgrade. 🙂 I understood a good 50% of the conversation. It is good to run into people that will force me to speak their language.  Polako, polako, polako……………………….

“Sidro” gets a big thumbs up for me. My total bill was 800 dinars which is very close to what you would spend at KFC or some other fast food joint, but here you get everything fresh!  Another day and another interesting and tasty meal here in the heart of Serbia:)

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2014 in Through my eyes

 

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My Serbian Food in Pictures


Karađorđeva šnicla

Karađorđeva šnicla with potatoes, bread, and a sopska salad

One of the reasons that I have yet to leave this country is the vast amount of delicious foods! I wanted to share some of my past food experiences with you. Hope you enjoy!

Easter dinner with colored eggs, stuffed peppers, pork and lamb soup

Easter dinner with colored eggs, stuffed peppers, pork and lamb soup

 

Homemade meal from a friend's house in Nis

Homemade meal from a friend’s house in Nis

Kafana meal with cevapi, fries, sopska salad and Zajecarsko pivo

Kafana meal with cevapi, fries, sopska salad and Zajecarsko pivo

Sarma, pickled peppers, green onion and homemade bread

Sarma, pickled peppers, green onion and homemade bread

 

Fish soup (ribala corba) bread, and Zajecarsko Pivo

Fish soup (ribala corba) bread, and Zajecarsko Pivo

 

Komplet lepinja. Specialty from Uzice, Serbia.  Grease from a roasted lamb on bread with egg and kajmak

Komplet lepinja. Specialty from Uzice, Serbia. Grease from a roasted lamb on bread with egg and kajmak

 

Fresh fish from a small village near Uzice

Fresh fish from a small village near Uzice

 

they raised these fish in a stream by the restaurant

they raised these fish in a stream by the restaurant

 

Mixed meat platter from Kod Srbe

Mixed meat platter from Kod Srbe

 

cevpai, steak, and big cuts of pork with some fries and veggies

cevapi, steak, and big cuts of pork with some fries and veggies

Sopska Salad

Sopska Salad

 

pizza with something called "beef sauce" smeared all of it

pizza with something called “beef sauce” smeared all of it

 

plate of fresh roasted lamb at Mokra Gora

plate of fresh roasted lamb at Mokra Gora

 

different meats from a restaurant at Zlatibor

different meats from a restaurant at Zlatibor

 

Gurmanska pljeskavica

Gurmanska pljeskavica

 

palacinka or Serbian pancake

palacinka or Serbian pancake

 

Eurocream and Nutella... sweet creamy hazelnut spread they put on pancakes

Eurocream and Nutella… sweet creamy hazelnut spread they put on pancakes

 

a few of the condiments you can get on your burgers

a few of the condiments you can get on your burgers

 

Sarma or stuffed sour cabbage rolls... my favorite

Sarma or stuffed sour cabbage rolls… my favorite

 

meat tray from a friend's party

meat tray from a friend’s party

 

big pljeskavica with bread, urnebes, and fries

big pljeskavica with bread, urnebes, and fries

 

little pumpkin pies

little pumpkin pies

 

cheese pies with spinach in them

cheese pies with spinach in them

 

snack tray of pavlaka, ham and fried zucchini

snack tray of pavlaka, ham and fried zucchini

 

my favorite snacks... cheese, ajvar, crackers and a big bottle of Zajecarsko Pivo

my favorite snacks… cheese, ajvar, crackers and a big bottle of Zajecarsko Pivo

 

after dinner drinks of Nescafe and boiled wine

after dinner drinks of Nescafe and boiled wine

 

Serbian traditional drink, rakija that was served in a glass of crushed ice

Serbian traditional drink, rakija that was served in a glass of crushed ice 

 

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2014 in Through my eyes

 

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Hollywood Slaps the Serbian People Again!!!


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Here we go again!!! The crazy Serbians are once again out for blood!!!! …….

Ok,ok…..Yes, there were some terrible wars in this part of the world! The majority of those living in the former Yugoslavia all had their share of suffering and loss during the 1990’s. There were thousands of deaths, hyper inflation, bombings, job loss, lack of electricity, sanctions, and many ruined lives. There were evil deeds committed by ALL sides, BUT why in the HECK do we never see a movie that shows someone other than the Serb being a deranged monster?? I have lived over here, off and on, for two years. 95% of the people I meet are kind, hospitable, friendly, and accepting of me regardless of my being born in the USA. They are just trying to enjoy their family, pay their bills and move on with their lives. 

I have had the honor of traveling all over Serbia and to a few places in Republika Srpska and hearing from hundreds of Serbian families that suffered greatly at the hands of the Croatian, Bosnian or  Albanian troops. Thousands of Serbians citizens were ethnically cleansed from Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo………..what was their crime??? Being born a Serb!!!! Those that were kicked out were the lucky ones. Thousands of others were slaughtered, brutalized , raped, robbed, and  had their heads cut off or their organs harvested. I am not usually one that likes to get into these types of subjects. I like to talk about the generosity , the hospitality, the food, the drink, the sports, the beauty of this part of the world, but this film needs some return fire! 

The Killing Season…. 

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Evil Serb… Emil Kovac…. Is that a Serbian name??? noooo

SHRAPNEL tells the story of two veterans of the Bosnian War, one American, one Serbian, who clash in the remote Rocky Mountain wilderness. FORD is a former American soldier who fought on the front lines in Bosnia. When our story begins, he has retreated to a remote cabin in the woods, trying to escape painful memories of war. The drama begins when KOVAC, a former Serbian soldier, seeks Ford out, hoping to settle an old score. What follows is a cat-and-mouse game in which Ford and Kovac fght their own personal World War III, with battles both physical and psychological. By the end of the flm, old wounds are opened, suppressed memories are drawn to the surface and long-hidden secrets about both Ford and Kovac are revealed.”

This film is due to be released next month. This is one of many Hollywood productions that have been released over the last 10 years that portray the Serb in a bad light. Read my previous blog post to find a listing of others……. https://serbiathroughamericaneyes.wordpress.com/2012/02/19/serbophobia-how-hollywood-helps-push-propaganda/

One thing you will notice in Serbia is that the vast majority of Serbian last names end in IC . The character played by John Travola was named Emil Kovac. The name Emil is not a Serbian name either. The least they could have done was give him a regular Serbian name like Dushan, Dragan, Darko, Dejan or Marko. 

Serbian military and political officers have been sent to The Hague to stand trial for war crimes. The majority of them were convicted and many are still there. One of them has been held for 10 years without official charges being filed!!! The Croatian, Bosnian and Albanians that were responsible for many despicable crimes were released , found innocent ,  sentenced to less harsh sentences, or elected president. 🙂

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Hashim Tachi… president of Kosovo… has a very shady past.. has links to drug dealing, organized crime and organ harvesting… no charges filed???? hmmmmm

 It is time that Hollywood plays fair!!!!! ENOUGH ALREADY!!!!! Why are there no movies about Serbian troops and Serbian civilians being cut up and having their organs sold to the highest bidder??? Why are there no movies that show the hundreds of thousands of Serbians that left ALL of their personal belongings, homes, family farms and fled to foreign lands with NOTHING but the clothes on their back to avoid being slaughtered??  This movie is being released a few years after Angelina Jolie made ” The Land of Blood and Honey”. Image That movie was not very kind to the Serbian name either. I will never forget the scenes where the Serbian soldiers shot the old lady in the head for moving too slow and when they threw a crying baby out of the top floor of the building because it was crying. 😦 I know these are works of fiction ,but they can plant a little seed of distrust in us. I am not sitting here kissing Serbian butt nor am saying that ALL Serbians are angels. That is far from the truth. I am just pointing out the blatant bias! 

The only way to find out about Serbia is to travel here!!! I have many foreign friends that ignored the propaganda and came here….. Many have never returned to their native lands and the vast majority of the others return here every few years. The Serbs are a tough bunch of people! They have dealt with so much in the last 100 years. Let them enjoy their lives without being drug through mud every few years! 

Help me spread the positives of this wonderful part of the world. Join me on our new Serbia site…… http://sayserbia.com/

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Drinking Zova Sok in Grocka, Serbia


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My friend invited me over to his house for a cook out in a little place called Grocka, Serbia. We ate some fantastic Serbian food!!!! One of the best things that I tried was liver that was wrapped in bacon!!!

liver wrapped in bacon that was cooked on the grill.. YUMMY

liver wrapped in bacon that was cooked on the grill.. YUMMY

I have always loved liver and when it is cooked on the grill with bacon… OMG!!! I AM IN HEAVEN!!!! We also  sipped on some homemade apricot rakija, gossiped with the neighbors and had a gorgeous view of Grocka, Serbia.

Grocka, Serbia

Grocka, Serbia

Grocka is a little municipality that is part of Belgrade. It takes about 40 minutes by bus to get there and has that little hometown feel to it. Everyone seems to know each other.  The area is GORGEOUS!! You are surrounded by nature! The second you get south of Belgrade the ground starts rising and the trees start sprouting up towards the sky. My buddy had a big backyard that was filled with grapevines, apple and plum trees and this cherry tree that was overflowing with cherries!

his tree was filled with cherries

his tree was filled with cherries

My two buddies took me out on the town that night. We had full stomachs, but were ready to throw down a few pivos. 🙂 I love making Serbian words plural by adding the “S”. 😀 We played some pool, drank some beer on this beautiful boat bar and sat in the park chatting with some of his friends. It was a very enjoyable and relaxing evening. My buddy gave me his room to sleep in. I laid down and was out until 11AM the next morning. I slept so well! You couldn’t hear a sound from his room. The only sounds were the many birds that were nesting in the many fruit trees that surrounded the area.

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The night after drinking I am usually very dehydrated. My buddy asked me if I had ever had something called ZOVA SOK. I hadn’t heard of it before. His mother went to Google to find out the translation of ZOVA. It turned out to be an elderberry.

ripe elderberry

ripe elderberry

My mother used to pick them in the fall and make jelly out of them.

She poured me a glass of it. It was great! It had a fruity taste and was very refreshing. They say that ZOVA SOK is good for cleansing your blood, helps with breathing problems, lowers a high fever and many other ailments. The odd part about the juice was that it didn’t come from the ripened berry , but from the flower of the elderberry! I was drinking flower juice! 🙂

Here is the recipe…….
http://srbijanatanjiru.com/sirup-od-zove-sok-od-zove-ili-napitak-od-zove/

  • 30-50 elderberry flowers
  • 5 liters of water
  • 30 grams of LIMUNTUS…. (see picture below)
  • 5kg of sugar

    limuntus-10-g

Directions….

  1. Carefully wash flowers to keep as much pollen on as possible
  2. put flowers in a large pot with 5 liters of water and gently mix
  3. cover and let stand for 24 hours
  4. remove flowers, add sugar, stir and let stand 24 more hours
  5. stir sugar every few hours to help it dissolve
  6. pour through a strainer into a bottle

Syrup mixed with water to scale taste. Our recommendation is 1:5.

After drinking our fill of this unique drink we headed to bus station. My time in Grocka was over for now. I will be returning soon!! It is a great place to let down your hair, lower your blood pressure and see some beautiful nature.

It seems that I experience something unique and wonderful everyday I am in this country! You must add Serbia to your list of future vacation destinations. Experience life like it should be!  JA VOLIM SRBIJU!

Join us at Say Serbia. We are growing fast!! 🙂 http://www.sayserbia.com/

 

 
8 Comments

Posted by on June 18, 2013 in Through my eyes

 

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What the Heck is a Kotlic?


Kotlic... :)

Kotlic… 🙂

I love food and it is really starting to show! I thought I would have shed a few pounds after my 20+ km trek from Ruma to Sremska Mitrovica , BUT NO!!! I am still hovering around 93kg! -__-

My buddy kept telling me about something called a kotlic. The way he pronounced it made it sound like cartilage.  UGH!

The day was absolutely gorgeous. The sun was out, the temperature was in the middle 60’s, and I spent the afternoon in a little outdoor cafe Skyping with some old friends and writing a little story in my blog. Milos was out purchasing some things for a kotlic.

I arrived back at his house around 7PM. My buddy, Aleksa, saw me walking along the street and picked up on his little motorbike. I didn’t have a jacket and he threw me one he had in the back. 🙂 We headed over to Milos’s house. We walked into the backyard and there it was!!! That was a kotlic. It is a little pot that sits on a tripod over an open flame.

The pot was already steaming. He had placed some onions, etc in there. It smelled great! A few minutes later a couple of his buddies arrived. They are all members of the Alpha Romeo Club here in Mitrovica. Here is the link to the club if you are interested http://www.facebook.com/alfisti.srem?fref=ts

 

They brought some pivo and my buddy had purchased a bottle of jabuka/apple rakija. We sat around for a few hours drinking beers, rakija, and shooting the breeze about every topic known to man. One of the guys spoke English perfectly and told me he hadn’t spoken or had classes since primary school! 😮 WOW!! How do people remember a foreign language when they never use it!? The other guy was telling about his job in the shipyard. I was assuming it was a good paying job  but he told me his salary and I about fell over. Companies are using Serbians to make huge profits while paying slave wages!!!! Where is your government??? This needs to be stopped! He told me the same thing that Serbians all over Serbia have told me about……… their paycheck is almost always weeks late! He said payday will come and they say that they don’t have the cash to pay him at this time. DAMN!!! I can’t imagine this happening in the US. I would love to see a Serbian politician get behind the workers here and do something! I am frustrated and It isn’t even happening to me!

Chilling out!

Chilling out!

When is this food going to be finished???? We have sat here for hours while this stew is brewing!! I am starving. I ask Milos about it and he hasn’t even put in the meat yet!!!!!! WTF? He throws it in and tells me it will be finished in 30 minutes! Serbian food and drinks are all about socializing! I think it is a great culture! Get a group of friends together with some great drinks and just chill! It reminds me of my younger years in Illinois. We would go out and buy a few 30 packs and get some steaks, burgers and hot dogs and have a blast!

The food is finally done! WOW!! This dish smells nice, looks great, and the taste is fantastic. Milos loves his spicy stuff! You can cook anything from beans to goulash in this pot…. Here is a quick recipe for our choice that can feed 6 people:

Serbian Goulash (Corbanjac)

  • 0.7-1kg of onion finely chopped
  • a few carrots finely chopped
  • a couple cups of water
  • (place these in the pot to simmer while you are peeling your potatoes)
  • 1.5kg of potatoes cut into 1cm X 1cm cubes
  • when your onions and carrots start getting a bit mushy, add in the potatoes.
  • let it cook. the longer you cook it the better it gets. it is all about sitting back, relaxing, drinking a few pivos, etc
  • pork… add in as much pork as you like. cut it into small cubes.
  • when the potatoes are mushy you can add the pork into the pot.
  • add  1 liter of tomato sauce
  • black pepper around 10-15 grams
  • add red pepper around 7 grams
  • add 1 or 2 tiny chopped chili peppers
  • add  3-4 grams of Caraway seeds
  • add around 10 grams of Oregano
  • if you have Vegeta in your country add around 15-20gr
  • Vegeta is a mix of spices with salt, like garlic,onion
  • if not than add regular salt

  • after you add the spices wait around 30 min then take it off the fire and serve it… PRIJATNO 🙂

 ugh…. one more thing you can add spices by your own taste..I like it spicy  and hot so my mixture of spices might be too much for some of you !

 

big chunk of bread, kajmak, green onions, apple rakija and goulash!!! Life can't get any better!

big chunk of bread, kajmak, green onions, apple rakija and goulash!!! Life can’t get any better!

 

It is always best served with a HUGE chunk of bread, kajmak, green onion and a bit of rakija!

You are guaranteed to have a great time!!! If you drink enough….. everything tastes good! 😉

 
4 Comments

Posted by on April 16, 2013 in Through my eyes

 

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Crazy Times in Sabac, Serbia


I have been battling a sickness since my times in Kragujevac, Serbia. I have some nasty yellow liquid coming up from the deep depths of my lungs. UGH!! I am a stubborn guy and hate to breakdown and go the doctor. 🙂

My buddy, Milos, is dating a lady in Sabac, Serbia. He asked me on Saturday night if I would be interested in going with him on Sunday morning. I hadn’t been out of Sremska Mitrovica for a few weeks and told him I would love to.

Milos and I wake up around 9AM. He had just finished swapping engines in an old car for some guy. He got his money and we were off. I looked pretty rough, but didn’t feel like shaving. I had made a Facebook post the night before about my upcoming trip into Sabac. It is always hard to spend time with everyone that I want to see. I looked rough and didn’t want to be seen by a million people. 😉 There were two brothers that were from Brisbane, Australia that contacted me. I agreed to have a drink or two with them when I arrived.

We leave Milos’s house at 11AM. Sabac is only 35KM from Sremska Mitrovica, but it is a nightmare to get there. There is no direct bus or train into Sabac. You have to travel 20+km to Ruma and then take another bus or train to Sabac!

beautiful picture of downtown Ruma, Serbia

beautiful picture of downtown Ruma, Serbia

We want to take the train because it is cheaper, but it doesn’t leave for a few hours. We head to the bus station. It is right across the street from the train station. The bus to Ruma is just pulling out when we arrive. We flag it down and they allow us on. It takes about 20 minutes to get into Ruma. This bus is on its way to Novi Sad so it doesn’t drop us at the main station. We are dropped at the center of Ruma. It isn’t a large town , but DAMN is it long! It takes us about 25 minutes to walk from the center of town to the bus/train station. It is on the outskirts of town and looks like a ghost town. I would hate to walk here at night! There are NO trafficas , stores , bars or anything at the station. We ask the lady at the train station when the next train to Sabac is. She tells us that it had just pulled out! 😦 We go to the bus station and the bus won’t be there for one hour. Milos and I both love our pivo. We walk about 5 blocks down the street to this little shop that has beers! We settle on 4 Lowenbrau beers because they are cheaper than Jelen. They cost 73 Dinars a piece. It is pretty sad that you can buy imported beer cheaper than domestic. We head back to the bus station to wait on the bus.

these are one of the not so nice parts of Serbia. :)

these are one of the not so nice parts of Serbia. 🙂

It always shocks me how you can just sit around in public with a beer. I always feel a bit like a homeless guy for doing it, but I kinda look homeless with my unshaved face, t-shirt, shorts and my Illinois pullover tied around my waste.;) I have to use the rest room and head down the stairs to find it. The letters had fell off both doors. I peak in both bathrooms to try to figure out which one is mens. I notice some urinals and assume I found the right one. 🙂 I walk in and almost knocked over by a horrid smell. The stalls in this bathroom have no toilets, but a hole in the floor! 😦 I hate these disgusting things. I hurry about my business and run back out the door. There are two blonde twin girls standing by our bench. OMG!! I think I am in love! They were amazing. This older guy walks over and asks in a very heavy accent ” Ver are U from?” I tell him I am from Chicago and he tells me that he heard there are hundreds of thousands of Serbs over there. 🙂

We finally get on the bus and head off towards Sabac. We take the back seats and discuss everything from Bosnians, Croatians, to the profitability of opening a bar in a small village. We drive through a village called Hrtkovci. It is a majority Croatian village that is a few km from Sabac. Northern Serbia is diverse. It is really cool to drive through villages that are known as Croatian, Hungarian, Slovakian, etc.

beautiful downtown section of Sabac, Serbia

beautiful downtown section of Sabac, Serbia

We cross the river Sava and can see the outline of the buildings in Sabac. The first thing you see are these large ugly apartment buildings that were probably built during the Tito reign. They are block style and very ugly! We pull into the station and my friend informs me that we have about a 20 minute walk to the center of the city. We walk down the side streets and I notice many empty businesses and bars. It looks like a place you could get a heck of a deal on a rental. I will never get used to the amount of clothing and shoe stores in Serbia! You don’t see this many in Chicago! 🙂 hahaha…

We get to the downtown walking district! It is GORGEOUS!!! I was not expecting to see the sites that I did. There is a very large glass hotel that is being remodeled and many old, gorgeous buildings! It is a Sunday afternoon and many people are just lazily walking about or sitting in an outdoor cafe! There are a few monuments, cobblestone paths, etc. He tells me he has to go. We agree to meet up at 5:30PM in front of this large bank. I am now alone. I love to just wander around without anyone. It makes it more enjoyable and exciting to wander around in a strange place where you understand very little. 🙂 I find a nice cafe that has wifi and sit down for a drink. I pull out my laptop when my buddy sends me a text and wants to meet up.

old fortress in Sabac

old fortress in Sabac

Dragisa is from Brisbane, Australia. He has been living in Sabac for about 6 months. He came to Sabac specifically for the music school. It is said to be one of the best in the country! He has been taking private lessons from a very talented music professor. He doesn’t know too many people in the community since he has not been in public classes. His brother, Lazar, came to visit him a few weeks prior. They are really enjoying their time in Sabac. They want to take me on a little tour of the city. We walk over to the ancient ruins of the fortress. I was a little disgusted by the graffiti that some dumb asses plastered on many parts of the fortress. Why in the hell would you do that?? We check out all the little nooks and crannies of the fortress. I always get a bit of a creepy feeling in these old things. You can’t even fathom the amount of history that is under your feet.

We decide it is time to eat. They want to take me to their favorite restaurant in town. It is closed by the time we get there. We pop into a little bar to ask them for a good restaurant. He tells us to try this kafana at the end of town. It is a beautiful place! It is all decked out in old wood and traditional type pictures of the city. I decide to eat the cevapi. I have not had one in ages and always love them. This place is a little more expensive than most. You can usually find a cevapi for about 150 Dinars , but in here it was 650. You do get some fries and salad with it and they will bring you a bit bowl of different breads. My buddy, Milos, joins us around 6PM. We sit down and discuss everything from music to the cost of cigarettes in Australia! Did you know they can cost as much as $17 a pack?? 😮 We finish up and the two brothers tell me that they are paying the bill! DAMN!!! It must be the Serbian in them! 🙂

My buddy, Dragisa, with the accordion and his brother, Lazar, standing up.

My buddy, Dragisa, with the accordion and his brother, Lazar, standing up.

They want to show me how good Dragisa is at playing the accordion. They know a very nice cab driver that drives us to this apartment. It is located in one of the  biggest buildings in Sabacs. It is right in the center of the city and he only pays 120 E for a two bedroom with a large kitchen!! WOW!! I love it! We sit down in his bedroom and he pulls out his accordion. WOW!!!! This kid has some mad skills!!!!! I am always amazed at how important the accordion is in Serbian music. It has so many buttons on it!! How can people play it? He plays us a few different songs. This kid is going to be famous someday! Too bad his name is almost impossible to pronounce.. ahahahah.. 
We decide we better be heading back to Ruma or we will miss the last bus out of the city! We get to the bus station around 8:20PM. The bus is a little bit late. We get on to find NO SEATS available! Ughhhh!!! If there is one thing I hate, it is standing on a packed bus. I make it through the 25 min bus ride without having a nervous breakdown. 🙂 We get to the station in Ruma to find that the bus for Sremska Mitrovica is gone! -_- The train is also gone. WTF? My friend from the Ruma Tourist Organization is my only hope! We call him and he is in Novi Sad! My cash on hand is very limited on this night. My debit card doesn’t work in Serbia and I have to wait till Monday to pick up my money that my mother is sending me through Western Union. My friend has plenty , but he is a tight Serbian. 😉 He says that we can walk the 25 km to Sremska Mitrovica. He has done it a few times. We had talked about it on the bus and it sounded ok until we actually have to do it! My Illinois jacket had disappeared too! I am standing in this little t-shirt and shorts on a pretty frigid evening. We walk to the center of Ruma praying for a miracle! The miracle never comes! We start our 25 km journey!

The city of Ruma isn’t that big until you are forced to walk it! It takes us a good 30 minutes to walk to the edge of town. My phone is already dead and I only have my IPOD left. I reach a wifi signal in front of a house. He tries to contact some of his friends to see if anyone can pick us up. No luck! The battery is about gone. We depart the lighted streets of Ruma into the deep, dark unknown!

hitchhiking in Serbia? will I live??

hitchhiking in Serbia? will I live??

We stop in the last lighted spot on the road from Ruma to Sremska Mitrovica. My friend and I decide to try hitching! It is illegal in the USA to hitchhike. I start getting visions of all of these horror movies where a guy picks up some hitchhikers, slits their throats, rapes them, and throws them in a ditch!!! 😮 The first 5 or 6 cars go by without stopping. We head out on the road! I am just muttering to myself how insane this is and how Milos is a jerk! Why didn’t he realize this was going to happen? 🙂 The land is very flat in Vojvodina so we can see lights way off in the distance. They look like little stars. He tells me ” That is where we are going!” OMG!!! Are you kidding me?? Mars looks closer than Sremska Mitrovica!!!! I am furious, cold, and coughing again!! He is rambling on about how he walked this path on a different occasion! IS THAT SUPPOSED TO MAKE ME FEEL BETTER??? ahhahaha…

We get into the next city on our journey to “the end of the Earth!” It is a little village called Voganj. We attempted to stop many of the cars that blew by us with no luck. We are now in town so there is no chance of getting a ride. This may be a village , but it is SOOOO LONG!! It takes us a good 30 minutes to get to the exit of this town. The whole way we are getting barked at by a billion dogs! Many Serbian homes have this big, uninviting gate and when you walk past there are dogs going nuts! I don’t like them anyway and hate to be barked at!

We start on our last leg of the journey! The next town is Sremska Mitrovica! It looks just as far as it did earlier! I am starting to be a bit friendlier than I was. Maybe it is just the fact that I going into shock from the cold! We keep trying to stop every car that goes by! I start holding my hands in the praying position when the cars go by! We walk another 45 min or so when a guy finally stops!!! OMG!!! Is this for real??? My buddy walks up and says something to him! I say ” THANK YOU VERY MUCH!” He is a bit taken aback! He tells Milos that he is only going about 4 km down the road to this little village of Erem , but we can ride that far! It is nice to get out of the cold! It seems like we just start going when we have to get out again! This little trip gave us a boost of confidence. There is another car coming and we wave our arms and they stop too!!! WOW!!! It is a young kid and his girlfriend! They are from the small village of Sasinci! He is in an Alfa Romeo. My buddy is a Alfa nut and swears they stopped because they are Alfa drivers. The guy and his lady are shocked to find out that I am an American!! hahahahahahaha… They take us to the edge of Sremska Mitrovica and drop us off! I shake their hands and thank them over and over again!!! What a nice bunch of people we stumbled upon!!! I never thought I would be so happy to be in Sremska Mitrovica.

We were supposed to be home at 8 or 9 for a cook out at Milos’s house! I hated the fact that we missed it! His father went out of his way to purchase some meat, etc and cook for us! We finally walk into the house at a few minutes past 12! The food is still there and we munch it down and head to bed! I take my socks off and notice I have a blister on 4 of my toes! We had been walking for around 3 hours!

What an experience!!!! We had walked about 3 hours in the dark Serbian night and I still had all of my body parts!!!! I didn’t freeze, I didn’t get robbed or raped by some psychotic, deranged Serbian! What is the media talking about when they characterize Serbians as mean, self centered, hateful people??? The media has tried destroying the Serbian name, but it hasn’t worked!!!  Serbs once again came through!!!! 🙂 I need to find this guy that picked us up!!! If you are reading this, HOLLER!!!!!!

 

 
9 Comments

Posted by on April 15, 2013 in Through my eyes

 

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