My husband, Dragan, our 10 year old son and me have set off from England, to spend 8 months in Dragan’s home city, Belgrade.
Early start, our flight was at 6.30am from Bristol. Three suit cases, two violins, three rucksacks full of tech and devices, a handbag and three big warm coats. Oh, and me, Dragan and Aleks! The first leg was from Bristol to Munich in a lovely little Embraer jet. It flew quite low and being an uneasy flyer, I felt happy in a small plane — it was more like sailing. The descent into the airport is over a flat plain with villages dotted over a network of black soil fields and copses of trees. We spied the Alps cutting the horizon like a set of jagged teeth. Munich airport is very clean with little cabins to sleep in, but we just munched our way through loads of Pringles, whilst we spotted other Serbs arriving at the gate. We then boarded our flight to Belgrade. Bigger plane, so I was less happy, but to make up for it we were nearly rubbing shoulders with the Partisan basketball team on the flight. The Partisan team is one of the best teams in Serbia. Can’t be fun flying, when you’re a basketball player — tall folk! They had played a match against Bilbao the previous night.
We hired a car at Belgrade airport — so simple, quick and cheap. Dragan drove to our new flat in the centre of the city. Dragan says switching from the left to the right is easy and his driving style switches with amazing ease too! (More about that soon). He naturally doesn’t agree with that.
The flat is spacious, with parquet flooring and an open plan kitchen/living room. The ceilings are high, which is very relaxing and the walls are at least a foot thick. We have a wonderful view of a beautiful park called Spomen Park Oslobodiocima Beograda (Remembrance Park of the Liberators of Belgrade), which is next to the graveyard where the WW2 Serbian and Russian soldiers who liberated Belgrade are buried. Aleks has chatted to his friends on WhatsApp and they think it’s very cool that he lives next to a graveyard!
We met our ‘Kum’ and ‘Kuma’. Kum means godfather and much more in Serbian, and Kuma means godmother. Our Kum is Ljuba and our Kuma is Daniela, his wife. They helped us settle in, something they would happily see as their duty as Kum & Kuma.
In the evening we went to visit some friends. They’re a lovely family with three children, so Aleks had some playmates. Our Kum, Ljuba, is also Kum to Vlada, the dad. It was a birthday party for the middle child. Kids often have two birthday parties in Serbia, one for the kids and one for the adults. No party food here as it was the adult party, it was good old fashioned delicious Serbian fayre. Prazan Burek (layered pastry pie), potato salad with onion and French dressing, Sarmica od zelja (meat pie layered with spinach, no pastry) and pickles and cold meats. Some of the food was vegan or fasting food (‘posna hrana’), as the birthday fell on a Wednesday (which is one of the two fasting days in a normal week, Friday being the other) . The house is in the typical Serbian design, with a courtyard sheltered by a grapevine. The front room had a long table set for all the guests and relatives, with a huge wooden mirror propped against the wall and a cabinet full of Serbian china and ornaments. Vlada is often involved in projects as an architect and structural engineer for local churches and his house has many interesting drawings and paintings adorning the walls. It might be described as ‘shabby chic’, but that would do it a disservice.
The kids played Monopoly, the Belgrade version! All in Cyrillic.
That night we all slept well!