Sunday, March 25, 2012

An American girl in Nis

I have just bumped into an American girl from Florida, with Fulbright scholarship, in Costa Coffee in Nis. I know, weird, right? There are only the two of us, in front of laptops and without cigarettes, and of course, we both live in the States. And she has a Mac. I should have known even before I asked her if I could share her outlet, the only one in the non-smoking area.
Why would they need more outlets? Who goes to a cafe alone, and with a laptop?! And doesn't even smoke?!
So, I've been in Serbia for the last two weeks. Four days in Belgrade, two in Vojvodina, and the rest in Nis.
I was surprised at how Belgrade affected me this time. I mean, I have always loved the city, I have lived in it for three blissful years, and always felt nostalgia for it when in the States.
But this time, I was instantly frustrated with smokers, and the fact that it took me a while to find a non-smoking restaurant downtown to have lunch, and a non-smoking cafe to have coffee in. It's also remarkably dirty. Cigarette buds everywhere. The city will, in a few years, have cigarette buds instead of concrete, unless they start cleaning, or increase the price of cigarettes. Or come up with a fine for littering-- my personal favorite.
The people also seemed depressed. I don't know, this time Belgrade seemed unwelcoming and grey.
I still had Greenet Moka/Mocca/Mocha in Nusiceva every single day. It's my little Belgrade ritual--I buy a local paper or magazine, order a small Moka with whipped cream and act alien.
I did work a bit. I had two successful interviews with two remarkable people--former Serbian prime minister Zoran Zivkovic and CANVAS founder, former OTPOR leader, Srdja Popovic who made me laugh all through our interview and was so incredibly positive. The exact opposite from what was in the air.
My analysis? He travels a lot!
Nis is more-less the same since a year ago, maybe even slightly improved when it comes to the infrastructure, but the people are desperate. Everyone I talk to is pessimistic, bitter and doesn't see the light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately.
I did manage to indulge a little (or a lot) by , for one, finding a warm private pool near my parents' house, to which I'm going almost every day. I was stunned when they told me they are closed on Sundays!
Hence, this blog.
I only took one horseback riding lesson this time which I deeply regret. The reason is the stick shift. I hate the bloody thing. I drove my father's new car from the OMV pump half way from Belgrade to Nis, and I did fine on the highway, but once I got to the city, with all the pedestrians jaywalking, and bad driving, I had to stop-go, stop-go, and the bloody thing has six gears! Six stupid gears! Who needs six gears?! An Audi, of course. I hate those too.
So, in order to ride, I have to drive, and I didn't want to drive the damn stick shift, so I didn't ride. And now I'm sad.
I love it, horseback riding, I missed it, and I'm an ass.
That's my new resultion--I'm going to find some kind of regular horseback riding around DC as soon as I get back there--in a month.
I'm here for another four days, then I'm heading to Skopje. It will be interesting to compare Macedonia to Serbia at this point in time.
And that writer was right (as writers usually are).
"You can't ever come home."
I don't even know what home is anymore....

Friday, March 16, 2012

Greetings from the land of plains and two hour Yoga

So, believe it or not, I'm writing this from Kula, a small town in Vojvodina, close to Vrbas, Sombor and Novi Sad.
A very unlikely place for me to write my blog from but it's 9:16pm and there's nothing better to do here.
Not that I don't like to write my blog. I do. I truly do.
This is actually the first down time I had since I left DC on March 7.
London was hectic and fun!
It was my sixth time in London and I still haven't seen it all, and it still feels like home.
Let's see, what did I do? Once I got to Belgrade, it seemed so long ago...
I went to Harrods, I remember that. How could I forget an eight pound hot chocolate, (I'm afraid to convert) and the fact that you could not enter the tube on Knightsbridge (I think, or something like that), and the huge crowds in the coffee/chocolate/tea room that made me abandon my Earl Grey. 
I also went into the National Gallery of Art for about 20 minutes before closing and dotted on Van Gogh's Sunflowers and a few more of his masterpieces.
The Portrait Gallery across the street and the Victoria and Albert museum were interesting, but not extremely impressive, but The Natural History museum is a remarkably beautiful castle. Did you know that? I had to go to the entrance to believe that that beautiful, massive building is a natural history museum. The queen's residence maybe or an art museum, but natural history? Gotta love England!
What else, what else? Oxford, yes! Such beautiful architecture! Wonderful old buildings of the University. Blackwell's monstrosity of a bookstore in which I found and indeed fell in love with a vintage Master and Margarita poster, with a black cat holding a smoking gun! What else could I say but priceless. So priceless that I'm willing to tag it along with me to Paris, Morocco, and London again. Can't wait to frame it and stare at it in DC with content.
What else did I do? Had lunch and shopped with a friend in High Street Kensington then walked along Hide Park to the mentioned museums.
Had my beloved afternoon tea with another friend in Carnaby street off of Oxford Street.
Walked from the Trafalgar Square to Covent Garden.
Went to Alice's bookstore (Alice in Wonderland) in Oxford and this little nook of a cafe for lunch and latte, called Granola.
I think that's probably enough for one post.
So, London? Always a good idea. If you're flexible on weekends (regarding travel, it's hard to get anywhere)...