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Thursday, August 29: Day 129 – Technology Troubles

Today I skyped my dad to sing happy birthday on his 95th birthday. It took several tries. Technology is amazing if you know how to use it.

Amy and my dad were going out to an all you eat China buffet. Doesn’t he look great?

I asked Amy to send a birthday picture of my dad who lives in a retirement community. She had to ask one of the older women to take the picture on her cell phone. Can you tell it was her first time using this technology?

I am guilty as well. I accidentally published this post while it was still in the note taking stage. I really don’t understand how this could happen as I have to push multiple “are you sure buttons” in order to publish. I apologize for the confusion.


Aleksandar picked us up at the airport, and he was full of information about his city. (We asked how he knew so much and he said that he paid attention in school.)

He drove us to our hostel. Rob had high hopes since our hostel was billed as the best in Serbia with a 9.9 rating.

As we sat on our shrink wrapped sofa and noted the disorganized kitchen, I sure wondered what the worst looked like.

Anyway our private hostel room was across the street and up 3 flights of stairs to a small yet fine apartment. So much for bonding with our fellow travelers!


Belgrade has a population of 2.3 million. Belgrade is lively, welcoming and safe. Nightlife is not just weekends.

Twelve Romans emperors were born in Serbia. Belgrade is equidistant between Vienna and Istanbul and is of military importance. It is a crossroads and at the junction of two rivers: Danube and Sava.

The Romans showed up in the first century AD and stayed for four centuries. They did what they do best – build roads. Belgrade was called Singdunum.

Via Militaris

Belgrade has seen 144 battles and thirty of those wars demolished the city 44 times. Not sure how accurate these numbers are, but it’s a lot.

Even still there is an old town and new town. New town is socialist architecture. In 1947 new Belgrade was made for families. There are parks with no cars allowed. Youths from all over volunteered to work for free in exchange for food and housing. Today it is a good place to live. It is hard to find a vacancy, and it is expensive for the locals to live here.

There is an artificial lake which has 150,000 visitors everyday.

There are two large connecting buildings that housed general export (GENEX). On top is a revolving restaurant, but it hasn’t been open for business in 35 years. When I inquired why. He said that the current owner is in prison.

Tennis great Novak Djokovic is from Belgrade. His parents still live in the same apartment and have a restaurant named Novak. He now makes his home in Monaco. I took this faraway picture from the car.

French architect Roger-Henri Expert designed the French Embassy in Belgrade in 1925. He is quoted as saying, “How can Belgrade have the ugliest buildings in the most beautiful setting?” (It must be hard to rebuild if your city keeps getting leveled.) Most beautiful parts are near the river…not in Belgrade.

Today Arabs from Dubai have built tall buildings on the riverfront.

We heard about a restaurant called “Three Heads”. There is a head from the 18th, 19th, and 20th century. We have a reservation for Sunday because they are often booked. There is also a restaurant called “?”.

Kavanas are a combination restaurant, cafe, music venue, and meeting place. When you like the music, you can show it three ways: put the bill into instrument OR wad up the money and throw it at the musician, OR stick the bill to the sweaty forehead of the musician.

Meat is the main dish. “If you don’t eat meat, you didn’t eat at all.” Serbia is a meat lovers paradise. They even serve meatballs stuffed with meat.

Kajkmak milk is used on everything. Aleksandar was describing the salty taste and use the word prostitution. He said that he wasn’t sure of the English word. (I am pretty sure that was not it.)


We had breakfast and I was struggling with the technology of opening the milk bottle so I handed it to Rob who had BIG toubles and milk went everywhere. We decided not to cry over spilled milk and laughed hysterically as we only had only toilet paper to clean it up.


Now we are ready for a city walking tour.

We learned that Dusko Popov gave Ian Fleming the inspiration for James Bond.

Dusko Popov

Popov, Dusko Popov, introduced himself that way and was a triple agent. Talk about an overachiever!! His phone number ended in 007.

Actually, James Bond was a conglomeration of fifteen men.

Inspiration for James Bond

Rakia is Serbian lemonade. Often it is homemade and is given to you when you arrive in a home. They don’t ask if you want it.

Plum is the most popular flavor. We had honey rakia. Older people drink it first thing in the morning as it kills bacteria. (Much like Listerine!) It also cures broken hearts. Our guide said to put it on socks to cure any type of sickness.

Language

Their language is phoetical which means every letter has a sound. Serbian is a Cyrillic language. Today they also have their language in Latin letters. It is easier to use for computers, etc. but both alphabets are taught in school. English and one other language is mandatory as well.

Our guide pronounced three different letters and they all sounded the same.

Balkan languages are similar so they can understand each others’ dialects and accents. So when they are applying for a job they can honestly say, “I speak 7 languages.”

Kvala which sounds much like koala means thank you.

Hyper-inflation

After WWII, six countries made up Yugoslavia. In 1980 Tito died and they experienced their first civil war. Bankruptcy followed. Borders closed. Shops were empty. There was lots of money but nothing to buy. Our guide remembered buying a pack of gum for a billion dinars.

History

Their history is so difficult. Each time period has lots of stories of the country changing hands.

Celts, Romans, Byzantines, Huns, Slavs, (In the 13th century, a Hungarian married a Serbian Princess, and Belgrade was a wedding present), Ottomans, Austrio-Hungarian, Yugoslavia, Serbia,etc.

Zumen is across the river but part of Belgrade. It was in Empire known as Hapsburg.

To commemorate Serbian warriors in the Balkan Wars in the 19th century, a monument named Victory was made.

It was placed in the center of the city, but there were complaints that the statue was naked. It was moved to the Belgrade fortress. At least he has this awesome view of the rivers.

During the infamous NATO bombings from March to June in 1999, citizens of Belgrade stood on one of their bridges to try to save it. They hoped that the planes would not bomb a bridge with people on it. It turned it into a music festival. This is making the best of a bad situation. The bridge was not bombed.

My dad, the birthday boy, would say, “If they run you out of town, act like you are leading the parade.”

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