So far we are off to a running start! Yesterday after we arrived, we were picked up by a few lovely relatives and dropped off at a little family apartment which is modern, clean, and comfortable. We are so lucky and grateful to have this. We went to the in laws house for dinner, which was started off shot of rakija and ended with me playing Tata LJ’s ancient violin. This is the first time my muz and I have been here together as I was on my own last time. It definitely helps having him here as a social lubricant, shall we say. Especially since his parents don’t really speak English.
The old house shows its age, but you can tell how grand it must have been back in its prime. It reminds me of my grandparents’ house in a way. It hasn’t been updated in decades, and it seems so ancient and foreign, like an abandoned, crumbling, museum in a faraway place, except two people actually live there. After dinner we returned home and woke up early this morning to orient ourselves in the city. How much nicer it feels to be here not as a brand new solo traveler, but a return visitor. I even found several cafes I discovered last time I was here, and we visited them together. He showed me his old elementary school, his old high school, and his music school. We even met a really nice man at the music school who gave us a little tour and a brochure and they played the name game until they happened upon a connection. It still amazes me that there is a public run free music school, available to talented children who choose to learn music. What a gift this city gives to its young. At his high school, an aviation high school, we entered the grounds and saw the airplanes mounted outside, and I could imagine him there as a teenager, joking around with his friends, eating lunch at the nearby pekara, studying the basics of aviation. We visited Kalemegdan Park and the fortress, and ran into an old friend of his who is works there, an architect who works on restoration of historical monuments. We walked Knez Mihailova and went by the parliament buildings and The Horse, and saw many familiar sights. Strolling through Kalemegdan, I realized how it was a microcosm of Serbia. In Kalemegdan, everything is there. The old and the new, Their you can find history, remnants of war, museums, churches, cafes, souvenir kiosks, and even a nightclub nestled in its stony walls. You will see old men playing chess and young couples kissing on benches. You will see tour groups and families and a beautiful view of the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, an extremely important geographical feature that has made Belgrade both prosperous and a victim. Yes, Kalemegdan is an amazing piece of the Serbian pie, and you can taste almost everything here.
I hope we can go back before I leave.
That night we strolled through the Vracar neighborhood looking for a place to eat. We stopped at a cool café, and as we were ordering, my muz noticed the man sitting behind our table, it was his old colleague – a friend who he had flown with when he was hired by Yugoslav airlines, before the sanctions, before the country fell apart. They embraced and we joined them for dinner. They talked about old times and what was happening now and how far they had both came. This guy was still flying, as was my muz, but it was amazing to see how far their life paths had diverged. This friend had stayed in Belgrade while my Muz immigrated to America. How instrumental this decision has been in changing the course of his life.
Friends, family, lots of beautiful Belgrade sights exploring the city, great language practice, and quality time seeing some of my husband’s childhood stomping ground. It couldn’t get much better than this. Tomorrow morning we will leave for Montenegro to visit the beautiful Adriatic coast. Yet another adventure begins!