Read, Write, Run, Roam

Archive for November, 2012

30 Posts in 30 Days

30 posts in 30 days–completed! Now I have free time to stare at blobs of paint on walls, like this guy:


This mural is on one of my favorite Belgrade walks: Kneza Mihailova to Kalemegan Fortress.

I’ll keep up the blog (pinky swear), but not every day. I’m shooting for a Monday-Wednesday-Friday post schedule. Thank you to all the readers and commenters who kept me going, and for introducing me to your blogs for inspiration. Happy Friday to all, and super happy Friday to my fellow NaBloPoMo participants.


What a difference a year makes: Belgrade’s new bridge

The Ada Bridge was nearing completion before I left. When I returned this summer,  I thought it looked pretty sharp, especially at sunset.

The new bridge is the the widest mixed-use (highway and rail) asymmetric stay cable bridge in the world, and the one the largest cable-stayed bridges in the world. What does that mean? It means that there’s a heck of a big pole (pylon) with super strong cables holding up cars, trains, bikers and pedestrians. And that sums up my knowledge about bridge engineering.

It also sums up my knowledge about what to call this thing: is it New Bridge, which is what people called it before I left, or Ada Bridge, what the internet is telling me? Ada Bridge certainly has a better ring to it.

No matter what this bridge is called, it’s a welcome addition to the city. Not only am I happy to see attractive, world-recognized architecture being built in Belgrade, I’m also happy for all the people who no longer have to sit (as long) in the horrific traffic over the Sava River. And if they are stuck in traffic, at least they get views like this.

Click to link to original image

Belgrade’s Tesla Museum: Celebrating Serbia’s Famous Son

Before we moved back to the States, I made a Belgrade Bucket List in an attempt to conquer the city before we left. Of course, the list was long, and we wound up missing out on some quintessential city activities. Like going to the Nikola Tesla museum.

If you should have the good fortune to meet at Serb, and that person doesn’t mention Nikola Tesla in the first hour, then I must say: you have not met a Serb. Tesla is one of the most famous Serbians, ever. He was a renown scientist who contributed to the development of AC current, wireless electric power transmission, the remote control, x-rays, and foresaw wireless signals similar to the internet. AND he inspired an amazing 80’s band and a verrry cool car. What have you done lately?

Lots of hair product here










The man is so famous that three countries vie to call him their own. Tesla was born in 1846 in modern-day Croatia to Serb parents. His father and maternal grandfather were Serbian Orthodox priests, but he has famously stated he was “equally proud” of his “Serbian origin and Croatian homeland.” In 1891, seven years after moving to America, he became an American citizen, and expressed his pride to be an American, too.

After moving to the U.S. in 1884, he spent the rest of his life there, mostly in New York. Sadly, he was a great scientist but a terrible businessman. He was cheated out of patents and funding, spent his grants and savings on experiments, and died penniless in New York City in 1943.

You can understand my disbelief that we lived in Belgrade and never went to the Tesla museum. We figured we would go with our numerous guests and get sick of the place–but sent guests there without us instead. So when we came back to the city as tourists, the Testa Museum was one of our first stops. The museum is on Krunska, a pretty, mansion-lined street.

The museum offers tours in English, and I wouldn’t recommend seeing it any other way. After a short video about Tesla’s life, our tour guide demonstrated experiments to our group of 18 European visitors. We first demonstrated the tesla coil’s wireless power. Check out the arc of electricity and the people holding fluorescent tubes. Look ma, no wires!

we also saw Tesla’s remote control boat move:

and even got to feel AC current pass through us. The docent explained how the current couldn’t hurt us, but I let this random dude test it out before I gave it a shot.

Finally, we were led to Tesla’s resting place. His remains are stored in a golden sphere, which is supposedly Tesla’s favorite shape. I think there’s more to this, but can’t remember the exact story. Maybe that AC current was stronger than advertised.

The museum is a little short on details–especially about his later life in America and incredible fondness for pigeons–but the experiments and local pride make up for it.

Tesla might be gone, but he’s not forgotten. Recently, Tesla fans raised over a million dollars to build a Tesla museum at the sight of the Wardenclyffe Tower, where Tesla experimented with wireless broadcasting. George Clooney is rumored to be interested in playing Tesla in a developing movie. He’ll have big shoes to fill after David Bowie’s Tesla in the underrated movie The Prestige. (How is Bowie so foxy after all these years?)

Could it be that we’re in the midst of a Tesla revivial? Perhaps. And if not, I’m at least glad to knock another item off my Belgrade Bucket List.

Best. Souvenir. Ever.

Okay, what kind of weirdo blogger writes about her dog’s birthday?

This one.

Happy 2nd birthday to Milos, the best souvenir of our time in Serbia. I still catch myself yelling at him in Serbian, not that he listens in any language. However, he might listen to the Serbian happy birthday song (simply called Srecan Rodjendan). Serbia has a different birthday tune than you’re used to, and it’s catchier than I like to admit. Here’s a cheesy video of it for your listening pleasure.

Belgrade: where the streets have four names

…but I often was

When I first arrived in Belgrade, I found a map in one of the million folders we were given upon arrival. I kept getting lost with that map. Utterly, completely lost. Muz tried to pin it on my famous lack of direction, but the truth seemed more bizarre: I had been given an old map with completely different names for certain streets. It also didn’t help that my map was written in Latin alphabet and the street signs were Cyrillic.

People told us that some of the streets had political names that didn’t quite fit with current times, and changed to reflect older names–names that probably also had political origins, but no one cared about them anymore.

Long after I bought a decent map, of COURSE, signs like this started going up all over town:

And while it’s nice to see the history, nothing explained why the names changed. But I suppose that’s fodder for another post.

When I returned to Belgrade this summer, I found that the street signs had changed once again. The names were the same, thankfully, but now many were written in Latin and Cyrillic.

 This is great for tourism, but I can’t help but feel a bit of pride that I learned my way around town pretty well without Latin. Well, without Latin and with the indispensable Magic Map. Even with a command of Cyrillic, no trip to Belgrade is complete without one of these.  Because you never know when a street will have a new name.

When you can’t come home again: RHOB’s return to Belgrade

I’ve been keeping a secret: my September trip to Paris also included a trip back to Belgrade. The return of RHOB! Or so I thought. I soon realized it’s not so easy to go home again, as a tourist to a former hometown.

We were so excited to return. Even in Paris, city of culinary delights, we kept telling ourselves, “only three more days until we’re eating in Belgrade!” We arrived at Tesla Airport and promptly checked into a Stari Grad hotel.

And that’s when it started to felt weird. I’d never to been to Belgrade as a tourist. The hotel was nice, but without a kitchen and refrigerator, my plans to shop at the markets, visit the Zlatiborski shop, or fix my favorite snack of ajvar, bread and feta didn’t make sense.

Muz and I decided to take a walk, but we disagreed about the route. I wanted to go to “my Belgrade,” all my favorite coffee shops and the cobblestone streets of Dorcol I used to wander around in search of blog material. Muz wanted to see “his Belgrade,” restaurants he visited with colleagues, parks where we walked our dog, and bars. With only three days in town, we had to compromise how to spend our time. (Long story short: we went to Coffee Dream and Parliament bar.)

We also discovered that our language skills had declined–considerably. Before we left, we felt comfortable using Serbian in most of our transactions. So imagine my surprise when I got into a taxi, tried to explain where I was going, and realized I was forgetting basic words. I had to phone my Serbian friend and give my phone to the driver to clarify things. After all the hours I spent learning the language, it was a sad moment.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to buy this.

After our second day, things improved. We went to our favorite restaurants and bakery, thrilled to be back in Serbian hospitality.  We saw old friends and danced in new places. I realized I had to stop trying to cram a year into three days, and enjoy the difference between visiting Belgrade and living there. While I can’t return to our Stari Grad apartment, and I doubt I’ll live in Belgrade again, it was nice to return and see the city in a new light.

But next time? I’m renting an apartment for a week and bringing a suitcase of clothes and shoes for repair. I may not live in Belgrade anymore, but I can still benefit from its perks.

The Serbian word that everyone knows

 Can you guess what it is?

Hint: its favorite fruit is a neck-tarine. Its favorite dog is a bloodhound. Its favorite game is bat-miton.

It’s a…vampire. (Technically, vampir)

Best. Soundtrack. Ever.

That’s right, Serbia is the home of the vampire legend! Transylvania gets all the credit, but the legend may be traced to Northern Serbia, when people like Petar Blagojevic and Arnold Paole died in the mid-18th Century, only to haunt local neighbors who died mysteriously a short time after.  Suspicious villagers dug both men up (in different towns) to find their corpses looking untouched. They were declared vampires, staked through the heart, and burned for good measure. Austrian officials who controlled parts of Serbia at the time reported this phenomenon to Vienna, and the vampire story was born.

Now there’s word that a famous Serbian bloodsucker may still be on the loose.  According to the Austrian Times, known (and more importantly, unslain) vampire Sava Savanovic has lost the mill that was his home. Now that the mill has collapsed, it’s believed that Savanovic is wandering around his hometown of Bajina Basta, just waiting to find Winona Ryder, I mean, victims.

The article claims that the Bajina Basta town council advised all villagers to put garlic on their doors and windows, which seems like an…unusual way for town officials to spend their time and energy. To be honest, I doubt these villagers are more concerned about vampires than they are concerned about the tourists who may stop coming to tour the old mill. Besides, Serbians are always buying lots of garlic. Try cooking a traditional meal without it.

Read more about the story here, if you dare. I’m pretty skeptic–though I might consider driving past Bajina Basta at night. I’m not worried about the vampires as much as I am worried about the garlic breath I’ll have after eating there.