Read, Write, Run, Roam

Archive for December, 2012

The Muž guide to Serbian gift-giving

Muž is a cool man under pressure–until it comes to holiday shopping. He doesn’t believe in “wish lists” and usually buys (admittedly lovely) gifts the week before Christmas. I picture him entering a store, finding a saleswoman that vaguely resembles me, and handing her his credit card.

Not this year.
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This Christmas, Muž gave me the best Belgrade gift yet. It’s not any of my previous suggestions, but it was better than all of them combined.

Muž worked with a company to publish the first year of posts on this site–two volumes of confusion, laughs and adventures. Thanks to him and to all my readers for helping to create an amazing gift.

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Keep Belgrade close to your heart: Serbian gift guide part IV

Belgrade will always be in a Beogradjanka’s heart, but this gift will make sure it’s on the heart, too:

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This pendant is sold on Etsy for $9.00 here. As much as I like this, I wish the map was in Cyrillic, or offered people the street they lived on. Svetogorska represent!

If you’re loved one isn’t from Belgrade, never fear. You can find kits online for a one inch magnifying glass pendant and make the necklace with any map you have on hand for a thoughtful homemade gift for someone missing home or travel.

But if you’re not the do-it-yourself type, I’ll bet you can ask the Etsy seller for a custom map to keep your favorite places nearby.

Merry Christmas Eve to my non-orthodox readers!


Belgrade for the holidays: A Serbian Gift Guide (Part 3)

Sorry readers, I meant to post every day this week. Fortunately, Orthodox Christmas isn’t until January 7th, so posts about holiday gifts are still timely! Which leads to the day three of what do get your favorite Serb: Slippers.

She looks thrilled. Photo from HERE

For most Americans, slippers are an…unusual gift. Something that a distant, elderly relative might give you. That they bought at a gas station. The night before Christmas.

But for most Serbians, they are an essential item. Serbians generally don’t wear shoes inside the home. Walk around a Serbian home barefoot and risk being told you’ll become infertile or have kidney problems. Walk around a Serbian house barefoot and sneeze, and expect to be yelled at by someone’s grandmother and swaddled with rakija-soaked towels. Which doesn’t sound so bad, really.

Slippers are easily acquired in and outside of Serbia. In Belgrade, hand-knit slippers are often found around the outdoor markets, at stalls in Kalemegdan, and in the passages below major intersections in town. In America, there are a couple of places to find great slippers I’ve listed below.

 

If you’re feeling flush, Anthropologie has some cute options like these for $78:

Not in the mood to spend that kind of dough on slippers? Try Ann Taylor Loft’s ballet slipper versions, now on sale under $20:

Or you can try my favorite source for slippers now that I am a convert to the shoeless life: Target.

They have the best selection (for men AND women), and offer ones with rubber soles. Because while I don’t want to catch an illness from bare feet, I also don’t want to slip on tile and crack my head open. Even rakija won’t cure a concussion. I think.


Belgrade for the holidays, part dva

So, you want to send your favorite Beogradjanka a gift, but they already have the amazing books I recommended yesterday? Look no further, because I’m featuring Serbian gifts all week, and I have this gem for your favorite Tesla fan.

What’s this? Why, only a signed limited edition print of Tesla attacking Edison with an x-ray gun on a mad cat while the Wardenclyffe transmits in the background, courtesy of http://www.theoatmeal.com.

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One thing’s for sure: it’s not something they already have.

Get it here.

 


Belgrade for the holidays

Looking for a gift for a certain special Serbian? Here are two options for anyone missing, or curious to see, a bit of Belgrade.

The first is from fellow Belgrade blogger Andy Townend, who published a book this year featuring his gorgeous shots of the White City.

Unfortunately, the book is currently only available in Serbian bookstores. There’s an option to order it through the Delfi website, but a bit of Serbian is needed to order, and I’m not sure that the book will ship internationally. Check out his blog, http://www.belgradestreets.com, for a free fix until your next visit to a knjižara.

For those without access to Belgrade bookstores, there’s another photography book that’s easily accessible for Americans. Streetartlove.rs/belgrade by Marko Todorovic features Belgrade street art from 2005-2010. It’s a different vibe from Belgrade streets, but just as beautiful. When used with a smart phone, the book also reveals interviews and videos. Best of all, it’s available on Amazon.com

These books should tide your special someone over until they receive the ultimate gift: a plane ticket back to Belgrade. (Save that ticket for springtime, though. Looks like the Balkans are in for another rough winter.)


Pet Peeve Petak: hotel refrigerator sensors

Today’s pet peeve is–surprise!–another way for hotels to wrench every nickel and dime from a guest: the hotel refrigerator sensor.

Some hotels rooms have refrigerators pre-stocked with items for hungry, thirsty, and sometimes lazy guests. Don’t get me wrong–I’m no stranger to lazy–and while hotel fridge items are overpriced, even I, penny-pinching RHOB, have been known to partake in the occasional $3.00 hotel Twix bar. I’m happy to pay a little extra for the convenience of snacking in my room without ordering room service or putting on shoes. Unless that’s the ONLY purpose of a hotel room refrigerator.

There’s a Trip Advisor chat board about Las Vegas hotel refrigerators using weighted sensors in refrigerators. Guests who so much as move a can of soda to make room for a doggie bag or bottle of wine suddenly find themselves getting a bill for MOVING–not eating–the items in the refrigerator. What’s a tourist to do?

Some advise renting an empty fridge, but that’s just more nickel-and-diming. Others recommend keeping a sink full of ice, but that makes washing one’s face a strange, cold chore. Yet another person warns about the dangers of “exploding” styrofoam coolers that are sold in local convenience stores. And more tell the complainers to get over it, since “it’s Vegas, baby!” and paying an extra $50 isn’t a big deal in the long run. No one mentioned the Indiana Jones method: switch out an item for an equally-weighted one.

The most troubling advice? Lie. Tell the hotel you need a fridge for medication, and the hotel will bring an empty one for free. People, how has it come to this? Why should people have to lie to a hotel about medical conditions, after paying hundreds of dollars a night for a room,  for the “luxury” of keeping a bottle of water cold?

I haven’t come across this problem in a long time, but RHOB’s solution? Complain. Loudly. Demand an empty refrigerator or tell hotels they risk the wrath of terrible reviews on every website available. I may miss that expensive Twix bar in the middle of the night, but I’ll have a much cheaper can of iced tea to make up for it. Besides, if I’m staying in Vegas, I’ll need that extra money to get my vows renewed by an Elvis impersonator.

 

 


Finding a reservation for the Mayan Apocalypse: Armageddon Tourism

We’ve neglected to believe other Mayan tenets, like rain dances or believing that the first men were made of maize dough, but somehow we’re all supposed to desperately believe that their calendar accurately predicts the end of the world will happen next Friday, December 21, 2012.

Okaaay.

Apparently, this is enough of a concern that NASA has issued a statement saying that it’s not the end of the world. But that’s not enough to stop thousands of media outlets from reporting on it, or from enterprising tourism agencies to take advantage. Even in Serbia.

Hotels near Eastern Serbia’s Mt. Rtanj are booked for the main (non) event next Friday, thanks to the mountain’s supposed mystical powers. British sci-fi author Arthur Clark declared the mountain to be “the navel of the world.” Sounds kind of gross to me, but it’s not gross to the hundreds of people who are trying to reserve rooms in nearby B&Bs. Until they try to use a pit toilet.

Some believe Mt. Rtanj contains a pyramid inside that will somehow save people nearby. If the pyramid-in-a-mountain sounds familiar, it might remind you of the story of the Visok, Bosnia pyramids I wrote about last year. I’m sure Visok is enjoying a brisk tourism trade as well. (Tip: Visok pizza isn’t bad!)

But the Balkans aren’t the only destination for apocalypse tourism. Pic de Bugarach in the French Pyrenees is also enjoying popularity from people who believe that aliens will rescue anyone there on the 21st. The Bugaraches (I’m sure they’re called that) have been fleecing these tourists for all they’re worth. It’s reported that one local is charging $1,870 a night for a four bedroom house. Don’t worry, you can also rent a camping site for $400 Euros. December camping in the Pyrenees IS the end of the world, as far as I’m concerned.

I hope these people negotiated refundable deposits, because the French authorities have announced the mountain will be shut down on the 21st.

Personally, I’d avoid the cold spots and book a room in Chichen Itza, Mexico. Not only is it warm, but the pyramid’s front and center rather than hiding in a mountain. Nearby hotels are already used to celebrations around the end of the Mayan calendar, and have planned fireworks and concerts at archeological pyramids. No word on whether REM will perform “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” there.

Finally, I’m fortunate to recommend Tical, Guatemala based on personal experience. Muz and I first heard of the end of the Mayan calendar on a visit there in 2007. It’s an awe-inspiring site. On December 21st, it’s also reported to be the site of the “New Dawn for Humanity” world summit, featuring Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Placido Domingo, Elton John, U2 and the Jackson brothers. And, based on memory, delicious bananas!

However, we aren’t traveling on December 21st. Instead, Muz and I have planned to go dancing. Like there’s no tomorrow.