This is the way a blog ends
This is the way a blog ends
This is the way a blog ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
How do you end over a year of steady (and then not so steady) writing? By borrowing, I mean butchering, a T.S. Eliot poem.
This post should hardly be a surprise; I haven’t written for a long time. Still, it’s difficult to acknowledge the end of an era of travel, learning, and hearing from a wonderful community of expat Serbs and like-minded travel junkies. Now that the travel has trickled, I have a full-time job, and I’ve entered a part-time writing program, I simply don’t have the time or material to write about Serbia. I mean, if Beyonce’s costume at her Belgrade concert wasn’t enough to get me going, I’m done for sure.
I hope you had half as much fun reading as I had writing. More than that, I hope you’ll find yourself in Serbia one day.
Belgrade will always be in a Beogradjanka’s heart, but this gift will make sure it’s on the heart, too:
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!
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.
Ok, I admit it: I’ve got a soft spot for Belgrade. I’ve always focused on the things I loved about the city, because there were more than enough negative misconceptions about it. And yet, after two years of managing this blog, I think I’m ready to log a serious complaint about the white city.
There is, as of this September, NO MAGNUM ICE CREAM in Belgrade.
I was first alerted to Magnum Ice Cream in August 2011. My friend Majmun came to visit Belgrade, and after a long walk we decided to buy the sweet stuff. She looked at various ice cream carts before asking me, “Do you have Magnum ice cream here?” I shrugged, and she extolled the virtues of the Magnum. Thick chocolate! Vanilla bean-flecked ice cream! Every flavor delicious!
I thought she was overselling it, until we encountered it while walking in Sarajevo a few days later.
It. Was. Amazing.
After discovering the magic of magnum, I redoubled my efforts to find it in Belgrade, only to come up empty-handed. So Muz and I decided to try to find it in other countries. We ate raspberry Magnum in Vienna, Classic Magnum in Macedonia, Almond Magnum in Budapest, Caramel Magnum in Croatia, and even had a Magnum McFlurry at a McDonald’s in Prague. (Don’t judge–they had great wireless!)
We traveled quite a bit, but it never took the sting out of missing Magnum in Serbia. It was available over almost every border: in Croatia, Hungary, Bosnia, and (I think) Slovenia. It felt a bit cruel. What’s preventing Serbia from importing Magnum?
In retrospect, maybe it was a good thing we didn’t have Magnum in Belgrade. It would have become less special, or we would’ve become a lot bigger. And there are plenty of other outlets for the ice cream itch in town. Now that we’re back, we still keep it as a special treat. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a serious pet peeve.
I wrote about my travel chuck-it list a while ago, and when I saw this destination to awfulness I decided to add…
Deshnoke, Rajasthan, India
Specifically, the shrine of Karni Mata.
Perhaps you’re thinking, But RHOB, it’s a temple! You wrote about places of worship every Sunday for a year!
Yes, yes I did. But you know what was never in those churches, temples and mosques?
Thousands of rats.
The Secret of Nimh is…yogurt drinks. Who knew?
Karni Mata was a Hindu mystic born in the 1300s or 1400s, depending on the source. National Geographic notes that at one point, a child of her clan died. Karni Mata tried to bring the child back to life, but was told by the god of death that the child had already been reincarnated as the Hindu faith prescribes. It’s not clear whether the child was reincarnated as a rat, but it was decided that the rest of Karni Mata’s clan would be reincarnated as rats until they could be reborn as humans. (Why no one chose a less…infectious in-between state is beyond me.)
The rats are referred to as children, and given food and drink. National Geographic claims that “eating food or drinking water that previously has been sampled by a rat is considered to be a supreme blessing.” With respect to Karni Mata followers, you know what a blessing is? Winning the lottery. Not eating rat-masticated grain.
Despite the rat’s reputation for spreading disease, there have been no reported cases of plague or other rat-linked sicknesses around the temple. Then again, if these rats are eating gourmet meals, I guess there’s not a big incentive to take a bite of worshipper.
There are at least 20,000 rats in the temple. And that, readers, is 20,000 reasons why it’s on my travel chuck-it list. Going to India? Yes, please. Going to Karni Mata’s temple? Nooooo thanks.
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.
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.
When did 60 ounces of soda become “small?”
Also, the new James Bond is great–but for all the hype about filming in Novi Sad, I barely caught a glimpse!