August 17th, 18th 2010
Again, nothing exciting happened in Belgrade (apart from the haircut incident, see a couple of posts below, ‘Tip of the Month’). I guess I’m running a recurrent theme here (‘Nothing exciting happened …’) but you can’t really force things. That’s part of travel, just take things as they come. Sometimes, it’s exciting, funny things happen and you can’t wait to share them on the blog. Other times, it’s mundane.
The streets of Belgrade are much like any other streets in Europe. There’s always one ‘popular’ long street filled with trendy shops, cafes, gelato stands, banks, and all kinds of people, ranging from beggars to shoppers.
The best part about my trip to Belgrade? Yeah, it’s the food. I should start thinking about a turning this into a foodie blog because a huge part of travel, for me, is the food. I was hungry and wanted to get a haircut. I stopped by a Serbian bbq place called ‘Loki’, recommended to me by the lady who ran the hostel. Inside, I faced a Serbian menu and I tried asking the ladies behind the counter what my options were. The blank look on both mine and their faces prompted a Serbian guy to jump in and help me out. He was in his 20s, holding what I think is a Serbian branded beer in his hand. He tried his best to describe the common options but it didn’t help much since I’m a visualizer. I asked him to order me what he thinks is the best item so he orders a Serbian hamburger called a ‘Pljeskavica’. It was cheap, good, and filling. The meat wasn’t cooked all the way well-done, more of a moist medium. Initially, that worried me but come on, it’s beef. Some people eat steak that still has a beating heart.
So Vuk, the Serbian guy, tells me he used to live in New Jersey for about 2 years, attending college there. His dad is an engineer and his mom has a PhD in Chemistry. In Serbia, education is free but I guess people aren’t paid as highly as a result. Vuk didn’t have money to go to grad school so he had to return to Serbia. Anyway, the guy recommends his friend’s hair salon down the street when I ask for a place to get a haircut. He takes me there, I settle in my seat, find out the stylist doesn’t speak a lick of English, so I showed her a picture I took with my camera of a picture from the internet. Unfortunately, Chow Yun Fat (yes, I took a picture of him from ‘Replacement Killers’) had black hair and on a camera, it didn’t look right. You can’t see he has long hair combed to the side. You can’t tell the length of his hair at all because black hair on a black/white photo is not easily discernable. I tell Vuk to tell her what I wanted and by this point, I realized he was somewhat drunk, but he tries anyway. I don’t know if things got lost in translation or the bad picture on my camera threw the stylist off but she ended up cutting off my hair which took me 3 months to grow out. I permitted it to happen because I have impulsive curiosity about things. I thought ‘Wouldn’t it be funny to see if there’s a lost-in-translation moment here that I could tell people about?’. Who cares if she gives me a mohawk or a bowl-cut, it would be HILARIOUS! Ok, not really.
The haircut was so cheap, one would think it would take the sting away but no, it lingers on my mind. ‘Should I have stopped her just before she made the first snip?’. Ah well, it’s just hair. Just another 3 months to get back to the same point. Then I can be Chow Yun Fat (‘Replacement Killers’, not ‘Crouching Tiger’) when I get my haircut in India.
That evening, I walked quite a distance to go eat at a place called ‘Little Bay’. There’s one in London, and there’s one in Belgrade. I decided to go all out here. I don’t eat at joints like these often so it’s nice to splurge a bit every now and then. I order some pastry appetizer, of which I forgot the name, Greek salad and ‘Assiage of Lamb’. I tried googling ‘assiage’ and I’m sure I misspelled it because there are no results. All I know is, ‘assiage of lamb’ was spectacular. Total cost? €17. Not too bad for a ‘splurge’.
(Assiage of lamb)
I woke up bright and early and headed to Kalamegdan Citadel, which wasn’t that exciting. It’s just a wide, expansive area inside a fortress, on top of a hill in Belgrade. Walked up there, got a good view of the city, went to the Military Museum, which was unimpressive, and got out. The various cannons and mortars lining the walls around the museum was quite cool though, as I got to see how generations of military machines evolved.
I decided to visit Nikola Tesla Museum because I’m an engineer. All I knew of Tesla was that a unit of measurement in physics is named after him, and that in ‘Command and Conquer’, there was a weapon called the ‘Tesla Coil’. Only after the visit did I realize the ‘Tesla Coil’ was real, although not a weapon in a game. I also discovered Tesla to be my new favorite Science Superhero. The guy was a genius, a true pioneer that single-handedly brought the world, indirectly, into the 20th century. The museum itself was fantastic as it was interactive, not a bunch of exhibits that leave people more confused than when they first walked in.
Dinner that evening consisted of a Serbian salad and ‘The Oskar’, a specialty at a restaurant called ‘Oskar’. It was different kinds of meats (pork, chicken, beef) cooked in different ways. Not a bad way to end my stay in Belgrade.