Walking around Kalemegdan
My long-distance boyfriend is being transferred for take-out of the newest ship in the fleet. In the meantime, he was sent home to Belgrade for a short vacation. This is the first time we are on vacation at the same time, so I took the opportunity to see where he’s from with a much-needed two-week trip to Serbia!
Sava meets Danube
Right before I left town, I had a follow up appointment with my orthopedist and was finally deemed fit for duty! I packed my thera-band in my suitcase, and planned to keep up with my physical therapy exercises while I was away. I had a 9-hour flight to Frankfurt, during which the cold I’d been battling for a few days got much worse. Pressure built up in my right ear, causing pain and disorientation. My attempts at sleep were unsuccessful, due to the combination of discomfort and excitement. My layover in Frankfurt was just an hour and a half. By the time I took a bus from the plane to the gate, took a train to a different terminal, went through security, and got to my new gate, I had just 15 minutes to kill! I signed into the airport wifi to check in with my family and my man, and stopped in the ladies’ room to freshen up. The 2-hour flight to Belgrade was easy, but my anxiety was building! I went through passport control and grabbed my luggage as quickly as possible, knowing Mihailo was waiting outside.
My injury and some emotional confusion delayed our previously scheduled reunion, so I had not seen my guy for almost a year. When I saw him at the airport and fell into his hug, it felt like we had never been apart. He carried my bags to a taxi, and we drove into the city. He pointed things out along the way, but I was too tired and happy to pay much attention. About 20 minutes later, we reached our apartment. I had mentioned wanting to see the National Theater, so he rented an apartment right across the street for us to stay in! We dropped off my bags, walked to a nearby café, and then stopped at a corner store to pick up some essential items. After I unpacked, he decided it was time for me to try some Serbian food. We walked down a beautiful old street to a fast-food restaurant for Serbian burgers, called pljeskavica. The patty was larger and moister than American burgers, the bread was less fluffy, and the toppings included some surprises, such as sautéed cabbage. It was delicious! Soon after, we met up with one of his old friends for a beer. That beer led to a few more, and the night ended with my first taste of rakia, a sort of brandy popular in Serbia. The friend could sort of understand me, but was not confident speaking English. He started trying more two beers in, but became incomprehensible again by the end of the night! I appreciated the effort, and enjoyed meeting him.
Wandering the streets of Belgrade
The next day, my ear pain had not subsided, and my voice was almost completely gone. Mihailo ran to the store to get us some fresh bread, meat, and some side items, and we spent the day at the apartment—resting, talking, watching TV, and just enjoying being together again. That night his brother and his girlfriend came over. They were so welcoming! They even brought me a music box they picked up in Vienna the week before. We spoke about Belgrade, San Francisco, and cities in Spain, as well as our jobs and relationships. They were amused and impressed that I had a handwritten list of things to do during my trip, and offered to help us get tickets to the nearly sold-out ballet performance the next week. The brother was very concerned about my health, so when I was not better the next day, he scheduled a doctor’s appointment for me and accompanied us to the clinic. I was diagnosed with a middle ear infection, and put on antibiotics as well as a medication to help the swelling in my throat. His girlfriend drove us back to the apartment, where we spent the rest of the day on the couch! It was raining outside, so I was happy to stay in.
Sunday, Mihailo made coffee for me, as he did every morning, and prepared a plate of fruit. Later in the day, he also made soup and sandwiches. I was feeling better in the afternoon, so we took a cab through the rain to go to his neighborhood bar so I could meet more of his friends. It was nice to see his neighborhood, and I felt like the guest of honor at the bar! Everyone said they had heard a lot about me, and they said they had never seen Mihailo so happy. We slipped out to have a quick meal at a diner, then went back to say goodnight. The next day was finally supposed to be sunny, so we went to bed early with the intention of waking up early for sightseeing!
Our day of exploration started right by our apartment, where I was finally able to snap a few photos of the National Theater and the National Museum and statue of Knez Mihailova at Republic Square. We then strolled down Knez Mihailova Street, a pedestrian street lined with shops and cafes in intricate old buildings. At the end of the street, we came to Kalemegdan Park. We walked through the beautiful tree filled area, stopping to look at the Monument of Gratitude to France and to enjoy the views over the Sava and Danube rivers. We continued on to explore the Belgrade Fortress and look at the famous statue of The Victor, Pobednik, a landmark of the city of Belgrade. We slowly made our way back to the apartment via the Student’s Park and another stop at the corner store. Later in the evening we walked around some more, weaving a spontaneous route. I was worn out by the end of the day, but loved seeing more of the beautiful city with my personal tour guide!
Monument of Gratitude to France
The next two days were cold and rainy, so we spent most of our time at the apartment. We made a lot of sandwiches using spicy pepperoni, ham, turkey, and/or a deli cut of meat from the neck of a cow that I was pleasantly surprised by. I accepted the challenge to prove I could cook, and prepared chicken, sautéed mushrooms, and an arugula and tomato salad. We had fun working together in the kitchen, both preparing food and cleaning up. When we needed a change of scenery, we spent some time at the small bar next-door, Teatar Café and Gallery. I loved that the walls were covered with photos from ballet, opera, and theater performances at the National Theater across the street, and Mihailo liked that the owner was nice and the drinks were cheap! We were also able to visit one of our friends from the ship at his new bar/restaurant. It was fun to catch up with an old friend. When he stopped working for the company, we joked that I’d see him in Belgrade, but I don’t think he believed he would!
View from Kalemegdan
The first week of my trip flew by. Despite being ill, I felt truly happy. The city was beautiful, friends and family were kind, and my guy was everything I could hope for and more. It felt like a dream!