Thursday 21 September 2023

To Belgrade! (part two)

We go all the way to the bus’s city-centre terminus. On the map, it didn’t look far to our hotel. It isn’t that far. It’s just that the intervening space is all uphill. And it’s like an obstacle course. No fun when dragging luggage behind you.

The street in front of the hotel is all dug up. With workmen scurrying around laying a new pavement.

Reception is on the first floor. A very high first floor. And there’s no lift. Did I mention that it’s hot? Very hot. An unseasonal 30º C. With the walk from the bus stop and ascending the stairs, I’m a ball of sweat.

It’s unmanned. On the door a phone number is given. We need to ring that to get the access code for the front door. Just as well I got that Serbian sim. Once inside, our room key is waiting for us on the front desk.

Thankfully, the air-conditioning is top-notch. Soon I’m cooled to a reasonable temperature. It’s time to fire up my flipflop and look for a supermarket. To stock up on a few essentials. Like beer and slivovic

There seems to be one just a couple of hundred metres away. So, off there we head.

Of course, it’s uphill. And some steps. So much fun in this heat.

No sign of a supermarket at the address. Bum. What to do? We go in search of a pub to regroup. We wander along a city-centre street lined with pubs and restaurants. Where to go? Eventually, we settle on an Irish pub. With the inspired name of Irish Pub.

I’m not tempted by the Guiness (sic). Instead, we both plump for Nikšićko Pivo. A pale Lager thing. It’s OK. And just 3 euros for a half litre.

“I’m surprised by how many of the shops’ signs are in the Roman rather than the Cyrillic alphabet. I wonder why that is?”

“No idea.”

While Dolores is away at the toilet, I order the cheapest spirit on the menu. Gorki List, 2.50 euros for 5 cl. With my first sip. I had a linguistic revelation

One of the differences between Czech and most other Slavonic languages is the letter “h”. It pretty well all the others, a “g” takes its place. So, Czech “hovno”  is “govno” is in all the other slavonic languages I’ve come across.

I can still remember a surprising amount of Czech vocabulary. Despite not having really used the language in the last couple of decades. Swap out that “g” for an “h” and you get “horki”. That’s why it’s so scorchingly bitter. I think, as I recall that “hořký”, is the Czech for “bitter”. Pity I didn’t remember that before ordering.

“What’s that, Ronald?” Dolores asks on her return from the bog.

“Something to help settle my stomach. A bitter.” I say, trying to cover up my mistake.

“Right. That’s a good excuse. How much does it cost?”

“Not much.” I’m not telling my own truth this time.

When we leave, we notice that a place over the road has some interesting-looking breakfast options. Could be a good spot for a bit of brekkie tomorrow.

On the way out, we noticed a smallish supermarket and that’s where we now head.

We get some French bread and some stuff to put on it: cheese, ham and some other sliced meat. Not totally sure what it is. Looks nice, mind. I’m sure that word means “roast”. Must be good, then.

The booze section is rather disappointing. Nothing stronger than beer. Especially disappointing for Dolores, because she fancies some wine. She’s lucky. I’m having to forgo spirits. Total disaster. Do they not allow supermarkets to sell booze.?

Luckily, there’s a wine shop almost opposite our hotel. I get some slivovic and crafty-looking beer/ The wine is far outside Dolores’s price range. That is, what she’s willing to pay.

Back in our room, we nibble a little on our nosh. And I try out my slivovic. While flicking through the TV channels. There don’t seem to be any foreign ones. At least not in languages I know.

In my pre-trip research, I found a couple of beery places fairly close to our hotel. Time to try them out. The first, Gradska Pivnica Terazije is on a big boulevard, flanked by rather grand buildings. Just past the impressive Hotel Moskva. We wander up there just after six and plonk our arses down outside.

“Do they have food?” Dolores asks. The menu only lists drinks.

“It doesn’t look like it.”

Doubting whether they have any food, we stroll around the corner to the second place, Samo Pivo. Down a much less impressive street. Which, despite being fairly narrow, is partially lined by seven- and eight-storey buildings.

Mmm … Where is the fucker. After a while, we realise that it doesn’t exist any more. Instead, we sit in the pub which has replaced it. Beery, it isn’t. There’s no food, either. And the beer (Lav) we order is rather sour. Well, that went well.

We return to the first pub. And ask for the food menu. As they do sell food. Well done me, I say.

They have 22 draught beers. Including lots of dull international stuff, like Heineken and Carlsberg. I can resist those. We both decide on local beers: Zaječarsko svetlo (pale) for Dolores and Zaječarsko tamno (dark) for me. They’re OK. Mine has a pleasant caramel flavour.

Neither of us being that hungry, we opt for small dishes. A salad for Dolores. A sausage and crisps for me. A slightly odd combination. Dolores is happy with her choice. Especially the cheese topping it.

We don’t stay out too late. Returning to the air-conditioned delight of our room. And the slivovic I bought earlier. Which eases me into sleepland.

Irish Pub Gecko
Obilićev venac 17,
Beograd 11000.

Samo Pivo
Balkanska 13,
Beograd 11000.

Gradska Pivnica Terazije
Terazije 28,
Beograd 11000'


Bruce said...

A Serbian-American friend introduced me to the delights of Balkan music, food, and booze. My favorite Balkan beer I've been able to try here on the west coast of the US so far is Karlovacko from Croatia. Last time I tried it, it was a little stronger (around 5.5 ABV?), hoppier, and more fruity-estery than your typical European factory lager.

It goes very nice with garlicky pljeskovica or cevapcici with ajvar and sour cream on grilled homemade bread and Saban Bajramovic and his brass band thumping on the speakers.

Anonymous said...

You are a brave man for going to Belgrade Ron.