Usually, Dolores would wake me with a cup of tea. But the room doesn’t have the promised kettle. Decent-sized teacups, which is a plus. But pretty useless if there’s nothing to boil water with. Instead, I’m offered a cup of milk. It’ll have to do.
We stroll through the city centre streets to the place we spotted yesterday, Restoran Mihailo. It’s not got too hot yet. We’d best appreciate it.
Sitting outside again, in the shade, it’s rather pleasant. Time for my coffee.
“What are you getting, Ronald?”
“I think I’ll have an espresso with milk.”
“Won’t that be too small? They have latte. That’ll be bigger.”
“OK. Latte, it is.” I find it best not to argue with Dolores. Life’s much more pleasant that way. Especially when she’s right.
Picking breakfast doesn’t take long. Bacon and sunnyside-up eggs. Sounds perfect. Dolores goes for sweet dumplings.
While waiting for our food to flop out, I have a look around at the other customers. Who, like us, mostly seem to be here for a spot of breakfast. Like the woman with what appears to be a bowl of roast peppers. Dead healthy.
My order is exactly what I wanted. Not huge, but perfectly formed. Well-deserving of a snap. And having broadband, I can send it immediately to the kids.
“That will cheer them up.” I say.
“Yeah sure. Andrew will be thrilled when he gets up this evening.”
Andrew isn’t exactly an early riser. In the winter, he rarely sees daylight.
Between Dolores’s Russian and my Czech, we can make some sense out of signs and menus. A big improvement on Korea.
Which is how we were able to work out what the little electric things were that kept coming and going outside the Irish pub yesterday. It’s a free service thing that does a circular route around the city. Down various pedestrianised streets. A free city tour. And they start right next to our breakfast location.
We jump on one. And move smoothly and serenely through the city. The plan is to get off at the next to last stop. Which is next to the National Museum. Our destination for today.
When Dolores says: “We need to get off here.” I assume that we’re at the National Museum. After we’ve got off, I realise that’s not where we’re headed. Dolores spotted a pub and we’re going there. She really is a wonderful woman.
We plonk our arses in the terrace of Venčac, as the pub is called. And get ourselves a bottle of Jelen Svetlo each. It’s OK, in a lagery sort of way.
“I noticed a supermarket just down the road. A larger one. I’ll go and see if they have any wine.”
Giving me a chance to closely observe the old chavs slowly plodding past the terrace up and down the hill. Feeling a deep bond. Most seem as reluctant to shave as I am.
As Dolores is away at the supermarket, I order myself a slivovic. It’s full of spirity goodness. So much so, I get a second.
A couple of boys aged around ten come and sit down. That’s odd. When they get themselves some food, I realise that they’re here for lunch. Which consists of a sandwich about the size of their heads.
A group of old blokes arrive and turfs the two kids out of what must be their favourite spot. But not in a nasty or aggressive way.
“What’s that, Ronald?” Dolores asks on her return, pointing at my slivovic.
“A slivovic. I’ve only had the one.” Which is almost true. I’ve only finished one. I’ve still got half the second one left. I didn’t say this was the first one.
Dolores has a bag full of goodies from the supermarket. A litre of white wine, a bottle of some quince spirit. And some vegetable stuff.
The boys don’t manage to finish off their sarnies. They were totally out of scale for them. Though later Dolores says:
“I see they still have room for ice cream.” As she spots them later walking down the street, licking on cones.
When I go for a slash, I get a chance to check out the interior. Next to the counter, there’s a tiny taproom, with room to seat perhaps four anorexics. At the rear is a small room decked out as a restaurant. Pretty cosy.
We don’t stay for a second beer. Instead, walking up the hill and around the corner to the National Museum.
What had I been expecting of the museum? Nothing much, on reflection. And I’m very pleasantly surprised. In addition to all the ancient stuff, there’s a pretty decent collection of European paintings from the 17th to 19th centuries. I’m particularly struck by a couple of the exhibits.
I’ve become so emotional as I’ve aged. I suspect it has something to do with having the kids. Who really connected me to my emotional side. A 17th-century portrait of a woman just looks so alive. Her skin so real. Its beauty literally brings tears to my eyes. I can barely speak as words crack and clog in my throat.
A little further along there’s a Degas sketch. A simple little thing, But the figures are so animated, you can almost see them move and hear them task. Tears swell in my eyes and I’m left speechless. Literally, as in unable to speak. Just thinking about it as I write these words has tears streaming down my face.
Obilićev venac 16,
Carice Milice 10,
National Museum of Serbia
Trg republike 1а,