We have been in Serbia for 16 days already!
On one hand, it seems like time has flown, and on the other, it feels like we have been here for several months. Typically it takes a good amount of time to feel "at home" in a new place, and we feel like we were instantly accepted and invited into the Serbian culture. Before leaving the USA, I told everyone that, "I am so excited for this new adventure, and we plan on making the most of our time in Europe, but I expect the transition to be difficult at times." Fortunately, that has not been our experience at all - in fact, it has been such a smooth transition, that I find the only things I truly miss are my family, friends, and zip-lock bags.
Perhaps we feel so comfortable here because of Marko and Lela,
and maybe they're the Serbian friends that Chris and
I diligently prayed for.
This past Sunday afternoon, Chris and I spent 7 hours at Plato Books, the cafe and bookstore that is directly under our apartment. We wrote and read for an hour or so, and then we met Marko. Marko works at Plato Books, and you cannot miss his infectious smile and friendly nature. He introduced us to Milorad - his coworker and good friend - and he spoke about Serbia with such patriotism and excitement. Lucky for us, Sundays are slow at his cafe, so he was able to spend most of his shift entertaining American strangers. I feel like we quickly became friends, and he said he would love to help us with the Serbian language, and of course we offered to help him with English. His English is wonderful already, but he insists he must perfect it. Towards the end of the evening, we met Marko's beautiful girlfriend, Lela, and we set up a double-dinner-date for Tuesday.
This is Marko and Lela - at Plato Books, naturally! Although there are so many cafes in Subotica, I think that we have found our favorite already!
On Tuesday, Marko and Lela took us to one of their favorite restaurants called Battez. (I am sure I spelled it wrong!)
All of the food is from the Vojvodina Region in Serbia. This is the region that Subotica is in. We were so happy to try local food. Lela was shocked at how huge her portion was. She had beef that had been hammered out until it was thin and fried. It reminded me of a dish baba and mom used to make with chicken.
Look at our feast!! Marko, Chris and I enjoyed two different types of local "goulash." It all was so wonderful, but it was so much food!
Can you see us behind all of that food?! We had such a good evening - and time passed so quickly that we accidentally stayed a half hour after the restaurant closed. Ops! I hope the server was not too upset. Thank you Marko and Lela for taking us to our first REAL Serbian meal.
The past two mornings, I've met Lela at Plato Books for coffee and good conversation. She is a student, and since fall classes have not started, she has a little bit of free time on her hands. I bring my Serbian language book and read to her and she corrects my (often Russian) pronunciation, and she is able to practice her English with me. It has been great to share coffee with a friend! I love that in Serbia, it is typical and acceptable to drink 2-4 cups of coffee a day - often with different friends!
This morning, Marko was working, and he asked if I would like to look at a Serbian picture book. Below is the book that Marko brought for me to look through. Lela sweetly explained every picture and region pictured in this book.
"Serbia - at the Source" This outfit is a typical outfit from central Serbia. I am so excited because Lela is in a dance troop that performs Serbian dances. We will see one of her performances on Saturday.
I just wanted to share a few of the beautiful pictures in this book. Once Lela and I were through looking at all of the pictures, Marko insisted that I take the book and share it with Chris. He bought the book to welcome us to Serbia. I wish that you could meet the Serbian people - they are some of the most warm and hospitable people. There is a saying in Serbia that goes something like this, "Even if people have little money, they will still find enough money to go out to coffee and treat their friends."
I have already found this to be so true. People give so much - even if they have little.