Get Back in your Car!

Well hello there Horgos border crossing!

Last week, we were expecting our first guest in Serbia! I thoroughly cleaned the apartment, planned out every day, and just couldn't wait to welcome my mom to our new world. A warm hug from home and momma's cooking were within reach, but I knew that we could not get to Budapest Airport without first paying a visit to Mr. Horgos. There are horror stories of 6 hour back-ups during the summer months at this border crossing, but I've been lucky to never idle for more than 30 minutes. 

That all changed on Saturday. 

On Saturday morning, Chris and I rolled up to Horgos and joined what seemed like a jumbled mess of vehicles. "Where should we go? Is this a line - or is it only for EU passport holders? Do you think that line is moving faster?" From what we could see, two narrow lanes eventually funneled into three or four rows (depending on how many border officials were working), but it was a fight to secure a spot in "line." Lines are a funny thing in Serbia, and I have not quite figured them out yet. When you are standing in any Serbian line, you must forget personal space and get as close to the person in front of you so as to avoid sneaky line-cutters. Any space in line will absolutely be filled, and if you protest a line-cutting-violation, you'll be met with a shocked look that seems to say, "Oh, where did you come from? I didn't even see you standing there." On Saturday, I realized that lines at the boarder crossing work the same way. 

The twist is that half of the drivers don't stay in their cars. We could not figure out what was going on! Every time the line inched forward, the walkers would run back to their cars, move up an inch or two, and then get out and walk around again! Did we miss the memo that it was social hour at Horgos? Did everyone know their border line neighbors? Were they hoping that if the border patrol saw them, perhaps another line would open up? Were they looking for the nearest bathroom? Maybe they were scouting out the best place to cut-line? Some drivers even turned off their engines, and physically pushed their cars forward to conserve gas and stay outside.  

The problem was that often people could not get back in their cars right when the line started moving, and you guessed it, sneaky line-cutters filled the void! They just slid right on in, and no one seemed to care! I almost went crazy! "Chris, did you see that guy?! No one is honking; no one is yelling!" Good thing my calm husband does a lot of the driving. I would have laid on the horn and made a scene. Of course that would not have helped anything, and I would just be the insensitive, impatient American. 

Maybe I have something to learn from these line shenanigans in Serbia. Patience, and tolerance for my fellow man is a place to start, and I am sure that there are other lessons there too. 

All I know is that it took us an hour to pass through Mr. Horgos. I determined that no passport stamp is worth holding your place in that line for 6 hours, so we'll have to figure out how to beat the system once summer rolls back around. 


Farewell Serbian Summer

I am desperately trying to hold onto the first season that 
welcomed me to Subotica, Serbia. 

Over the past three months, summer slowly melted into fall and then recently took a drastic turn towards winter. In Subotica, you don't control your own heating unit; rather you wait for the city to decide when you and your neighbors deserve a little indoor heat. For about a week, Chris and I bundled up and prayed for the Mayor and his "people" to decide that it was too cold to live without a little warmth coming from our heating units. The heaters were finally turned on, and with the changing weather, cafe lined streets morphed into desolate sidewalks. Fashionable boots and high top sneakers replaced casual sandals, and ice cream became almost impossible to find. Winter is here, and it's time to stubbornly unpack my sweaters and bundle up with the rest of them. 

Farewell to my first Serbian summer. 

This picture perfectly sums up my first Serbian summer. Chris and I had made a trip to Palic to read and relax, but I was more interested in people watching. I quickly took a picture of these four elderly people just soaking up the final rays of summer on the lake. They read, munched on sunflower seeds, talked way too loud (probably about politics), showered off several times, and just had a grand time with each other. 

A peaceful time with community - that is what summer in 
Serbia felt like for me. 

Although outdoor seating disappeared just as quickly as highs in the mid-80's, you can still enjoy a cappuccino INSIDE Plato Books. Peace and community can still be found indoors, but I am already missing the warmth of my first Serbian summer. 

Summer is not that far away - right? Don't laugh. I know that it will get a lot colder before it gets warmer in Serbia. Chris and I have traded our summer clothes in for dark winter jackets and wool scarves, But my summer clothes are not too far away . . . just in case I can find an excuse for a trip to Turkey or Greece. Doesn't that sound grand about now?!


A Little Piece of (Serbian) Heaven.

It may not conjure up images of fluffy clouds and chubby cherubs, but Subotica's outdoor market is my own little piece of 'heaven.'

Market bliss is within walking distance from my home; 8 minutes each way to be exact. You will never find green tomatoes wearing "Made in the Bahamas" stickers, and everything is healthy, fresh and pesticide free. Walking down the isles, I often feel like I am judging a beauty contest. "Now, which apples look better, is that the best price here for broccoli, and are those really nectarines?" While everything is cheap, my favorite game is to see how much I can purchase with as little money as possible. I never barter (although I have been told that it is acceptable and expected), but I get a good lay-of-the-land before buying anything. None of the vendors speak English, so the market is the only place that forces me to practice my Serbian. I still use hand gestures and creative facial expressions, but I am starting to get more confident with the language. With my limited Serbian, I have even met a few of the vendors, and every time I visit the market, the first place I run is to Maria and her shiitake mushroom stand. 

Our Serbian friends always chuckle when I talk about the market, it's as if they're thinking, "Ohhh, you silly American, you will get sick of all this soon enough." 

But how do you get bored with such a place? You can find just about anything that you need at the market - except, of course, for the kitchen sink. Unless your kitchen sink is plastic, and if that's the case, then you are in luck. 

The plastic store for all your plastic needs. 
My favorite little flower lady. 

There are several butchers at the outdoor market, but I am yet to brave the meat line. Darko told me that this meat is definitely more fresh than meat in the supermarkets, but I still haven't made the big switch. 

Tasty fresh apples. 

18 dinars for a kilogram of potatoes comes out to about .20 cents. Onions are also really cheap at the market. On one trip, I paid .5 cents for 5 mini onions. Housewife score! Shopping and saving, shopping and saving. 

On a recent trip, I carried my monogramed tote bag (thanks mother-in-law for the thoughtful gift) to the market, and this is what I came home with. My frugal side came out, and I purchased everything pictured for $2.50! 

Now you know why I say that the outdoor market is one of my favorite places! You are more than welcome to come and visit us in Subotica. 

I promise to introduce you to my own little piece of (Serbian) heaven. 


Safety First!

To my Serbian readers - I am sorry - but I just had to snap a picture when I saw this handyman getting to work on a busy Belgrade sidewalk. I know that this is a scene you see every day, and it would never cause you to look twice. 

I looked twice. 

My mouth gaped. 

My eyes bulged.

I instinctively avoided the flying sparks, 

and walked to the other side of the street. . . 

(. . but then I doubled back and got as close as I dared to snap this picture)

I watched sparks hit the rear of the white car seen in this picture. 

What about the people at the cafe not two meters away from his "construction project?"

Would the sparks catch someones hair on fire?

Everything inside of me wanted to scream: 


Where were his ear plugs, eye protection, gloves, and steel-toed-boots?!? 

I wanted to throw a bag of safety items at him. 

If only I had 'said' safety bag with me. 

Now, before you think that I am totally off my rocker. . . 

. . . there is a reason for my exaggerated reaction. 

I promise.

Before Chris and I moved to Serbia, I worked for a municipal insurance company in the States. If it explains anything, I worked mostly in the Loss Control Department. In fact, I had a large amount of grant money each year that was specifically used to purchase safety items. For about six months of every year, I worked, ate, played and dreamt "safety." If a city needed reflective clothing for its workers, specific boots for winter, or Tasers for police, I was their girl. I loved my job and I thoroughly enjoyed our safety program. After all, I helped keep people safe, and the trade out was that my company paid out less in insurance claims. 

The negative side was that due to my job responsibilities, I started noticing safety "issues" everywhere. Chris could not stand on a chair to fix a light bulb without a nagging, "get down, you'll fall and break your neck. Slips, trips, and falls are our worst claims!" If I noticed a teen driver texting in the car next to me, I glared until I got his/her attention and I furiously pointed at the "no texting while driving" sticker on my windshield. 

Yup, I became that girl. 

I guess moving to Serbia has not erased my ingrained sense of safety. 

At least I only thought about harassing this man on the busy Belgrade street. 

I did not act on my urge. 

Can you imagine me as a mother?! I sure can't.

I might be a paranoid (but safe) mess of a mother. 


Stunning St. Sava

The Orthodox Temple of St. Sava is a must see for anyone visiting the city of Belgrade, Serbia. Although, it is hard to miss as it covers 3,500 square meters (37,674 square feet - including the gold cross atop the dome), and towers 82 meters (269 feet) over the city of Belgrade. Dedicated to the founder of the Serbian church, St. Sava, the church is built on the location where the Saint is believed to have been burned in 1595.

St. Sava's story is a one of vision and inspiration stalled by numerous wars and political change. As I gazed up at this stunning building, I could not help but think that the story of St. Sava in many ways mirrors the story of this region. There is so much potential and beauty in Serbia, both in the people and in the land, but so much is worn out and unfinished due to poor leadership and lack of money. 

Here is a (very) brief timeline of the Orthodox Temple of St. Sava:

- 1595 - St. Sava is believed to have been burned on the site by the Turkish Sinan Pasha

- 1895 (300 years later) - A Society is formed and the idea for the Temple is born. A small temple was placed on the site and later removed when construction actually started on St. Sava. 

- 1905 - The Society asks for original designs for the proposed Temple. Only 5 applications were received, and all were rejected. 

- 1912 - The First Balkan War that was shortly followed by the Second Balkan War = no more work on St Sava. 

- 1926 - The Society asks for another round of original Temple designs, and this time 22 aplications were received. The winning architect chosen for the building was Aleksandar Deroko.

- May 1935 - Construction finally begins; 40 years after the initial dream. Talk about perseverance. 

- 1941 - Bombings of Belgrade = no more work on St. Sava, and the Germans used the unfinished church as a place to park their vehicles. 

- 1984 - After a lot of requests to continue construction, a new architect was chosen, Branko Pesic, and building started up again in 1985. 

- 1989 - After 40 days of intense labor, the 4000 ton dome was added to complete the exterior of St. Sava. 

- Today - The exterior of the Temple is magnificent and complete, but once you enter, you're met with a blank canvas. Apparently the money is all in place, but the plan is to cover the interior walls and dome with detailed frescos. Such a task will take time and a whole lot of man-power. This is a beautiful and historical building, and a very important piece of Serbia's history. 

The massive and unfinished interior of St. Sava in Begrade, Serbia
The columns are completed in a beautiful, dark, green marble. I assume they're covered up to protect from dust and construction hazards.

The only completed frescos in St. Sava. 
The symbolic lighting of candles. 
Naturally - I had to get this shot. Now I have to get one with Chris!
Beautifully lit St. Sava at night. 


Fierce Fashion in Belgrade.

I'm not one to get sucked into any particular TV series, and I'd never be bothered to wait around the house for a reality show to air.   

Well, maybe there's one. Just one. 

America's Next Top Model. It's my guilty pleasure. When we lived in the US, I would ask Chris to TiVo an entire season, and then as time allowed, I "forced" him to sit with me and watch the aspiring models strut their stuff on the runway. 

Tyra Banks - ohhh how I love her in that show! Tyra - always trying to see the model in each woman -  encouraging them to rise above their insecurities - begging them to bring out their FIERCE side - helping them perfect their signature walk/pose - and always telling them to "Smise!" (Smile with your eyes.) Every episode found me imitating their poses and of course, "smise-ing."

"Look at me! What do you think honey? Could I get on this show. I am getting good at this "smise" thing!!"

"Ohh for sure baby, you were made for the runway. . . too bad you're about two feet too short."

Crushed dreams! Tyra would be so disappointed. 

In any case, I loved the show, and Chris had a way of picking the winner at the beginning of each season. I never agreed with his predictions, but in the end he was always right. Deep down, I think he enjoyed the show, but he insisted that he only watched America's Next Top Model with me so that I would reciprocate and sit through a little pro football with him on Sunday. 

Come on now - shockingly beautiful women vs. sweaty, 300 pound linemen jiggling their stuff all over the field? 
Take your pick. 

That was a terribly long introduction to my Fierce Fashion - Belgrade Blog.

The Pozoriste na Terazijama Theater - found on Google. 
When David invited me and the Real Housewife of Belgrade to come to the Herbafast Fashion Selection Show at Pozoriste na Terazijama Theater, of course we accepted! Tyra would have been so proud, and after all, I had been without America's Next Top Model for far too long. It was time to see what Belgrade had to offer the fashion world. It was also my first invite to a real fashion show. 

Thank you for inviting us, David!
David's company, The Hungarikum Centar, was one of the event sponsors. If I may say so myself, they were the only sponsor anyone paid attention to because they handed out champagne at intermission. Forget flyers and yogurt samples; everyone made their way to The Hungarikum Centar booth for a little mid-show bubbly. It was fabulous champagne as well!

Monica Belucci inspired design. 

The first five designers were showing pieces that exemplified the style of famous Italian stars. From Monica Belucci to Isabella Rossellini, the pieces were all stunning.

My favorite dress. 
From the back - and of course she is smoking. 

Drinking one of the sponsor drinks. Great marketing!
Lighting up and drinking on stage. Why not?!
Make a statement!
Spotted this guy at intermission. Seemed that he really wanted to be part of the show, so I took a picture just to give him a little bit of the "limelight." He is also wearing a golden-deer-ornament-thing around his waist. Maybe it was his belt buckle? Interesting. . . 

 The second segment of the show was a winter collection complete with a winter set and falling snow. Visually it was amazing! In my opinion, it was more interesting than watching models walk an empty runway. I included a few pictures below. Enjoy!

Where can we find these shoes? Aren't they fabulous?! 
Go get your green leggings for winter. 

The venue was lovely and it was full of important people, but since it was my first time in Belgrade, I had no idea who anyone was. Apparently the blond woman on the right is famous. Does anyone know who she is? David mentioned her name, but I forgot! Maybe I should start carrying a notepad with me

My first fashion show was stunning, and hopefully there will be more to come!

Cao for now!


First Time in Belgrade

. . but definitely not my last. 

After 11 weeks in Serbia, I figured it was time for a visit to the bustling metropolis of Belgrade. Chris headed out to work, and my backpack and I made our way towards the Subotica bus station. Luckily the woman at the counter spoke a little English, but just in case I had memorized enough Serbian to purchase a direct ticket to Belgrade. Savvy traveler Note - there is a bus that stops at a lot of little towns on the way to Belgrade, and one that is direct. Three hours later on the direct bus, I watched Belgrade slowly come into view. The dark clouds and spitting rain gave the city an ominous and dreary appearance, but I was still excited to explore another part of my new home. 

The Real Housewife of Belgrade met me at the bus station and while navigating complicated traffic patterns, she pointed out a few interesting sites.  I dropped my backpack off at her place and we hit the streets with her cute little puppy and our umbrellas. As soon as we started walking around, the rain stopped and although it was still a little chilly, at least we were dry. 

The National Museum of Serbia  - currently closed for renovations. 
We made our way through Republic Square, and surprisingly it was not all that crowded. I attribute the lack of hustle and bustle to the drastic change in weather. Whatever it was, it was great to so easily navigate a city of nearly 2 million people. My tour guide commented that Republic Square is a common meeting place, although it may not seem that way on such a blustery day. In the picture above, I am standing in front of the stature of Prince Michael and the National Museum of Serbia in the background. The museum is the largest and oldest in Serbia, but unfortunately it is closed for renovations that will cost an estimated 26 million euros. That's a lot of money!

We walked through the pedestrian only shopping area of Knez Mihailova Street, and I had to take a picture of these four characters. What were they marketing?? A donut, coffee cup, banana, and . . . a radish?? We could not figure it out, but they seemed to enjoy all of the attention they were getting.

 There were little stands all over Knez Mihailova Street that were selling chestnuts! I had never had a chestnut, and The Real Housewife of Belgrade mentioned that you could no longer get them in the states. After singing "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire . . . " we bought our own and snacked on them as we made our way towards Belgrade Fortress. 

I took way too many pictures of Belgrade Fortress, but I will post a later blog specifically about the fortress. There is just too much to write about and I don't want to bore you! This monument is called "The Victor" - the protector of Belgrade. 

This is the Supermarket Concept Store, and I want to live here! Part clothing and home decorating store, part cafe/bar; it is unbelievable. 

As we walked through restaurant lined Skadarlija Street, the Real Housewife of Belgrade suddenly bent down to pick up a cell phone that had lost its owner. She explained that she had once lost a cell phone in Belgrade, but whoever found it, never took the time to track down the rightful owner. She went through the contacts and placed a call to "dear husband," he would most definitely know the owner. "Dear husband" was totally confused and the language barrier did not make communication any easier. As she was on the phone, a waiter from a nearby restaurant frantically ran up to us. "I know who that cell phone belongs to," he hurriedly exclaimed. "Please come with me." 

 We ducked into a well known restaurant and were greeted by an excited woman in her 40's. She grabbed each of our faces and kissed us over and over again. "Thank you thank you thank you," was all that she could say as she clutched her prodigal cell phone. She insisted that we take a seat and enjoy a drink on the house. We politely tried to duck back out, but they would not let us leave. It does not take too much to get a glass of red wine in my hands, so we finally agreed to the kind offer. A platter of desserts came out with our wine, and about 15 minutes later, a pitcher of wine also made its way to our table. They were so happy, and I was touched by their outward display of gratefulness. Would this ever happen in the US of A. . . over a cell phone??

We said many thanks as we shook hands, kissed again and again, and parted ways. 

Beautiful St. Sava at night. 
 We had a few more adventures in Belgrade, but I will save them for the next couple blog posts. I will wrap this up with a couple more pictures. 

 A sunny afternoon in the park. 

Where's the SAFETY?!
I used to work in the safety and loss control department of an insurance company, so this scene made me look twice. Where are his goggles and gloves and protective foot wear?! Thought my former co-workers would get a kick out of this picture. 

 If you ever get to Belgrade, visit Mama's Biscuit House for dessert (not biscuits). 

Just to make you hungry, that piece of gooey chocolate cake was mine, and I ate every last bite of it. 
To die for!


Shakespeare in Subotica.

I HAVE to find a gym!

(I will get to Shakespeare, but I have to set up the story.) 

GYM! It was (almost) the first items of business when I stepped foot in Subotica, Serbia. I knew that I would be alone for most of the week, and figured that maybe I could make a few friends while at the same time working on my fitness. 

I discovered Hotel Galleria and was told that I could pay a monthly fee to use their gym. I immediately signed up and unpacked my ratty gym clothes, ready to hit the gym, run and sweat. It didn't take long to  realize that the gym was a place for serious body-builders and their head-turning, scantily clad, buxom beauties. I wish that I had a picture of these women, because you would expect to see them posing in a dirty magazine, not sitting on the abdominal machine in a your local gym. 

Even if I did have a picture of them, I wouldn't post it in this blog! Inappropriate!

But seriously, you wouldn't believe it unless you saw it for yourself!

I was totally out of place at the gym. . . 

Maybe I exaggerate just slightly. While there were nearly nude models on the treadmills next to me every morning, there were perfectly normal women at the gym, who like myself, were just trying to stay in shape. 

I made at least one friend at the gym . . . Olja. 

I met Olja in the locker room. She was my first new friend, and she gave me a great first impression of Serbia. We introduced ourselves, and asked all of the typical "lets get acquainted" questions. When I told her that I was from Oregon, she excitedly shared that in high school, she had spent a year in Portland, Oregon!! I was shocked and excited to meet someone who knew a little bit about my home state. 

We met about two months ago . . . 

These days, Olja and I occasionally meet for coffee in between her crazy schedule. She is the theater director here; and in Subotica, live theater is more popular than going to the movies. In fact, no one really goes to see movies because there are so many great live shows!

For my birthday, Olja gifted me with second row VIP tickets to the season opener of Shakespeare's "Comedy of Errors." 
The playbill.
 Of course it was in Serbian, but we still managed to understand (some of) the play!

My notes!
I read over the cliff-notes before the play and summarized every scene. During the play, Chris and I read over these notes and tried to decipher who was who, what was going on, and who is the guy wearing boxers on stage . . . . ??

The set was great, there was a lot of singing and they added their own creative spin on the well known Shakespeare play. 

Curtain Call
Chris and I were sitting next to three young people who were speaking both Serbian and English. At the end of the play, one of the actors ran off stage and presented a diamond (engagement) ring to one of the girls sitting next to us. I thought it was part of the show, but the young lady did not look pleased with the shiny little gift. After the play, we met them and found out that the proposal was not "part" of the play, but rather a last ditch effort to mend a broken relationship. AKWARD!! She was angry and not really in a mood to meet new people and discuss her relationship woes. We quickly said, "nice to meet you," and went on our way. 

I loved the show even though I could not understand all of it. There is something about theater that transcends language barriers. At the end of the show, Chris and I were about to leave, and a camera and mic were shoved in my face. I explained that I could not speak Serbian that well, but they insisted I give a review of the show. So, I did. . . in English. Maybe I will be on the news in Subotica? I never cease to embarrass Chris. Sorry, honey!

Me and Olja at the end of the show. The pictures behind us are all of the theater stars in Subotica. 

Thank you for the birthday gift, Olja! Chris and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.