Thursday, July 4, 2013

July 4th

If you work for the U.S. government, today is a holiday. Otherwise it's just another chtvertak. I made a three part plan for a walking excursion--two parts shopping and one part culture. I had been meaning to visit the ethnographic museum (I'm a big fan of the Balkan get-ups of the 19th century), and I was also in search of good coffee and a pan that I can use in the oven. On the coffee side, you can buy decent espresso, but I figured that there had to be some place with barrels of beans, who could adjust their grinders for the foreigner. This is what we had done in Skopje and Cairo, and I enjoyed my regular visits to local merchants.

I located the ethnographic museum on the Internet--it is downtown, not far from the Kalmegdan, probably about a 30 minute walk. Then I entered "coffee beans" "belgrade" into my search box, and it looked like a place called Koffein, about ten minutes away from the museum, had the stuff.

That left only the pan. Although my furnished apartment has everything I could ask for, it does not have a baking pan, or anything that might serve as one. There is an aluminum pot that I can use, but it's too small for most things, so I've been baking chicken and making french fries with aluminum foil. I could ask the landlady for help, but she's been so accommodating thus far that I don't want to ask for anything more.

I've seen some high-end stuff downtown, but there's something troubling about buying a $50 pan in a developing country, at least for me anyway. But I stumbled on someone's blog post about Metalac,a holdover from Yugoslavia, and how she loved their painted ovenware. I found the Metalac internet site and identified a merchant in the same neighbourhood as the museum and the coffee place. I had a plan.

I wrote the addresses down and headed off. In the wonderful tradition of countries that have thrown off the yoke of communism and gone back to the old street names, but for whom change comes slowly, the addresses were:
  • 13 Students Square
  • 65 Czar Dusan
  • 3 Stefan the Despot
I found my way pretty easily to the museum, and although I had to, um, circumnavigate the square, it was right there all the time. I paid my 150 dinars ($1.50) and went inside. The museum was two floors of exhibits
of typical costumes of the different regions and a look at life in days gone by. Well worth the buck fifty. The gift shop was closed, but after I tried the door, a lady appeared and opened it up. I bought a little knit purse with a long string so that Worldwide will never lose her glasses again and a small earthenware pot. The woman had said hello to me when we went in, but when I asked her if I could put this in the oven, she looked at me like the family dog when you try to reason with her. "Mozhem da je stavem vo forno?" I asked, trying the Macedonian with some Serbian pronouns sprinkled in. "Da da" she replied. I'll ask my colleagues tomorrow if I got the word for oven right, but I'm reasonably confident, and, besides it was only 3 bucks, Poppin' tags!

Photo: Za praznik rada radno !

It took me about 15 minutes to get to the coffee place, and they had the good stuff, although it wasn't cheap, about $7 for a half pound. We're in Starbucks territory here, but if it's good I'll go back. We will see tomorrow morning.

I continued up to the corner where Czar Dusan meets the Despot Stefan and #3 was about six blocks up. It was a small shop, with everything out of reach--just like in the good old days--but the stuff was handsome and inexpensive. I bought this pan for about $13, and if I like it, I might buy a big old stock pot to bring home.

After that, I decided that, since it was the Fourth of July, I should get a pleiskavica for lunch. There is an old cobblestone street called Skadarska that is lined with restaurants, and I decided to check there. But the restaurants were all empty, even though it was 12:30, so I decided to wander over to the Knieza Mihailova, the pedestrian zone, where the beautiful people in the WC like to drink coffee and stare into space.

I found a fast food joint with two ladies, one on the grill, the other at the register. "Izvolite?" one asked me, literally "what is your will" but the "can I help you of Serbian.. "Zhelam jedna pleiskavica," I said, and she rang it up, along with the tall Jelen I selected from the cooler. Less than three bucks for a big burger and a can of beer (well good god almighty, which way do I steer?). There was a tray of fixins, and she asked what I wanted. "Obichen," I said (the usual). She shrugged. "Shta e normalen?" I tried again. Same shrug. So I went with ketchup, mustard, onions and cabbage, eschewing the mayonnaise and cucumbers. Not bad. A delicious roll, but the meat had an odd consistency to it, and the cabbage didn't add anything. But I enjoyed it nonetheless, and it was fun to check a few things off of my list.

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