Balkans 2014 travel blog

My typical lunch of grilled meat

Three choices of meat (beef, chicken, or pork)

Lots of choices for condiments

The chef at work

My train back to Beograd (Belgrade)

Today was spent on the train getting back to Beograd (Belgrad). On the way down to Niš, I had to take two trains. Not sure exactly why, but my train stopped and everyone had to get off. Then we all boarded another train. It was just as well, since this new train had a first class car (not just 2nd class cars). There was only one other passenger in the 1st class car and he spoke excellent English. So, we had a long conversation until he got off shortly before Niš. Meeting the locals is one of the reasons that I love to travel by train. Even though train travel here is exceeding slow and the trains usually arrive late, for me, it's very relaxing and often gives me insights into the local culture.

Imagine his surprise and my surprise when he boarded the train that I was taking back to Beograd. This particular train car had cabins with six passengers to a cabin. Since there happened to be a seat next to me, he sat down beside me and we got to chatting again.

As it happened, one of the other passengers in our 6-passenger cabin also spoke English, so the three of us had a long philosophical discussion about the former Yugoslavia and its various ethnic groups. One of the two passengers was Orthodox Christian and called himself a Serb. The other was a self-declared atheist and called himself a Slav. This often brought out strongly different opinions! Most of the conversations were in English. Some were in Serbian. Occasionally, we'd branch into another language, including French, German, Russian, and Greek. Unlike in American, being multilingual is common here.

One of them told a joke which I will try to relate here.

“The prime minister of Montenegro became furious with the United States. In a fit of rage, he acquired a nuclear bomb and launched it at the United States. Realizing his folly, we rushed to a bomb shelter and waited for the inevitable response. A day went by and nothing happened. Another day went by and still no response. After the third day, he emerged from the bomb shelter and called the White House. 'Why haven't you responded', he asked. The president said, 'We will bomb you out of existence! We will flatten your cities! But, our generals haven't yet been able to find Montenegro on a map.'”

Lots of people ask what I eat. Here in Serbia, nearly every restaurant serves “cevapa”. This typically consists of five sausages (about the size and taste of what we'd call “breakfast sausages”) stuffed inside a piece of bread (similar to what we'd call “Syrian” bread) with various garnishes, like chopped onion, slice tomato, etc. It's tasty but it's everywhere! It's hard to find anything else to eat.

Because we're close to Italy, some places serve pasta or pizza. Because we're close to Greece, some restaurants serve gyros. Then, there's the old standby of McDonalds. There's rarely anything else offered.

I'm getting tired of easting cevapa every day. Today, I had something a little different for lunch prior to boarding the train. Instead of grilled sausages, this restaurant had grilled meat patties. Not a huge difference, but still a little different. (See photos.) He offered a choice of three types of meat patties: beef, chicken, or pork. I chose pork because I've had so much beef and chicken.

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