June 28, 2010

I was home for all of 13 hours.

After spending the better part of a day on the train coming back from Italy, I did some emergency laundry and went to bed so I could get to the station for the 5:23am train to Ljubljana (the one I had sworn never to take).  But I had to get to Ljubljana early to meet up with Dane for another very long day on the train – this time to Serbia.  By the time we arrived in Novi Sad about 7pm, we made straight for the pizzeria across from the train station like we hadn’t eaten all day.  Oh, wait…  We missed both the Slovenian (who lost) and US matches (who has since lost) but arrived just in time for the start of Serbia (who also lost – does anyone else see a pattern here?).

Novi Sad from Petrovaradin Fortress.

Novi Sad.

We were in Novi Sad for an academic conference on “geotourism” with a mix of geographers, geologists and tourism specialists mostly from Central Europe and the UK.  There were 2 full days of presentations (including my own) and a 1 day field excursion in Vojvodina province (despite the near-Tuscan climatic conditions) that was run by the geologists.  I now know more about loess than I could have imagined.

Loess.

The Danube. At a loess site.

For the foodies – ah, so much food…so little space.  One day for lunch, Dane and I went to a little restaurant with big wood slab tables/benches and had krompirača.  There were big skillets filled with concentric rings of stuffed pastries (presumably a cousin to Slovenia’s burek), in this case, potato.  They cut out and weighed each portion and served it with a thin yogurt.  Two portions of that, one serving of a jabolka slatke version (a sweeter apple-filled pastry), a beer and a water cost us 500 dinars – about 5 euros.

The other day, I went into the city center with Tijanna who had come up from Beograd.  She had heard that the thing to have in Novi Sad was an “index sandwich”.  It took us a while to find a stand that made these sandwiches, but the woman there enthusiastically made us enormous sandwiches of toasted buns with grilled cheese, ham, veggies, sour cream and a chili sauce, and wrapped them so we could eat while we walked around the city.  That cost all of 120 dinars apiece.

We had very nice dinners  at the conference every evening (interestingly enough in the lobby of the faculty) with various types of cold meats and cheeses, breads, at least two kinds of meats as an entree, cooked and pickled vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, sweet peppers, mushrooms, purple cabbage and eggplant), salad that resembled an unseasoned coleslaw, and pastries or cake.  One night I asked my table full of Serbians if this was typical food.  They told me there were too many vegetables.

At night, we went into the center to listen to live music.  We saw a couple of cover bands playing a combination of classic American rock songs and Serbian rock.  We also went to a basement pub for ethnic Serbian music – the kind where everyone sings along.  The guys translated some of the lyrics for me, but it’s probably one of those things that are lost in translation.

For Dragan, Nemanja and Stevan – who showed me a “typical” Saturday night in Novi Sad that was anything but typical for me – you guys have ensured that I will always have great memories of Serbia!  I hope to be back sooner rather than later…

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