It’s nice to meet a friend again. I have one more chance to be sent from work to Serbia to work in the office and meet our colleagues there. As on my last visit in winter, Uros also takes me in in spring. And he has grown. He introduces me to his adorable girlfriend Milica. She comes from North Macedonia, is a prospective doctor and also invites me directly to defend her doctoral thesis.
It turns out I have some origin in a chain of events that led to the two meeting.
We have again our traditional breakfast at the Serbian restaurant around the corner, of course with uštipci and kajmak, ajvar and rakya.
Of course we also go to Uro’s second home, the Pivopia. There, Milica actually orders a chocolate beer! Not only am I appalled that something like this exists, but that someone is drinking it too. It will be my future point of attack and running gag with her.
I’m putting my foot in it for that too. Both look at me as I have a piece of beef for the main course after a fish soup as a starter. That is not how it works. And when I pile peppers and potatoes together on my plate at the buffet, the two really ask me if I’m still sane…
When we’re not in the office, we make full use of our free time together again. Besides trips in Serbia to an impressive castle on the Danube, a Roman excavation and Uro’s homeland around Vrnjačka Banja, we also do things in Belgrade and go to places I haven’t seen yet. This time we also want to visit the National Gallery. And we’re doubly lucky.
The security guard at the entrance tells us that admission is free today (excuse me?), and then there is a classical concert by the students of the conservatory in the auditorium. Fantastic.
The gallery has it all. From finds from paleontological excavations from the Ice Age, traces of the Celts and Romans to modern works by Picasso, van Gough and Monet as well as local artists, everything is represented in this collection.
We visit the bank of the Ava and drive to a nearby hill with the city forest.
Here you have the best view of the city with a mala puna.
A new Interventure office has opened in Novi Sad. We take the opportunity to try out the premises and meet Uro’s family.
The office has charm and is located right in the city center. It is decorated as wonderfully as in Belgrade and from the roof terrace you can see all over the old town.
In order to relieve Uros and see other perspectives of the city, I look for Couchsurfing hosts. Natasha is from Russia and works in a company with other Russians, Ukrainians and Serbs. You can tell her tension. Russia under Vladimir Putin has just invaded Ukraine. The Ukrainians in her team are directly affected. Like the Russians on her team, she condemns the attack and curses her president for this madness. She now feels like a leper.
She wants to go on vacation, but sanctions against Russia mean she can hardly go anywhere. And where she can go, she is not welcome because of her background. And she can’t go to Russia either. She is afraid. Afraid of what they say on social media and afraid of being among people who support this war. Interestingly, the biggest supporters of Russia’s aggression are, of all people, the Serbs – also in their company.
I have a nice couple of evenings in the city’s nightlife. An insider tip is the “Maska” bar. Rarely have I seen a more beautiful ambience.
The return journey turns out to be very strenuous. While I flew to Belgrade in the Easter travel madness and the airports were “surprised” by the rush, I come with my return flight right into the next Easter travel madness, since the festival takes place two weeks later in orthodox Serbia.
In Belgrade, too, one is surprised to see a rush of holidaymakers at the counters. It doesn’t look any better when I arrive in Basel, after all the Easter guests are already traveling back to Germany, France and Switzerland. It takes time, but the journey was worth it again.