The beginning of my Balkan Odyssey is uneventful. It's a short hop from Skopje to Belgrade, but the flight attendants still manage to serve us a snack. And it's free!
Imagine being treated like a human by an airline. Thank you Serbian Air.
Ivan, my host, greets me at the airport with a "Jud Dolphin" sign in bold letters. It's not that I'm likely to miss him. He's almost 7 feet and was a professional basketball player. On our way into the old town of Belgrade, we pass through the Soviet section of mostly cement block buildings. It's the same throughout Eastern Europe. Ivan tells me, "they had no style." I have to agree.
I get settled in a lovely room with a bright balcony - made for morning coffees and afternoon blogging or maybe even a watercolor.
Then it's off for a stroll and a traditional Serbian meal. Ivan has made a suggestion. As I walk into the place, the owner, greets me with a warm hello. When she hears me speak, she knows I'm from a-way. When I tell her Washington DC, she says, "Obama!" and asks me about Trump. I say, ne ne ne and she smiles.
Dinner is a fresh tomato salad, home-made lamb soup and a plate filled with a meter of sausage. If you're not familiar with metrics, you'll need to think about 36 inches. That's like a yard of sausage! I'm only able to eat about 20 inches leaving a nice amount for tomorrows lunch.
My first day in Belgrade is a trek to the Fortress known as Kalemegdan. There has been a fortification here from before Roman times. Every warring empire has claimed this land and they say the citadel was razed and rebuilt no fewer than 40 times.
Much of what I see is from the 18th century. I wander through the gate and follow the wind from one buttress to another looking out upon the convergence of the Sava and Danube Rivers.
|The morning mist has given way to a sunny day as I approach the Fortress|
|Layers of iron scales on the door make for extra protection|
|A more ancient section. The spiky purple flowers caught my attention.|
|Nebojsa Tower along the River's edge. Here it is in honor of my colleague from Public with the same name.|