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Welcome to my blog where I share stories, thoughts and photos from my bicontinental life, my travels throughout Europe and Canada, and my road-trips in Electric-Blue, our trusty VW van. I hope you have as much fun exploring as I do!

A Serbian Diversion

A Serbian Diversion

On occasion, Tom our GPS leads us astray. This doesn’t happen in Western Europe where the roads are mapped and regularly updated. GPS screens of Germany, the Netherlands, and France resemble a web made by a spider on speed; gazillions of tiny threads all linked together, presenting a multitude of choices to get from A to B. But in the East, that spider has been napping. The screens are suspiciously devoid of helpful threads.  Eastern European roads are often unmapped, unofficial and fluid.

Meeting Nicoli and Rosa was the result of Tom’s foray into the sparsely mapped countryside of Serbia. We had crossed the border from Romania late on a warm, sunny afternoon in May, and had driven south of the city of Novi Sad where the scenery changed dramatically from the flat and uninspiring plains of the north to pretty rolling hills. It was time to stop for the day. We asked Tom for a camping spot and he shouted back his usual rhetoric. In 200 metres turn left, and then turn right, follow for 7 kilometres Eventually, he announced with conviction, you have reached your destination. But, it was not a campsite.

We came to a halt on a grassy hillside in front of a centuries-old tidy traditional Serbian farmhouse. It was long and low, and sagging slightly under the weight of years. All manner of tools and knickknacks hung on the outer walls. A wagon, the sort that hooks up to a horse, was piled with hay and stood just behind the house. A little old Serbian man peered out from the house curiously.

 Campsite? I stated my question slowly. I waved my arms to the land surrounding his home and then pointed back at our blue van. I hoped Tom had miscalculated, and there might be somewhere for us to set up camp just over a nearby hill. The old man's eyes lit up and he started making follow-me gestures. He danced past the wagon and rounded the trunk of a fruit tree, stopping beside a whitewashed shed and pointed his finger to the ground. Campsite! He was inviting us to camp in his yard! He then pointed his two thumbs at his chest. Nicoli! He stated. We made our own introductions and he flitted off back toward the house.

We rolled up the tent and pulled the table and chairs from the back of the van, and I sat back to enjoy the beautiful setting. Nicoli reappeared every few minutes bearing gifts; strawberries from his garden, followed by a small carafe of slivovitz, homemade plum brandy, with two tiny crockery cups. Next, he came around the corner carrying a basin of warm water heated on his corn-fed stove, and finally, he brought a platter of fresh warm golden-fried flat bread. Each time he returned we invited him to share our meal of mititei, little Serbian sausages.

Arthur pulled out his cello to play a bit in the warmth of the afternoon sun, and Nicoli chattered away in Serbian with animated exuberance between mouthfuls of sausage. I could pick out words like Tito, the rebolutii, and Yugoslavia. I got his message; all is good and peaceful.

The frying pan was empty and Nicoli sprung up once more and dashed off toward home. Two minutes later, he returned walking a bicycle on his left, and a woman on his right. Mama Rosa! He announced.  Rosa had heard the cello music and came to ask for Brahms.

I held Rosa’s two hands in mine. Thank-you! I said, taking the cue from Nicoli that perhaps my enthusiasm could convey my message despite the language barrier. Everything was such a treat, but especially the bread! Rosa beamed, Ahhh! Good! Good!  And then somehow she helped me to understand that on Wednesday and Friday the Serbian Orthodox make a meal of bread "shlebbecause on these two days, they don't eat meat... I turned to Nicoli and raised my eyebrows at him conspiratorially. At this, Nicoli leapt up and onto his bicycle with a sparkle in his eye and peddled across the field to get milk from his cousin's cow. He disappeared over the hill leaving Rosa watching after him, shaking her head knowingly.

Hover over the pictures (or choose landscape  on mobile) for more on my Serbian diversion.

When the Queen Invites You to Dinner

When the Queen Invites You to Dinner

The Art of Changing Continents

The Art of Changing Continents