I am officially 21! Its kind of funny I celebrated my 21st birthday in Belgrade, which is pretty nutty. I have to say, I think i am experiencing culture shock for the first time. Belgrade defiantly feels different than home. I talked with my host family today a bit about politics. My host mom here brought up when Nato bombed Belgrade in 1999 and I felt for the first time as an outsider and it hit home how difficult it must have been to live in Serbia in 1990s and even somewhat today. We are learning a lot about the EU and economics and I never realized how have an American passport is like having a golden ticket. If you are Serbian it is ex termly difficult to get a visa to other countries, which in the US doesn't sound like that big of deal but as student in a small European country that physically limits how you move around the globe. As easy as it was for me, as far as legality goes, to travel around Europe someone here would have a much harder time. In fact, they can't even go to places that used to be part of Yugoslavia, like the coats of Croatia where many Serbs used to own summer houses.
Any way on a less serious note, its been a very packed couple of days.Yesterday i woke up early and started the day off right by visiting the fortress. Belgrade is an incredibly old city, it stands where the river sava and the danube meet, thus making it very strategic. I dont know how old the fortress is but it is huge and had a military museum inside and some crypts. After that I wondered with my friend trying to decode the Cyrillic street names. We have a map of the city with the street names in the english alphabet in the real world that is of very little help. What we did find however was a wedding in an orthodox church (that was amazingly beautiful but you cannot take pictures inside) and the oldest Kafana in Belgrade thats name is "?" because it existed before you named Kafanas. Kafanas are all over belgrade and there a few in Zagreb, they are lingering proof of turkish influence in the region. KAFANA there is a link for more info on Kafana, although it doesn't sound like that article is very accurate. As far as i know they are fancy drinking establishments meant for social gatherings and have high ceilings. They serve food but one is not obligated to order a meal if you sit down at a table. After wandering a bit more we gave up and headed to our respective homes for lunch.
Later that night i headed back into town for birthday celebrations. Waiting for me at the main square was a poem, three good friends and a mcdonalds cheeseburger (which is a whole story itself). We split the burger and headed towards an amazing restaurant find called little bay. Little bay is a ridiculous restaurant that is opera themed. If you make a reservation you can sit in a box. The meal was super fancy and we even order a bottle of wine, started slides and deserts, which is a luxury on a student budget. The ridiculous thing is it was super cheap! (most things here are comparatively cheap, but are a trick for the brain to work out, for example 100 dinar (the currency here) is like 1.25$ so things appear to be more expensive, but it sure makes you feel snazzy to hold 1000 dinar bill!) Anyway we had an excellent time, that was supplemented by some live violin music.
okay so there is more to say, but i am tired of typing for now...
AND! thanks for the birthday wishes...