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Travel is the traveler. «What we see isn't what we see but what we are», Fernando Pessoa.

My Scholarship entry - Understanding a Culture through Food: Serbia

WORLDWIDE | Wednesday, 4 April 2012 | Views [354] | Scholarship Entry

A decade of dust has settled in the southernmost town of Serbia, Vranje, since the end of the Balkans War, and one would dare say their talent to socialize around a table may have helped to heal the fratricide conflict between former-Yugoslavia countries.

We arrive straight to a Serbian bohemian party and its fierce welcoming brandy called Rakija, formerly used as anesthesia. It warms us up as much as our hosts' energy, who insist on filling up the glass.

The next day, we find ourselves having a midday snack with a newly friends' mother, who bakes us corn bread, or proja, and some sweet gibanica, which combines thin layers of dough, eggs and cheese. We savor these treats with some Turkish coffee, commonly drank in Serbia, while the mom cuddles us and offers one of her three sons as husbands. Another friend suggests reading our fortune in that same coffee cup but, being Serbia a meat lovers place, the simple idea of meeting our fate after eating so much meat didn’t seem spiritually worthy. Instead, we hiked, to burn off the stuffed cabbage with minced beef, pork and rice, turned into the traditional Sarma; and the rolls of minced meat with onions and warm bread, which goes by the unpronounceable name of cevapcici.

Strolling in the lively Roma quarter, Vranje's gipsy neighborhood, we find our soon-to-be-cooked sheep and goats hanging by their paws in the doorsteps of house-wives, who hang colorful drying clothes outside. They look suspicious at the unusual tourists, while their husbands continue to play cards around the statue of famous Roma trumpeter Bakiji Bakicu.

Trumpets seem to hold the secret of Serbia’s life of adrenaline. Sound-tracked by film director Kusturica’s music, we grow accustomed to their expansive ways.

Tomorrow, we'll strip in front of the locals who, for centuries, have bathed in the warm healing mineral waters of Vranjska Banja. But after trying the fiery plum brandy Sljivovica, there’s nothing in the world we can't do.

Tags: balkans, gipsy, healing waters, hotsprings, kusturica, proja, roma, serbia, travel writing scholarship 2012, vranje

 

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