From your correspondent… Eating in Novi Sad (with no money and lot of sarcasm)

I’m in one of the few Novi Sad cafes where the smoke curtain is rare enough to allow me to see the screen of my computer.

Cheap music on air, cheapest images on the screen (MTV Serbia, I never experienced anything cheaper…).

The waiters are making the place ready for the vibrant Novisadist saturday night. Light down (even if it’s just 20.00…), cheapest music (if possible) pumping out from the speakers. But the connection’s good, so the coffee. I shall stay.

As I twitted few days ago, culinary speaking Novi Sad has much to offer.
My student wallet is just too small to allow me to taste every single Fruska Gora wine, or to take a sip of the infinite varieties of rakija I’ve encountered, or eat every delicious meal prepared in local restaurants.
I shall rather describe how to spend your money wisely, eating in Novi Sad.

Going at one of the local markets (close to the Ribar, the former fishermen neighborhood, or along Jevrejska) is not only a tasteful experience, but also an healthy chance to feed yourself without drying out your pockets. Don’t worry you, agoraphobic, distressful, frightened Western reader! At the market people is just not used to fool you (unlike tourist restaurants…). Prices are displayed on the merchandise, which looks good and tastes even better.

Don’t waste your dinari eating low quality grilled meat in one of the thousand rostilj of the town. There is only one place, and one place only where you should taste a decent pljieskavica. Why you shall want a pljieskavica if you don’t even know what it is? I assume you wanna eat like a Novisadist. If you don’t want go to KFC and choke yourself with a chicken wing. Otherwise reach this hidden rostilj. The place, as far as I know, does not have a name, so forget to search it on your smartphone, even if you can enjoy free wi-fi pretty much everywhere. It is placed next to a cross road, in the pedestrian area of the town center, behind the cathedral, close to the funtain. The outer shutters are horribly red, as the neon sign on the wall, as the chicks of the “cook”, a skillful, tidy, meticulous cross-eyed girl on her mid twenties. The place is small and smelly, as every respectful rostilj. But it’s clean, as every respectful rostilj. Don’t waste time trying to interpret the menu written in cyrillic or asking the aforementioned cross-eyed girl for information in English: go for a gourmanska pljieskavica, with some kajmak on top. I would not order a gourmaska pljieskavica anywhere else. The idea os a gourmanska pljieskavica itself is disgusting: 250g of spiced Balkan minced meat made of local veal meat (originally the recipe was “imported” from Persia via Ottoman Empire), mixed with young white grated cheese. Well, actually our cross-eyed (did I underlined it too frequently?) cook grates the cheese, and mix the meet “live” for every gourmanska. No big chunks of half melted cheese. No other addictions. The cheese just melts in the already juicy meat, making it delicious. But once more: don’t dare to order a gourmanska anywhere else. As garniture, we already mentioned kajmak, which has to be put over the meat few seconds before the latter is ready, so to melt a bit on top. Kupus (white cabbage) is a must as well. As you probably noticed, we in the Balkans we do not really suggest; life’s just simpler when everything is black or white (please apply sarcasm). Don’t mess up this fine street food with ketchup or mayonnaise: most of the times they are too liquid not to be suspicious. Go instead for ajvar (sauce/salad made of tomatoes, peppers and eggplant roasted and blended), or pavlaka (as kajmak, it is not translatable… It vaguely more thick thank Greek yogurt, and less acid). Onions and tomatoes are always present in my plijeskavica as well (the concepts “the more the better” does not apply to most situations on earth, apart when it comes to the quantity of onions). You don’t drink while eating pljeaskavica. You have drunk rivers before, and you need some solid, comfortable, trustable food floating in your stomach and fill the gap evidently left open by alcohol.

If you wish to survive a week in Novi Sad, you shall also eat something more healthy. However I might comprehend that cooking kiselo kupus, sarme and the epic punjene papkike by yourself (maybe in a hostel) might be difficult. A fair compromise among your insatiable hunger, your laziness and the threat of a striking cancer is Foody (yep, this place has a name…). American 50-ish look-alike restaurant, with a professional open at sight kitchen. And when I say “open at sight” I mean that a) you see the young cooks preparing your food; b) there is no smoke (incredible, eh?). Take one of the daily soups, dribble the grilled meat and point the specialités du jour. There’s a great choices of vegetable side dish. Make your own salad, filling your plate as much as you want. There is no dignity for salads: no matter what you put on your salad cup, you’re gonna pay a fix lump sum for that. If you’re spending more the 5 € in this place it means that a) you’re still trying to fill the gap left open by the plijeskavica. In this case I have a bad news for you… b) you’re eating together with a friend (recommended). Forget alchools: it’s a family place, with kids, teen age couples and workers.

Coffee is averagely good. turksa kafa (domaca kafa might be appreciated more in Belgrade, but here people call things by their name…) costs less then water and will help you getting rid of all the plijeskavice, the drinks, the heavy food, the vomiting Balkan trips by bus. Most probably a turks a kafa will also help you getting rid the hole food and alcohol did not managed to close (if you’ve somebody to share the coffee with). It’s just miraculous.
Espresso is a virus which by this time infected every city on the other side of the river Soca. If you’re cappuccino lovers make yourself a favor and do not order one here. Rather choose an ice coffee, and institution from Nova Gorica to Kotor.

Surely the biggest problem for an Italian student traveling through the Balkans is breakfast. Even if you’ve recently robbed a bank and thus you decided to sleep in a 5 star hotel somewhere downtown, the so called continental breakfast rules the breakfast buffet. Forget cookies, forget croissants, forget jam and forget also smoothies. So what to do? Since most of us did not (recently) robbed a bank, the cheapest option is to reach the closest pekara and try to find, among the as vast as homogeneous variety of products the word “eurocrem”. This usually identify a cheap briosh-a-like pastry filled with wannabe Nutella (dear Balkan reader, this is a “translation” for our snobbish Italian Nutella-fundamentalists readers… Ja volim Eurocrem!). Eat it with some yogurt, walking the road of Novi Sad.

Desserts are good as well. I can’t choose my patisserie. One thing is sure: the Viennese masters who trained the ancestors of nowadays Novisadist pastry cook must have been giants: portions are just pantagruelic. And very cheap.

Drinking is mandatory, it does not really matter how much does it cost. Avoid drinking in discos. And please, avoid drinking alone, or along the streets: this is not Belgium.

For the rest, suite yourself.

From your own correspondent: Novi Sad (Brussels in my mind).

Some might say, rightfully, that Novi Sad is the pearl of Serbia. It is indeed one of the most beautiful town I’ve ever had the pleasure to see. Counting on the fact that I will remain here for more then 2 weeks, I will be more than happy to update your touristic appetite at some point, when I’ll feel I have a better knowledge of the town. For the time being, have a look at some pics I’ve taken last night.

What makes me think at the moment is the news, delivered last night by several newspapers online, that the delegation of Serbia and the Kosovo representative reached an agreement on the “border”, on the base od the integrated border management (IBM) proposed by the EU.

First of all, it seems that saturday mornings here in Vojvodina are too quite and lazy, even for such a news. “Trafika” (newspaper and tobacco kiosks) are not crowded, as usual.

Secondly, and most importantly, the agreement has to be edited by Cooper (chief mediator for the European Union). Ergo, since the agreement was not signed yet, and we do not know the content of such agreement, there is room for a number of considerations.

The first comments concerns Serbian chances to be granted with the candidate status. If there is a single chance by Serbia to get the candidate status at this moment and time, this is due to the ongoing drafting agreement. Last week statements by EU leaders (Angela Merkel on top) led to no misunderstanding: Serbian path to the EU passes thought the normalization of relations with Kosovo. What remains unclear (or rather, what diplomatic languages left to Serbians hope and to the imagination of a blogger…) is the meaning of “normalization”. But I guess that both me and Serbians will be disappointed to know the answer, on Dec. 9th.

Aside from the Council decision, it will be fundamental to measure people’s unrest after the two bad news (no candidature and a fishy agreement with Pristina).

It is my conviction that Serbians are too tired to pick weapons up and solve the Kosovo issue “unilaterally” at this point.
Said that, those two bad news might surely arm Tadic chances to be re-elected as Prime Minister, favoring a nationalistic revival in the composition of next government. With a nationalistic government, unwilling to sit at the table together with Pristina, the chances for Serbians to join the EU are approximating zero.

If this will be the case, a huge responsibility will be played by those EU governments which are deliberately condemning the huge efforts made by Tadic government to modernize and reform Serbia. And at last, they will have a even greater responsibility in the (possible?) next breach to security on the European continent.

After sustainable growth, we should start talking about sustainable politics. EU foreign policy is still too much influenced by national interests to play any kind of political international role. Au detriment of the whole continent.
Once again.