On Thursday evening I attended the Red Star Belgrade versus Tel Aviv Maccabi Elektra Euroleague Basketball game. The first round game was held in the famous Pionir Hall, in my opinion, the best venue to watch a basketball game anywhere. My Israeli friends invited me to attend the game in the Maccabi fan section and as you can see by the security in front of the section, we were well protected from the rabid Red Star fans.
Red Star, after being behind the entire game by 10-15 points, came back in the fourth quarter and had a couple of opportunities to win the game in the final moments, but lost. The crowd was so loud and the game very back and forth with both teams making great plays, it was a thoroughly entertaining evening. It was interesting being in the “enemy” section. I did not feel threatened and there was much good natured back and forth between the Maccabi fans and Red Star fans. We had to wait about 30 minutes after the game finished to walk out, and I got to my car and home without incident.
Serbia loves basketball and I highly recommend the Pionir Hall basketball experience! You will not forget it.
This weekend we went on our annual trek to buy a Christmas tree. We go to a farm about 20 kilometers outside of Belgrade in the Šumadija region, near the Avala Mountain. It is a tree farm in the village of Žuče. We have gone there for several years and you can get a tree for about 1, 200 RSD (10 Euros).
We buy the roots and all and carry it away in a pot instead of cutting the tree. We later find a spot to plant it. The guys at the farm are very helpful and will dig it up, wrap the roots, and tie the branches for easier transport. The kids love going too because they can run around and play hide and seek.
We got off to a late start because of car trouble. I was filling the tires with air and the valve on the tire snapped in half. Luckily, I was with friends and the great mechanics of Anđelković Garage are in the neighborhood. They sent Jovan over and he saved the day by replacing the valve. We gave him a round of applause.
With the pot the tree is quite big and my friend Michael and I had a difficult time getting it up the steps and in the house. It was worth it however, because the decorated tree looks perfect and Nadia did a great job of decorating the house with poinsettias and Christmas decorations. This is our last Christmas in Europe and so we are going to enjoy it.
Now we just need snow! It is in the forecast, and tonight it is 1C so I am hoping for some of the white stuff when I wake up.
A big thanks go to Damian, Susie, Michael, and Brooke for their help and Miloš and Boško from the school.
Owen Grade 5
One of the nice traditions of school is the annual student photo day. It gives us a chance to reflect on how fast they grow. Owen above, is starting to look like a teenager, and in many ways is starting to act like one.
Oliver Grade 3
Oliver thankfully is still looking like a boy, although he is maturing rapidly. Ocean has been obsessed with reading and writing as she is learning how to do both in school. I loved the Things To Do List she made to assist her in the mornings. She is such a little busybody and has an incredible work output, whether is be planning a Spanish lesson for her classmates or sending Christmas cards. She was even putting money in the cards to give to her friend.
The cemetery was created to receive the remains of British and Commonwealth casualties brought in from more than sixty small burial grounds and from isolated sites all over Yugoslavia. The largest number from any one place came from Milna Military Cemetery and the Royal Naval and Harbour Cemeteries on the island of Vis (Lissa) which was our base.
The burials in the War Cemetery include escaped prisoners of war from Italy and Greece. The civilians buried here include a mining technician, a teacher of English, a newspaper correspondent, a member of the Embassy staff and the child of another member of Embassy staff. They were buried or re-buried in the cemetery by permission of the Army Graves Service.
The kids are shown above with a British military office in front of the memorial. Several Embassies were represented at the ceremony and laid wreaths at the foot of the memorial statue.
Also last weekend we attended the Marine’s Ball. It marks the 238th anniversary of the founding of the US Marines. It was held at the Metropol Hotel in downtown Belgrade. There is a small marine contingent that guards the embassy stationed in Belgrade. There were speeches and military ceremonies, and then our favorite Belgrade band, Makao, entertained everyone, military and civilians alike. We are pictured below with our friends, Kevin and Laura.
Recently I saw the new desk at the Nikola Tesla Airport of Air Serbia. JAT (Jugoslav Airlines Transport) recently sold 49% of the airlines to Etihad Airlines, the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates. JAT was 100% owned by the Serbian government and had debts of 170 million Euros.
Considering how hard it is to make money on any airlines, it is a big risk for Etihad. I understand why the government owns the airlines, but it is not a good idea to own one, and it is a drain on the Serbian taxpayer and government. Hopefully the expertise of Etihad and the extra resources will make the airlines profitable. The JAT planes were very old and in dire need of investment. In my opinion, they should sell it all off and get out of the business entirely, although that might be against EU law to have a foreign, non-EU company own a major airlines in Europe. Serbia has many state-owned enterprises and properties that need to be privatized and hopefully this is a trend that will continue.The sports clubs Red Star and Partizan are two that come to mind…
Another problem is market size. There are too many regional airlines in the Balkans as each small country has their own carrier. The market is just not big enough to support so many different airlines.
I like the new logo. The double eagle is homage to the Serbian Orthodox crest, and the lines below look somewhat like Arabic script. I am looking forward to flying on the new Airbus A 319, “Novak Đoković” and wish Etihad and the Serbian Government best wishes for profitability!
It was a relaxing and interesting trip. Our hosts, Per and Maria Akkeson were beyond great, and they showed us a wonderful time. We got to feel how Swedes live and they showed us all the spots as only locals do. Ollie is shown above on the windswept cliffs of the Kullaberg Peninsula.
The area reminded me much of my native Michigan, especially the coast of Lake Superior. The only difference was a bit older buildings and many city buses. The socialized system of Sweden and Denmark have resulted in a clean and prosperous region.
Ocean at the canals of Copenhagen
We had an enriching afternoon at the Luisana Museum of Contemporary Art in Denmark. Other highlights included fine dining, bike rides and hikes in the fresh Scandinavian air, and many laughs with the Akkesons.
Owen in a Modern Art Room
I hope someday to return the favor and host them. We all enjoyed our visit to the north of Europe and want to return to explore more, especially further north towards the arctic regions.
Belgrade is so lovely this time of year. When the sun is shining in mid-October, with many of the leaves turning yellow,blue skies, and a cool breeze, it really doesn’t get any better than this for weather.
We have been taking advantage of this by getting out with the bicycles and going around the city. We are pictured above at Ada Ciganlija where we went for an 8 kilometer run/bike ride and then had a delicious late lunch at the Oaza Restaurant.
Owen and Ollie on the Zemun Quay
On Saturday we rode up from New Belgrade to Zemun along the bike path and had a wonderful day along the river. The kids complain a bit at first, but then they too get caught up with exercise in the gorgeous weather.