It was an uplifting experience yesterday to visit the Central Trades School (Srednja Zanatska Škola) in the Belgrade suburb of Rakovica. The school is a government initiative that focuses on social rehabilitation and job training for vulnerable students in the Belgrade metropolitan area. Single mothers, refugees, victims of domestic violence, people with disabilities, Roma children, etc. are the target population. Most of the students are from ages 17-20 and include about 30% Roma.
The school was hosting a school year culminating fair, called, “We Can Overcome the Boundaries Together.” There were food stands, music and dance performances, judo exhibitions, craft bazaar, etc. I toured the school and met with the teachers and students. I was invited as the representative of the International School of Belgrade. This year our students through the Community Action and Service Program at our school have been regularly working with the severe special needs students in the garden and green house program of the school. The idea stemmed from one of our students, whose parents through their work in the diplomatic community, became aware of the school.
My daughter Ocean poses in the school’s greenhouse
The school’s goal is to train and find job for their students. To that end, they have working auto mechanic garages, welding workshops, beauty salons, and even a small restaurant. Students also do internships with local businesses to help them make the transition into employment. An article in the Studio B web site stated that 40% of their students find jobs.
It is nice that the Serbian government supports these kinds of schools. A society can be judged on how it treats its most vulnerable members. I was also impressed with the positive spirit of the students and teachers and especially, the dedication of the faculty. Everyone I met was very dedicated to students and felt good about making a difference
ISB Students At the Bazaar of the Central Trades School
The park is full of trees, playgrounds, and a public swimming pool. It is near the Metropol Hotel, Madera Restaurant, and St. Mark’s Cathedral. I recommend an evening or daytime stroll. There are always friendly Belgraders to meet.
I highly recommend a visit for a weekend get-a-way from Belgrade.
Water polo is huge in Serbia a and the region, and Serbia is usually one of the best teams in the world. They won bronze at London 2012. The two greatest water polo nations are Serbia and neighbor Hungary.
Milanović’s career achievements are amazing! He won 2 Olympic Gold Medals (LA 1984 and Seoul 1988) and 2 World Championships (1986, 1991). He would have probably won more, but Yugoslavia was banned from international competition during the war.
Igor played 340 games for Yugoslavia, scoring over 500 goals. The 6 foot 4, 240 pounder, was a powerful player whose coach said could play any position. He was relentless in the pool and inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1996.
He was a really nice guy. He coached Partizan last year and they won the European Club Championship. I asked him how water polo players compare physically to the swimmers, and he said they are two totally different sports. I thought perhaps water polo players would make great swimmers as well.
When I mentioned to my friends that I met him, everyone knew who he was. The Belgrade native is very famous in Serbia. It was an honor to get to speak with him.
I’ve only been to one water polo match in my life and that was for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. I’ll try to take the family to see a match this spring.
The Russian Rooms
I also received an invitation to the State Funeral of King Peter, which will take place next month. I’ll definitely blog on the that event. The Royal Family hold no power or political office in Serbia as it is a parliamentary government. We sadly didn’t have time to tour the White Palace on the grounds, but I will definitely come back for that tour.
Royal Palace Views
I wonder how many visitors, or even Belgraders understand what took place here. I’ve blogged about the site before.
Slowing traffic while getting some milk, eggs, and cigarettes from the Maxi!
There is an organized system of paying for parking as well. The city is divided into zones and one can pay for parking by an SMS with one’s mobile phone. It is quite easy.
Here is an example below of people parking and blocking the entire sidewalk. This is also bad because it endangers or inconveniences pedestrians. I guess this is a busy street so they drivers didn’t want to risk their cars being hit while on the road.
The city makes wide sidewalks, and I guess it is for parking. The system does work and I always find a parking spot. I would like to hear some more parking stories from Belgrade readers of my blog.
With the sun coming back out today, perhaps Baba Marta is back in a good mood.
Today the hotel is abandoned as you can see by the photo I took last weekend. Behind the hotel is the Grand Casino Beograd. The hotel lies on the banks of the Danube, just south of Zemun and very close to the city center on the New Belgrade side of Belgrade. The property was purchased by Greek developers in 2011 who had plans to renovate it into a luxury hotel, but I don’t see any evidence of progress.
My idea is to renovate to its original 1969 style and make it a “Jugo-nostalgia” hotel. I would play up the socialist and Yugoslavian aspects and have 1970′s style carpeting, panelling, etc. Perhaps the employees could be dressed in Tito’s Pioneer uniforms. Lots of photos of Tito, etc. I think you could build a nice client base of former Yugoslavian republics and tourists interested in getting a feel of Eastern Europe “behind the iron curtain.” If someone has the money and team of Yugo-experts, I would give my input to the project.
For now it stands as a monument to a by gone era. Will it ever be brought to life again?
The original logo of the hotel (only three stars?)
Serbia is the number one consumer and exporter of Rakija. It is drank at all special occasions like births, weddings, family renunions. It is sipped slowly from a special glass called a čokanjčići. Rakija is also a common apertif. There are many different kinds of rakijas based on different fruits. The Serbs use many of the common fruits of the region like apricots, pears, grapes (similar to the Italian grappa), and even quince.
My personal favorite is medovača. It is a rakija with honey added to soften the harshness of the high alcohol content. It is known as the woman’s drink, but I always order it proudly. I’ve also noticed that the design of the special glass makes it taste better. When I’ve drank medovača from a shot glass or other type of glass, it is not the same. I also like to accompany it with gas water. Medovača is a great way to start a meal or a social evening. I am not that big of a drinker so I like the time consuming rituals of sipping that allows me to drink less than say a large beer or glass of wine.
I would like to know the origin and meaning of the name of the glass, čokanjčići, and if it especially designed to enhance the flavor of the brandy.
I was inspired to write a Japanese-style haiku about medovača:
sweet earth, smooth glass
awakening bubbles, friendship
My daughter Ocean a couple of years ago is pictured checking out the fermenting vats of plums (Stari Majdan – Šumadija)