To breathe in Belgrade is to smoke. Most restaurants and cafes have no separate non smoking area. This is the thing that bothers me most about the city. I am now on day 4 however, and I am getting used to hiding my coat in a cupboard, or under someone else's coat, on entering a room, so that the smoke does not get into it. I have given up worrying about the smell of smoke in my hair.
I must be one of the 3 people in the city who does not drink tea. On breaks from the workshop my policemen (I think of them as mine, because my project works for them) sniff at me, when they offer me coffee and I ask for tea. Each time this look of mild disgust and disbelief passes across their face on hearing that anyone could turn down coffee. The one thing they are most unhappy about at the workshop is that we have had to remove our coffee-filter machine thing and have replaced it with instant coffee and a kettle.
Three times now I have walked into what I think are department stores, because I like looking at shiny wrappers, and I want to know what Serbian groceries look like. Every time it has been a different chain selling cosmetics and hygiene stuff only. There are more kinds of hair dye than I have ever seen before. I studied a shampoo made with cow placenta for a while, but bought a body lotion made from goat's milk instead. I am not ready to wash my hair with the placenta of anything. I still don't know how stores are organised here. I need to investigate this further before I leave.
Yesterday a colleague of mine took me shopping with her. We ate Serbian Chinese food at a tiny restaurant in a corner of a very shiny mall. I had the spicy chicken with vegetables and wheat noodles. She had the hoisin chicken with rice. Both looked exactly the same, until the waitress covered my portion with toasted peanuts and hers with toasted cashew nuts. I got some 'chilli' sauce and mixed it with everything on my plate. It still looked and tasted exactly like her plate- which was alright. Whatever that one dish was that the restaurant made that day, and called five different things, it was good.
This afternoon's lunch at the police academy was bread, thin clear vegetable soup with an anaemic kind of noodles, cabbage salad, white beans in tomato cheese sauce, pasta with braised beef in a brown sauce, and chocolate cream cake- which I strongly suspect is the same cake that has been served for the last 3 days but covered with an extra batch of chocolate icing. There was also a choice between strawberry or sour cherry nectar. I had two glasses of sour cherry nectar and one apple. I am looking forward to dinner.
And here is a picture of the Assembly that I took myself. It is not as good as the one I posted yesterday. But at least I took this one myself.