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Weekend shenanigans: Eastern Euro Trip

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I returned from Serbia yesterday after a short layover in Frankfurt, Deutschland.  That's a huge airport right there.  It's like South Coast Plaza with 747s and a gang of chocolate.


Regrettably, I had another genius sit in front of me on the plane who kept her seat in recline the entire flight.  I don't think she was real happy with me kicking the shite out of her seat when I had to adjust postions.  Lucky me, I had an empty seat next to me and the German dude on the other side was in full understanding of me making the seat in front a punching bag.


Leaving Serbia was bittersweet.  I really grew to like the people.  They are genuine and honest.  Hard working too.  Our driver, who I doubt makes that much money, gave us each a going away present which included a t-shirt and coffee mug.  His name is Mirko and he has a trick leg.  It wasn't an injury from the war like I thought it was.  I think, like Lady Gaga, he was born this way. 


Mirko explained how excited the Serbs were when NATO started bombing.  He said that the young people went out on the bridges and started partying and dancing.  I didn't quite understand why, nor did it feel appropiate to ask why, but I think it had something to do with pride.  Some of the men have large crosses tattoo'd on their forearms. 


This was a good trip, overall.  Spain was awesome and Serbia was very interesting.  Such a difference in the people and culture.  One thing they both have in common is that the like to start their nights on the later side.


I went to the wrap party for the movie on Friday night and there was a killer local band playing.  Imagine the episode of Miami Vice that played out in my mind when they played Spandau Ballet's 'Gold.'  They nailed it.  Kevin Costner was there and he provided a serious buzz kill when he had a couple tracks from his country rock band played over the sound system.  All the frenchie crew members were like, 'wtf is this?'  They wanted to do shots and dance to Euro music.


There was a woman of African (she's French, so African-American doesn't work here) descent at the party who kissed me on the lips out of no where.  I didn't know what to do with that.  I was literally frozen, standing there like a twelve-year old boy. 


Probably didn't help that the day before in Spain, I took a solo journey to the church I got married in. I wanted to pay my respects to my wife.  That was a sad and tortueous part of my journey.  But it was also the main reason I wanted to go to Spain.


In Spain, my brother showed me the consulate he works in.  It's very low-pro, as they say on the streets.  You have to look for it.  Not even an American flag outside.  After he Benghazi situation, there were a couple local police sitting in their cars nearby for about a month.  Their asses must have gotten sore.  And there was undercover police patrolling the area. 


I think my sister-in-law was trying to sort of set me up with one of her friends.  The mark was pretty and spoke excellent English, but I just wasn't into the situation.  We all had dinner my last night in Valencia and that was that.  Really glad I made the effort to get to Spain.


I took Swiss Air back to Belgrade.  Any Spanish casualness was thrown out the window immediately after I got on the plane.  The captain was the model of Swiss time.  "We will arrive in Zurich in 10 minutes.  And 30 seconds."  And then, a few minutes later:  "Correction.  We will arrive in Zurich in nine minutes."


Once back in Serbia, my boy Mirko was there to pick me up.  All you need to know about Serbia is portrayed at the airport.  It should have been a busy Friday night, but I think my plane was the only one to occupy a gate.  Taxi'ing on the tarmac was like finding a seat at an empty restaurant.  'Maybe this one; no maybe that table.  No I think this one is better.  Nah, I'll go back to that other one.'


Since I don't do a lot of drinking -- and the frenchies like to buy drinks for others -- my friend and I decided to sneak out of the wrap party and call it a night.  We couldn't find Mirko so we walked up to what seemed to be a main street of some sort.  Under the gaze of the soul sucking Soviet housing blocks (literally called Block 21, Block 22, etc.), I saw a taxi on approach, hauling ass in a far lane.  When the driver saw me waving my arms, he cut across traffic and skidded to a stop a few feet from us.  My friend and I both froze.  What the hell was that?!?!  Serbian Drift in affect. 


The next day, we walked out the hotel to cross the river into old Belgrade.  We walked right out the hotel doors into the path of the Belgrade Marathon where we saw a portrait of the Serbian male as physical non-specimen.  They have hunched shoulders and long arms.  Really odd.  I don't understand how the women and men co-mingle there.  The woman have perfect bodies.  Square shoulders with a small lower back.  And they have effecient, pronounced and beautiful faces.  I'm not making a weird Larry Flynt observation; it's just how it is.  The woman are made even more attractive with their seemingly easy to please approach to life.  You get the feeling that they are happy just to take a walk in the sun.  No Kardashian horse shit here.  Not that they wouldn't embrace it if they had the means to, but you just get the feeling they know there's more to life.  Such a refreshing change from the Fashion Island mind set.


My friend and I had a sunset dinner at a re-hab'd warehouse that evening.  We probably looked like a couple of fruits.  The restaurant was next to the river which made the air smell nautical and good. 


Because he knows physical contact from strangers makes me anxious, my friend booked me a massage at the hotel's spa.  The same one Beyonce had closed down last week, btw, so her highness could get rubbed out. 


I have to say, that massage felt pretty good.  And at about $35, I'm told the price was more than fair.


Earlier that day, a bunch of acton scenes were filmed.  Some pretty cool stuff like a car/gun battle, bombs blowing up and that kind of thing.  None of the Serbians walking by flinched.  There were some local kids (probably from Block 12, if I had to guess) who got a kick out of the shooting.  The production assistants had to hush them.  Amazingly, the kids complied.  I thought, if they tried to do that in the U.S., the kids would give the finger and curse up a storm.  I wonder how'd they react to someone who puts there airplane seat in full recline for 11 hours...










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You're an excellent story teller, DR.

Hopefully sometime soon you'll realize that when you put all these shenanigans threads together, you're goings have the beginnings of a nice story to sell to some publisher.

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I was treated well in Serbia, but I don't know if that's because they think you're going to spend money/tip well since you're Americanski.  The Serbs are pretty quiet so it was never an outpouring either way.  I was worried that I'd get some heat because of the Clinton/NATO air strikes but as Mierko the driver said, "We Serbs bring alot of problems upon ourselves."


The Spaniards are always friendly.  You get a few a-holes who don't like Americans but you get the same kind of heat in Beverly Hills. 

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Judging by some of the fashions and by the progression of Serbian pop culture, I think a Don Johnson name drop might have actually had some pull.


Brandon would be happy to know that I was thinking about "Eastern Promises" while in the spa.  My friend had a ten minute conversation about the movie while we were prepping for our massages. 


Fixed.  Had to get Miami Vice in this post somehow.

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How great is this building.  It looks upon the Sava river in Belgrade.  Those steps lead to the older part of Belgrade and you'll see older people hiking up them to get where they need to go. 


The front of the building seems abandoned, but it looked like there was some sort of restaurant operating in the back.  It was very mysterious.



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This is me outside the hotel as the Belgrade Marathon runs by.  Mind you, the hotel is listed as a five-star hotel, but that doesn't mean the neighborhood is going to match the rating.  In the distance you can see Soviet era housing.  It was built upon the grounds of death camps from World War II. 



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...and this is the aformentioned Hotel Jugoslavia which was used as the film's production offices and shoot.  I believe NATO struck the right side in order to nail Tito.  This was once the nicest hotel in Serbia.  Now it's abandoned, except for the rare film shoot.


Some of the producers and crew are seen in this photo, preparing before the next day's shooting.



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Brandon would be happy to know that I was thinking about "Eastern Promises" while in the spa. My friend had a ten minute conversation about the movie while we were prepping for our massages.

Sick dude.

A lot better convo than the one I had in a spa with a friend.

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