Impressions about Belgrade


Impressions about Belgrade
The International Women’s Club (IWC) is a voluntary group of women; mostly wives of foreign diplomats and businessmen. It is a non-profit group with approximately 200 members from 42 countries. It welcomes and assists newcomers to Serbia; promotes knowledge and understanding of Serbia; fosters goodwill and friendship amongst members and raises funds for humanitarian and community projects. The Club organises monthly coffee mornings for members to get to know each other, exchange information, deepen their knowledge about Serbia, and organises various charity events. In addition, it regularly organises ‘newcomers coffee mornings’ and new members are always welcome.
Etsuko Tsunozaki, President of the International Women’s Club Belgrade
Etsuko Tsunozaki, wife of the Japanese Ambassador in Belgrade, and President of the International Women’s Club, explains that the biggest charity event that the club is involved in is the annual Charity Bazaar, which is held every year in December.
“Many Embassies participate and raise funds - we had our last Bazaar on 4th December and thus far we have raised more than eight million dinars. We are in the process of selecting projects that we will donate to. Our Club has many interest groups and we provide facilities to our members to learn different activities. We have cooking, Japanese origami, English conversation, Serbian conversation, and yoga classes… Women with young children gather weekly to play together and share information. We also organise touristic visits around Belgrade. Women of all ages are members of our club.
How long have you been living in Belgrade?
-  I’ve been living in Belgrade for almost two years. As diplomats we have previously lived in London, Moscow, Geneva and Kazakhstan (Almaty and Astana). We will be in Belgrade for another year or so.
What are the main similarities and main differences between Serbian and Japanese people?
 Although we look quite different there are many similarities and consequently Japanese people feel very comfortable in Serbia. Serbian people are very modest and Japanese people are very modest too. We understand each other very well. Both Serbian and Japanese people are very hospitable and friendly, polite and warm. Serbians have accepted me as I am and I have been very warmly received. I am pleased that Serbian people are quite interested in Japan. I play the violin and have had many occasions to play with Serbian people. We have played Japanese music, Serbian music, international music… Also, I am glad that Serbian people like Japanese culture and literature, Manga, origami art… and many other things.
Where did you play the violin? Did you hold any concerts?
-  I gave concerts in Belgrade and Požarevac, with the choir from Požarevac known as Barilli. They specialise in Japanese songs and have been singing them for 15 years. They are very good singers - I heard them at the Belgrade City Hall at the celebrations of the Japanese National Day and after this I started to play with them. We are planning some concerts in the future.
What do you like about Serbia?
-  In Belgrade I like to walk down Knez Mihajlova, it has a nice atmosphere. I like the Danube and the Sava, Serbian cooking… Serbian culture and history are very interesting. The culture is a mixture of many great cultures; its history consists of influences from the East and the West. It is very rich and there are valuable assets of this history in Serbia.
What are your favourite restaurants in Belgrade?
-   I have been to many restaurants. Amongst others, I like Kalemegdanska Terasa - I can feel the history there, and the food is also very good. I also like Da?o, a restaurant with delicious national specialties, and Šaran, the beautiful restaurant on the banks of the Danube. Some floating restaurants are also quite pleasant as well as the Italian restaurant Cinecita. Another place I like is the historical restaurant Znak Pitanja (Question Mark). These are all places where I am able to enjoy different types of cuisine. Many restaurants also have very good fish dishes.
What do you miss from Japan?
- I miss the members of my family who stayed in Japan. And, there are no Japanese food shops here. It is difficult to get ingredients to make Japanese food.
What do you like the most here?
- I like the people, more than anything else. They are hospitable and friendly and I feel very comfortable here.
Laetitia Gardt, Vice-President of International Women’s Club Belgrade
- I was born in Surinam, on the North East coast of Latin America, where life is very ‘Caribbean and exotic’ despite being a former Dutch colony. I grew up there with a family consisting of a wide range of racial backgrounds and colours. I have been living in Belgrade for the past 10 years after having lived the life of an expat on several continents. I first came to Belgrade ten years ago with my family. After a few years I decided to take on a business challenge in catering here. Then I started my own catering service and, after three years, I decided to stay because I really liked it here. People here make time for friendships. You are never forgotten on a Friday night; the phone rings and the usual question will be “Sta radi?” - “What are you doing tonight?”
How do you like Belgrade?
- I like Belgrade and the people here; I love their interests in foreign cultures and cuisines which I experience each year at our Charity Bazaar in December. I have made so many great friends here and I like their way of “let's go for a coffee”, and taking half a day to have a meeting. Living in Belgrade during the early spring and summer-time and a lovely sunny autumn is very entertaining, and with all its festivals and concerts it’s a great place to be. I dislike winter and the snow in the city. I like Kalemegdan very much and all the parks and green spaces around Belgrade. My love for good food and cooking has linked me with many restaurants, where I have had the opportunity to use and share my cooking skills with Serbian cooks, one of which was from Dorian Gray.
What do you dislike here?
-       What is frustrating at times is the habit of delaying. Everything will happen ‘tomorrow’; people here tend to delay things until the very last moment. I’m a bit of a workaholic and with cooking and entertainment as my main occupation; I hate surprises at the last minute. I miss that precise timing in my work here and must admit the ‘easy way of life’ here is not always highly productive. People initially start their tasks productively but later they tend to delay their duties.
Have you visited other parts of Serbia?
- Thanks to IWC activities I have visited some parts of Serbia, but, I must admit, I haven’t seen a lot. The IWC has provided me with some swift guidance in exploring my new home country. I really enjoy volunteering and helping out at all IWC activities, however my love for food, cooking and entertaining, both professionally and privately for friends takes up most of my time. I like Novi Sad and the surrounding villages and wine cellars very much; I know the area quite well and I have many friends there. The mountains near Pirot are great for fresh air and are a good weekend break; and don’t forget Zlatibor.
What do you like the most about Serbia?
Since food is my love, it has to be something related to food. I love a good homemade ajvar. Eating it from a jar overlooking the rivers at Ada Medjica - that should give you the answer to the question of where my favourite place is. This tiny little private island where the Sava and the Danube meet, with a good glass of rakija and ajvar. My second choice would be Zemun, the marketplace on a Saturday morning and a coffee stop at one of the coffee shops followed by lunch at either of the restaurants, Ginger or Chameleon.
Jelena Jovanovic