It doesn’t matter how many snack breaks they give you- a cross-Atlantic flight is almost unbearably long. However, after hours of flying through darkness and a seven-hour layover in Poland, we finally arrived in Belgrade on Monday night and got our first impressions of the city in the dark. At 11pm all I could come up with was “smokey”. Not the kind of “smokey” associated with an underground jazz club. Instead, it was a mixture of the scents of hundreds of cigarettes with the thick humidity, marinating in a crowd of tight bodies flooding out of the airport. Although the whole trip seems surreal (I count it as a miracle that I’m even on this mission), this completely unfamiliar scent was what woke me up to the fact that I’m here- in Belgrade, Serbia.
In the light of the last few days I’ve seen some of the most beautiful sights I could ever imagine. From walking around the outdoor market and buying fresh fruits and vegetables to exploring the incredible churches around Belgrade, this country is beautiful. It’s so incredible to be in a place that is Orthodox. It’s comforting to be in a place where if you say you’re Orthodox, people actually understand what you’re talking about. One time back home I told someone that I was Orthodox, and they asked me how I liked being Jewish. Where do you begin to explain? There is so much to this faith. Maybe it’s my own simplistic brain, but I have so much trouble condensing everything there is to Orthodoxy into a snapshot to give to someone who is unfamiliar with it. I hope that by fully immersing myself into Orthodoxy and seeing how Orthodoxy is outside of the US, maybe I can take home a better idea of how to explain it.
Okay, so I should probably explain what burek is. Apparently here it’s eaten as a breakfast pastry, but unless you’re not planning on moving for the rest of the day I wouldn’t suggest eating it in the morning. Burek is a dish made with light, flaky dough, filled with cheese or meat, and fried. Yet because of the amount of oil used to cook it, the last thing it could be described as is “light”. But what pure joy.
From our short time here I have already realized that it doesn’t take much to make new friends. I have been told that Serbian culture is largely based on relationships, and the people you meet will be your friends forever. Sounds good to me! Earlier in the week, Matti and I went running up at the park next to St. Mark’s and met our first Serbian friend. Hearing our English, he approached us and introduced himself as Vladimir. He’s an entrepreneur, father of three little girls, and in love with America. We’ve had a couple great conversations with him this week, and it makes me so excited to be able to learn about this culture through its people.
I already love this country, and I’m excited to learn everything I can about it and its people in our two-month period here. Please pray for wisdom and grace for our team on this trip.
This is St. Sava’s, one of the top five largest churches in the world.