warm figs and cold yogurt soup

(a few thoughts collected in the Balkans)

Somehow, backpacking through the Balkans hadn’t made it to the absolute, very top of my list.  I had other dreams, adventures I’d imagined investigating before swimming in the Croatian Adriatic, swooning over Serbian pastries, or getting stung by a rainbow of small to medium sized insects in a Bosnian national park.  It was on there on my list of travel dreams, but not quite in a leading position.

Now, after a bit of time opened up and a few things (ahem, cheap flights) fell into place, after just a small taste of the Balkans, a trip back is basically headlining that little list.

Those 10 days, to me, felt like a study in contrasts.  One moment I am standing at a market in Sarejevo, studying the intense colors of the fruit bursting

Biking along shore of the Danube as the sun sets on a Saturday night in Belgrade, there is a small mountain of garbage and sewage, an incredible collection of rusted, abandoned ships over my left shoulder and as I checked behind my right shoulder before pulling out of a rollerbladers way, girls and women dressed beautifully, very much walking successfully in some of the tallest shoes I had ever seen.  A warehouse like building that is mostly decrepit and abandoned has one corner sparkling and lit up into an Aperol Spritz serving, trendy affair.

moments where you are standing in a marketplace, tables heaving under the weight of fresh produce, and you wonder how a fig could possibly be so soft, such a dense combination of texture and taste and you almost snack out of it, thinking about
And then there were those cookies.  Those buttery tender, savoury snacks decorated generously with sesame and then very cautiously, almost accidentally studded with the occasional caraway seed.  Those.

There was the market in Mostar where we tasted figs in 4 forms in a span of about as many minutes – the fresh fruit, soft and just nearly overripe, an efficient little package of so much texture and taste; thick, sweet fig honey, dried into chewy, candy like treats; and distilled into a dangerous liqeur – dangerous because, forgotten in our backpack, it was discovered 4 days later when it soaked through the bottom of the bag.