Balkan Reflections

This blog has been set up to assist in communicating with friends and family while we are in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Location: Ontario, Canada

Striving to a better day.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

One of the larger parts of life, food, is of course different in Central Europe too.

In this area, it seems, so far anyway, that many of the things we took for granted at home aren’t available: bagels, soy sauce, peanut butter, long grain rice, decaffeinated coffee. The list grows.

That said, many things that were hard to get at home are all over here. There is a larger variety of teas, sweetners, cheeses and sausage and many other things.

One thing we have noticed is that quality of products is highly variable.

Packaging is often different. Milk is all in tetra-bricks, as are tomato products. Tins do not seem to be used as much.

Butter is not used nearly as much here. Bread is often spread, instead, with something called klijmak (and I’m not sure I’m spelling that correctly) which is a type of fresh, soft, cheese. It reminds me more of cottage cheese than cream cheese, but the texture is a bit like silken tofu.

Buying fresh meat will take some getting used to, as it is not cut the same way as at home. Of course, I’ve had to learn the Serbian names for the types of meat, too. Given that we have almost no freezer space and a very small(think ‘bar’ fridge) refrigerator, meat is only purchased a day or two ahead.

That said, it often seems hardly worth the bother to cook. Although portions are often smaller (which is not necessarily a bad thing) eating out is cheap…very cheap, at least by NA standards. But then it’s all relative.

Groceries are cheap, too, for the most part. 20 lbs of potatoes can be had for 2KM (Konverted Mark…the currency in BiH). A KM is worth about 75c Canadian. A litre (quart) of milk is about .95 KM. Meat is not quite so cheap, but it definitely pays to shop around. Yesterday, I purchased a large, fancy loaf of bread for .80 KM.

Drink-wise, beer (pivo) is the same price as pop! This makes the beer inexpensive, and the pop a little pricey. Each can be had at a restaurant for 2KM.

Local wine, which is very good, is also VERY inexpensive.

Two local favourite dishes for eating out are cevapi (pronounced with a ‘ch’ sound at the beginning. Written out, it has a little ‘v’ over the c) and pizza. Cevapi is a bit like a hamburger. There is some sort of ground meat (we haven’t discerned WHAT sort of meat) which is sometimes spiced, served in a bread that is reminiscent of a pita.

Pizza here is tasty, but not like home. There is little or no tomato sauce, although it is served with ketchup! Toppings can be almost anything, including corn and whole olives. And default mode includes an egg broken and baked right in the middle of the whole thing! So far, it seems all the crusts are thin.

Nuff of the price list. Now a little history.

The local favourite beer here is called Nektar. One sees signs for it everywhere. It is even in vending machines. In the Cyrillic alphabet, this is rendered “HEKWAP”. There is a horizontal bar over the ‘w’ that I cannot render here. Although this word is properly pronounced the same as ‘Nektar’, the anglos here often poke fun and just call it ‘hekwap’.

Nektar was originally made by the Trappist Monks who lived here. They also, at one time, made cheese, shoes, and fabric. The beer works have long since been sold to a private firm, who seems to be doing an admirable job in keeping it in circulation. There is still Trappist cheese available (also very tasty), but I doubt it is locally made.

The local Trappists now number fewer than ten. During the Balkan wars, they returned to Germany. Catholics locally did not do too well during the war. What saved the monastery from destruction during the war was its proximity to the hospital!

Now, I must wander into town to get some meat for dinner!


Anonymous Ronnett said...

When my husband went to Germany he was warned against drinking the tap water. Are you able to drink the local water or do you have to buy bottled water? how much is that? In Germany my husband found bottled water more expensive than the local beer! Mostly they were given carbonated drinks and beer.

12:30 am  
Blogger JDP said...

Hi Ronnett

We were told not to drink the water here, too, but the local people drink it.

It is very mineral laden. Fouls up kettles and things!

I don't mind using it to brush my teeth. Haven't been sick yet.

We get our bottled water at the International base. It's not the greatest, but we assume it's safe.

Beer is cheap here, too. About the same as soft drinks. Wine is also cheap and very good.

3:03 am  

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