Experiences of an American woman who was married to a Serb.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Last of the Summer Tomatoes... Preparing to Leave Sombor for the Winter

Today is our official last day in Sombor for this year (but we'll be back in months and years to come on a more permanent basis.) The tomatoes in the greenmarket are the very last stragglers from 2007's harvest. Small, spotty, uneven. Just a few weeks ago, these would have been thrown out rather than offered for sale. Now I buy as many as I think I can stuff into my mouth before we have to leave for the airport. They are utterly rich with flavor. The best ever.

As we scurry about packing and putting the house in order for its winter rest, I am continually remembering things I had meant to do but somehow never had time for. Oh no! We never took the tour of the Boreli shoe factory at the edge of town... we never went to Slatibor to buy wool sweaters ... we didn't hike in the hills outside Novi Sad, in fact aside from the bus station we didn't visit Novi Sad at all ... we didn't try out Belgrade's sole Mexican restaurant... we forgot to bring our old computer over to the orphanage in town (this I feel very badly about)... We only visited one of Sombor's 20+ painters' ateliers... and I fell down on my express desire to take Serb language lessons every single day...etc.

There is so much to be done that I am already itching to return. However, the fall weather is well dug in now. It's chilly at night and what my husband calls "fresh" during the days. I definitely did not bring clothing for this - when we left the US all I'd heard about were overused air conditioners causing fires in Belgrade and German tourists arrested for biking about naked in 105 degree heat. So I packed linen skirts and short-sleeved tops. Just seven weeks later, I'm freezing all the time.

Why "all the time?" Well that's because ladies and gentleman, the image at the left is what a typical Sombor (and for all I know, Belgrade) home heating system looks like. Every Serb reading this will say "Duh." Every American will say, "HUH???"

When I first saw this wood stove in our house, I assumed it was there because the house is nearly 100 years old and nobody had ever upgraded properly. So it was quite a shock when during our first week we visited a friend's newly and lavishly renovated home to see a brand new stove IDENTICAL to this one, only even bigger.

And it clearly wasn't there for decorative, celebrating-the-Serbia-of-our-forefathers purposes. It was intended as the sole heating system for the home's open plan kitchen and living room.

These stoves work very well once you get fire built up in them for a bit. But, you can't just flip a switch and Bam! your whole house is evenly warm 15 minutes later. You also can't get super-picky about adjusting heat by a few degrees. (but then my response is who needs to? As long as it is what any man on this planet would consider overheated inside, I'm perfectly comfortable.)

And then there is the smell. As we took our final walk about town last night, the air was loaded with the scent of charcoal fires. I don't mean barbeque smell, and I don't mean romantic wood fire smell. I mean Serbian heating stove charcoal is in a class by itself. It doesn't smell nasty, but it sure doesn't smell breathe-in-lungfuls-good. I'm told many people here have bronchial infections in the wintertime.

So, although I will miss Sombor and fervently wish we could have stayed longer this time, perhaps that fervency is mixed with a bit of lucky-me. I have the freedom to come and go as I please, staying when it's lovely and moving on when the charcoal air gets a bit much.

No comments: