Dear Belgrade, Serbia

As promised, I am finally getting around to writing about our amazing holiday earlier this year. I posted a ton of photos on instagram and twitter (#RAGISAC) and tried to send a message to my family at the end of each day with a little summary of what we did and a few photos to show them.

We traveled from Jozitown to Belgrade, Serbia via Abu Dhabi, explored Serbia and then proceeded to drive to Croatia. We spent the first few days in Rovinj and then took a ferry through to the island of Rab, where The Gypsy’s mother lives. In this post I’ll be focusing on my experience of Belgrade.

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On the plane and on our way! #RAGISAC

We arrived in Belgrade on a Saturday morning and was greeted at the airport by The Gypsy’s parents as a surprise. We were only supposed to meet up with them a bit later in the day, but they took a bus to the airport to surprise us instead. His father awaited me with a bunch of flowers and a big bear hug and his mom wouldn’t let me touch my own suitcase once we showed our faces in arrivals. And this behaviour continued throughout our trip. Whenever we spent any time with them we were spoiled rotten! And it was glorious:)

Belgrade is an incredible city. We spent a day or so exploring before heading off to Fruška Gora (more on this in another post) and then did some more exploring in-between returning from Fruška Gora and heading off to Croatia. It is a city of absolute contradictions. In one block you will see the most beautiful houses right next to a building that looks like something that should be condemned. But even the buildings that are falling apart are beautiful in their own way. It was later explained to me that in some cases the people let the buildings deteriorate on the outside in order to avoid paying property taxes, but i was assured that on the inside they are quite beautiful. In addition, due to the suspicious nature of the people, you may be labelled as an associate of the “mafioso” if you flaunt any sort of money, and not beautifying the homes on the outside is one way of avoiding such flaunting. I have no idea if this is true or one of those “jokes with a hint of truth” or complete fabrication, but honestly it kind of makes sense.

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I’m not sure what I was expecting exactly, considering that they were in civil war like only 20 years ago, but let’s just say Belgrade won my heart. The little shops hidden away in holes in the wall (literally), the friendly (yet slightly suspicious) people and the food was an amazing experience and i would definitely recommend people to visit.

 

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On the bus tour with The Gypsy’s parentals

On the day of our arrival we decided to do a hop-on-hop-off bus tour of the city and then proceeded to explore the forts, city wall and the spot where the Sava and the Danube rivers meet. It is SPECTACULARLY beautiful! Most of the city has recovered from the bombings but there are still a few buildings that carry the scars of a civil war less than two decades ago.

We discovered the cutest little pub, lemon beer (which, let’s face it, is the best thing in that heat) and the most amazing food…seriously…the food! Three of my absolute favourite food related Serbian things are Börek (The cheese one to be specific), kajmak (it’s a cheese) and Cevapi.

It’s hard to only choose a few random shots as there were so many amazing things, but if i had to post ALL my photos this post would be miles long. So instead I’ve picked a few pictures below which I think sums up most of the highlights of this spectacular city:)

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A little something about cycling

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I’d like to be able to tell you that I’m a magnificent cyclist. That it’s easy and fun. That I’m fit and fast and fabulous. That I’ve got dreams and aspirations of doing the 94.7 and the Argus with excellent times.

But out of all of the above statements only 2 are completely true. It is FUN and I am definitely FABULOUS 😛

As I mentioned before I started cycling earlier this year. I was beyond nervous to get on the bicycle when I realised it had been 15 years since I had even been on one, let alone done any sort of notable distance on one. Now that I think back I realise I was actually pretty good.  We lived in a very small town and I used to cycle everywhere.  To school…to the shops…to the dam…and on occasion even to a nearby (40km away) farm for a picnic and back (that’s 80km BTW)  I even did time trials and races.  I could cycle without using my hands and miraculously push start and swing onto the bicycle with incredible grace….Please take note that I can do none of this now.

But here I am roughly 5 months down the line and I’m STILL cycling. Let me take a moment to be completely and brutally honest.  I am unfit, I am slow and due to the butchery 2 years ago I also lack a lot of the core strength I used to have. It makes things hard and tough and a constant challenge. But I’m still here.

When we first started I refused to invest any money in cycling until I knew that I enjoyed it and was going to stick with it. So #TheGypsy (who has been an avid and super fit cyclist for YEARS) kindly allowed me to use one of his bicycles. A friend loaned me an old helmet and I managed to purchase a pair of cycling shorts on sale for all of R179. Fast forward 5 months and you’ll see that #TheGypsy bought me a bike of my own, I now have my own (pretty) helmet, I have both winter (pink) and summer (red) cycling gloves, sports glasses, 5 (!!!) cycling shirts and 3 cycling shorts.  And last but not least my darling parentals gifted me with an exercise bike once they realised I was actually genuinely into this cycling thing. The only condition is that I need to use it regularly (which I have been).

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She with the borrowed, old and slightly ugly helmet

The very first time we went we did all of 10km and I WANTED TO DIE. But we pushed on and I steadily went from 10 to 18 to 21 to 28 to 35 and finally to 46 (and I’ve been informed we will be doing a bit more this coming Saturday). My nether regions generally want to stab me by the end of it and my wrists especially have been having a bit of a tough time of it but the most surprising thing is I am really really enjoying it.

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We have our moments…in this case the bike bit me. 

When I started cycling it was because it was something that #TheGypsy really loved and I wanted to show interest in one of his hobbies. He had invited me and I had agreed…never thinking I would actually keep it up. These days we are both super excited about our ride when Saturday rolls around and it is no longer HIS hobby…it is OUR hobby and what we do on a Saturday.

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Yes…we are cheesy on a Saturday morning

I’m going to be brutally honest and admit that I am SLOW. I’d like to say that you have to remember that I cycle on the road with knobbly tyres while 90% of the other riders are on overpriced road bikes (all of which is true)…but the honest to God truth is that I am slow. I’m not particularly strong (which makes going uphill slow) and I’m not particularly fit.  But I’ve also realised that I’m not out there to compete with anyone else. I am out there to have fun, to be healthy and to enjoy myself. This was a major turning point for me. Now I compete only with me and I celebrate every time I manage to improve my time…something which seems to happen every week now, and I’m taking that as a good sign. I celebrate the fact that 5 months ago I could BARELY cycle 10km and I’m now doing 46 quite easily and considering adding more distance. I celebrate the fact that I no longer have to change gears to first the moment I hit an uphill but that I can now manage most of them between 6 and 8 and no longer have to stop and rest when I get to the top. I celebrate the fact that my core muscles are strengthening and I can now grab my bottle and drink water AND replace the bottle while cycling (THIS IS NOT EASY).

#TheGypsy has been an absolute trooper throughout the last 5 months. He has encouraged, given hugs and cheered me on every step of the way. He does almost double the distance I do in the same time on a Saturday morning but loops around me the whole time which means that we are more or less in sight of one another at all times. But it also means that he doesn’t feel short changed in terms of his training at the end of the day.

I have no aspirations of becoming a champion cyclist one day, but I do think that I might just tackle the 94.7 next year and, if I carry on the way I do now, I’ll probably be able to do it in a pretty decent time tooJ

Everyone keeps asking if I’ve seen significant weight loss.  Truth be told I haven’t. I have however noticed a change in terms of toning. I’m sleeping better. I feel healthier and I’ve been focusing hard on eating healthier and more regularly. So no…I haven’t lost a ton of weight (which would have been awesome). But I am healthy and I am happy….and to me those are the most important things.

2016…..

2016 has been a rather interest year for many reasons. Work has been crazy…although to be fair I suppose my work/life balance always goes just a tad out of whack in terms of the work craziness. I am a workaholic and while I don’t measure my success on how busy I am and how little time I have outside of work, the facts are that I love being busy, I love my job and for the most part I don’t mind the extra hours.
2016 has however taught me to focus on the rest and relaxation and on the “life” part of work/life balance too. To invest in quality, happy time with the people I care about more often.

If all goes according to plan, 2016 will also be the first time in 10 years that my little family gets to spend Christmas all together….My parentals, my bro, my SIL, my two beautiful nephews and myself all together for a crazy cold and *hopefully* white Christmas. I CAN’T WAIT!

2016 has also been the year where (hold on to your horses) I started cycling. It’s a crazy thought…me on a bicycle…but it is true. I got dragged along earlier this year on a cycle and since then I’ve actually grown to love my Saturday mornings in the saddle. I’ve grown to appreciate the tender nether regions after 2.5 hours in the saddle, grown to appreciate the stiff muscles and the aching wrists. Because once I get to the end of my ride I feel like I’ve accomplished something. And not only that…I’ve been afforded the opportunity to be healthy, to completely zone out from everyone and everything for the time that I was on the bike and to be grateful for what I am able to do.

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And last but not least 2016 has been the year where my romantic journey with The Gypsy began. I’ve been alluding to his existence on twitter for a while and if you follow me on Instagram you would have seen his face creeping into my timeline. There isn’t much to the story really. Fact is I’ve known him for a few years but I’ve never even considered a romantic relationship because I’ve always had someone else. And I am one of those people who never even consider or think about the possibility with anyone else when I’m with another.

But somewhere between breaking up with the Guy Person and grabbing 2016 by the horns, The Gypsy once again popped into my story….and this time he appeared to play the role of the potential leading man. Once he became aware of my newly single status he simply asked that once I am ready to move on I give him a chance. And due to the circumstances around the breakup and the 6 months preceding it I was ready a hell of a lot sooner than I had anticipated. And somewhere in between the cycling and laughing and late night chats and dinners and random whatsapp conversations he became more than just a friend.


He’s weird…I’m weird…and we are completely and perfectly weird together. My relationship with him is so different from every other relationship I’ve ever had and his European frankness is refreshing and in stark contrast with most other guys I know, let alone guys I’ve dated. A spade is a spade is a spade and no topic is too awkward…apparently.

I love how we can passionately and heatedly debate on different sides of an issue the one minute and laugh and hold hands the next, not allowing a difference of opinion to cause anger and irritation. I love how he appreciates the fact that I am opinionated and independent and how he isn’t threatened or intimidated by my personality, independence or my sometimes scary and hectic job. I love how he respects my faith, beliefs and choices. I love how he is constantly encouraging me to grow and do new things and how he not only welcomes but insists that I always speak my mind. I love how he chooses the moment I probably look at my worst to stare at me in wonder and tell me how beautiful I am…it’s all really lame and really corny and really awesome.

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And while I have absolutely no idea what the rest of 2016 will hold I know that this year I have chosen to live in the moment and that so far, despite the fact that it hasn’t always been moonlight and roses, 2016 has been good. It has been filled with new beginnings and adventure and challenges and it has presented me with a million ways to make new memories.

P.S. So subsequent to this blog post 2016 got even better when a LOT of hard work, all nighters and mentorship resulted in a promotion announcement on Thursday *grin*.