There are not many things I miss when I travel around Eastern Europe. Not many but definitely one thing: the right breakfast in an awakening atmosphere.
One of the most well-known Austrian stereotypes is that we like eating and drinking and hanging around in cafes. This is not a cliché. All these habits unite in one excessive ritual: the "Wiener fruhstuck" or Viennese breakfast. We usually take it in a local cafe. Almost all of the cafes in Vienna offer various kinds of breakfast. You can order everything from omelet, rolls, cereals to salmon and sparkling wine. The most impolite waiter you can imagine will bring it to you with a contemptuous snort. He will expect a huge tip afterward, though. If you want to you can sit there for hours before you finally decide to enter the day. We don‘t like vertical take-off. I didn‘t realize how important this way of meditative gluttony is for my peace of mind until I started traveling through the Balkans again.
My newly discovered love for the countries of Eastern Europe made me take the night train to Belgrade one more time before university starts in Vienna. It takes you there in about 11 hours and it‘s quite cheap.
I couldn‘t get very much sleep this time because a Hungarian woman‘s cat named Freako escaped from its box and kept six huge men very busy tracking it down half of the night. So when they finally caught Freako and put it back into the box it was 5 a.m. and the train headed for Belgrade. When I got off early in the morning my first thought was: “Hungry!“
Easier said than done. It seems like nobody really cares for the so called most important meal of the day in Belgrade. People were drinking black coffee from paper cups while standing in the middle of the daily chaos of morning rush hour without blinking an eye. The cafes do have coffee but no breakfast. Besides most of the cafes in Belgrade are incredibly obsessed with the worst of sentimental pop music from all over Europe. Eros Ramazotti seems to be very popular. So you sit in one of these small places eating a salad instead of rolls, drinking hot chocolate as thick as tar with more cream than chocolate while Ramazotti is roaring out of the speakers next to your ear: “Vorrei morire sulle labbra rosse che hai, vorrei sentire i tuoi seni accenndersi poi come due piccoli vulcani... .“
Physically confused by this weird mixture of broken hearts and calories, I strayed around the city trying to find my hostel. When I finally arrived there at 7 a.m., the girl from the reception asked me if I want a welcome drink. Before I could say no she poured me a glass of rakia. In a state of moderate intoxication I went to sleep. To summarize: I had salad, hot chocolate and rakia for breakfast. My Austrian sissy of a stomach reacted with unconcealed disgust.
One week later, I was confronted with similar troubles in Prishtina. It took me some days to find a place to have breakfast. A restaurant near the government building offers English breakfast and omelets for all the other internationals who miss their breakfast here. You can easily tell it wasn‘t meant for average people from here because it‘s pretty expensive compared to other restaurants.
Ramazzotti seems to be less famous in Kosovo, but here it were James Blunt, Bryan Adams and Fergie who filled my head with their heartache: “Goodbye my lover, goodbye my friend,” ”Once in your life you find someone who will turn your wold around,“ “But I’ve gotta get a move on with my live, it`s time to be a big girl now and big girls don`t cry.”
The solution for the breakfast problem in Belgrade were the countless bakeries which offer croissant filled with almost everything. So I started my days there drinking hot chocolate from a paper cup, eating a meat-filled croissant while watching the traffic jam and felt pretty local.
My last resort in Prishtina was the terrific bookshop Dit’ e Nat’. Great cake, hot chocolate or tea and no Ramazzotti songs but Dylan or Marley. Awesome how small things can make you feel home immediately.
The article was originally written in English.
Photo Credit: ASHKAN HONARVAR
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