The Italian food is the best food in the world, and every province boats of a range of delicacies that would make a randomly chosen country proud. In this context Sardinia is no gastronomic champion, and yet it also does possess some articles of culinary pride. I must say right away that the craziest Sardinian foods were nowhere to be found despite our best efforts. These are: 1. casu marzu, the maggot cheese which features live insect larvae that jump up from time to time to threaten your eyes as you eat; 2. the snails that are borrowed underground for half a year, become fashionably rancid and then eaten in this form; 3. the sea urchins that are added to pasta and eaten in season in fishermen’s traditional restaurants. As far as I understood, the maggot cheese is nowadays illegal – you can imagine all kinds of health norms that it breaks – and so you can only buy it from under the carpet. It would not stopped me most likely – but the occasion did not present itself. Some other exotic dishes were tried though!
This account of Sardinian food is in the traditional Italian order of serving, from antipasti to pasta and pizza to main dish to the dessert.
In a small place on a side street in Cagliari we noticed a chance to enjoy a selection of local specialities with a choice of local wines. For me of course the mushrooms topped the list. But also ricotta fume with plum marmalade was remarkable, as well as the thinly cut pork cheeks and wonderful Sardinian casizolu cheese. There are three main sorts of red wine in Sardinia – these are cannonau, monica and carignano. This particular glass is of cannonau.
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Of the big European countries Italy is the one that I have explored the most. For a casual visitor, Italy is a wonderful country. The art and the history are top of the world, the food is peerless, the people are friendly and characterful, the language is beautiful. (It is a different story if you decide to live in Italy.) With this appreciation for Italy, I have now been almost to every single province. The only two places missing from my collection were the two islands – Sicily and Sardinia. And so this time it was Sardinia’s turn.
Sardinia is actually quite a large island. Yet it cannot be considered particularly dense in the cultural sense. Although it can boast of traces of one of the oldest European civilisations – the so-called Nuraghi culture – most people come here for a beach holiday. Sardinian beaches are considered the best in Italy. I am not a beach person but I can say with certainty that visiting local beaches without a car is an exercise in futility. Using public transport you get to the beaches that are full of people and consequently lack any charm to speak of. Only in a car would you have a chance to discover a true pristine beauty.
As we don’t drive, our options to travel around Sardinia were trains and buses. This is not a very practical solution, as the public transport is scarce and difficult to plan, but it does get you to the most important points. I will describe the places visited in a logical order (though our actual route was a bit more complicated): Cagliari – Villasimius – Oristano – Sassari – Alghero.
Cagliari (the stress is on the first syllable) is the megapolis of Sardinia, all of 150 thousand people! Several wonderfully charming streets around Piazza Yenna on warm summer nights would be occupied by the locals sitting in street side cafés. An atmosphere of celebration would truly make it feel like a centre of the island. From there you take a steep stairs to get to the old town of Cagliari, located of course on the hill which controls the surroundings. From the top of the Elephant Tower – which guards the town gates – you get a fantastic view of all Cagliari:
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I don’t have any hope that the reader of this blog could possibly follow all my movements. Particularly in the recent months in Europe they have become seemingly stochastic, although of course there is a reason for everything. I flew from Belgrade to Rome with the plan to reunite with friends. As is the Roman custom, our common Roman friend escaped the August heat and pollution of the capital in favour of the wonderful Umbrian countryside. We followed in her stead.
The house of our friends is located at the very end of the village, up on the hillside. This strategic position allows a gorgeous view of the countryside as well as the old castle that stands on a neighbouring hill dominating the surroundings. The castle though no longer belongs to the historical family owners. Some years ago a rich signora had bought it and now she spends the waning days of her old age in the house on the hill. Our revolution-minded friend shared with us the plan for workers to get rid of the signora once and for all and to claim the castle! So far the implementation lags behind the planning though, perhaps due to the heat.
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I am in love with Belgrade. It is my favourite city in Europe. I can’t believe I haven’t even been to Belgrade before this summer. And yet as I could not resist its draw, I visited it already four times since. The fatalistic calm and the explosive emotionality, the Eastern European familiarity and the Balcan exotic, the incredible energy and the melancholy. I am not surprised in the least that Lonely Planet would pick it as the number one party capital of the world. This doesn’t matter to me much as I rarely go to clubs – it is rather a symptom, an expression of this special atmosphere of freedom that rules this place. I did go to a club in Belgrade and what a visit it was. I love this place.
I’ve already written about Belgrade the first time I came here but I just feel like devoting another post to it. Bric-a-brac of photos that are full of memories.
The geography of Belgrade starts from the basic circumstance of geography. It sits at the confluence of two rivers: the Sava flows here into the Danube. It is the Danube that is of course the bigger of the two, and yet the Sava is the one which forms Belgrade, dividing it into two and yet uniting the two halves. The famous bridges of Belgrade, starting with the Brankov bridge, cross the Sava. The historical centre is on the East bank of the Sava, whereas the New Belgrade is on the West bank.
Further North West is the famous suburb of Belgrade called Zemun. The border between the Austrian and the Ottoman empires once ran here. In those days Belgrade was the Northernmost Turkish settlement, whereas Zemun was the Southernmost important settlement in the hands of the Austrians. Hence Zemun’s very special character. It feels like a Croatian town, or any other Central European, rather than a Serb.
Here is the view over Zemun from one of its vantage points. The broad river is the Danube and the Belgrade centre can be seen in the distance. The Sava flows into the Danube from the right, it is hidden here by the green mass of the Great War Island.
Continue reading Belgrade, my love →