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December 2015

Walking to Coffee in America

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Coffee and walking. Two things that are incredibly difficult in America. At least, they’re incredibly difficult in the suburban environs of the Pacific Northwest.

At home in Belgrade, it takes me four minutes to walk to my favorite coffee shop. It’s snug and cozy in bad weather, filled with people chatting, while in the summer it’s difficult to find a seat on the spacious patio. But if I were in dire need of caffeine, there are at least two other cafes within a two-minute walk. This is not just a big-city thing; you’re going to find cafes on nearly every street in any town.

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Defining the Balkans

Montenegro Landscape

The Balkans, as a region, is not easily defined. Throughout the course of history the countries have expanded and retracted, with contemporary states falling under one empire or another, and every once in awhile managing to gain a few brief years of independence. These days, though, that independence also seems to include a new sense of identity, with many rushing to disassociate themselves with a regional label that often implies backwardness at best and bloodthirstiness at worst.

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Book Of Belgrade: Mamma’s Biscuit House

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Mamma’s Biscuit House looks at first to be just one of the dozens of identical cafes serving the upmarket Belgrade neighborhood of Dorćol. There are white wicker tables and chairs on the pavement outside, signs advertising free WiFi, and even USB charging stations. But a closer look reveals the artfully arranged windows displaying the cafe’s aspirations: to be the bakery of choice for Belgrade’s celebrations. Beautifully decorated cakes only hint at what might be inside.

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Book Of Belgrade: Guli

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Guli has the best pizza in Belgrade. At least, that’s what I’d heard. However, I didn’t go rushing out to Skadarlija (despite its close proximity to my place) as soon as I learned about this fantastic pizza.

The problem with pizza in the Balkans is that it’s rarely good, never mind great. My years in Montenegro left me puzzled: how could this country exist within sight of Italy, yet be so incapable of making a decent pie? Let’s not even get into the fact that the most common topping around these parts is ketchup. Yes, ketchup — you choose, regular or spicy.

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