In the month of July I had the chance to spend some quality time with two of my old friends, Andrew and Lydia. Andrew came to visit me here in Berlin and I went to Belgrade to see Lydia.
Andrew and I had a bonkers good time and the ten days he was in Berlin went by in a flash. We did some normal Berlin things like barbecue on the river:
Andrew happened to come during fashion week in Berlin. The company I work for is deeply involved in the Berlin fashion industry and was producing a runway show for a Berlin-based designer that week so Andrew and I ended up helping out with that. Andrew actually ended up serving gin and tonics to the guests:
The next day we both got to go backstage at another fashion show, a little treat in return for our hard work. Then I took Friday and Monday off from work and we went to Warsaw for a few days. We ended up with some amazing Couchsurfing hosts Dorota, Piotr, and Pawel. They cooked us some delicious meals like this breakfast:
Warsaw isn’t the most aesthetically beautiful city – most of it was destroyed in World War II and rebuilt by the communists afterwards – and we got a lot of rain the weekend we were there, but we honestly didn’t mind since we had such great hosts. We ended up just hanging out with them in their apartment most of the weekend. We did check out a few sights like Palace of Culture and Science, built by Uncle Joe, and the Warsaw Uprising Museum (Warsaw Uprising) which were very interesting. But the most fun was hanging out with our hosts and talking about movies, music, Polish culture, American culture, Tim Burton, etc. Andrew and I learned how to drink vodka properly. First you should stick to vodka the whole evening, but the key is to accompany your drink with some nice heavy foods. We had some tasty meat, white bread, and pickles to wash down our Krupnik:
Piotr also got out his hookah pipe. I’m not a big hookah fan, but the way he used coconut milk or whatever it was to cool and flavor the smoke was pretty nice. And Piotr could blow mad smoke rings.
So, that’s a bit of what Andrew and I did. Then a couple of weeks after Andrew left I made a weekend trip to Belgrade to visit my dear friend Lydia and her parents who just moved to Belgrade.
We mostly just walked around town a lot. Here we had some traditional Serbian food, which is basically just meat and bread, but is quite tasty.
I bought a book about the best coffee shops in London for 100 dinar ($1.50). It was published 15 years ago, but I couldn’t help myself.
We also visited Lydia’s grandparents, who are very sweet. They lived in New York for many years and her grandfather speaks decent English, but her grandmother was limited to the occasional Serbian interjection. They live in an apartment block typical of late Yugoslavian communism, if I’m not mistaken. So a little more cheerful and nice than a concrete block from the 50s, but still patently communist.
So, some good times, some cities and countries with tortured, tumultuous recent histories, but most striking to me personally was the sudden revelation of old friendships. It was a marked contrast to my social life in Berlin. While I’ve made some good friends here, there is something about the deep knowing that happens once you’ve been friends with someone over a period of years. I haven’t known anyone other than my parents longer than I’ve known Andrew, and that’s not something you can conjure up in a year long friendship no matter how well you get along. And I realized that Lydia has now become one of my “old friends”. I met her my first year in New York and we became close friends in the second year when we lived in the same building. Now when I look back I realize we’ve been all over the place together: LA, Iceland, Niagra Falls, Toronto, New Orleans, and now Belgrade. So it was really nice to be reminded that I have some really great old friends, even if I don’t get to see them that often at the moment.