I started today by walking about five blocks down the the British Airlines office to see about some compensation for the late luggage. I receive seventy pounds for my troubles, which was almost enough to pay for the cloths that I purchased while I was waiting for my luggage to arrive. To the right you can see the outside of the hotel that I am staying at. It is called the “Hotel Moscow”. It was built in the 1930′s and has a Soviet style flavour to it (or at least what I think is a Soviet flavour). They say that the hotel has air conditioning, but I don’t believe it. Fortunately all the windows open, so I can get a bit of breeze to help cool down with at the end of the day. You can see a picture of my hotel room below. The NCSC (National Centre for State Courthouses) offices are only about two kilometres away from the hotel, which has made a very nice walk, returning from the office after travelling during the day.
After leaving the British Airlines office, I walked the three kilometres to the NCSC office and started putting together pricing for all the equipment that I have specified for use at the law faculty libraries (computers, servers, printers, photocopiers, vend card system and software). Not quite as much fun as travelling around the country, visiting universities, but this is what I am here to do. I have the approximate pricing for everything except for the vend card system. At the end of the day I sent this list of hardware and software to our local IT contractor for him give us a provisional quote. For the official procurement, the hardware and software specifications has to be put out to tender, but this provisional quote will give us a good idea of how far our budget will stretch.
For lunch I went to a local fast food place; actually it wasn’t that fast, but the “Serbian Hamburger” was excellent. They use a mix of hamburger and ground pork, with some spicing, that makes an excellent burger. They tend to be quite large, so by the time I was finished, I was stuffed. One thing I’ve noticed in Serbia, is that a lot of people smoke here. I think part of the reason why I’ve noticed this is because of the law against smoking in public spaces in British Columbia. Here people smoke everywhere, especially in the many out door cafe’s. The other thing I’ve noticed while driving around the country, is that drivers are very liberal in the use of their car horns. They are definatly not shy about l leaning on their horns. Another thing that has impressed me is the number of people who can speak English here. Especially the younger people. English is a compulsory course in the schools here so most young people can speak at least a little bit of English. Many signs in major public places are in both English and Serbian. For example in the new arena here, all the signs are in both languages. It is ironic that they have adopted English as their second language, when historically they had closer ties with Austria/Hungry and Turkey. Maybe it is because those relationships were forced on them, that they do not speak more German and Turkish.
After work I went home dropped off my stuff and then caught a taxi to take me to the arena for a volleyball game – Serbia against Brazil. Unfortunately my taxi driver is a perfect example of why taxi drivers some times have a bad reputation. My ride to the arena cost me 1,300 dinar, which converts into about $23 Canadian dollars. To put this in context, my ticket to the game cost 800 dinar. I checked my tourist map when I got home and saw that we had taken a very round about way to get to the game. More on my return trip in a bit. The game was excellent. It was very close with Brazil winning in the end. When Serbia was doing well the crowd was very loud, when Brazil was on a roll, they were pretty quiet. A couple of times when Brazil amazing plays, the crowd gave them polite applause in recognition of excellent plays. The arena that the game was played in is only about two years old. Construction on it started in the early 1990′s, but the war delayed it’s construction by a number of years. It seats 20,000 spectators, and is modern, but somewhat spartan compared to other arenas I’ve seen. The only food you could buy inside was juice or pop, and potato chips. There was a heavy police presence both inside and outside the arena. Not just regular officers, but officers with their riot helmets and batons hanging from their belts.
After the game I decided that I wasn’t going to get ripped off again by another taxi driver, so I exited the arena and asked a couple of people where I could catch a bus to the down town area. Two people pointed me in the direction of a bus stop, and one even gave me a bus number to look for. When I arrived at the bus stop the bus I was told to catch arrived, so I just hopped on. Initially the bus was heading toward down town, but after about 10 minutes I was pretty sure it wasn’t any more. I asked someone on the bus if they spoke English; he said a little bit, so I asked him if the bus went down town. To my disappointment he said no. I followed up by asking him how I could get to down town. This was beyond his English, so he asked the person in front of him in Serbian if he spoke English, which he did quite well. This person told me I should get off the bus at the next bus stop, cross the street, and hop on any bus that stopped on the far side of the road and it would take me down town. I thanked him, did as he told me and arrived back at the hotel in about 20 minutes. I enjoyed my ‘office’ day today, and am looking forward to a day off tomorrow so I can do a bit more exploring around Belgrade.