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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Smoke over Cevapdzinici*

The Dzezve Street (photo: Christelle Kapoen)

Gigantic Copper Kettle (photo: Christelle Kapoen)

Mosque at Dusk (photo: Cristelle Kapoen)

The second half of last week I had a wonderful trip to Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. I had always liked spending a couple of days there but this time it was more than special for several reasons. First, I was in the great company of Ellen, Peter, Christelle and Andras Kis and second, it was snowing from the moment we landed to the moment we took off. (Sorry, Ellen and Peter, I know that you neither landed nor took off but instead had to drive for many hours through snow and hail).

I have this theory, not very original, that places feel entirely different depending on the people you are with. It has happened to me that my perception of one and the same city has varied from boring to splendid depending on the company and circumstances. For me, cities are not a mass of streets, buildings and shop windows but the interaction of all these with my state of mind. So Sarajevo felt great because of the endless jokes and great humour that were somehow generated by all us. I shouldn't forget my friend Sunita who joined us to Dveri the second night and later took us to a cool place (Zlatna Ribitsa - Golden Fish) where, to my big surprise, we listened to French music from the 60s and the 70s.

And......Sarajevo is absolutely magic under the snow, at least for me. I wouldn't say this is some kind of objective aesthetic fact as our taxi driver commented in the following way: 'If this is beautiful, then what is ugly?'. Yes, sure, if one concentrates one's gaze on the slush on the streets one might say that the slush is ugly and wet.

However, one might choose to lift one's gaze a bit higher up instead and pay attention to the elegant facades of the Austro-Hungarian times; the beautiful heavy, snowy branches of the trees; the endless play between the street lamps and the falling snowflakes; the reflection of the same street lamps into the hundreds of dzezve (copper vessel for brewing Turkish coffee); the icicles around the water fountain resembling a bird cage; the peace of the mosque yard under the heavy snow and the amazing ceiling carvings in this same mosque yard; the silent figures of men and women after prayer; the constant interplay between the minaret of the mosque and the campanile of the Catholic church; come back to the title of this post - the smoke over the Cevapdzinici.

Cevapdzinici are an exotic culinary venues. They surely date centuries ago and it seems to me that they haven't changed much ever since. I don't know about cevapdzinici in other places but those in Sarajevo follow some kind of absolute loyalty to the magic of cevapi or said in another way their owners are cevapi purists. The Cevapdzinici do not serve anything else but cevapi (+bread+onions+kajmak) and the furthest away they ever dare deviate from the cevapi canon is a simple tomato salad. I actually like that - no extras, no useless culinary temptations, no vane attempts to lure the visitors with a 20 page menu, no nothing. And don't even dare think of a coffee after the cevapi. Coffee is to be found in cafes while cevapdzinica is for cevapi. I was even surprised when I found out that restaurants are not only for rest and hotels are not necessarily hot.

Once again thanks to Ellen, Peter, Christelle, Andras and Sunita for the great time.

* Cevapdzinici is a specialised place where one can eat cevapi (1/2 finger long of grilled minced meat served with bread, onion and kajmak - kind of sour cream).
** The title is a play with Deep Purple's song 'Smoke over Water'.

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