Yes, ice cubes exist in Europe. We have evidence.

What food did we enjoy with our icy cold beverages? On occasion we sampled local fare; and with little exception, we could find pretty much any cuisine we were in the mood for.

For example, this ambrosial pizza (and excellent, spicy, Chinese delivery) in Zagreb.

In Sarajevo I was not tempted by their version of Cevapi, a dish of minced grilled meat similar to kebabs that is popular throughout Central Europe. In general I do not like Cevapi, but since Bosnian food also has Eastern European and Mediterranean influences, I enjoyed the Sarma (stuffed cabbage with lamb) and grape leaves stuffed with rice. Anna Grace and I also savored a Lebanese-influenced chicken curry lunch at a tiny Arabic restaurant that was quite memorable.

In the “It’s a small world” category, the Lebanese owner of the restaurant chatted with us while we were enjoying the meal. We learned that she, too, was from the metro DC area, having only moved to Sarajevo a couple of years ago; and she, too, frequented the Lebanese Market in Arlington, one of our favorite stops for middle eastern groceries.

We passed on this gelato from a vendor in Sarajevo, however.

In Belgrade we really liked the popular street snack of popcorn sprinkled with “chicken flavoring.”  Do not knock it until you’ve tried it.

We also took advantage of room service in Belgrade. On our last night I ordered “Chicken Paillard in Caper Sauce with Seasonal Vegetables” from the Chef’s Menu, and received “Chicken Paillard in Dill Sauce with Pomme Frites” instead.  The night before, the chef thought we were Russian because we only wanted cheese on our pizza, and not the Bosnian favorite of ketchup and olives, so perhaps he thought that, being Russian, I would prefer dill to capers.  Funny.

The aromas from this lokanta on a side street off Taksim Square called to us one day for lunch. Lokantas are Turkish equivalents of the Eastern European milk bar, the small cafeterias featuring ready-made traditional dishes, sort of the precursor to “fast food,” but much better tasting. As it so happened, this particular lokanta was named one of Istanbul’s “10 Best” by the UK Guardian newspaper: “If Lades were a car, it might be an old Volvo estate-nothing exotic, but extremely safe and reliable.”

We shared a plate of lamb with stewed green beans. Nothing exotic, but extremely tasty and satisfying.

We enjoyed dinner at Ali’s restaurant so much one night in Istanbul that we returned a second night. Ali remembered us and had the chef prepare something not on the menu, an almost stir-fry like dish of lamb, peppers, onions and eggplant served with tumeric potato puree and rice. Spicy, savory, and delicious.

One of the little street kitties sneaked up to share dinner with Anna Grace.

In addition to street kitties, street doggies (all tagged so they could be monitored), there were also street chickens in our neighborhood in Istanbul.

Street food was everywhere from Zagreb to Istanbul.

Even for the pigeons. Many bird seed vendors were set up in Sarajevo and Istanbul; pennies bought you a cup of seed to feed the birds, and it was a sport favored by the young and old alike.

Something not go well on your holiday?  “Complaint Books” were in every hotel, restaurant, and bigger store throughout Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia for you to lodge that complaint.

We, of course, have no complaints with signs like this.

Elder Turkish gentlemen going about their day. Love the hats.

Fall fashions?

We spied many restaurants with this display; Ali told us this was a sign of a tourist trap.  Real restaurants would not waste bread like this, he said.

Yes, we think he was selling leeches, too.  His competitor further up the street seemed to be doing better business, though.

A novel way to reserve a parking space (Sarajevo and Istanbul).  I may try this on my own street here to see what happens.

Arabic calligraphy. (I passed my class with a 90%, by the way.)

Unexpected trompe l’oeil at Topkapi.

Unicorn mosaics lined one of the gates leading toward Babylon, we learned at the Archaeology Museum in Istanbul.

The spectacular view from our hotel room. European Istanbul on the left; Asian Istanbul on the right. Leaving the cradle of civilization was hard, as not only was Istanbul as exotic as expected, but it also meant that our holiday had come to an end.

12 days, 4 countries, 2 continents (we flew home from the Asian side of Istanbul), and 4.578km later, we are home.  Anna Grace wasted no time in catching up on sleepovers with friends, and I wasted no time resuming my routine of a weekly heuriger outing with my favorite guy.
On our last night in Istanbul Anna Grace asked, “Where are we going next summer?”