Friday, September 19, 2014

Update: Serbia

Three photo shoots, four girls photographed. The photo below is from a shoot we did on Wednesday with Isidora, at the ancient fortress on the banks of the Sava River. Today we did a shoot with two sisters that turned out really well. I'm too lazy to convert and post them so you'll have to wait for those photos.

I had been looking at places to take off to for my remaining four days, but after much deliberation I decided against it. The weather in Montenegro wasn't warm enough for beach time and September sees a marked drop off in tourism in this area, which translates into many businesses closing up shop for the season. That, and combined with the model shoot we booked in for today, I decided to chill and hang around Belgrade for my remaining time. So far I'm very happy with my trip. I've built a decent portfolio that will surely aid in booking more shoots back home, and I've partied quite a bit and met some really great people.

And this is where I tell you about one of the greatest parts of it: a Serbian football match. The local team, Partizan, was playing an English team from Tottenham, which is a rare thing considering foreign teams avoid playing in Serbia due to the rowdy fans, i.e. tons of soccer hooligans. One of Jacob's friends is not quite a hooligan, but is pretty hardcore. You can look at this picture below and guess for yourself. When he shouts a slander at the opposing team or sings his teams anthem, you hear it reverberating in your skull.

Due to the fact that international teams avoid playing in Belgrade because it isn't safe, we dressed in Partizan colours, black. And yet we were still asked twice (obviously looking quite foreign) if we were Tottenham fans. Once we teamed up with Milos and his band of hard looking friends, the questions stopped. We met up in the courtyard of an apartment block near the stadium that his friends live in and pounded back a few beers. When we lined up at the entrance to the stadium, the crowd instantly turned the line into a most pit, jumping up and down and singing like we were at a rock concert. There are no age limits to be involved in this. Young, old, grey hair or not, you can partake in the madness.

We enter the stadium, where seat numbers are meaningless, you simply find a chair and stand on it. There is no sitting down, this is Partizan. We were "seated" in the middle of the stadium, in the first two rows. Looking down at the one end of the stadium, you can see where Serbian fans get their reputation. Literally the entire section, and I mean every swinging dick in the stands, is either jumping up and down, waving a flag, or singing, all on que of the conductor who is in charge of the section. That section is packed to the nuts with people. And that same section on the opposite end of stadium is nearly empty. Belgrade is not the place to be a Tottenham fan. If you want to cheer for them, you do it at home in front of your TV. It was a great game, scoreless, but Partizan kept the action in Tottenham's end most of the time. We sang, we shouted, we laughed, and I got knocked on my ass (along with others) when everyone tried to grab the ball that was kicked into our area.

I've never seen any sporting event as intense as that match, and it wasn't even an important game. And I know I'll never see anything like that at any game in Canada...

Monday, September 15, 2014

The First Shoot

Here's a sample from my first photo shoot. Behold, Dejanaa:

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Party Rock All Night!!

I've been in Belgrade for four days now and have decided that I love this city! The vibes are great, the women are absolutely beautiful, and everyone speaks English! Part of me wants to keep this hidden gem to myself to avoid it turning into a tourist madhouse, but another part of me cannot help revealing how amazing this city is. I could totally see myself living here for some time, and I'm sure summertime and the beautiful weather would even amplify that feeling.

So far daytime hours have been few and far between. Partying until 5-7am every night makes a person sleep a decent portion of the afternoon away. On Friday we met up with Chris, a friend from the US I had met a couple years ago in Hawaii (see this post), who had been traveling through Eastern Europe and heard I was going to be here for two weeks, decided to fly down and hang with us! We cruised to a concert in an old converted warehouse, which was delayed when the band asked if the crowd wanted to wait until the semi-final game for the World Cup of Basketball was over, which Serbia and France were duking out on the big screen behind the stage. Because basketball is HUGE here, the crowd overwhelmingly chose to watch the game, which ended in a victory for Serbia and the spot to play the US in the final tonight. More on that later.

One thing I definitely have to mention about Serbian culture is the sports betting. Gambling houses are EVERYWHERE, and they're all full of Serbian men that like to bet on any sporting event they can. Since moving here Jacob has become quite involved in it, making decent amounts of money that could be considered a second bonus income. And to show how deep it is really ingrained in the culture, imagine some mafia-esque betting tips that get shared between friends about an Italian B-league game "that will be one point ahead in the first half, then will become tied in the second half". Yeah, it ended like that.

Last night we had some drinks with Jacob's neighbours at a local bar owned by their brother, which was a really chilled out, trendy place. Then we cruised down to the Sava river where there are rows of boats moored along the shoreline that serve as popular nightclubs and are ram packed with drunk people. The beauty part of the this city is that everything is walkable, even when you're drunk, so pizza is never far away from where you drink. And because the clubs stay open until around 5am, we didn't get back to the apartment until 7:30am.

Obviously today was a relax day. I'm getting too old to be pulling a four night bender, especially when I'm partying until these hours. Which worked itself out because there weather went for shit and started pouring in the evening. It didn't, however, stop us from watching the Serbia vs. USA basketball match at a bar along the walking streets. I could actually call it a Serbian slaughter, the USA destroyed them. Perfect time to be hanging out with two Americans. They did take it like champs, though, still celebrating a good game with a flare-fueled party in the main square:

The next few days are work time. Jacob has lined up three photo shoots, so if the weather cooperates, I should have a portfolio by the end of the week. Again, weather cooperation will dictate what I do with my next weekend. Maybe Montenegro? Maybe somewhere else?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Bag Woes In Belgrade

This marks the first time I've arrived at a destination without my checked luggage. I never like to put my trust in checking my luggage through on a multi-flight itinerary, it seems like trusting too many people to do a good job, when these days there are quite a few people that don't do just that. On the way down to South America I had taken all of my things on carry on just to avoid this situation. This time, however, Jacob had me carrying an electronics store worth of equipment to resupply him with some up do date camera hardware.

After finishing off a night shift at work I grabbed a couple hours of sleep, got ready and took off to the airport for a 17 hour journey to Belgrade. I managed to sleep an hour and a half on the way to Chicago, another four on the way to Zurich, then another hour on the way to Belgrade. When I arrived, I was feeling a little off, but good to go. Not arriving with my luggage was a bit of an annoyance, but hey, I'm in Belgrade, and I have a friend support system to have my back.

Jacob hooked me up with some clothes to replace my attire that had become quite ripe from the flight. Taking a flight is the weirdest thing. You're basically doing nothing but sitting there, yet when you arrive at your destination you want a shower more than if you just busted out a marathon. We cruised around the streets of Belgrade, hitting up a delicious dinner of stuffed pork, a quiche-like plate and Serbian salad (quite similar to what I had in Turkey), then stopping off for coffee and a couple drinks at some various spots. I haven't snapped any pictures yet, but this city is quite beautiful and well laid out. There is a a core of walking streets lined with outdoor bars and cafes, which is totally in my cool books.

That night we cruised over to a party hosted by a two Serbian sisters that are friends of Jacob's. And we partied until 5:00am. My first night in Belgrade and we pulled an all night bender, a job well done! And when I woke up this morning my bag arrived! Good vibes are happening!

Monday, September 8, 2014


Now I'm very excited to be going to Serbia...

Monday, September 1, 2014

Two Weeks! Two Weeks!

I'm nine days away from my trip and getting more excited by the minute! To date this is the shortest non-resort trip I've taken, due to having to beg, borrow and steal (not really) time off from my boss. My flight takes me through Chicago, so I'll have to transit through American customs. I've already figured out how I'm going to explain the duration of my trip: