Ok, not totally random. I was inspired by Carpetblogger’s post about Thanksgiving in Istanbul.
On Thanksgiving 2006, I was in Belgrade, Serbia with classmates from an EU program. Instead of staying at one of the many nice hotels in Belgrade, we stayed at the Hotel Slavija, a hilariously dilapidated Yugoslav throwback that probably hadn’t been cleaned, and definitely hadn’t been repaired, since the NATO airstrikes. (“This reminds me of Poland, twenty years ago,” our program leader remarked.) Until I stayed there, I didn’t know it was possible to use half an elevator. The first night, it got so cold inside (the heat was off, obviously) that my roommate and I put on every article of clothing we had brought with us and curled up in the fetal position, drifting in and out of the kind of fitful sleep that is all your body will permit below a certain temperature. Just as the sun began to rise, our heater began farting to life. When I got up, I put my hands on it and looked out the window, through the condensation, at the sparking trams and Roma kids selling shoelaces in the square below.
That night, we all ate a good attempt at an American Thanksgiving dinner, prepared for us by the hotel kitchen staff at the request of our program leader. The dinner didn’t include pie, so we decided to go on a pie-and-alcohol hunt later on. Only, we didn’t get around to the pie part until quite late, when most places were closed. However, there was a McDonalds just down the street from the Slavija , so we headed there, interested to find out if there was truth to the rumor of McDonalds apple pies being identical and available at every location worldwide.
Sure enough, they had those little rectangular pies in cardboard boxes.
My friend Olga was first to order.
“Uh, fruit pie, ok. Can I have a fruit pie?”
The girl at the counter bliinked sullenly, “Ok, fruit pie with ice cream.”
“Nope, just pie, thanks.”
“It comes with ice cream. It is pie and ice cream. They go together.”
“Umm, but I don’t want ice cream. I just want the pie. I’ll pay for both if I have to, just don’t give me the ice cream.”
The girl sighed, said something to her co-worker in Serbian, and then turned back to Olga, “I can only sell the pie with ice cream.”
Olga looked over at me. I shrugged my shoulders.
“Ok then! What the hey! Pie and ice cream sounds lovely.” Olga was promtply served both pie and ice cream.
The next thing I remember was a group of tipsy teenagers stumbling in, arms wrapped around each other, singing U2’s “One” extremely off-key.
I think we joined in.