Serbian Coffee, Beauty and Soprano


Miss Serbia

Bandula with Branko (left)

My dear friend Ambassador Branko Radosevic. Consul General of Serbia, is the most senior Consul General serving in Sydney. I think he will complete 10 years either next year or the year after. He told me he has served mostly in Australia, holding different diplomatic positions. Australia is like second home for Branko.  He was one of the first diplomats I met in Sydney when I was appointed as the Consul General for Sri Lanka. Not only was he helpful but wonderful too.  We continue to stay in touch. I wanted to see him somehow during my visit to Sydney. Branko said he was waiting with open arms. It was far better for me to travel by train and then walk to the Serbian Consulate General’s office in Woollahara in Sydney. Cars are good but, going by train, bus and walking we reach out to the masses much more. I had that luxury as a tourist.

When I got lost for a moment, a Jewish Australian I met near the Edgecliff Station said "Oh you mean that beautiful old building down Trelawney Street. I always look at the place when I pass that way". He knew the place very well and gave me the directions. Branko wasn't there when I went. However, the Serbian staff at the Consulate General’s office welcomed me very warmly. I always enjoyed going there because they always make you feel at home. Serbians are wonderful people. Women are very beautiful. Oh Serbia, I love you too. They also have a very special connection to Sri Lanka, going back to the days of Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Marshall Tito of Yugoslavia. Mrs. B was a household name in former Yugoslavia, many Serbian friends have told me. Let’s not forget the times we were really nonaligned. Cheers for the good old nonaligned movement days.

Branko greeted me with open arms and very warmly. He told me that I looked happier. Of course I am, away from governments, away from self-serving politicians. I told him that I was happy that Serbia values his service to his nation. Who wouldn't be proud about a good human being like Branko?

I have had strong Serbian coffee at Branko’s before and it was time to have that very strong Serbian coffee again after many years. Serbian coffee is very strong and they drink in bigger cups. I don’t think many could handle the strong Serbian coffees. You simply cannot Americanos. It wasn't easy for me either. The Serbian Consul General served only the real strong domestic coffee. I have always waited until it’s less hot and gulped it all the time. However, for the first time, Branko told me to try it with Rakija Plum Brandy. He said drinking Rakija with Serbian coffee is a Serbian tradition and has its own traditions and rituals, and asked if I was up to it at 10.30 in the morning. I told him, "Why not. Let me try in the spirit of friendship". Rakija is an alcoholic drink made from distillation of fermented plums. Percentage of alcohol is from 40 to 65 %. His secretary prepared it for me and I was up to the mark and gulped it one shot to the applause of Branko. I had to do it. Rakija surely was strong but, I could stand on my two feet and even walked to the station and took the train back to Northbridge where I was staying. Thank you Branko for the friendship.

I also met journalist and franchise holder for Miss Serbia contest, Vesna, at a Serbian National day event in Sydney when I served as the Consul General in Sydney. She had come to Sydney with Miss Serbia 2013/2014, Milica. We became friendly very soon. Vesna had been to Sri Lanka several times and even interviewed late Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike. Her love for Sri Lanka, Sri Lankan food, and of course the best tea in the world was great. Later, Milica and Vesna came to my residence for a spicy Sri Lankan meal of string hoppers, katta sambal, potato curry, dhal, seeni sambol and ginger tea. It was prepared by Dayawathie. We all had a wonderful time at my Drummoyne residence. Vesna joined me for a walk in Bondi though Miss Serbia Mili played sleeping beauty.   The Serbians reached out with warmth and invited me to the Sydney Opera house to witness Carmen. Think it was on the invitation of famous, Serbian born Milijana Nikolic who played Carmen. Milijana is a world renowned Operatic Mezzo-Soprano. Warm and very graceful Milijana invited us backstage after Carmen which itself was a wonderful experience. Thanks to the Serbians, I had a very wonderful interaction with the Artistic Director of the Sydney Opera House, Lyndon Terracini.

As for beautiful Miss Serbia Mili who was born in Belgrade, represented Serbia in the Miss World 2014 contest in London. She won 4th place in Sports and Fitness challenge event and was placed among the top 27 in Beauty with a purpose. However, to me she remains Miss World 2014.  My Serbian connection continues even today. I even had a friend named Egor from Yugoslavia when we were at Trinity. Hope I got his name correct. I cannot remember where he went after junior school. I am sure many of our Trinity friends will remember him.

Long live our friendship with the Serbians. Here is to Branko, Vesna, Mili and Milijana and Serbians with Serbian Coffee and Rakija Plum Brandy.

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