This will be remembered as the vacation where we accidentally stayed at a Youth Hostel. I guess a cheap “boat hotel” should have made us think twice, but it was definitely a new experience for the boys! The Boat-el was in a clean and quiet place next to the park, where morning mist rose over the water and swans joined us for breakfast. The grumpy old man chasing us with a stick was really just trying to make sure we weren’t hooligans, and I appreciate that when I was in the lobby tearing the plastic off a new deck of cards, the hostess thoughtfully brought me an ashtray.

We really liked Belgrade, a larger and more modern city than Sofia, with lively restaurants, wide boulevards, churches, cafes, and some beautiful buildings that reminded us of Vienna. We took a free walking tour, had sour cherry cake at Hotel Moskva, sampled some beers, and lit candles in the golden interiors of every church we could find. Thanksgiving weekend in Serbia was never on my bucket list, but this unexpected drop in the bucket turned out to be good.