Things we discovered while travelling

1. The trains in Italy. They do run on time, are inexpensive and comfortable, and there is this neat game in which you are supposed to punch the ticket before you get on. If you forget, the conductor first looks at you in utter disbelief, then after listening to your attempts to explain in a funny accent, looks at you in greater disbelief, says "Lei non e italiano?," then it dawns on him that there is no way you could understand anything and he scribbles something incomprehensible on the back of it, smiles indulgently and lets you go on. However, when we arrived in Trieste the train workers went on strike, so the next morning our friend drove us to Ljubljana and we continued by bus.

2. The students in Forli. Hello Hanne, Margherita and Guiseppe! I'm back and have got some sleep now, so I will be back to you with the documentation and advice on your papers today. Thanks for providing the pretext for the whole trip.

3. Restoran Zaplet in Belgrade. We already knew that this place was quite elegant and very good, plus it is just around the corner from our apartment. But a milestone was reached when I ordered a rare steak and, for the first time in over a decade of gluvarenje around the Balkans, actually got one. The pleasure of seeing our friends competed the rest of the evening with incredulous culinary joy. Let the cows get as mad as they want to be.

4. The departure of a hero. Since 1990 the best thing about Thursdays has always been Stojan Cerovic's column in Vreme, which would take you through the characters, contexts and events of the week with a shining intelligence, an astounding economy of words, and a turn of phrase that focused sharply, more like a razor than like the kind of dull serrated blade (or rusty spoon) that is so typical of political commentary in most places. Every week he accomplished the amazing feat of reminding hopeless people that a moral compass existed while being clever, provocative and gentle at the same time. I was happy to see that the memorial at the Medija Centar attracted an overflow crowd, made up mostly of people I like and respect, to pay their respects to this courageous and decent journalist.

5. Give them shelter. Congratulations to the Pepper People and to the TV Manijaci, who have got themselves lovely new apartments!

More to come as East Ethnia slowly but surely regains consciousness.

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