I got up early (well early for me on a Sunday) and had breakfast out on the terrace basking in the sun, and read the Economist. So much for the predicted drop to -8 for last night. Then I worked solidly for several hours (including a bit more cow and people watching: same cows different people no drug pushers). Talking of drugs: thankfully my head has cleared. I think the headache which appeared after my temperature went down must have been due to caffeine deprivation over 3 days as returning to the morning fix of machiato did the trick.
I thought I had earned (and could eat) a proper Sunday lunch so I decided to brave the fish restaurant two houses away from our hotel rather than go back into Pristina. I was invited to this restaurant in my first week in Pristina but the lunch was so disastrous I never went back. It wasn't the food, which was good, but the conversation.
You arrive in a new place and are trying to work out what the obscure work instructions you are given mean in practice and what can be done in reality. You have to meet lots of people whose formal position in relation to your work is not always clear, you have to guess what their hidden agenda is, and how distorted the picture is they paint about what is going on. The first month (or maybe more) can be spent feeling mentally battered until something sensible falls into place. And then there is Kosovo with a fledgling government and a triple layer of international administration, so there is even more to absorb.
So when 18 months ago, I was invited out to lunch at Rio 1 by someone I knew from my previous project and who was in what I thought was an influential position, I was delighted to accept. I arrived rather late (the restaurant was difficult to find) but found myself seated in an orchard in the countryside and with a large fish in front of me. The colleague proceeded to give lots of advice "as a friend" about avoiding the politics and keeping my head down (usually my work assumes that I have to give advice, so this is difficult, and hardly my style either). This warning was delivered in true Balkan conspiracy style without naming any names, just assuming I knew the background and would understand everything. He then carried on by making a vicious personal attack on one of my "bosses", saying the work proposed for me was completely pointless, (at the current stage of the mental battering, I was even inclined to agree with him) and not what was required at all. But this "boss" was someone I had worked with already, had a good relationship with and liked. I didn't understand the reason for the vicious personal attack. Of course then the colleague explained what was really needed. However the bitter taste left in my mouth by the attack had spoilt everything. I remember just struggling to eat an enormous fish and wishing I could leave.
I was still in shock at the viciousness so I don't remember much of the rest of what the colleague said. For a month the atmosphere of my work was tainted as I waited for whatever it was he was warning me about. However when I came back after the summer, the colleague had gone. Gradually I learned that two previous advisers had managed to offend the minister and been removed. So my colleague's warning had been well meant, but could have been less cryptic! By now in Pristina I have got used to everyone attacking everyone else, and even indulge in it myself, though I try not to.
When I realised I was staying 50 metres from Rio 1, I went back one evening to investigate. Its neon light at the entrance was shining but the orchard was deserted. I could see a big barn roof and an outdoor bar but no sign of waiters or other diners. So I retreated.
Finally today I spotted some people going in, so I decided to follow them. It seemed that beyond the barn was a huge restaurant used in the evenings and winter, though most people today were sitting under the rustic barn roof, enjoying the sun's rays coming diagonally under it.
The waiter brought out a selection of fish on a tray for me to choose. It was a choice between seabream and dorade, both small. I was offered a further choice of baked in the oven with white wine and garlic (which I chose) or grilled. I ordered a seafood house special starter and settled down with a glass of white wine to muse on the names of fish in translation, which I will reserve for a later post.
The starter had a risotto with mussels and tiny shrimps, as well as king prawns and calamari (both the shells and the pink babies with lots of legs). Delicious!
For the main course the fish arrived in an open cast iron dish swimming in the wine. Vegetables (carrots, potatoes, tiny pieces of aubergine and spinach) came separately. Apart from too much salt on the spinach, again everything was delicious. I remembered Sunday fish lunches by the sea in Greece and thought this was not bad for Pristina halfway through October.
So like my ex-colleague, restaurant Rio 1 is rehabilitated.