A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about serbia

An American encounter in Belgrade

Belgrade


View Teaching and Travelling Abroad on 3Traveller's travel map.

I arrived safely at my hostel in Belgrade after a seamless three-hour bus journey from Užice. After settling my stuff in and saying hello to the friendly owner and his wonderful massive Italian mastiff (cane corso), I headed out into the sunshine, keen to explore.

My first wanderings took me down some lovely leafy streets, some pedestrianised and some not, and through the even leafier Student Park, which lies next to buildings belonging to the University of Belgrade.

dbd1c5c0-beec-11ec-a3ff-3b0cb85b970f.JPGIMG_9854.JPGdb85efb0-beec-11ec-bfa3-9b76479e601b.JPGdb3c8aa0-beec-11ec-bfa3-9b76479e601b.JPGdbe54dc0-beec-11ec-bfa3-9b76479e601b.JPGIMG_9863.JPG

Then I looked round the Ethnographic Museum next door. They had a wide range of traditional costumes on display - there was some incredible workmanship on show, especially in the embroidery and silver jewellery.

IMG_9865.JPG9c102e10-beef-11ec-967f-2f6b9d3e21ab.JPGIMG_9871.JPG9c9bcc40-beef-11ec-a694-4dc35325586f.JPG9cd26ca0-beef-11ec-967f-2f6b9d3e21ab.JPG

There were some traditional musical instruments which I found especially interesting; special mention to the bagpipes and what looked like a kind of mandolin with a carved neck.

IMG_9881.JPGfd3f5490-beef-11ec-a694-4dc35325586f.JPG

The museum seemed smallish at first, but once I'd been round the first big room I went upstairs and found that there were several other rooms leading off it. There were displays about wedding customs, the feast of St George, rural occupations such as rakija (fruit brandy) distilling, tobacco-growing, cattle-herding and river fishing, and urban and rural house interior dioramas set up to look how they would have done in the 19th century.

IMG_9883.JPGIMG_9902.JPGfafa0970-c7f8-11ec-84c1-497bf02723eb.JPGIMG_9899.JPGIMG_9904.JPGIMG_9906.JPGf9b49120-c7f8-11ec-b5ea-63b1d938b32d.JPGfca659e0-c7f8-11ec-84c1-497bf02723eb.JPGIMG_9888.JPG

Special mention also to a display about slava, which is a family ritual and feast celebrating the day of the patron saint of the family. So important was, and is, slava that in 2014 it was inscribed on UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. One of the house interior dioramas was set up to look like a rural home of the early 20th century set up for their celebration of the slava.

IMG_9897.JPGIMG_9896.JPGIMG_9894.JPG

From the Ethnographic Museum it was a short walk to Republic Square, where I hoped to visit the National Museum. A lot of building work was going on, so much of the square was blocked off, but the museum was still open. It was great all round, with a particularly fine Prehistoric and Celtic collection. Highlights for me were some sculptures found at Lepenski Vir, a major archaeological site of the Mesolithic Iron Gates culture of this part of the Balkans. They are carved from large red sandstone cobbles and are a combination of the realistic and the figurative, very expressionistic in style, representing humans with fishlike features.

IMG_9910.JPGf569c5a0-c888-11ec-a253-6b845ac71883.JPG

Other highlights in this section were the Celtic Horseman (3rd-4th c. BC; one of the few Celtic statues ever found), the votive Dupljaja Chariot (a Bronze Age masterpiece sculpted from amber), and some other amber objects, this time found at the site of a prehistoric princely tomb in Novi Pazar. The latter included some unique triangular plates, engraved with mythological scenes, which were worn as elaborate head or chest ornaments.

IMG_9923.JPGcc87dd10-c88e-11ec-8c94-091737631571.JPGIMG_9920.JPG

The sun was still shining as I left the National Museum, rested a little and discovered a group of people gathering for a free walking tour. I don't normally go on walking tours, because I prefer looking round places independently, but on this occasion I though "Why not..." and joined them. How glad I am that I did! I would never have met Barbara otherwise...

Barbara was a lovely American lady from South Carolina who got talking with me as we waited for the guide to arrive. "Are you from New Zealand, or just been there?" was her first question, as she spotted my 'Sweet As' t-shirt... Only been there, I answered. Back in 2009. The t-shirt was a gift though! We hit it off straight away, talking about our various travels around the world (amongst other things). Our conversation continued as the tour began and we walked around Stari Grad (the Old Town), including Belgrade Fortress and the park surrounding it.

The tour was a good one. Unfortunately I've forgotten the name of our guide now, but she was very nice, enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and had a couple of surprises up her sleeve for us! Within the Old Town we stopped at the statue of Đura Jakšić, a Serbian poet, dramatist and painter, for a shot of rakija, and a few streets away from there she gave us a micro-introduction to the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet.

IMG_9924.JPGIMG_9925.JPGa9ed76f0-c89f-11ec-b6ff-9784eddb95ca.JPG

Within the lush green park surrounding the fortress she handed round some colour print-outs of some Yugoslavian 5 billion dinar notes for us to keep if we wanted to.

IMG_9931.JPG

Belgrade Fortress was very impressive, as were the views from it! We didn't have as long to look round as if we'd gone independently, of course, and we didn't actually go inside any of the buildings, but the grounds were still very pleasant to walk round.

IMG_9934.JPGd1880a10-c8a7-11ec-84b4-f3bd5ad17e66.JPGd2b76250-c8a7-11ec-84b4-f3bd5ad17e66.JPG

We walked a loop round the fortress boundary, so we had some wonderful views of the city, the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, and some terraces below where we stood.

IMG_9938.JPGIMG_9939.JPGd2e417a0-c8a7-11ec-92c0-cd3c41cfe5d3.JPGIMG_9942.JPG

The colourful spire of Holy Archangel Michael Orthodox Church stood out as we made our way round.

d2eddba0-c8a7-11ec-bcac-118fd7e38df3.JPGd3058250-c8a7-11ec-84b4-f3bd5ad17e66.JPGIMG_9947.JPGd36de110-c8a7-11ec-84b4-f3bd5ad17e66.JPG

The tour finished once we had finished our loop. Barbara and I were both pretty knackered by then, plus it was late afternoon by now, so we agreed to make our way back to the centre and have dinner together, stopping at Barbara's hotel first so she could get something. We passed by a statue of Gavrilo Princip on our way.

IMG_0003.JPG

At dinner I noticed again the similarity of Serbian cuisine to Bulgarian (the Ottoman influence across the Balkans). I had some cheesy stuffed peppers, kebabs (long grilled mince fingers on sticks) and chips, with sour cream as a side and some rakija to go with it - the glass of the latter arrived on ice.

eaf61d80-c8b0-11ec-8932-a1a1c32c4236.JPG

Barbara and I parted ways after dinner. I'm absolutely kicking myself for not getting her details! Barbara, if you happen to see this and remember our afternoon/evening, and would like to get back in touch, send me a message! I had a fantastic time in your company and it would be great to meet up again at some point!

Back at my hostel, I tried and failed to check in to my flight online using Dave's iPhone - frustrating, as I knew that if I had to check in and get my boarding pass at the airport instead, I'd have to pay a fee. Unfortunately, this is what I was forced to do in the end, as there weren't any computers or printer at the hostel, and it was too late in the day for any internet café to be open. My flight was at 10:15 the following morning, so I was going to be up too early in the morning for that too.

The flight itself was fine, though I didn't get a window seat!

Posted by 3Traveller 18:36 Archived in Serbia Tagged museum hostel serbia belgrade explorations fortifications orthodox_church river_danube traditional_customs serbian_cuisine Comments (3)

A very special day in Užice

Užice


View Teaching and Travelling Abroad on 3Traveller's travel map.

There were one or two more normal classes first thing and then the next couple of hours were taken up with final rehearsals and getting ready for the Show. The Show went really well - both classes put on a great performance. My class did a tweaked version of Modern Cinderella and the other class did a reverse-gender version of Romeo and Juliet.

The school day finished early so that people (including us) could go to view a special event in one of the town squares - the school leavers' dance performance! I hadn't heard of it before, but it turns out that this traditional event is synchronised in several countries across the Balkans; the school leavers from every secondary school in every town come together to dance the same dance at the same time in one massive group in a public square. There was a commentator and introducer speaking over the loudspeaker and I think it was being televised too. We went along with some students and teachers from 'our' school to watch. It started in decorous and well co-ordinated fashion, with white umbrellas and basic ballroom steps; as time went on it became gradually less and less decorous and co-ordinated... The umbrellas were dispensed with, the music changed, the group broke up into smaller ones and the celebrations became more raucous, though not in a negative manner. It was a very joyful event and I felt very lucky and privileged to have been at the school on just the right day to have had the chance to see it.

IMG_9753.JPGccc15670-1930-11ec-abf9-e9427e5ce32b.JPGIMG_9752.JPGccfe3860-1930-11ec-88ff-298941740b4c.JPGIMG_9757.JPG

Eventually M and I moved on in order to get started on the rest of our programme for the afternoon... We bought some lunch from a mini-market first, and then split up, each of us with a group of eager now-ex-students keen to show us around. M wanted to get his hair cut, so his group took him to a barber; mine took me to a tiny but interesting house museum first. It was built by a rich merchant in the second half of the 19th century and reminded me quite a lot of the National Revival house museums in Bulgaria. The Ottoman influence was clear.

a8b8e9c0-1933-11ec-8f18-f5a466d6179a.JPGa94dafb0-1933-11ec-8f18-f5a466d6179a.JPGIMG_9763.JPGa8fdbaf0-1933-11ec-8f18-f5a466d6179a.JPGa8b678c0-1933-11ec-b9fc-b3328d213a0f.JPGa99edcf0-1933-11ec-8f18-f5a466d6179a.JPGIMG_9771.JPG

Next up for me was the Church of St George, a small and pretty Orthodox church with an incredibly beautiful interior. My guides said that they had never been inside before, which I found interesting.

IMG_9788.JPGcb4c93f0-1934-11ec-8f18-f5a466d6179a.JPG

My last stop before both groups met up again was at a cultural centre, where we had Turkish coffee and one of my guides told my fortune from the coffee grounds, reminding herself of the meanings from her phone.

IMG_9733.JPG

Once we had met up again, some of each group had to go home but others remained. They took us to the Old Town, which is the name of the archaeological remains of a 14th century fortress dramatically set on a steep, rocky hill a little outside of the city centre. We walked alongside the River Đetinja to get there. It was interesting to wander round the ruins, and from the top there were absolutely fantastic views of the winding valley and river, the town and the hills beyond. The sun had properly come out now so it was a very hot day.

IMG_9820.JPGIMG_9806.JPG205ab040-1938-11ec-8c62-2302158b0d6e.JPGIMG_9802.JPGd9eebc00-1937-11ec-8c62-2302158b0d6e.JPGd9f9b880-1937-11ec-8e97-e7a013c40a3c.JPGIMG_9793.JPGIMG_20190517_141257.jpg

More people had to go after that, so only a couple remained. We were taken further along the river and through at least one tunnel to a bridge where we could see a waterfall. We had passed through outskirts of the city and it felt properly in the countryside; very green and lovely. The river ran clear and I was tempted to paddle and/or swim.

IMG_9821.JPG489c7cb0-193c-11ec-a4a7-87467c0aaf92.JPG48d95ea0-193c-11ec-a7cb-3579cfb7f017.JPGIMG_9843.JPGdef9d590-193c-11ec-a4a7-87467c0aaf92.JPGIMG_9840.JPGdefc94b0-193c-11ec-a7cb-3579cfb7f017.JPG

That was our last stop of the day, so after walking back into town and saying our goodbyes we took a taxi to our hotel. I was knackered and in need of a rest - my fitbit said that I had taken 26,000 steps so far today, so I'm not surprised!

Tomorrow we both take the bus to Belgrade. M will go straight to the airport, but I've arranged a night in Belgrade so I can have a good look round some of the city before I fly back on Sunday.

Posted by 3Traveller 09:06 Archived in Serbia Tagged landscapes waterfalls mountains bridges serbia traditions explorations english_teaching fortifications orthodox_church house_museum užice serbian_cuisine Comments (4)

Užice, Serbia

Užice


View Teaching and Travelling Abroad on 3Traveller's travel map.

I've had an absolutely wonderful week so far, teaching higher-level General English to older students.

Both classes are incredibly lovely - some of the nicest I've ever taught - as are also the contact teacher, the rest of the teachers in the English department, the head teacher and also the cleaning/ tea lady, who we've been getting our classroom keys from every morning. She doesn't speak English but smiles and responds when I say 'dobro utro' (good morning), 'dobar dan' (good day) and 'hvala' (thank you). After finding out what our hot drink of choice was at the start of the week, she started bringing us in cups of it as soon as we arrive in the morning and then during the longer of the breaks we get during the school day. For me she brings in Turkish coffee with a chunk of Turkish Delight, both common in Serbia due to the historical Ottoman link. I find it interesting to note that she makes it using a traditional jug on the hob, not a kettle - even the hot water she uses for people's tea comes from another jug on the hob.

Outside of school I've enjoyed taking in the Balkan flavour of the town. This included the market with shelled walnuts, honey, long pointed red peppers, big bulging tomatoes and other seasonal fruit and veg (I bought a kg of strawberries for only 280 dinars - just over £2); the combination of Cyrillic and Latin scripts; the occasional words and phrases I recognise from their Slavic similarity to Bulgarian; red-tiled houses contrasting with ex-Soviet-looking tower blocks; Orthodox churches; a cuisine based on grilled meats and vegetables, cucumber and tomato-based salads, cheesy pastries, yoghurt, stuffed cabbage leaves and peppers, savoury and sweet pancakes, fruit and/or jam pastries.

IMG_9731.JPGIMG_9738.JPG9dffb0d0-e26b-11eb-be1d-ed11f54fa24a.JPGIMG_9740.JPG9e1b9d40-e26b-11eb-88fa-1f9950bd4b4a.JPGIMG_9734.JPG

Speaking of Serbian cuisine, yesterday I tried a speciality of the region Užice is in - a 'Komplet lepinja'. One of my classes brought one in to class for me as they wanted me to try it there and then for breakfast - they had mentioned the day before that they were going to bring in a speciality for me but kept what it was as a surprise. A komplet lepinja is a large savoury bun/ bread roll with a lid cut off, the main part hollowed out a little and covered in thick sour cream similar to clotted cream, then topped with whisked egg, baked and some warm pork dripping added on top. It sounds filling, and was - so much so, I had to save half of it for lunch - but it was certainly tasty and I enjoyed it.

Tomorrow my co-teacher and I have the production of the Shows we've been working on with one each of our respective classes and then after school we're going to be shown some sights by some of our soon-to-be ex-students. Something else very special is going to be happening immediately after school, too - but I'll describe this event in the next blog entry, along with the other happenings of the day!

Posted by 3Traveller 16:01 Archived in Serbia Tagged market serbia english_teaching užice serbian_cuisine Comments (0)

Back to the Balkans

London Luton Airport, Nikola Tesla Airport, Belgrade and Užice (Serbia)


View Teaching and Travelling Abroad on 3Traveller's travel map.

I'm back in the Balkans for the coming week, in Serbia to be precise. Serbia is new to me, but I've already been reminded of other Balkan countries I've been to.

I'm teaching in a small city called Užice (pronounced oo-zhi-tse), which is only about 35km from the Bosnian border. I got here OK earlier after a very early morning, uneventful flight from Luton Airport to Belgrade, a three and a half-hour bus trip from Belgrade Bus Station to Užice city centre, and finally a taxi ride to the hotel, which lies a few km out of town. The scenery near Užice is dramatic and stunning, with winding roads and river, stone enscarpments, hills and forest - it reminds me a bit of Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria, where I lived and worked for an academic year (see earlier in this blog).

I've met up with 'M', my co-teacher for the week, here at the hotel. We've spoken about how we're going to approach the week ahead, and taken advantage of the hotel's small all-you-can-eat buffet for dinner (only 500 Serbian dinars - about £4!). The selection they had for us to choose from seemed a little random; I had cheesy tomato and vegetable pasta, a very red, thin and tasty type of sausage, and sesame seed sprinkled chicken chunks. For dessert I was overjoyed to see a plate of tolumbi - like in Bulgaria, these are thick and flattened fingers of batter seeped in syrup - a bit mushier that the Bulgarian ones. They also had one of the most mouth-watering pastries I've ever had; a glorious combination of moist flaky pastry, cherries and cherry syrup.

I'm looking forward to what the next few days will bring!

Posted by 3Traveller 10:39 Archived in Serbia Tagged hotel airport buses serbia belgrade užice serbian_cuisine Comments (2)

(Entries 1 - 4 of 4) Page [1]