Zlatibor Bound

Bruce: Well this will be another epic blog. We haven’t really had decent enough internet till now, here in a posh hotel in Zlatibor. Since some of you only look at the pictures, I’ll include them first this time, so you don’t have to goto all that effort of scrolling down so much. Most of the blog is by Jenelle, with the red comments by me 🙂

2 September 2012

A very leisurely start to the day with breakfast at 9 am and time to write some more blog. We have had several frustrating moments trying to login into the hotel’s wifi but rather embarrassingly it was more to do with operator error than hardware problems.

We are now reasonable confident in navigating our way around the old part of Belgrade. The morning’s activity was to visit the Residence of Princess Ljubica – a bit of culture and less technical, but the operation of the light fittings did attract some considerable discussion. Apart from the Turkish bathroom, it was more a display of period pieces with just a lot of sitting rooms and a notable absence of a dining table and kitchen. Come to think of it there seems to be more bars in Belgrade rather than proper restaurants. An earlier side trip to a street market, and some necessary purchases for the forthcoming ARDF did cause some interesting looks.

On return to our hotel to get some lunch we came across a street food and wine festival. It looked quite inviting and Bruce was most disappointed that Ewen could not be persuaded to stop and indulge in some free lunch. Given the security presence I don’t think we would have been welcomed.

Bruce: Actually they didn’t seem to care less what anyone was doing, or even that we walked through.

The afternoon activity was a bike tour of Belgrade. I approached this with some intrepidation given the hills around the old part of the city. There was some compensation for my senior status and scored a geared bike. The ride around the river bank soon restored the confidence and kept up with the pelaton. We crossed the river to New Belgrade with the aid of an elevator up to the bridge concourse and headed west. Nathan our tour guide told us about the Nato bombings of the Hotel Yugoslavia and the Chinese embassy. The hotel was not badly bombed but is now largely abandoned. From here we headed to the Western Gate, two concrete towers, one an apartment block of 30 levels and the other office space, currently only half occupied. Quite spectacular from a distance but all a bit run down and dejected looking close up. It would seem bike paths are an integral part of footpath construction here and I was quite pleased that there was not too much street riding, but you certainly had to be alert to cars appearing in the slip lanes from unexpected directions.

Bruce: My photos of the bike ride slipped into the last blog, so now you know what they were about 🙂

It was thirsty work getting to the lake and the plan of an alcohol free day went out the window. The water was quite a good temperature and it was quite mistake not to have taken the bathers with us. On the ride back to the start, Ewen lead a breakaway from the peloton, closely followed by Bruce. Somehow I don’t think the locals were too amused!! All good fun and definitely gave a different way to see Belgrade. We met a young couple from England (IT students) who were making the most of their last long holiday before their final year at Leeds University. They had begun their holiday in Istanbul and were heading to Venice via Bosnia and Croatia.

We dined on a converted barge on the river bank, a really pleasant way to spend the evening. I was rather glad to get back to the hotel after another 4 km of walking along the river bank and through the back of the bus depot. Well exercised and guilt free after the earlier indulgences.

Bruce: Since we’d gone to dinner straight from the bike ride, I still had my bike so I was able to zip back the the Hotel.

Special Note to Raf and Shona.

All those leg exercises in pilates worked a treat. All I have to do is find the thera band hidden in the bottom of my case.


3rd September 2012

There was a rush to pack this morning to be ready for our 9am departure. We thought we had it all organised but needed to take a drive around the block to allow Bruce to retrieve his special purchase from yesterday. Our tour leader and driver for the remainder of our trip is Daniel, a graduate who majored in German and English. We took the scenic route to Topola, via a communications tower.

At Topola, we visited the Peter 1 Church and Mausoleum, built in local white stone and it was the intention of Peter 1 to have the names of the huge number of Serbian troops who had lost their lives in WW1 inscribed on the walls. Too many names and so instead the walls are covered with about 6 million mini tiles in 1500+ colours. 720 scenes on the walls in stunning colour. Underneath was the crypt with even a few spare spaces for future deceased royals. During its construction King Peter1 lived just across the road so he could supervise the construction. This villa which is quite small has ben opened as a museum. There was a picture on the wall that looked familiar(a bit like the Queen Mother), not surprisingly Queen Maria wife of King Alexander (son of Peter1), was a descendant of Queen Victoria. From here we visited Karagorge’s church and museum, the ethnographic part was interesting, the corner cupboard and the wheat storage – a hollowed out tree stump with a piece of wood on the top. The mandatory wine tasting and tour at the Royal Winery followed, huge vats on separate floors for red and white wine, some old wine making equipment (more technical discussion, specially decorated vats for the wedding of King Alexander and Queen Maria, and a magnificent vine covered gazebo, the like of which Ewen is going to build in Greensborough. The grapes hanging underneath were very tasty.

Bruce: It seems 1st September marks the time when many a rural Serbian starts to consider firewood. The roads are jammed with tractors, or smaller craft, pulling mini trailers piled high with cut logs, and many front yards feature families industriously chopping and stacking impressively large stacks of firewood for the winter months ahead. In front of other houses are messy piles of unsorted dumped timber ready for chopping.

It was quite a drive from here over Rudnik Mountain to Gorni Milanovac and we were starting to get pretty hungry by the time we arrived at about 3pm. I now know why Daniel was keen to get to our evening stop, a guest house fairly high on a hill outside the town. We were greeted by our hostess Ziza in the traditional Serbian manner, with special bread (wheel shaped) with salt. This was followed by a cool mint drink, a small glass of liqueur (your choice of walnut, cherry or black currant?)  and then a hot minty tea. This was served outside. We were then invited inside for a light lunch of 3 courses. Salad of tomato and cucumber, sliced belly pork, white cheeses and some magnificent tri coloured plaited bread – that was first course. The chicken soup, the flavour was just superb, and then the fried chicken, buttery mashed potato and carrots. Dessert was served outside, a bitter chocolate topped slice.

We were definitely in need of some exercise so Bruce headed out on his bike. The husband of our hostess had just arrived home so Ewen and I sat and chatted with Daniel interpreting some parts. There was just enough time for a short walk (straight up a big hill to a spring on the side of the road) before we were to help with the evening meal preparation.

Bruce: After our late lunch arrival at the peaceful Melodai villa, I took the bike and our hosts recommendation to go for a ride up the hill and out along a spur to see a view of the town. As it turned out, I rode all the 6km or so into town and had a look around, but the 3km hill back up onto the spur just seemed to take forever. On the way back stopped at one of the clear water springs (with convenient tap) that seem to be a fairly regular ocurrance in Serbia. Evan, the husband (who runs a shoe shop in town during the day), asked later, with a smile, if I had any trouble riding back up the hill (I suspect he expected me to say I had to walk up).

Instructions for White Cheese dish

Grease and dust with maize flour a 25 cm round enamel pie dish.

Break 3 eggs into a basin (Ewen’s job), Beaten with a fork (Bruce took over at this point)

Add 4 lumps white cheese and mash to a uniform consistency.

Add 12 heaped spoons of maize flour, 6 heaped spoons for flour, a packet of baking powder, 3 small coffee cups of oil and a glass of mineral water. Mix well and tip into pie dish. Smooth top and arrange slices of belly pork in a wheel pattern on top.

Bake for 30 minutes at 150 degrees C.

It seems in this part of Serbia that lunch is a large meal and dinner is a small light meal.

The weather was so nice we then sat outside and more chat. After about 35 minutes I mentioned the pie and Ewen and Bruce went running inside, but our hostess had already retrieved dinner from the oven. The pie was served with homemade yoghurt. Very tasty indeed, but needed some lubrication to help it down. Homemade Schnaps appeared and some of us were a little slow in saying stop as the host Ivan filled the little glasses. Lots of laughter ensued. Just before 9pm the boys all headed out to get water from the spring, and so our hostess and I took to the recliner chairs and viewed the stars and made conversation in slow broken English. (All that practice at work helped!)

Bruce: In the interests of an authentic record, I feel bound to mention that it was I who actualy made the pie, under instruction from Ziza, and some excellent egg cracking by Ewen.

By the time the guys had returned with the water, it was becoming quite cool outside, so were retreated inside for sleep.


4th September 2012 (yes it’s Tuesday)

Quickly losing track of the days. This morning began with a traditional Serbian breakfast. More bread but this time with finely sliced potato in the mix. Quite yummy. It was served with yoghurt to which I added some sliced banana. This was met with some puzzled looks. Toasted tri-coloured bread and hibiscus jam and more of the hot minty tea. Made from mint, lemon balm, stinging nettle and flowers of the linden tree. After the water is infused with the herbs, the mint and lemon balm are replanted in the garden – the ultimate recycling.

Today’s adventure started with a trip to 2 monasteries. Zica monastery dating from the 13th century. Like all buildings of this age there was some restoration being done. This was actually a nunnery. Apart from the main church there were several outer buildings surrounded by a stone wall. I’ve yet to work out what “male” and “female” are in Serbian, so it was a good job there were no other tourists around to embarrass either me or them.

From here a fairly circuitous route to Studentija monastery, we ended up on the same road we had started on to get to the first monastery. This should have been a signal that the sat nav was not behaving. After repositioning ourselves, we made it to Studentija via a rather mountainous diversion (Bruce: see haybale picture). A good view of a national park which I suspect is somewhere near the championships next week. This monastery (built in 12th century)was another walled community with a main church and several outer buildings. It seems they liked to redecorate back in the 16th century, so to get the new frescoes to adhere to the wall they virtually had to destroy the originals underneath. (No pictures of this or other works allowed inside.) There were several caskets containing the remains of the original founders of the monastery. The one for St Anaesthasia was made of made of solid silver and elaborately decorated in scenes of her life. In the refectory outside I rather liked the white marble tables as they would have made an excellent kitchen bench.

The planned diversion to visit Vranga Banka for a late lunch on the way home didn’t work out as planned. It was a very scenic route and much slower than the main highway. About 3 pm a car behind started to toot, so we pulled over to find we had a flat tyre. Out with the “mini” air compressor, this didn’t sound too healthy from the time it was turned on, and realising it would take some time to work its magic several of us went exploring the creek alongside the road. Ewen soon alerted us that it had thrown in the towel and luckily there was enough air in the tyre to make it to a fuel stop nearby. Both tyre and occupants replenished we headed up the mountain. Just about 10 minutes past the entrance to Kopaonik the temperature light came on. Another road side stop, Danny certainly appreciated the engineers on board as they took over and ascertained that the water in the radiator was well below the minimum. We quickly consumed the drinks we had purchased and proceeded to fill these bottles (and others lying on the side of the road) with water from the creek beside the road. The human chain gang began with Bruce filling bottles in the creek and launching them up the bank, me retrieving them and Ewen filling the radiator. All this with lots of laughter helped lift Danny’s spirits and soon had us back on the road. With all this nervous energy consumed Ewen was in need of real food and we stopped about 5 pm for a recharge. There was still the tyre issue and not long after starting off again we discovered the tyre had gone flat again. Danny disappeared into a nearby house and reappeared with a manual tyre pump and we took it in turns to pump up the tyre again. This allowed us to get to the town where we were to have had lunch. Danny went off to have the tyre repaired and we investigated a large mall sort of area with many shops and stalls. It was about 7.30 before we set off again and eventually returned to Villa Melodie around 9.30. A fairly tiring drive for Danny.

We settled in for some serious eating (and drinking) which Ziza had prepared in our absence. Sunflower bread (wheel bread in both rye and white with a star pattern on top and sprinkled with sunflower seeds, floured and egg battered roasted capsicum, along with the usual tomato and cheeses, with cinnamon spiced apple and walnut slice to follow. Time to unwind after the day’s misadventures. Bruce: see photo.

5th September 2012

Late start this morning as we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast outdoors. Again more of Ziza’s beautiful cooking, special breads, savoury omelettes and the usual accompaniments. We would have willingly stayed longer here but still more to see in Serbia.

Here the scenery had more rugged quarried mountains, deep rivers by the road side and more greenery than further north. We had an impromptu stop to check out a dam wall. More technical talk. From there we headed to the cave at Potpeck. The climb up to the upper cave was about 100 steps, certainly keeping up the fitness levels. At the entrance to the upper level small ferns were growing out of the rock face, and further inside the cave there were some interesting shapes. Apparently the cave stretches for 10 km but only 2 km is open to the public. The stories of how the patriots used the caves as refuge from the Turks were pretty harrowing. They actually perished as they held under siege.

The ethno village nearby had a some artefacts dating back to Roman times right through to 20th century, including more versions of coffee pots that you could imagine. Bruce, Ewen and I sat up at the desks in the school room, and gave more cheek as Danny tried to keep his class in order. He even threatened us with the cane.

We had our lunch here and tried some Serbian pear cider. The food was incredibly good value 350 dinar for a big bowl of beans and smoked meat. Both Bruce and Ewen opted to supplement their meal with apple pie (more like apple strudel).

No worries with getting to our final destination today. We even found time for a walk through the market before tea and another brisk walk to a monument afterwards. (The speed increased as the flashes of lightning appeared in the distance.)

Bruce: This afternoon we walked past a stand in the Zlatibor village centre promoting downhill mountain biking at the nearby ski resort. It looked pretty cheap, including the chairlift ride up with bike, and a number of diffrent grade tracks down. Danny checked at the booth for us and we discovered, unfortunately, it only runs on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Pity, since I just happen to have the bike right here with me.

Previous Blog: https://ardf.org.au/WordPress/2012/karlovci-no-exit/