Thursday, October 11, 2007

Driving to Serbia

Posted by Picasa

Thank God, we arrived back in Greece this evening (Thursday) after a safe and very pleasant road trip to Serbia this past week.

We left last Friday in our new car (thank you all again!) and drove north through the border with FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), through all of FYROM, across the border into Serbia, and up to Nis, Serbia’s major city in the south.

I planned the stay-over in Nis in order to break up the trip – and it’s a great excuse to see Nis, which was the birthplace of St Constantine the Great.

The trip went very smoothly. The car was great, and the border crossings were surprisingly easy. All in all, we were in Nis after only about 5 or 5.5 hours.

At our Serbian friends’ suggestion, I had made a reservation at a specific hotel, which was supposed to be well known. Unfortunately, almost none of the road signs had English translations (as they do in Greece in other EU countries), so we just sort of circled around the city for awhile. We tried to ask people but ended up just circling more. Finally, we saw a hotel in the downtown center that I had read about as being decent and reasonably priced, and just decided to stay there. It was getting dark and we were tired and hungry, so we were glad to get settled in.

(The first photo is from our hotel room window, looking down on Nis, just as we arrived.)

We asked someone at the hotel’s front desk for a good place to eat, and we were off. Of course, (our understanding of) the directions led us nowhere, so we just picked one. It was good Serbian food!

After eating, we walked around inside the old city fortress, which has been nicely utilized as an integral part of the modern city. An old mosque inside the fortress is an art gallery and an old steam bath is a restaurant.

Soon it was late and we decided to see more of the city in the morning before heading on to Belgrade.

In the morning, Friday’s beautiful, sunny weather disappeared and as soon as we checked out of the hotel to start sightseeing, a torrential downpour began. So we ran to the car and tried to drive to the birthplace of St Constantine, an old Roman imperial villa called Mediana, which is located on the edge of the city.
We asked around and finally pieced together directions.

“It’s down this road 2 kilometers.”

We were getting close. About 10 kilometers down the road later, eyes peeled, we still didn’t see any signs of anything looking remotely like Roman ruins, or even a sign for Mediana.

We stopped and asked for directions again.

“It’s back down that road on the right.”

Apparently, we had missed it. Well, we would try again. Eyes glued to the right, we drove back down the same street. Nothing.

Still pouring rain, we decided we would have to be satisfied with knowing that we must have at least driven over the spot where St Constantine was born, and headed on to Belgrade.

Three hours later, at about 12:30, we arrived, safe and sound. Since we were early, our hosts – Nebojsa, Lepa, and their daughter, Natasa, were away. So we walked over to the nearby Danube River and had a coffee (see middle photo). It was still a little rainy and overcast, but it was still very pleasant.

At 2:00, we headed over to the apartment to meet with our hosts. It was so nice. We spent the rest of the day catching up and being forced to “Eat! Eat! Eat!”

On Sunday morning, Nebojsa drove us over the other (east) side of Belgrade, where our bishop, Bishop Maxim, would be serving the Divine Liturgy. It was St John the Theologian’s Church, located inside the Theology School of the University of Belgrade (see the bottom photo, which is of the front of the Theology School).

It was a beautiful service, with some English and Greek. We met with the bishop at the end of the service and he insisted that we sit with him at his table for coffee afterwards.

We were very impressed by everything – the bishop and the Theology School. The church had been packed with young people, who seemed to form a nice community. Bishop Maxim was very approachable and generous with his time. We spoke with him for about an hour and a half before heading back to the apartment in New Belgrade. In the afternoon, our hosts and some of their friends decided to make a trip to visit two monasteries about two hours to the west of Belgrade, Lelic (where St Nikolai Velimirovic lies) and Celije (where St Justin Popovic lies).

Stay tuned for that story tomorrow...

All the photos from the trip can be seen here.

No comments: