Seeking Shade in Serbia

Welcome to Serbia, where you can feel rich!

Except that wad of bills is only worth about €98. For estimating to Canadian $, I just drop the last two zeros.

And it has been hot! 30-32 oC most days and I feel like a puddle on the sidewalk as I’m hiking around.

I took the bus from Podgorica, Montenegro to Novi Pazar. It was supposed to be 5 hours but we were delayed at the border for an hour. A passenger had an expired Ukrainian passport, and since he arrived with us, we were his ‘group’. I don’t know if it was resolved or we left him behind. He probably needed to go back to Podgorica where they have an embassy.

But I was a little freaked out at the suggestion the whole bus would have to return! We were less than an hour from Novi Pazar.

So by the time I arrived it was getting late and I needed money and a SIM card. Fortunately my apartment owner helped me get both very quickly.

Novi Pazar ‘New Bazaar’ was founded by the Turkish general Isak-bey Isakovic in 1459. It was an important market town because of its location at the intersection of important roads, in the valleys of four rivers.

Five hundred years long Ottoman history is seen in the old buildings and many mosques.

The ‘sebilj’, an Ottoman-style wooden fountain in an old town square.

It is a replica of the fountain in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and was a given as a gift.

Novi Pazar Fortress is a medieval Turkish fort, built by Isa-bey Isahovic in the 15th century on the bank of the Raška River.

Only parts of it are intact, but it encloses a beautiful green space.

The River Raška and vendors

Hotel Vrbak is a strange combination of architecture!

Another interesting building.

More than three-quarters of the inhabitants of Novi Pazar are Bosnian Muslims. But one of the major sites is an UNESCO World Heritage Orthodox Church.

It was 14 km from town, so I had to take a bus, which stopped dropped me off in the middle of the country! But he picked me up again on his return route.

Sopoćani Monastery was built in 1260 by King Stefan Uros I. The frescos are considered some of the best from that period. It was partially destroyed by the Turks in 1689 and restored in 1926.

When I got back to town I was ready for lunch. It was 31 oC and I was looking for a shady spot where people were eating. But it seems everyone lives on coffee and cigarettes!

I finally found a place that looked busy and asked for a menu. “No menu, we only serve one thing”.

Fortunately it was ćevapi. My choice was 5 or 10, with/without onions and bread. How many onions do you need to eat to count as a salad?

Mantije are a local specialty. They are like a three-bite burek with a meat filling, and kept warm until they are served.

I had actually had mantije when I visited my friends in Pristina, Kosovo. Which isn’t strange when I see I’m only three hours away! I am zigzagging a bit but wanted to ‘finish’ a country before moving on. I spent hours trying to plan the best route!

Then another 5-hour bus ride to Niš. There was only one bus a day, and it left at 07:30. I couldn’t buy a ticket in advance so I was there early.

I was happy to see a big bus rather than the 18-seaters that are common.

Hard to escape the smokers. But thankfully they can’t smoke on the bus!

Niš is the third largest city in Serbia. It was heavily bombed in World War II, and lost much of it’s Ottoman-Byzantine style.

The main plaza of the city is huge. It is bordered on one side by the River Nišava. Across the river (right) is the Fortress.

The hotel where I added an extra night. Lovely treat!

Down the other way is a wide pedestrian street, beside the huge H&M store.

I was tempted…

Niš Fortress Stambol Gate 1719-1723. But there have been forts on this location since ancient Roman times.

Monument to the Liberators of Niš. Yhe centre is shaped like a rifle bullet to represent a symbol of the Fortress as a military facility.

Bali Bey Mosque (16 the century) with a Byzantine Street (5th-6th century) beside it.

Huge green space within the Fort walls.

Many shady spots along pedestrian street and along the river promenade .

Schweppes Bitter Lemon is very popular here. And very refreshing.

More fluids.

Followed everyone with their grocery carts and found a huge covered market. It was even open Sunday when I walked by headed to the bus station.

The best salad! Coleslaw with an oil and vinegar, and real tomatoes!

The Red Cross Concentration Camp got its name from the adjacent train station.

Nazis used a vacant military storage building to imprison about 30,000 Jews, Roma and resistance fighters while they occupied Serbia from 1941 to 1945.

It was a transit camp, so few were killed on the premises. They were taken to Bubanj Hill (a few km away) or on to Auschwitz, Dachau or Mauthausen. They estimate 10,000 from the camp died.

It was also the site of the most successful prison escape.

Solitary confinement cells that were kept dark except for the light coming down the pipe.

Bubanj Hill Memorial with fist-shaped structures symbolizing rebellion and resistance.

And then off to Belgrade!

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