After writing about Vukovar I can't think of an appropriate pun to use in the title of this entry! Any ideas for this and future country/city puns please let me know.
When the Vukovar visit was over, we moved on the most appropriate activity for travellers sobered by recent history - a wine tasting! Actually two different wine tastings scheduled for the same day!
Still on the Croatian side, we rolled up just before noon, ready to take the edge off the day. I should probably add now that as I write this, it has been at least 35 degrees every day for the last 7 days. There is talk of a storm this weekend, but who knows when this unseasonably early heatwave will end.
We firstly viewed the wine cellars and learned about the history of the winery, for example, they provided the coronation wine for QEII. But that was all delaying tactics until the main event, the lunch time wine tasting! First up was an extremely tasty riesling. Then (displaying my wine knowledge) something else white. Like a gewurtzitrammywhatsit. Then lastly a red, called a Franco. All were very nice, I even surprised myself and enjoyed
the red which was slightly chilled and very light. After declaring the riesling my favourite, then being told that we would have a chance to have a bit of a wine night in a few days, I splurged 5 australian dollars on a bottle.
After somemore history about the location of the winery (on high ground, over looking the danube, so very popular with turks and romans etc) it was back in our vans for the border crossing. Where the Serbian authorities glanced at our passports, then waved us through. Which of course to much disappointment means not another stamp.
A short while later we rolled into Novi Sad, a pretty little town in Serbia, most famous for its massive music festival each August. This year Guns n Roses are headlining, if anyone is interested. After the slowest walk around the town centre in 40 degree heat, we headed to the second winery, which was also logically a honey and beekeeping museum. We learnt about the man who started it all, stranglely named Zivanovic - those of you who are playing along at home might guess how this is pronounced. They are very common all over the Balkan
Six more types of wine later (I'm not even going to try to remember what they all were) and two types of honey later, it was off for dinner, where to the amusement of all we watched some young men drill through their apartment wall, hang off the balcony and attempt to install an airconditioning unit. The heat inspires people to do some strange things.
I had the next morning to explore the town some more, heading up in the baking heat to the fortress overlooking the town. After sweating my way up the hill, it was on to my next task: finding shorts. This as yet has been unsuccessful, but I have heard that our next stop has much more clothes on offer. Including harem pants.
After a 'light' lunch (grilled vegetables - which turned out to be all the grilled vegetables you can fit on a plate, plus french fries) it was on to the train for the 1.5 hour trip to Belgrade. Where once arrived we embarked on another of the hottest walking tours of my life, this time with quite a different local guide. Normally we get students who guide as part
time work, but this time we had a 60 something year old with a voice like she smokes 10 packs a day, an amazing haircut with pink parts and a rats tail, and a soft touch when it comes to the gypsy beggars.
Looks can be deceving though, she turned out to be very knowledgable and entertaining, building on her summary of a few thousand years of history to give us an idea of Belgrade as it stands today. She also took us to the oldest restaurant in Belgrade, for some delicious traditional Serbian food in a courtyard, where much refreshing beer was had. I will say this about the heat, it sure makes you feel like you've earned a beer as big as your head everyday.
I did ask the guide for the Serbian perspective on the last war, but as a historian she was reluctant to go into too much explanation as it had all been so recent. She and I did talk more at dinner - about the huge amount of young Serbian men who immigrated to places like Australia to avoid being sent to war to kill their friends, and people gathering on the
Republic square to avoid the NATO bombing, deciding that NATO would not bomb such a large gathering of civilians. She also spoke about her life under Tito compared to her life post most recent war. Under Tito they were able to travel very freely, but in 2002 she not only needed a visa to go to Paris, but also Croatia and places as small as Romania.
Most of all she appreciated that people were visiting the region, so wanted us to go away with an optimistic view of things here as they stand, while still learning about the history of the area, which seems fair enough.
After dinner, a few of us headed to a club we had heard about, located in the basement of an apartment building, you had to buzz through some big gates to enter what turned out to be a cosy club with an excellent atmosphere, and $3 AUD cocktails. Thankfully we were able to sleep in a bit this morning.
Today I struck out on my own to explore the city a bit more, where in the heat I found bombed out buildings growing trees next to restored buildings. I also found
that the begging gypsies dont like the heat, and that Belgrade is excellent for people spotting.
I attempted to take the circle line tram to see a bit more of the city, but was thwarted by the street for the tram being closed due to what seemed like an explosion of some sort. Which maybe according to Dr Google was this http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/one-killed-in-belgrade-car-blast
Tomorrow at a very early hour we head to Sarajevo, where I imagine the need for beer will only increase. We have also scheduled our wine night, with our wine tasting souveniers!
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