Novi Sad and Belgrade, Serbia

We visited two cities in Serbia, Novi Sad, which is the second largest city in Serbia and home to a university, and Belgrade, the capital city. I didn’t find Belgrade terrifically appealing, it is similar to a large city anywhere and not one of the more beautiful ones. Novi Sad, on the other hand, was lovely. It has the feel of a small town and lovely buildings and outdoor spaces.  The city center has a pedestrian mall area with coffee and ice cream shops, boutique stores and bars. It was great fun to see people strolling outdoors and enjoying the spring sunshine. Doesn’t happen here in the kingdom.
The next few photos are just fun things I saw from our berthing space along the Danube.
This is the stern of our ship flying the Serbian flag. I was playing with the AV and TV features of my camera that Lori Griffith taught me about. I made the foreground blurry and focused on the ship behind us. It is fun to see what this fancy camera can do!

 

I would like to see the kids balancing on the steep roof of the fishing shop to spray the graffitti above it, I am sure there have been some hairy moments.

The next two photos are of the same pond in Dunavski Park in Novi Sad. They are very similar but I really liked them both and couldn’t decide which one to post. Funny thing is, I don’t know if they appeal to me because they are good photos or because they show water and green, blooming things, both of which are lacking here and that I miss. I didn’t take a photo of the two swans because I don’t much care about them in general and they weren’t in a particularly attractive setting when we saw them but they have a fun story. Apparently there are always, and only, two swans in this park. They are something of a local landmark and are named Isa and Bisa. And have always been named that, despite the fact that “they” have been around long enough that they can’t possibly be the same two swans. They are there for all but about three months in the dead of winter and people get excited to see them back again in the spring. So, we were lucky to get a sighting!

I don’t know which church this was, must not have been an “important” one, but I liked the spire

The next two photos are the pedestrian mall in Novi Sad, you can see what a nice area it is on a pleasant day. Lots of cafes with outdoor seating which I have always found appealing.

Funny story about Novi Sad, we stayed in port there until the early morning so I had the opportunity to go out that evening into the city center. The four younger guys from the ship had left the trip early so I didn’t have a partner in crime. My mom wasn’t thrilled but off I went around 10:30 to find a nice local bar. I ended up leaving the ship just as one of the employees was going out for the evening so I walked with him and we had a few beers then headed back to the ship for all aboard time.  As we were walking back, I told him that I was considering knocking my parent’s door.  I would hate to wake them up but I kind of figured my mother probably wasn’t sleeping too well worrying about me so this would make her happy. He laughed a little and said I should probably knock. Well, lo and behold, as we arrived at the ship, I saw my father waiting around in the lobby for me! He said my mother got nervous around all aboard time and wanted him to check on me. I am 37 years old and live in Saudi Arabia…but moms will be moms always, I guess!

Another ceramic church roof. Each one is as beautiful as the next. This is the Roman Catholic Church in Novi Sad. As is the next photo.
I took a photo of this building as it has some importance but I’ve completely forgotten what it is

These two are just some examples of the “Stalinist Rococo” style. The communist buildings would be ugly anywhere but when they are neighbors with beautiful European architecture, it is painful.

This building had a strange window shaft running up it and I liked the graffitti within it. The advert was a bit much.
There were a bunch of these going by on a train, anyone know what they are? I took a photo because I was curious

 

I find these old rooftops appealing

Ok, these two photos were taken in two different places but they connect in a funny way. Firstly, the photo on the left is of a protruding window that is designed so the inhabitant can lean out away from the building to peep at people walking by on the street. I am irritated because it has a special name that loosely translates into “nosy looking” and I can’t remember it. Anyway, many of the buildings still have these and apparently they all used to. The second photo was of a man who needed one of these windows! We walked past a bus with the window recently shattered out and this guy was hanging out his window watching the scene.

The next group of photos are on the walk through Novi Sad, up to the Petrovaradin Fortress and then down from there. It was set up high on a hill and overlooked the river and the city below it.  An interesting feature is that the hands on the clock face on the tower are reversed, the short hand shows the minutes. It was done so that fisherman on the river could more easily see the hour.

The steps leading up to the fortress. You can just see the roof of it at the top of the photo. I love the spring bloomers. Haven’t seen forsythia in a while. 

 

I am fascinated by the little peep hole dormer on this roof. Anyone know what the purpose is?

 

Someone commented that it apparently doesn’t matter which direction one is facing while parking on this street, our guide said it is actually illegal to park at all on that side (right) of the street. That is supposed to be a sidewalk.

 

I like the old rooftops with the very modern silver span rising behind them

 

View of the fortress as we crossed the Danube
The clocktower on the fortress that is a landmark in Novi Sad

 

Close view of the crazy clock face. Remember the hands are opposite

 

Playing with panorama. This is the view of the Danube from the fortress

The next photos are from the Belgrade fortress area and Kalemegdan Park. It is considered one of the most beautiful natural lookouts in Belgrade. Unfortunately, I only seem to have taken photos of these lovely bits and none of the fortress…you can clearly see that I was more enthralled with water and blooming, green things than buildings. We have plenty of fortresses and buildings here in Riyadh, we run really short on the natural beauty part.

View of the confluence of the River Sava and the Danube.

This statue is called The Pobednik (The Victor) and was built to commemorate Serbia’s victory over the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empire during the Balkan Wars. He holds a falcon and a sword representing spotting threats and countering them. Funny story, apparently the naked thing disturbed some people so when he was planted here he was facing a vast plain and a distant mountain. Now, due to city expansion, he faces a very populated area. I didn’t feel the need to run round and take a front shot, I assume he is anatomically correct based on the detail on his backside and the fact that people were perturbed

The next few photos are from the Church of Saint Sava. Saint Sava was the founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church. This church has been under construction for years. Planning began in 1895 but due to wars, construction didn’t begin until 1935. It then stopped in 1941 for the Axis Invasion of WWII. Construction didn’t resume until 1984. Currently, the outside facade and bells and windows are now complete but the inside is virtually undecorated as of yet.  Scroll all the way down the video, we heard the bells and they are pretty impressive.

Learned that cathedrals have to be the seat of a bishop whereas a basilica has been given special cermonial rights by the pope. So, a basilica is always a basilica but a cathedral can stop being a cathedral if the bishopry is relocated. Often the word cathedral is used for a grand church but that is in error.

Bells ringing at the Church of Saint Sava.

Batina, Vukovar and Osijek, Croatia

A few interesting facts about Croatia and this area. Croatia is a member of the European Union but not the Schengen Area. The Schengen Area consists of 26 countries that have abolished border control along their common boarders. So, a passport check isn’t necessary to travel between them. Croatia is one of only six countries in the EU that isn’t a part of this area.  They are desirous of being included and are currently working towards this goal…which meant we had to wake up at 5:30 am to go down and do a face check with our passports at the border crossing. The entire boat groaned when we heard this…we all thought it was a joke at first. This desire to be part of the Schengen Area is a little ironic considering that the brutal war that ended in 1991 was mostly fought over independence
Another interesting fact is that Croatia isn’t really part of the Balkan Peninsula, although Croats consider themselves to be Balkan people. It is only partially within this area and is really more Southeast or Central Europe.
Something I found fascinating is that the official language during the war was Serbo-Croatian but it was written in two different alphabets! The Croats use the Latin alphabet while the Serbs use Serbian Cyrillic. They still both have two different alphabets and speak a common language, although there is technically a Serbian language and a Croatian one. From what I was able to glean, they aren’t really very different but the people are pretty stuck on the idea of their country having its “own” language and even during the war many people referred to the language as Croato-Serbian instead of the other way round.
The country is still recovering slowly from the war. The town of Osijek was 90% wiped out. I can’t even begin to imagine coming back from that.  Additionally, the unemployment rate is something like 20%. They are struggling to keep young people in the country. They offer a good, free university program so many students get their degrees and then leave for better jobs.
Silly photo, I just liked the grass growing on the top of this building.
The brick work in this arch was really pretty
This is a memorial made out of artillery shells

The next few photos are the inside of an Orthodox Christian church. We went into a few of them throughout the trip and the common theme is that they are very ornately decorated. I don’t find it remotley appealing but it is interesting. The light is bad in these but you get an idea for how overdone they are.

The altar area
Close up of the angels and Mary and the baby Jesus at the front of the church.
I have no idea what this thing is but look at the hand coming out of the side! 
Here is a closeup…it is kind of creepy

To clarify, this was not a huge church, it was a little bitty thing but jam packed full of all of these decorations. Everywhere you turned was something else. It was incredible!

The next series of photos are shots of the city and architecture in Osijek. You can see how beautiful it used to be and how much damage is yet to be repaired. I actually think some of these are prettier because of this dichotomy.

My door and window fixation is showing up again…

This water tower in Vukovar gives you an idea of the damage done by shelling during the war. It was a scary sight to see.

On the Danube through Eastern Europe

I thought I’d blog about my most recent holiday country by country rather than as one long post.  As we travelled through some gorgeous areas, I took a ton of photos and thought that it may get boring as one post. Additionally, the difficult recent history of these small countries lends itself to a lot of reading.Some background, the trip took me via boat down the Danube through five countries.  I flew into Budapest, Hungary and began touring there. The trip ended in Romania, on the Black Sea. In between we stopped in Serbia, Croatia and Bulgaria.

The Chain Bridge is a suspension bridge that spans from the West to East sides of the Danube, connecting the two sides of the capital city of Hungary, Buda and Pest.
Chain Bridge lit up at night. Parliament building to the right.
The Chain Bridge with the Buda Castle in the background. 
A Trabant, probably the worst car ever built. It has a .6 liter engine and was produced in East Germany. It was made of cotton and plastic waste material from the Soviet Union. Oh, and its a two stroke! Can you imagine mixing the gas and oil for your car similar to your lawnmower or outboard engine? 
This photo shows the contrast between the concrete bunkers built in the “Stalinist Rococco” style and the traditional and gorgeous European architecture.

The next few photos are of the Matthias Church. It has been destroyed and rebuilt many times over the years. It served as the site of the coronation for many of the kings of Hungary, including the last two Hungarian Hapsburg kings.

I think the roof is the prettiest part. It is ceramic roof tiles in gorgeous patterns.

 

Chain Bridge over the Danube from the Buda (West) side

These next photos are just a few that I liked from around the city. We were lucky enough to travel during Easter. This is a major holiday in this area and we got to celebrate it twice as the Catholic Easter and Orthodox Easter fell on different Sundays this year.

These are medieval monastery ruins. A Hilton hotel was built over and around them rather than tearing them down.

 

No idea what this building is but I thought is was gorgeous with the moss growing on top. I have always liked the mansard style roof and this is a lovely building in sad disrepair. It is just off of the Hero’s Square and Andrassy Avenue. 

The next two photos are at an Easter Market. These pop up for Easter weekend and consist of shopping and food stalls. So much pork…I was in heaven!

These food stalls were cool. They were actually cooking over wood fired stoves

 

These are large paper globes in the trees to look like colorful Easter Eggs
These two photos aren’t the most attractive but I loved that restaurants and cafes with outdoor seating were all open despite the chilly weather. They simply provided blankets at each seat.What a cozy way to have a coffee or cocktail!

The “Shoes on the Danube Bank” is a memorial to honor the Jews who were killed by Arrow Cross militiamen during World War II. They were ordered to take off their shoes and were shot at the edge of the river so that they fell in and their bodies were carried away. The monument represents the shoes that were left behind. It is comprised of 60 pairs of shoes made out cast iron in the style of the period (1940’s.) It is a moving thing to come upon whilst walking down the street.

The next group of photos is of the Hungarian Parliament building. It is a gorgeous building, both inside and out.  It is the seat of the National Assembly of Hungary and the largest building in Hungary. I liked it the most lit up at night. The Hungarian crown jewels are kept in this building but they won’t let you take photos in that room. They don’t even come remotely close to the crown jewels of Great Britain so it isn’t much loss to not have a photo. It is a crown with a crooked cross on the top (no one knows how it got bent and they didn’t tell us why no one fixed it which just annoyed me,) a sceptor and a crystal ball.
Spectacular stained glass windows throughout
Assembly hall in the parliament building.

 

These are interesting, there are many of them all around the area outside of the assembly hall. They are cigar holders. Cigars were allowed in this area but not in the assembly hall. So, these are all numbered and that way you could reclaim your own cigar upon exiting the hall. Interesting tidbit, many people smoked Cuban cigars at the time so if a speaker was good and everyone stayed in the hall to listen to him, their cigars would burn down. A saying was coined that a good speaker was “worth a Cuban.” 

Chime in here

I want to hear from people who have lived or spent significant time in another country. The refund/exchange policies here kill me. I want to know if we are spoiled in the states or its if it just insane here.


 Generally you have two days to return or seven days to exchange. This is not much time, especially without a car or fitting rooms in stores. 

Anyway, I bought two humidifiers a few days ago and, upon setting them up, realize that one is defunct. Worse, it appears to have been already used. So, some jerk knew it didn’t work and put it back on the shelf! Anyway, I have my driver bring me back and they immediately give me a new one…but no new receipt.

As I’m already four days into the seven day window, I ask for a new receipt showing today’s date. No go. So I make them fill it with water and test it for me. I haven’t made any friends at Saco today, but my driver is happy we won’t have to make another trip out to this store. 

So please chime in about whether this is a very tight window for exchange or if I’m just spoiled. Additionally, what option does one have in the absence of a new receipt? I think I’m going to begin making stores test any electronic product that I buy from this point on. Returning is too much of a headache

Saudi silliness

I was telling this story on my recent holiday and it got some incredulous looks. I sometimes forget that things that I have become accustomed to are really quite strange and worth sharing. 

The story is that I have to have a man collect me at the airport due to my single female status! Sometimes they let me walk right through, other times they hold my passport until this guy comes to sign me out. 
As if this isn’t ridiculous enough, the man has to be Saudi. So my driver, who has been in the country for almost 30 years, can’t sign me out as he is Morroccan. This means that they send two guys to fetch me upon my return from travel. 
I try to focus on the luxuriousness of it so I don’t get irritated with the insanity! I call my driver when I arrive and he sends in the Saud. This guy collects my passport then my luggage and schleps it outside where he loads it into my car, hands me off to my driver and then leaves.
As if this isn’t silly enough, the guy looks like a ragman! So this is my immediate reminder that I am no longer in the land of the free. Sets the mindset immediately upon arrival, any Saudi male is innately above me in the pecking order here! 
Saying goodbye to my parents was lousy, I’m back in the sandpit now. Hope to travel to the states soon. Missing my friends and family is the hardest part of this adventure. I’m thankful I’ve met some great people here! Will be just as hard to say goodbye to them when this trip ends. I’m lucky to have such good friends.