Country roots in Serbia
I grew up on a farm in Northern B.C. and although I’ve lived in cities as an adult, there’s always been a part of me that longs for wide-open spaces, rolling wheat fields, and expansive night skies filled with stars. My Remote Year journey so far has taken us to large cities throughout Europe and I’ve realized the places I love most are always just outside the city. Belgrade, Serbia is no different.
Belgrade is the capital of Serbia and my home for month five. It’s a very walkable city, mostly flat with actual paved sidewalks! (No slippery, ankle-twisting cobblestones here – thank goodness!)
A rickety tram takes you around the city, mostly for free – there is no place to buy a ticket and you can’t pay on board. They say the service is so bad, no one pays, and the service doesn’t improve because they have no money because no one pays!
And it’s true – in the middle of traveling around the city, our driver stopped, got out and stood on the corner with a group of people and lit a cigarette! We all sat on the tram until she finished her smoke break and then carried on again. But we didn’t pay so we don’t complain.
The tram takes you right to the Belgrade Fortress, at the crossroads of the Danube and Sava rivers. It’s well preserved, with stone walls, draw bridges and hidden walkways. There are several museums, churches and restaurants inside, as well as a large park. The fortress is a perfect spot to watch the sunset…with sweeping views over the city and rivers.
I’m sharing an apartment this month out in the suburbs. There’s a high school across the street, grocery store and bakery on the corner and botanical gardens one block away. It’s a quiet, cozy neighborhood and suits me just fine.
It’s also close to a huge daily farmer’s market. There are rows and rows of vendors with tomatos, zucchini, mushrooms, lemons, raspberries and watermelon. I’m still figuring out the currency and thought my bag of peaches was 700 dinar ($7) but it was only 70 dinar – $0.70! Not even $1 for a full bag of peaches – how do they make any money?
There are the usual beautiful buildings – Parliament, St. Sava and St. Marks Churches, and Republic Square. I also love the pedestrian-only areas, where you can easily stroll through shops, sit at a fountain or eat lunch on a patio.
We had a chance to go kayaking on the Sava River, giving us a new perspective of Belgrade. There are several floating bars and I was surprised their nightclub district was on the river. Surely someone drinks too much and falls in on a regular basis, right? I’m always amazed at the different safety standards around the world!
But my favourite activity in Serbia so far was heading an hour outside the city to a small town called Novi Sad. Its city centre is small and easily walked within a half hour, including the park. We grabbed a fresh pressed juice and strolled along, seeking out shade and stopping to listen to local music.
We then headed to Petrovaradin Fortress, another well preserved fortress with stone walls, tunnels and moat. It is also the site of the annual EXIT music festival, an event that brings over 500,000 people to Novi Sad.
And finally, we wrapped up our day at a traditional farm. Driving past fields of sunflowers and corn, I knew I was going to like our destination. When we arrived, they had a long table set up under a huge tree – outdoor dining, my favourite!
Everything they served was homemade and delicious. A welcome drink of rakia, corn bread, cabbage and cucumber salad, fresh egg noodles with beef stew, and chocolate cake. Amazing food, stunning views and fresh air – what more could we ask for? Puppies!
Yup, they had puppies and dogs running all over the farm! Some were curled up for naps, others chased their tails and some played with toys but all of them stopped long enough for ear scratches, tummy rubs and snuggles.
Strolling through the fields, the farmer explained if you ate the dried cherries, you would fall in love with the man who gave them to you. He slyly mentioned this after I’d eaten the cherries he offered!
At the edge of one pasture, I noticed a few friends sitting on straw bales so I walked over. One guy had brought his guitar so we sat around listening to him sing, lazily watching the clouds float by and gazing over the fields.
Time seemed to stop.
Dogs came and went.
The breeze kept us cool under the shade of a tree.
Cows mooed in the distance.
I was aware of simply being alive.
Breathe in, breathe out.
There was no past haunting me…
no future worrying me…
there was only this moment – the only moment that mattered.
These are the moments I remember, the moments I cherish. The stillness. The peacefulness.
When you know you are exactly where you are supposed to be.
When you remember why you chose this path.
Where you can return to in your mind anytime you need to find peace.
I feel the country girl inside me growing restless, reminding me who I am and what feeds my soul…and gently showing me a way of life that suits me best.
I don’t know what life looks like after Remote Year but you can bet I’ll be seeking a wide-open space, with room for friends and dogs, and laying on a blanket looking at the clouds.
What about you – where do you feel most at home?