Rebecca was lucky enough to be invited to her colleague’s wedding in Serbia and we knew we had to go. After arriving back from Canada on June 29th, we were catching the red-eye to Belgrade the following weekend on Friday, July 5th and arrived around 5:30am. We had to wait a little while for the car rental agency to open, but we were soon cruising in our Romanian built Dacia compact. The wedding would be on Sunday in Serbia’s 3rd largest city, Niš, so we had 2 days to do some exploring.
We set out east of Belgrade and arrived at Smederevo Fortress about an hour later. The Fortress was built on the banks of the Danube and was completed around 1430. People were taking their morning walks and jogs inside the imposing walls. From there, we drove to Viminacium, a Roman ruin. We continued southwest to our 3rd stop of the day, Golubac Fortress. Located on a strategic narrowing of the Danube, it has recently been renovated to return to some of its former glory. After Golubac, we had a nice lunch of perch and catfish from the river at Restaurant Kafana Stil. We then followed the scenic drive south along the Danube through Djerdap National Park. Our 4th and final archeological stop of the day was Felix Romuliana, the ruins of an Imperial palace built by Emperor Galerius in 298 AD. We then tried to find Jovic Winery, but, in hindsight, we found the farm and not the shop which was just 200 m away…oh well. We were starting to feel the effects of the red-eye, so we thought it would be best to get to our hotel. We drove through the picturesque town of Knjazevac and started the climb up to Stara Planina. Stara Planina is a ski resort in the Balkan Mountains, but is also popular in the summer for hiking and escaping the heat of lower elevations. The high mountains form a natural border with neighboring Bulgaria. We grabbed a couple of beers and dined in the hotel that evening before heading off early to bed as it had been a very long day.
On Saturday, I awoke to quite a fright. Bec wasn’t feeling well and headed off to the bathroom while I was fast asleep. I awoke sometime later and realized she wasn’t in bed, so I hopped out of bed to check on her. At the same time, the bathroom door opened and she was visibly quite upset. Apparently, she had passed out in the bathroom due to pain and had fallen and hit her head. She slowly removed her hands to show me her forehead and I cannot repeat what I said. I rushed down to reception to get some ice for the whopping goose-egg.
Needless to say, we relaxed in the hotel for the morning to make sure the head injury was okay. I did manage to convince her to go out for a short hike to the top of the resort at 1550m. The rocks there are named Babin Zub or Baba’s Tooth for the way they jut out of the mountain top. Back at the resort, we relaxed in the hotel’s sauna and pool area before lunch. That afternoon, we made our way back down the windy road and started towards Niš. We did make one stop along the way at Vinski Podrum Malca, a winery and restaurant, before finding the New City hotel right in the heart of town. It seemed everyone was out enjoying the nice summer weather so we did the same wandering around and exploring the city. That night, we dined at the traditional Mali Podrum restaurant. After dinner, we wandered over to Tinkers Alley, a street lined with cafes and restaurants, and bumped into another colleague of Rebecca’s who was also there for the wedding. Bec and I found a table near the street and watched the endless parade of people while sipping some local brews.
Sunday was the big day. The wedding ceremony was at 12:00 so I had time to drag Rebecca to one last tourist site, Skull Tower. It was a long, hot walk, but the tower itself is quite interesting as it originally contained 952 Serbian skulls belonging to rebels that had been put down by the Ottoman occupiers in 1809. We opted to take the bus back to the hotel and got ready for the wedding which was at the nearby Orthodox Cathedral. The ceremony was spoken in Serbian, but was interesting nonetheless as we had never attended an Orthodox ceremony before. We had a little time before the reception so we returned to Tinkers Alley for a drink and a snack. The reception started at 3:30 pm and the food service started soon after…and so did the dancing. The live band would come on between courses and played a real variety of music from traditional Serbian, rock, pop, and more. Later in the evening, a brass band made a short appearance. It wasn’t too late of a night as we had to be on the road at 7:30am to get back to Belgrade airport. Luckily Bec’s head injury didn’t show for the wedding festivities – however the next morning two black eyes started to appear. Bec thinks the cause was pure exhaustion from all the archaeological sites I made her go to!