2018-12-09 Day 89 Sun




As we drove up the road out from our camp the road was very icy, I guess it rained last night then the wet road froze early this morning.
The main church was locked but e followed some locals into a small chapel for a short period of service. By 9am the main church was open but again a little disappointing. The church did however house the bodies or parts of the founding father and saint of Serbia who had the church built and his brother’s (who was also a saint) mother?
Off John drove very cautiously as the road was very slippery, He drove at about 40km/hr for the first 2 hours but after we had crested a pass at 1150m altitude in the snow, the road became a little safer. At Ivanjica we headed south west and over a slightly higher pass of 1350m.
We took the track into the meanders of Uvac river. It was covered in snow with only 2 cars ahead of us. We stopped as I was unsure. It is supposed to be a popular destination but the road was not very good. John spied a hunter and I went and talked to him with the map, He was very friendly and had no English language but managed to convey where to go. He was hunting foxes.
Just before our destination, we found the car that we had been following. There was a dog  box mounted on the back and many tracks (man and dog) leading off into the snow. At the car park and we had lunch with two hungry dogs looking on. The sign before the car park reminded us it was private property, but another sign by the walking path said they sold honey and cheese.
Just as we started our walk two guys with shot-guns and 5 dogs came down the path. 

We found our way to the look out and it was quite a sight below us 4 large corners in the river. We also saw some buzzards flying below us.
We bought an expensive (A$12) jar of honey back at the house but it tasted great. I drove out the snowy track and back on the mainroad .











Another 19km’s on we turned onto a snow covered little white road and found a camp with a view.


134km 


2018-12-08 Day 88 Sat


We drove up the hill to see the place where Emperor Galerius and his mother Felix Romuliana were burned after their deaths so that their spirit ascended to heaven on an eagles back.
 

The plan was to drive about 300km across Serbia to a meandering river. John started out well on an orange road, averaging about 80km/hr. It took us only and hour to achieve what took 4 hours on the prior day on windy yellow yellow, windy and went roads at about km/hr.


Another truck accident.

However once we turned south at Paracin on yellow our speed dropped way back to about 40km/h again.
 
John suggested a detour/shortcut on a white road for lunch and to visit a monastery. So we ended up at the Zica monastery which is set up for very large number of tourists (today there were a half dozen). The monastery was quite nice but I think we have been spoiled by the fresco’s at Rila monastery in Bulgaria. 
 
At the public toilets we decided to fill our tanks so john lowered the hose out the male toilet window. As we finished a man came out, upset that we had been stealing water, and bombing Serbia…. We apologized and offered to pay for the water, and assured him that Australia had not bombed Serbia - but he was not at all friendly. Up until know the Serbs have all been really friendly with big waves.
The day has been dreary, so good for driving. Next stop was Studenica Monastery the biggest and wealthiest in Serbia. We arrived just on sunset so found a camp down at the river. Still drizzling.

236km





2018-12-07 Day 87 Fri


Chatted to Muff, Puff and Chris this morning. Great to catch up. Then caught up with Cynthia. A little red tractor was plowing close by so before leaving we went and had a chat. The farmer was having problems with the dirt sticking to his plow. We had the same problems with our boots!!
A gorgeous day and drive. Stayed on yellow road edged in white snow. Stopped at a wee town of Sokobanja, We visited the small church and stopped at a cafe for a coffee. There was a terrible smell in the smoke of the town. Most people had some English. Asked about getting a document printed. Ended up in a butchers and definitely no printing here but lots of home smoked produce so we left some $12 poorer. A hock for soup, some special packs of flavoured cheeses - one pack sweet the other savory. Some smoked ribs and two roast chicken Maryland. Got the document printed next door in the money exchange.!!a nice feeling to the town, if not the smoke.
Further north and lunch in a paddock. While John got lunch I did my skipping in the middle of the tar sealed road. We sat outside in the sun for lunch.

We saw this Kiln and went to investigate, but no one was home. We are not sure if it is a smoke house or a charcoal fire.
John drove on to the Felix Romuliana fort. We tried to go in from the south but the road even in 4X4 was quite slippery and narrow. We backed out which is just as well as around a corner came a lady on her tractor with a huge wave and smile when she saw the camera.


 
The fort was pretty amazing, heated roman baths again and a palace. Such times.
 

As the sun set the air grew cold. We headed back down the road we had tried to arrive by and found a spot just behind the forts walls.
87km


2018-12-06 Day 86 Thu


Spent a little time doing some computer work. Internet has been really good in Europe generally. Can pretty much have internet access continuously. About 4 coaches came through while we were working so everyone knows we are here. John did a bit of research and realized that our clocks have changed again. Sun set is now at 16:00hrs and sunrise at 06:55hrs
I drove out around 10am and followed the yellow road to the city of Nis. Here we were doing some touristy things. Firstly we stopped at the Skull tower, interesting. This is where the defeating Turks beheaded their prisoners and sent their peeled skulls of to their boss to say they had won the war. A wall was erected made from the skulls, of which only a few remain.







Then to Bubanj memorial Park to see the three fist monument commemorating the 10,000 Jews, Serbs & Roma that were executed on this site by the Nazi's between February 1942 & September 1944. Thought provoking.




Next to the Red Cross concentration camp “12 February” Where thousands of prisoners were either shipped onwards to concentration camps in Germany, Norway or Poland, or taken to the above mentioned hill at Bubanj and shot: their remains being burned and or buried. 

 



The walls around the camp had gun holes every 10m all of them pointing in at the prisoners. Amazing how cruel fellow humans can be.
 

North out of Nis to find a camp near Rsovac. An old yellow road with lots of farms and farmers plowing with their little red tractors. We tucked behind a hedge about 3:40 on an unused looking piece of ground.

A few tractors past us going home but no one stopped.

90km







2018-12-05 Day 85 Wed



Serbia here we come! Hadn’t really planned on coming here but here we are. John continued the drive on the small white road, it was a little potholed in places but not for far. We arrived at the border Strezimirotci, one of the 25 towns that were divided when the new Serbian borders were created. After a little chat with the guys I cleared us out of Bulgaria. It is unlike South America in that they don't need forms filled out for the vehicle and signed by the “paper owner”. 

We drove the 100m to Serbia border control and there was a guy with good English (American accent) who translated for the officials. The maps on our vehicle once again proved their worth. It shows we are travelers and have been places. The customs officials have a look in the house door, maybe open a locker, and peer in. Generally they do not enter the house. Any way all through with stamps in the passports. 
 
The road meandered from 800m altitude up to a chilly 1300m. It is coolish and trying unsuccessfully to snow. We stayed on the main road until lake Vlasina at 1150m and then headed north on a yellow road. Tourism is reasonably new in Serbia and this lake area is being made into a tourist attraction for summer and the surrounding mountains in winter. The lake has many picnic areas and it is possible to drive down close to the water. A really delightful spot even more so as there is no one else around….
 
The small villages are neat and tidy with some abandoned housing. However the rivers seem to be the rubbish pits and are quiet disgusting in places,

We cut west to a largish town of Koracevac where our map listed a bank. We found cash, a sim and a few groceries. A dual highway is nearly complete so up this little valley the floor is just roads. New road an orange road and the yellow that we were on. Not much room left for housing.

Back onto a white and north. Green veges are hard to find unless you like cabbage, but I managed to find a cauliflower in Vlasotince. Back on orange East then north on yellow. Looking for a camp. 

The graveyards are amazing with baskets of flowers hanging on the edges of graves. The common recent headstone is black granite with photos of the deceased.
 
This yellow road has little villages listed on the map but in reality it has house dotted all along it. 

We exited on a white and parked behind a shrub in an unloved paddock close to the road. 

171km
 
A quiet night.

2018-12-04 Day 84 Tue

I wrote a little of my story and then we headed of to the fort in the town of Kyustendil, where Elena's partner Micheal was born.  A very foggy day with visibility progressively less during the day.


We found the fort which surprisingly is not listed on Open Street Maps. Had a wander around in the mist. The fort wall has been partially reconstructed with the help of EU. The towers were all locked but from the ground it was still impressive.

In the main town we parked and found a place for lunch. A good meal with coffee.
 
I drove while John managed to find us a back road (white) to shortcut to the border crossing into Serbia. The road was paved and progressively got less wide. I was starting to get a bit concerned but a log tuck came the other way so obviously for a while at least all should be good. He stopped for me where a driveway was so I was able to get of the road easily.
 
Dusk is later now and it was about 5pm when we pulled on to a farmers muddy road. I let john drive down it (sliding a little) and across the river breaking a huge sheet of ice. It is forecast for a little rain but everything is already wet and muddy from the melting snow.

144km

2018-12-03 Day 83 Mon




Another gorgeous day. After Michael went off to work in Sofia, we chatted with Elena until midday then we needed to move on.

We drove south to the Rila Monastery; John had previously visited in 2009 and over the years had told me about it. 


The external paintings on the church were amazing. John was perplexed that the Monastery was brighter than he remembered; and then delighted that almost all of the external murals has been completely restored. A few of his favorite paintings of purgatory were sadly still awaiting attention. Pictures of poor souls in chains being skewered and tormented by devils were still dull and foreboding, in contrast to the vibrant depictions of temptation and sin.

The inside of the church unfortunately forbids photography and the restorations are only just beginning. The climate was less crowded (just us), and less smokey, than John recalled. But the paintings were stunning, gilded carvings astonishing, and the collections of Saint bits mind boggling. Over the ages it has been popular to cut (dead) Saints up into little pieces, and distribute all of the little bits out to pious collectors. Rila Monastery, being such an important site, has a magnificent collection of some 32 pieces of Saint, all proudly on show in a little glass covered display case.

It was after 16:00 when we left the monastery and headed down hill. We did not want to stay in the valley as it still had a hard frost at the end of the day, so headed UP a side road and perched on a hill with great views. The first we have had for days.

125km