The bird flew leisurely along the river with the cool morning breeze in its wings. The clear blue skies, the sunlight sparkling on the river and the white pebbled river banks lined with birch trees was a sight that promised a beautiful start of a trip that I would remember vividly for a long time.
I was in my Fourth Year of Architecture when I went on a 14 day trip to Serbia, Bosnia Herzegovina and Croatia. Our first stop was in Novi-Sad, Belgrade. We had booked into a boat hotel anchored in the Danube River. Though my room overlooked the bank, the view from the deck was spectacular. The serene evening sky was inviting and we went for a stroll along the river. These short stroll was to be our routine each morning and evening for the next 2 days. The walking track followed the curve of the river and a beautiful park spread across on the other side. In the mornings many furry canines came out with their owners to play in the park. The mornings walks were cold and the mist used to cling on to trees giving it a very mystical impression. While the evenings saw a flurry of activity as the locals went to the discothek nearby. The exotic club would liven up the place with lights and music. That night the chef had whipped up a full course dinner of fried zucchini with sun dried tomatoes with rice and pasta with tomato soup.
The following morning our Belgrade tour began with the first stop at Zemun, an idyllic town on the outskirts of Novi Sad. It was a town of cobbled stone pathways lined with pretty bungalows on either side. The pastel coloured facades and the steep sloping roofs with a few shingles missing here and there. Some houses had a beautiful arched wooden gate while others had gorgeous multicoloured flowers on their window sills. Some had a circular window in their gabled walls or on their roof slopes while in others a narrow chimney would be seen shooting up the roof. Some houses had a small porch in front or on the sides with a few tables and chairs. After every few houses a bungalow had been converted into a cafe or hotel. Their facades sometimes wooden or some more brightly coloured were inviting the visitors. One cafe had outdoor seating under a pergola with lights hanging on it while other had cramped their tables on the footpath and lined them with flower pots at either end.
We walked uphill the stone pathway and arrived at one of the oldest churches in the town. During the WWI the city had built 5 churches at strategic locations which acted as fortresses guarding the city. As I gazed at the church I could see chunks of bricks fallen, marks that showed the artillery fired in an attempt to destroy the church. This church had borne the brunt of the war but still stood resilient. It now is a landmark location in the town. A few meters away a vantage point showed us the entire town sprawled below proving that the church was built at a strategic location. Stone steps from the edge of plateau led us downhill and we spilled out into a narrow lane lined with houses on either side. Though these houses were similar to the ones seen before, they were a bit older, their style a little different. It was the innermost part of the city after all and one could see a few bricks crumbling and the paint crackling. But we soon turned into a corner and the street transformed to concrete roads, newer style of construction, with pastel coloured facades and colourful windows. We walked downhill and made our way back near the river banks. On our way we saw a town square just off a main street.
That evening we visited the Belgrade fortress. On our way towards the fortress we passed a vibrant street. One could see a group of musicians playing and dancing nearby, filling the street with melodies sounds while a young played her guitar at the corner of a clothes shop. Nearby a kiosk was filled with bakery products and the smell of a waffle wafted as I walked along the glittering shops. There was hustle and bustle in the street and it was impossible to keep my attention focused on a place for long. Saying so, my attention was caught by a beautiful water fountain and like many other tourists I sat at the edge with its water trickling behind me. Just a short distance away a more modern water body with steps, warm yellow lights and a sprinkler caught my attention and I realised that even though the traditional water fountains have transformed the essence of having a water body in a public setting is still prevalent and is enjoyed by all. A small kid on a bicycle suddenly jumped into the water fountain & had quite fun running along the sprinklers before turning and following his mother down another street. The street in question branched off the main walking plaza& it instantly piqued my interest. As I started walking down the street I realised it was much narrower, with less lights and residential buildings on one side. The glittering shops were replaced by small kiosks that had very interesting items on display. From pots of honey to pickled olives, charm bracelets, dream catchers, colourful earrings, quaint postcards, small momentos, the items were endless. I wandered for a while down the street and came back to the water fountain. By now the temperature had dropped a little as it began to get dark and we all craved for a cup of hot coffee. A nearby cafe lived up to our expectations and soon we were sipping our hot coffee and on our way to the fortress.
As we made our walk towards the fort we saw a long beautiful cobbled stone archway that opened up to a bridge. The not very steep valley on either side of the bridge were lined with some artillery and guns reminding of more troubled times.
At 125.5M high The fort borders the neighbourhoods of Dorćol (north and north-east), Stari Grad (east) and Kosančićev Venac (Savamala; south).
As we reached the top and roamed around the open land. Overlooking the cliff ridge we saw a 300 degree view of the confluence of the rivers Sava and Danube. It rivers met at the edge of the hill while the city sprawled along the banks of the river. The calm flowing river and the yellow city lights casting reflections made a scenic end to a evening well spent.
The next day introduced us to the beautiful scenery of Belgrade. A mountain range Ovkar-Kablar in the outskirts of the city was our destination. Our hike was a simple one, one that allowed us to enjoy the scenery around. In the first stretch of the climb we saw wooden huts with acres of farming land sprawled in front. Orchard of apples and orange trees filled the valley slopes. A small hut with pretty entrance pathway was lined up blueberry climbers growing along the fences. Further ahead, plantations turned to conifer trees and the trees grew denser and the climb became steeper. The sunlight came from behind the trees giving them a radiance. We stopped in between for a few pictures. One my favourite ones is when the forest cleared. The tree branches formed a beautiful repetitive pattern converging towards each other against the clear blue sky. In such a moment. I was able to capture an aeroplane flying in between leaving a streak of contrail behind.
I reached the top and walked to the deck built at the cliff edge. I turned around to see a breathtaking view of the mountain ranges. A long line of mountains unfolded in front of me. The mist, the setting sun cast shadows that gave the mountains a bluish tint. The sky was a pretty blue with intermittent clouds. I turned to the other side and saw the steep valley below. A lone church sat on of the peaks of a smaller mountain below. A long twisting turning road led to the church but was deserted of any cars.
The cliff where I was standing had white sandstone rocks and the edges saw tree tops filled with autumn leaves and intermediate greens It was a charming background. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, a man in his late 60’s walk up the cliff edge with such ease that he might as well be taking a stroll in the park. He then sat on the rock with his legs hanging in the air and ate his sandwich.
By now the sun had began to set and it was time to head back down. Stone steps led us back to the valley. I occasionally glanced back towards the forest, remembering the trails and trees and the picture perfect moments that made it a beautiful day.