|The Danube River|
Today was a most wonderful and amazing day. I woke up around 0615 and got ready and dressed for today's events. Today was the first day of the trip I will wear my clerical collar! I hung out in the room for a bit, then headed downstairs to the first floor for breakfast. The Park Hotel in Belgrade has one of the most amazing complimentary breakfasts I have ever eaten. They had a variety of foods, that consisted of different kinds of sausage links, ham, fried broccoli, bread, pastries, eggs fried and scrambled, and orange and a dark berry juice of some sort. And of course, coffee. I got there at 0755 to have breakfast with Bishop Jerry. He arrived shortly and we had a most wonderful breakfast.
After which, we decided to wait outside and walk up and down our street, in anticipation of Igor's 1030 arrival. The city is amazingly beautiful! It is such a cool city, old and full of history. Just seeing the various people and activity that is happening in the city was cool to watch. The people, men and women, dress differently than those in the States. We have found they dress to a higher standard and dress really nicely. They also seem to walk with energy in their step.
We waited for about thirty minutes then we decided to wait in our room for Igor to arrive. So I spent the next forty five minutes in my room, listening to music and surfing the web, when I got a phone call at the front desk at 1000. Somebody was here! I wasn't sure if it was Bishop Jerry or Igor, so I went downstairs to investigate. It turned out it was Igor! We got in the car and headed towards Stara Pazova, our first stop of the day. It was about a 45 minute drive from Belgrade. It was where we would be meeting our first AOC people of the trip, Miraslov and Vera. It was a very, very wonderful drive, seeing the beautiful Serbian green country side, which was pretty flat, with some rolling hills, but still beautiful.
The drive went pleasantly, and after a few phone calls, it turned out our friends were in the next village over, so we went a few more miles to see them. They were in front of their local post office. Miraslov is a very kind man, middle aged, but handsome. His wife Vera is very lovely and beautiful and very kind. They were warm and welcoming, and Igor acted as translator during our time. They radiate warmth, though I can't understand what they say directly, I could tell they were very welcoming. Our first stop was a monument to the First Battle of Slankamen, the village we were in. This was a battle from the Serbian-Austrian and Turkish conflicts of the late 17th, early 18th century. The Serbian-Austrian army numbered about 10,000 and were outnumbered about 2:1 by the opposing Turkish army.
According to Miraslov and Vera, the Austrians had the Serbians go first into battle, because in those times, the Serbians always attacked first. It turned out to be a major victory for Austrians and Serbians. The Turkish forces were defeated. We learned the monument was built on a mass grave of the Turkish dead. Miraslov also mentioned people have came up from Belgrade to find remains of the battle. He also mentioned when his father was farming the fields nearby, when he was young, he uncovered graves of Turkish soldiers from the battle.
Next we headed towards the Danube River, which was now in sight. We were specifically headed to an Orthodox church near the Danube. This was part of the Slankaman Village, which in the olden days, used to be a part of Hungary I learned. The villages we drove through reminded me greatly of the villages I saw in Germany, but I much preferred the quiet country feel of the Serbian villages we drove through. The road took us on a scenic route towards the Church, and as we got close to the church, we could see the Danube River, which was a gorgeous site.
The church we visited was built in 1486 and is dedicated to St. Nicholas. That is right, the man who inspired Santa Claus. He was a great man who was known as a protector of sailors and other people. I learned more about St. Nicholas, that he was a clergyman and wore red and a white collar. This is why Santa Claus wears a red suit and a white collar! The church was beautiful on the inside, but was undergoing renovation and we met the priest of the church. He was wearing overalls and was a kindly older man. He had a paint brush in hand and was working on painting outside of the church. We also met here Miraslov and Vera's daughter Sara who was very kind, nice and beautiful. She has a very kind personality and could act as a translator for her parents to us.
Then after we visited the church, we headed down to a restaurant on a boat on the river Danube to discuss the status of the AOC churches in Serbia with Miraslov and Vera. Needless to say it was a very productive and wonderful meeting that was interspersed with delightful chatter. We continued to learn about how the area we were in used to be occupied by Hungary, and also we learned part of Serbia where we visited the Battle monument had been occupied by Turkey. A lot of very interesting stories!
For lunch, we ate there and had fish soup, which was surprisingly very delicious. The only thing was we had to be careful and pick the tiny fish bones out of the meat! Then we had our meals, and I had fried fish and salad, while Bishop Jerry had fried chicken and fries. I learned the fish soup and the fried fish was a Hungarian staple food and this type of food is left over from when this area used to be part of Hungary.
After this, we headed to a older lady's house and had a confirmation service. She was a very lovely and kind lady, named Meranya, who was stuck in a wheel chair and was sick. But despite this, she was very cheerful and upbeat and had an epic sense of humor. She made us all laugh, and we had drinks and sweets. I had my first taste of Serbian beer and Turkish coffee, and these little square chocolate/frosted treats which were wonderful. Meranya and Miraslov and Sara exchanged a bunch of stories that were very funny and very interesting. We spent quite a few hours in the early evening there. Then we eventually departed and dropped Sara off at her home, then stopped on our way and met MIrasov's father. He was also very wonderful and very kind.
Then we said our good byes again to Mirasov and Vera, whom we will see later on this week. We headed back to our hotel and I am preparing to get ready for bed to get rest for tomorrow's adventures. Tomorrow we are headed to explore Nis, Emperor Constantine's birthplace, and see some churches and other features, then headed to meet another group of people the AOC in Serbia people know. It should be a wonderful day.
Over and out,
The Posh Kandaroog