Friday, March 15

Joy in the Youth of Novi Sad

Church between Vukovar, Croatia and Novi Sad, Serbia
along the Danube
A little background:  After leaving Vukovar, Croatia an Austrian officer on our ship spoke with us about the upcoming visits to Serbia and that we might not feel welcome since we are American.  Both of us were taken aback, because we were clueless to why this would be so.  He explained that NATO had done a lot of bombing in Novi Sad and Belgrade to end the war.  That NATO is perceived as American.  Well, we weren't sure if that was true or his own feelings, but it gave us pause and made us uneasy.  (We needn't have been.)

Apparently some of the older Australians didn't like that our tour guide in Vukovar spoke so much about the war and that it had depressed them so the ship had advised the tour guides in Serbia to not talk about the war.  It was ridiculous in my opinion, because you could see the damage the war caused all around you.  I wanted to hear "the other side" to educate myself and for understanding.  There's always at least two sides and usually more to every story, right?  To just ignore what was staring you in the face seemed like an ignorant way to go.

There was a lot less damage to see in our Serbia ports, but I suspect it was because much of it had already been rebuilt.  For example all the bridges across the Danube were destroyed by NATO as well as other strategic targets like oil refineries near the end of the war.  Lingering health effects from those bombings existed.  However, it is pretty well understood that if NATO had not acted Milosevic would've been responsible for many more casualties and atrocities.  There was a resistance in Novi Sad to Milosevic so they were especially confused by the bombings to their city.  However, it was the overall strategy to end the war as quickly as possible that necessitated the bombing.

In my opinion, war accomplishes nothing and many innocents suffer, but as long as there are men like Milosevic, Hitler, etc. I do feel there is a moral obligation to step in.  Working with other nations like in NATO brings a more balanced and intelligent approach than acting alone.

I admit my knowledge of this region's history is poor.  So for anyone from this area please forgive me for simplifying or if my impressions are incorrect.  I realize that this area has had residents since the Stone Age and therefore incidents that caused ill feelings (putting it mildly?) are a part of the landscape.  There's not many areas in the world that don't have these tribal histories though and the only way to move forward is to accept, forgive and find common ground.


We've arrived in Novi Sad!
Red Firm is their home soccer team
fan club

Now, all that being said I'd like to show you the beautiful city of Novi Sad!  

Our first view was the imposing Petrovaradin Fortress.  Amazingly, recent archaeological finds have proven that the area has had continuous occupation since the Paleolithic Age!  They found proof of settlement from 19,000-15,000 BC!  I think it would be an interesting place to tour, but at this time it is not open to tourists.





We didn't go in, but got let off to explore a more modern area.  While walking behind our tour guide I spotted what looked like Snow White's dwarfs on the top of this stately looking building.  Apparently it was a government building that I was not supposed to photograph, because as soon as I snapped the photo a guy with a machine gun over his shoulder shook his head no at me.  I was so embarrassed, but if he only knew I had done a close up of the dwarfs!





St George Orthodox Cathedral steeple

We continued on and ended up in a square in front of St. George Orthodox Cathedral.  It looked like a neighborhood church from the outside, however the inside was ornate and baroque inside.  A men's choir was singing a cappella inside and it was indeed angelic.  They were doing restoration work so I was not able to get a good photo, but you can see a tiny glimpse of the work of Paja Jovanovic (1859-1957,) Serbia's most famous academic painter. 



Here's the public domain photo of this incredible work:




There is a reason tours all over Europe take you to cathedral after cathedral:  lots of money have been spent on their architecture and art.  One does indeed feel a higher power's hand in helping to create these masterpieces.  However, one cannot forget the sacrifices ordinary people made through the ages to build and then sustain these masterpieces.


St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral, Sremski Karlovci
(near Novi Sad)


St Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral steeples

We all like a little myth and magic, right?  Well, there's this fountain in Novi Sad where it is said that if you drink from the water you will be pregnant within the year.  While we stood in the square we watched a young lady from Germany take her chances and another couple apparently pay their respects!









It is the second largest city in Serbia and yet it felt like a small town.  It was the joy in the children's faces that lifted our spirits the most after war stories in the region.  They must give the adults pride and knowledge of a good future.


My guess is the boy in the light blue shirt
will become a leader some day.
He was quite the ham with a
winning smile.

One of my favorite parts of Novi Sad was the pedestrian only street of Dunavska.  I'll save that for my next post since this post got so long.


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