Serbian Christmas Past

January seventh was Orthodox Christmas. I was surprised when I took a walk that so many businesses were open. The cafes were doing a good business. But I guess it makes sense. Lots of people are in town catching up with each other.

Our little town was filled with cars from out of town. You can tell by the license plates. Our town has the letters NI. If you are from Belgrade (actually, Beograd) the tags start with BG, and so on. That way you know where a car is from and it is easier to cops to spot an “out of towner” to ticket.  What an internationally common characteristic.

Back to the subject of Christmas. The town was a bustle of people shopping and greeting on another. The feeling of Christmas is truly in the air. People are smiling easily and ready to help you. The lines in the stores are unlike any I have seen before.

Baba out did herself as usual with all her baking. She is an extraordinary cook! Here are a few pics I took out and about on Christmas eve and Christmas day.

 

The table is set for Christmas eve dinner.

Dusk in Ktown

traditional music being played outside the Church while the Christmas eve service is taking place inside.

Lighting a candle for the living.

Christmas decor and good luck charms for the Christmas and the new year.

Snow and ice does not deter avid bikers.

We still have Serbian New Year to celebrate next week!! The holiday season continues!!

 

Saints on Sunday~ Saint George

Once upon a time there was a blogger in the Serbian realm who I anticipated reading. The Real Housewife of Belgrade was a great story-teller. Funny and informative, and everyone loved her. I am sure they still do, but she has exited the great land of Serbia.

Her Sunday legacy was to write about  Churches she visited in her European travels. There were lots of Church on Sunday posts. And I loved that idea. I have done a few of them myself. But I wanted to use the idea and make it my own. I always felt a bit like a poor knock off.

Here’s the deal. I am Protestant.I miss going to church on Sunday.  And the Orthodox Christianity has the same God, but many different traditions. The church is freezing cold in the winter. I cannot understand anything. (The service are held in old Serbian. About 10% of the population of Serbia may understand.) so I don’t go.

FYI It is an old tradition like Catholics holding some of their Masses in Latin… All Masses were in Latin before the 1960’s. Thank God things have changed in the Catholic Church so people can hear the Gospel. I have no proof, but more people may attend if they could understand. That is just my Western brain thinking.

Since arriving here, learning about Slavas (dinners) and patron Saints of  families, I have wanted to learn more about the Saints. It is a new Christian education. I know the Bible fairly well. I went to a Christian college and even studied Hebrew for a better understanding. But the saints heralded  here are not in the Bible.

Enter my epiphany and self-education with Saints on Sunday posts!

We will begin with St. George. Why? Because I like that there is a dragon in the picture of this saint! I love dragons, but since I am a Game of Thrones fan, I can see how unwieldy they can be. Thus, slaying them was a must. 😦

 

Here is the story of St. George as per Wikipedia.  Yes, I did Copy/Paste!  😛

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_George_and_the_Dragon

According to the Golden Legend, the narrative episode of Saint George and the Dragon took place somewhere he called “Silene”, in Libya; the Golden Legend is the first to place this story in Libya as a sufficiently exotic locale, where a dragon might be found. In the tenth-century Georgian narrative, the place is the fictional city of Lasia, and the idolatrous emperor who rules the city is called Selinus.[8]

The town had a pond, as large as a lake, where a plague-bearing dragon dwelt that poisoned all the countryside. To appease the dragon, the people of Silene used to feed it two sheep every day, and when the sheep failed, they fed it their children, chosen by lottery. It happened that the lot fell on the king’s daughter, who is called Sabra in some versions of the story.[9] The king, distraught with grief, told the people they could have all his gold and silver and half of his kingdom if his daughter were spared; the people refused. The daughter was sent out to the lake, dressed as a bride, to be fed to the dragon.[8]

Saint-George by chance rode past the lake. The princess, trembling, sought to send him away, but George vowed to remain. The dragon reared out of the lake while they were conversing. Saint George fortified himself with the Sign of the Cross,[10] charged it on horseback with his lance, and gave it a grievous wound. He then called to the princess to throw him her girdle, and he put it around the dragon’s neck. When she did so, the dragon followed the girl like a meek beast on a leash.[citation needed]

The princess and Saint George led the dragon back to the city of Silene, where it terrified the people at its approach. But Saint George called out to them, saying that if they consented to become Christians and be baptised, he would slay the dragon before them. The king and the people of Silene converted to Christianity, George slew the dragon, and the body was carted out of the city on four ox-carts. “Fifteen thousand men baptized, without women and children.” On the site where the dragon died, the king built a church to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint George, and from its altar a spring arose whose waters cured all disease.[11]

Traditionally, the sword[12] with which St. George slew the dragon was called Ascalon, a name recalling the city of Ashkelon, Israel. From this tradition, the name Ascalon was used by Winston Churchill for his personal aircraft during World War II (records at Bletchley Park), since St. George is the Patron Saint of England.

There is more to read on the Wiki site if you are interested. But I thought that would be sufficient!

I thought it was a decent story. Someday I will tell it to the Munchkin!

Happy Sunday Y’all!

The 100 Step Village~Stogazevac, Serbia

The 100 step village

I was on the top of a very tall hill, and I found fossilized coral. The muz (hubby) and I walked to the bottom of the hill and at the edge of the stream we were about to cross, when we found a stone with a shell fossil in it. He says this is not uncommon here. I am like a kid in a candy store. Sometimes, I feel I should be on a treasure hunt all the time.

This trek up the small mountain was just beyond the 100 step village.  It was a typical old village, quiet and quaint.

A rakija still was in service, and 2 men catered to what the muz calls the “happy” machine. We parked the car in front of their modest, but nice, town building. A passing Baba told us our car will safe there. This was the start our little adventure.  It is small but full of character and friendly people. We also met a nice couple of goats too. 🙂

Stogazovac is the” one hundred step village”.  Just past that beautiful little cluster of homes, is a 14th Century church. On the way to the church. you bypass paved roads and walk along with towering rocks to your right and a steep ravine to your left. At the bottom of the ravine, there is a creek trickling along. A ways up, the creek is dammed up to create a wonderful little swimming hole. There is such a difference in temperature as you descend to the waters edge. Fascinating how water has carved a deep crevice in so much stone.

The mountainous rocks tower over the road like sky scrapers. At some points there is a half tunnel carved in the rock to create the path to the old church. Trust me the pictures don’t do it justice!

We stopped a ways down because we though we had lost our way, and decided rest for a picnic. We sat at the roads edge, which had transformed into pastoral land was now mostly flat. Initially, we sat smack dab on the top of an ant hill. Ant bites are worse than their bark. We moved quickly!

When we had finished our fresh-baked bread with fresh, soft farm cheese baked inside, we saw behind was the church. It had been hidden by the natural skyscraper. It was nestled in just behind it.

The view back from our picnic sight.

It only took us a few minutes to find the path to the plank bridge that crossed the brook. We walked up the very steep hill to the top, and then rested to catch our breath.

The 14th century church had a fresh coat of paint and a new roof, but it was ancient. The walls were nearly 3 feet thick.

I can easily understand how people could find peace and worship inside or out. God had created a beautiful place. Man had made good use of the natural beauty. It is awesome there.

I was glad it was a Sunday when we came. I wish we could come here every Sunday. But soon the snow will cover the ground and getting up the hill will be impossible.

After we explored inside the church and out we made our way back down the hill to go back home. When we were about to pass through a place in the road, flanked by two massive rocks, a billy-goat came through like gang busters, and stopped when he saw us, sizing us up.  He retreated when the muz took a step forward. Probably smart. If I were a betting woman, I would put my money on the muz. He has been known to head butt bigger animals creatures and knock them down.

This billy-goat and his agile friend proceeded to climb the rock as we passed through the natural gateway.

Rabbit trail....The goats warmed my heart. I grew up on a farm with goats. My grandpa once put me on the back of our kind billy-goat and I held onto the horns. I remember his back being very pointy and not at all comfortable like a horse. End rabbit trail…
On the other side of the towering rock gateway, we were greeted by two village children, the goats caretakers. They said “Dobar Dan” or good day to each of us, and then kept looking back at us.
They were bewildered by my English. I love the wonder in their eyes. I wish I could sit and chat with all of them. I used to be a village child myself. I am pretty sure we have more in common than not! Just a difference of birth place and language.

The walk back to the car was fun, I stopped to take a pic of the same couple of gents making the countries favorite liquor, rakija. (This is pronounced rah-key-a.) One of the men said to me, “Odakle ste?” (Where are you from?) When I said “America”, it was fun to see the reaction on their faces. The village reactions and sweet interactions are so much different from the ones of regular town folks.

This was a magical day.

Morning Stroll

The window treatment is ingenuitive! Old fence gates are now decorative protective iron bars. Brilliant!!

Good Day all. I got up super early this morning! It was like 4AM! I couldn’t sleep and so I got up. I was up in time to watch the sun rise.

There is a convertible bed that slides back into a chair. With it in chair mode, Munckin lacks the big step up that allows her to climb on the desk and create havoc all over the house with the craft bits.

I made some Turkish (put some hair on your chest) coffee and drank it while I spent some time organizing the back room. Now, the Mini Me  can’t climb the shelves.

When I finished this long needed task, I hung the laundry on the radiators and made it outside at the crack of 8. That is early for me my friends.

Briskly, I made it to the other side of town I decided to stop in at the church to pray since the doors were open.

Liturgy was being sung. It was ancient sounding and beautiful. Four large men executed the ceremony. Big traditional robes covered in vests and jackets kept them warm.  Four people beside myself stood at the back ignoring the cold hugging their coat clad bodies. I stayed til the end. I left as the Fathers of the church were making their way towards me and the exit. I never know what is expected should they great me and I was having a little Srpski language stage fright. (That happens all the time!) Better to get out while the getting is good I say.

Downtown was cluttered with folks heading to work and school. As I passed this interesting old building, I saw that at the very top, there were weeds growing from the gutters. So much character every where!

Kids headed to school chatted happily and popped into the Pekara (bakery) for breakfast.

This driveway/entrance is framed by such a lovely gate. The neighboring building was a mini market and agricultural mercantile. Delivery men or just workers were standing outside having a good time chatting and were puzzled at my snapping a pic at the normal everyday Serbian gate. They chatted at me. I didn’t comprehend much and just smiled. I asked if they wanted their pic taken and they were agreeable.

Usually, I would show them the pic, but I was feeling bashful. I just smiled and walked away after some more misunderstood banter.  Sometimes I get so shy!

The cold got to be too much to bear, so I went to grab a burek and went home for burek and jogurt  breakfast. Then, I went back to sleep in the living room not wanting to wake the Muppet and her Furry monster dad. I slept til the little one padded out to the couch where I lay and asked for milk. Then the day really began!

 

Holy Cross Day

The Church bells are ringing. Such ear candy. They don’t ring enough here and when I get to hear them, I revel in the sound. Today is an Orthodox holiday. One you are supposed to fast for.. When I looked at the Serbian Orthodox calendar for holidays, this one is highlighted as a STRICT Fasting day. Fasting here is not not eating, it is eating no animal products. Beans are the staple food, breads, and fish add to the meals. It is not as if people don’t eat, but they eat blander foods. Farting after is obligatory!

My mother-law made beans yesterday with no pork fat in preparation for today. I really can’t stand these beans with out pork fat and meat, and even sometimes with it. Other times, I could eat a ton of them with the right pork fat and meat. I think it is the cut of the meat that makes the difference.

She gave us a jar of the said beans as we were leaving and reminded me that “tomorrow is a fasting day”. Even though she knows I am Protestant. I don’t mind fasting so much, as long as there is diversification in food. There isn’t in my Serbian family, Ever!

Thank God I have an Orthodox friend in the U.S. who gave me great ideas for a virtual smorgasboard of possible posna hrana (fasting food).  But because I am in Serbia, most of them aren’t an option much to my regret! (YUM YUM Indian food!) Pasta is the one thing that I can make and probably will. I will dice up some fresh tomatoes and saute them with some garlic and drape it over the pasta. YUM!

With joy, I conclude that tomorrow will not be the traditional “Pass Gas” holiday in our house! Good thing, because it is already the internationally celebrated holiday of my BIRTHDAY! Holla!  And I already got the best gift! A Kiva loan donated in my name! How awesome is that!

Holy Cross day is a celebration of finding the Cross and the miracles that are to have been procured as a result. I would much rather celebrate the miracle of the work done on the cross when Christ gave his life for us. That is what today will be for me… It is like a second Easter. 🙂 With Pasta!

Serbian Sightings_Ninja Nuns

Yesterday, I went to the grocery store. Everything was business as usual till two Orthodox nuns came in. I have only seen them at a monastery previously. On a day when the weather could melt any normal human, I was shocked to see this couple out and about in their black, almost burka type dress. They must have been sweltering! OR they must have super human properties that shield them from heat. I would like to believe that later. It is more interesting.

I was taking the pics on the sly…. as a result, they are BLURRY!

I was at the counter when I heard the cashier giggling under her breath remarking about the Ninjas. I didn’t understand what she was saying as she was speaking Serbian at the speed of light, but the word Ninja was repeated and I finally got it.  OMGosh!! the Nuns did look just like Ninjas!!

I must tell you, that these words are very rude in Serbian orthodox culture. I hope this will not be an offensive, but humorous post. I have nothing but respect for these ladies.

Ninja Nuns sounds really cool too! Imagine the series that could be written about that. In my mind I can see a battle that is a mix of old world orthodox traditions mixed with the interworld battles of  Mortal Kombat. I must say, I fancy that idea more than a “Flying Nun”!

My only regret on this post is that I could not share the mental images I have conjured. Maybe this video will do as a substitute.

Ninja Nun video!

In my search for that video, I found that the idea of Ninja nuns is not a new one. There are LOTS of ninja nun videos. But nun are very good.

The only thing that could have made the sighting even better would have been to see those two in this VW hot rod that was sitting outside.

A worthy Nun-mobile if I ever saw one.

It was even sporting a Serbian flag. Now, all it needs is an Orthodox Cross painted on the hood and we are good to go! Oh, that and a Ninja Nun theme song!

On a very serious note:

My hope with this post is not to offend, but to look at nuns in a light that shows the good work they do. They are selfless in their work for God. This demands the respect you would have for a ninja’s training and skill.

I have studied Islam, and I do know the burka well. It is worn by the women for many of the same reasons the nuns wear similar costumes. At the root it is modesty and the desire not to draw attention to themselves. But, when they are out of their natural habitat, so to speak, it does exactly the opposite.

That’s What’s Up

I had an unintentional week off from blogging. Since it is cherry season, and the harvest is in about a month we will be busy with that and all the other village work. There will probably be other lapses in writing.

The village has had us most of the last week. Weeding, pruning, planting, and even avoiding snakes! Just a little one, he was less than 3 feet long.

Just a little constrictor

He was sunning himself on the road when the little munchkin and I were returning from the Greats. (The Great Grandparents.) Fortunately, the neighbor lady I was walking home with saw him. I was busy driving a new kiddie contraption that needs a little adjustment. The steering was a little off…. but we avoided the slithering sunbather by a few feet. He or she was so happy to feel the heat, the stones I threw to shew it away were not headed. not a few minutes later, the hubby came alone in the tractor and a stick at his back side made him move reluctantly on to the side of the road.

In my blogging absence I have come across lot of things to share, most of which I cannot recall. But one that does stick out is the load pop I heard yesterday. I was in the apt with Mama and the baby. The loudest bang you can imagine out of now where startled me. Now, normally I am not unnerved by such things. But, since our first trip to Serbia 5 years ago, when a bomb went off in our building at 6AM, I am now a little weary of loud bangs and pops!

Mama said it was a car tire popping because of the heat. Another new thing to learn about in Serbia. Apparently, it is not uncommon for tires on old cars to pop on hot days. Interesting…

We have had a few summer type thunder showers in the past week. The lightening show was fierce on the the earliest. and the sun cam out while it was raining on both. There is a saying here when the sun shines during a rain storm here in Serbia, they say bears are getting married. 🙂  Cute, huh?

On our day in town of “rest” we had coffee with a friend on his rooftop!  The view from the top of the bank at sunset was stunning!

I love sunsets!

Plants and so many chimneys covered the roof for the myriad of wood stoves that heat so many rooms.

This was the coolest chimney I saw.

 

The little monster ran around the roof with joy at finding a new place to explore. Avoiding the many hands of friends, she laughed, giggled and fell a few times too. Eventually all the running and laughing turned to fussing and we had to get back home to put the munchkin down for the night. I love how excited she gets when she is tired and she sees the bed. It is just how I feel sometimes.

Our slava, Sveti Nikola

Today is our families Slava. I am not looking forward to it. It is a fasting slava with fish and beans. I hate the fish, and the beans are made with no oil. so they stop up the plumbing. I am going now to eat some non-fasting food so my body doesn’t lead a revolt later that will put me in agony!

The early morning tradition for the day of slava.

Wish me luck!

I will post about the slava  when I can.

Dobar Dan!

Whatever Wednesday~ Easter Feast pics

Easter in the village is so much less formal than I have known Easter to be. Mind you, there are formalities. Just different ones.

Family Sets up the “picnic” under the pavilion, Neighbors wander in. There weren’t as many people as I thought. It must be an invite only kind of thing?  I don’t know.

There is tons of food, wine, and beer waiting to be consumed. The table is lined with the closest family and friends and the ceremonial bread is broken.

Brothers

Wine is poured into the four crevices cut into the cake like bread. Probably to symbolize the four places Jesus was pierced with nails.  Now it is like a communion bread and wine all in one. Pieces of the bread are passed around to everyone. Incense is burned, candles are lit and food is eaten. Not all in that order. 🙂

Lighting the incense, saying a prayer. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

Everyone is lined up to light their candles by the Ancient cross.

The candles they will light are a soft wax. If you hold them in your hand too long they wilt like a flower and face down. Easily remedied by straightening them out.  and letting them cool a bit.

I had to get a pic of this lady with the kerchief tied behind her head. If that outfit doesn’t scream fortune teller. I don’t know what does. But this is just her choice of clothes for the day.

 

The cross is  the closest thing to a church in the village. There is a church a village or two over, and then the one in town. There are lots of these crosses all over. One might be hiking through the forest and find an old abandoned cross like this from another lifetime in Serbia. The  writing on the cross is in old Cyrillic. I can’t read it.

People eat. Children get restless. Beer, cigarettes, and conversation flank the table. Children find ways of amusing themselves.

washing their hands over and over, playing in the water.

 

Taking walks

 

Learning and playing the egg tapping game for the first time.

Happy Easter from our family to yours.

 

 

Easter Monday~ Orthodox Lunch and Colored Eggs

After the family dilemma yesterday, we did finally go for lunch and enjoyed the company of family and the fellow villagers.

Uncle Milosh with the pic that was roasted on a spit the day before Easter.

No time now to post pics of the Easter feast, but will do later this week. For now just a little post on the eggtivities. :0)

Coloring eggs is done here on Good Friday, better known as Big Friday in this part of the world. It is much the same, accept that as it is with almost everything else it takes a lot more time and effort.

Easter egg dye and other paraphernalia.

Back home we start off with white eggs food coloring and vinegar.  Dipping the eggs and coloring them takes a few seconds and you can make one egg a few colors with some careful dipping.

another vender at the market selling Easter decor.

Here they start with Brown eggs ditto on the rest. The dying time is 10 minutes to an hour! Since it is so time intensive, eggs are only one color.!? But darker because the Eggs are brown to begin with. Designs can be created with leaves, or bags. I love that part of the creativity. I certainly appreciate the work put into them!

I can just imaging how shocked my Serbian sister in the U.S. was when we dyed eggs together. The colors were the pastels I am accustomed to. She asked if we could make the colors darker. Now I know why. That is what she was used to seeing. And the difference in color is kind of a let down when you are far from home and want to do something traditional. Definitive Culture Shock! Funny how it pops up at the weirdest moments.

There are no Egg hunts here, but there are serious competitions for egg tapping. The youtube video below shows what I mean. less than a minute in is all you need to watch.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CVFWhoDIk30

I have only played this with the husband so far, My egg was the winner. He told me after, pointier eggs are best!

Decorations may be done with the new decals we find in the west, but old fashioned  decorations are my favorite here. This pic is from Wikipedia from the Czech republic… but they use this technique all over Eastern Europe.

Learning new traditions is the really good part of being an expat.

Dobar Dan y’all

 

Photography Friday~ Meteora

I went to Greece this week. It is a hop, skip, and a jump from Serbia. Well. Actually, a few hours stretched out to several hours if you are traveling with Serbians who know how to relax, have coffee and smoke like a chimney. 🙂

I was traveling with a bus trip of teachers. I was invited by my very good friend M. I am so happy I went. I made new friends. Enjoyed Greek food. and took 4 GB worth of pictures (That is 800 pics). No doubt, photography Friday will have a long Greek hang over. 😉

Today’s post is all about Meteora. This is directly from wikipedia:

The Metéora (Greek: Μετέωρα, pronounced [mɛˈtɛoɾɐ], lit. “middle of the sky”, “suspended in the air” or “in the heavens above” — etymologically related to “Meteorite“) is one of the largest and most important complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Greece, second only to Mount Athos.[1] The six monasteries are built on natural sandstone rock pillars, at the northwestern edge of the Plain of Thessaly near the Pineios river andPindus Mountains, in central Greece. The nearest town is Kalambaka. The Metéora is included on theUNESCO World Heritage List. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteora)

I count myself super blessed to have been able to see this natural beauty.Maybe these pics will bring a little more sunshine to your Friday.

The point of vising the Meteora was to visit a monastery atop the jutting rock formations. This is a sacred place for Orthodox people. It was a stronghold kept from the Turks who terrorized the Serbs, the Greeks, and others for centuries.

Back in the day, rope ladders were dropped to allow entrance. Also, basket like nets were let down for someone sit in. Then they were pulled up to the safety of the monastery. Now they have even cooler ways of getting from one place to another.

Seriously, that is better than the pope mobile!!

Only some of the monastery was open to the public, and pictures were prohibited in  much of that area. I am not complaining. I would rather take pics of the rock formations.

These sites don’t get old. I could snap away all day long!

Tourist do not only flock here for the monasteries. many people come from all over the world to climb these magestic monsters.

This is some impressive stuff!

Meteora was a highlight of the the trip. I would go again in a heartbeat!

Happy Friday!

Dobar dan