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My Expedition in Serbian Vlach Country


My birthday was a few weeks away, Nov 7th, and I was searching around for somewhere to go. I was so very close to booking a flight to Tirana, Albania. That might sound like an odd choice since I’ve been a staunch Serbian supporter for all these years, but I really wanted to meet some Albanians on their home turf. You shouldn’t judge a whole race by the acts of a few freaks on Youtube and Facebook. 🙂 It was time to open my mind and go for something adventurous.

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Well, that all changed because of the video I made showing my support of  Kosovo’s denial into UNESCO. I received some very scary, nasty, and threatening messages from Kosovo and all over Albania. What was I going to do now?

Eastern Serbia is a region that I haven’t had many opportunities to see. It’s filled with some ancient historic sites, beautiful mountains, canyons and untouched forests. It’s also home to a minority group here in Serbia that has always interested me…… Vlachs.

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The Vlachs were totally unknown to me until about 2 years ago. Vampires, spirits, magic and superstitions have always interested me.They are big believers in all of them.

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The Vlachs are a minority group that are spread between Serbia, Hungary, Ukraine,Croatia, Macedonia, Albania, Greece and Bulgaria. According to the 2011 census, Serbia has roughly 35,000 Vlachs who mainly reside in the Bor and Zajecar districts of Serbia in the eastern part of the country. They have a separate minority council and are represented in the population censuses as a separate ethnicity. The language spoken by the Vlachs consists of two distinct Romanian subdialects spoken in regions neighboring Romania: one major group of Vlachs speaks the dialect spoken in Mehedinți County in western Oltenia, while the other major group speaks a dialect similar to the one spoken in the neighboring region of Banat .The majority of them follow the Eastern Orthodox faith.

I hadn’t had the opportunity to befriend any of them until last year. One of the students, Marko Radojkovic, signed up on our summer work and travel program last year and we became fast friends. I worked with him a lot on his English and how to get through the U.S. Embassy visa interview. He told me when he returned from the USA, he would take me to see how the Vlachs live in his hometown of Majdanpek.

Majdanpek

Majdanpek is a little town of 7,000 folks nestled in the forests and hills of eastern Serbia. The town is famous as a copper mine district, since the early 17th century. The origin of the name is based on words majdan(related to Turkish madän, mine) and river Pek – mine on river Pek. Throughout its history, mining development was held by many foreign owners (Czechs, Belgians, Austrians) , and was extensively exploited. Today, it’s controlled by the Russians.  The town was industrialized in the mid-20th century, by the industrial program supported by SFR Yugoslavia’s Government of that time, and the personal influence of J.B.Tito (marshal and lifetime prime minister since the end of WWII until 1980). He once referred to it as “The Golden City”.  Through the late 20th century, the town was in a period of industrial progress and one of the most developed areas in copper mining and metallurgy.

I took off work for three days and decided I’d spend it at his place on Friday, and Saturday and Sunday in Donji Milanovac. I met Marko at the bus station in Belgrade early on Friday morning. We boarded the 8:45am bus to Majdanpek. It’s a long trip (3.5 hours) as the roads are not very developed and the bus stops in all the little towns along the way. Marko brought along a little bag full of snacks and a little bottle of homemade rakija, dunja mixed with apple, that made our ride a little more bearable. The bus ticket was only 1300 dinars ($13) for a round trip ticket and it was surprisingly empty. We took up the the 5 seats in the back of the bus and chatted about randomness for the entire ride to Majdanpek. The worst thing about Serbian buses is the lack of a bathroom. You need to make sure you take care of business prior to boarding or you have to ask the driver to pull over on the side of the road. 🙂

 

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Marko told me a lot about the creepy tales of some of the places along the way. We passed this little abandoned house along the way that was known to be haunted. They say that people can hear a baby screaming late into the night from the depths of the old house. No one has been able to stay in the house for an entire night. It would make a great episode of Ghost Hunters.

 

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We finally arrive into Majdanpek. The surrounding area is amazingly beautiful. There are untouched forests with a spatter of farm houses and abandoned homes. My first impression of Majdanpek was how massive the  mine that’s located right beside the town was. They say it’s one of the biggest copper mines in Europe. It’s currently owned by a Russian company and is one of the biggest employers in this region.

 

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The town of Majdanpek is surrounded by forests and almost every single resident lives in an apartment complex. You don’t see very many homes at all. We jump off the bus, grab our bags and head to his family’s clothing store that’s right in the center of Majdanpek. There’s a lovely little church right in the center.

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The town has a downtown area that’s at the bottom of the hill and an uptown area that’s on the top of the hill. It’s no wonder we didn’t see many overweight folks, because it’s a workout to go from one side to the other.

We meet up with his mother at her lovely little clothing store. She’s a very cheerful and welcoming woman. We grab the house keys from her and head up to his apartment. The apartment is a charming little thing that has been remodeled with care. The mother had some hot Vlach pie waiting for us in the oven. It was delicious! It was made with layers of crust with meat and cheese inside it. We ate till we couldn’t eat anymore, showered, drank a coffee and waited on his parents to get home. They had a surprise for me!

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The father and mother arrive in a big yellow van that they use to haul their clothing from Belgrade to Majdanpek. We grab our stuff and jump in the van. They still haven’t told me what we are doing, but we stop off at the tourist organization in the town center. A tour guide hops in and we are on our way to some surprise location. The tour guide is a middle aged lady who speaks English very well. She accidentally mentions something and I know where we are headed, Rajko’s Cave! This is the one tourist site that I had really wanted to visit in Majdanpek, but they had told me it was closed for the season! 🙂 We were going to have a private tour of the cave!

 

Marko and I

Rajko’s Cave is a nature lover’s dream!  The total length of the cave is 2.304 meters while the tourist path is 1.410,5 meters. Air temperature is 8 degrees Celsius and relative humidity is 100%. The cave consists of two physically separated caverns: an underground river channel and a spring cave, both of which have two floors. A series of attractive groupings are found in Rajko’s Cave: The Egyptian Goddes, the Snail, Stump with Mushrooms, Sleeping Bear and several cave halls. The Rajko’s cave has the highest quality of cave ornaments.

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According to a legend, Rajko’s Cave was named after a leader of “hajduks” (outlaws fighting against the Ottoman rule) Rajko, who attacked and robbed people on the way from Donji Milanovac to Majdanpek and hid his prey in the cave. They say the area has been ripe with treasure hunters who have dreams of stumbling upon the riches of Rajko.

 

Marko and Charles

The guide takes on an hour long trip through the depths of the gorgeous cave (video available here). She fills us in on all the facts and mysteries surrounding the cave. I’ve been in numerous caves in my life, but this one takes the cake!

 

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They tourist organization and Serbian government have done a great job making this cave tourist friendly. They have beautiful lighting in most areas and pristine walkways and stairs in all the locations. Rajko’s Cave is a must see on any visit to Serbia! You won’t be disappointed!

 

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We depart the cave to explore the surrounding forests and hills. Marko’s parents and the guide head back in the van while Marko and I decide to walk the 3-4 km back to Majdanpek through the dense forests. The area around the entrance has some bbq pits and picnic tables for all of their summer campers. We sip some of the water that’s pouring out of the cave depths. The water is cold and refreshing and very clean!

 

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November was a great time to come to this part of Serbia. The trees were an amazing array of different colors! The pictures do it no justice. We wander around this large lake that’s a few meters from the cave.

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Marko tells me more legends of the area while we walk up this big hill surrounded by thick forests and layers of orange leaves. I’m hoping to catch site of some of the Vlach witches! 🙂 There’s an episode of VICE Serbia that shows some of the strange customs of the old Vlachs that was filmed right around this area.

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They show how some of the Vlach magic believers hang doll heads throughout the forest to rid themselves of evil spirits so that’s what I wanted to see. Well, I would have probably crapped my pants if I had, but it sounds good to say now. We reach an old wooden fence in the middle of the woods where there are bits of clothing wrapped around many of  the little trees. 😮 We don’t know what it was for, but it spooked me a bit. A little later, we run into an old farmhouse up on a hill. There’s an old man entering into his gate with some wood on his back. I wanted to speak to him, but thought better of it.

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We continue on our mission and run into this old bridge that’s made out of broken slats of wood. I’m glad Marko knew about the loose slats, because I would have fell through one or two of them if I had been alone!

We come out of the clearing by the Majdanpek high school and one of the biggest indoor swimming pools in Serbia. It was built during the Yugoslavian times for the Yugoslav National Swim Team to practice in. They don’t have enough money to keep the water heated in the winter months so it was closed. The high school is in very rough shape. There was spray paint and broken windows on many portions of the building. It was Friday evening so school was out, but there was a group of kids sitting on the front steps of the school. We walked around back to see this large monument that Tito had built. It had a large open space in front and seating for some kind of outdoor speeches or performances. The monument was in a similar condition to the school. It had been spray painted on, busted in a few places, and wasn’t worth much of a look.

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The sun was rapidly falling and dinner was ready so we headed back to Marko’s house. Momma had prepared a delicious Vlach meal for us to eat. It was something called vlaski kacamak. It reminded me a little of cornbread-like substance that you place on a plate and then spread this thick, delicious stew of peppers, pork, and sauce all over it! It was terrific! I ate more than I should of while chatting with the family.  Marko had to do all the translations so he was starting to get a headache. 🙂 I hear that from a lot of people who aren’t used to speaking in other languages.

Time to head to downtown to check out the nightlife. We didn’t want to stay long because we had to get up early to explore a few more things and then head to Donji Milanovac. We took a long, easy, downhill walk downtown which was nearly empty for a Friday night. The thing I noticed most was the lack of cafes and bars. The majority of Serbian towns have a trillion of them, but not Majdanpek. We stopped in one of them that was pretty full. Marko’s cousin was in there so they chatted away for a bit while I sucked down a couple beers.

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I saw this little kafana type place on the corner with a bunch of old men in it and told Marko that we had to go there. The old, places are usually some of my favorite places to visit in Serbian towns. I never go alone, but since he was with me we headed inside. It was a lot nicer than I had expected. We watched a little bit of Rocky I on tv, chatted with the waitress and threw down three or four beers.

It was time to head home. Marko didn’t want to catch a taxi which are only 70 dinars in Majdanpek so we walked the whole way uphill! It just about killed me, but didn’t seem to phase him. 🙂

The parents had my bed made for me and I crashed for the night in the home of a Vlach.

Continued in the next article……. If you want to see the video I made of this first part of the trip, click here.

 

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Posted by on November 14, 2015 in Through my eyes

 

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Questionnaire for Serbians Living in Serbia


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I’m 100 steps closer to getting my tour idea legal. After years and years of answering questions from foreigner after foreigner about traveling in Serbia, I decided to create my own travel association. Creating an actual tour company in Serbia is very difficult. There are tons and tons of requirements that must be met. If you want to create your own customs tours, you must have a degree in tourism and a few years of tourism experience. They also require 50K euros in an account. My lawyer here in Novi Sad, after hearing about what all I do here and my mission, suggested I create an association instead. She is going to take care of all the legal paperwork and such to get this association registered. We have a number of aspects that we need to get completed, but we are on our way! My Serbian pal from Novi Sad is a business owner here in Novi Sad. His father was kind enough to allow us FREE office space in this 3 floor, new office of his on Europe Blvd here in Novi Sad! We will just have to pay the electric, trash, etc. It will be the headquarters for our association.

We have some big plans for the organization that might include:

** Organized trips to many interesting locations in Serbia. My Gmail, Facebook and Youtube message boxes are always full of questions from foreigners who are interested in Serbia. The majority of them know about Belgrade, but know little else. This country has soooo much more to offer than just Belgrade.  We are going to be seeking advice from locals in many different places in Serbia and organizing trips to many of them. It will help expose Serbia to the large quantity of tourists who come here with money, but don’t know what to spend it on. My large following and contacts can help draw interest and tourism to many struggling communities. A few months before Exit Festival, I get a ton of messages about Serbia. This massive group of foreign visitors are looking for things to do, but can’t seem to find the info they need. This will be a way to funnel them to other parts of Serbia.
** Free conversational English courses for the underprivileged Serbs and minority groups who don’t have money for regular English courses in a private school

** Foreigner meet and greet sessions. I have a ton of friends from many different countries who live, study and visit this city. Many Serbs are interested in meeting others and learning a bit about their culture.

** Fundraisers for some of the sick Serbian kids that are in need of money for different medical conditions. This is a constant issue over here in Serbia. My Facebook is always packed with messages from Serbians who want me to post about sick kids here in Serbia. Many Westerners are interested in helping, but are unaware of their struggles and how to help.

** Helping villagers market some of their homemade products. I’ve been living over here for around four years now and have experienced many, many locations in Serbia. Many of the villages and towns that I have been to are filled with local folks who make wonderful crafts and other items that need some exposure. I’ve asked many of the folks how they market their products to folks outside of Serbia and they usually say “We don’t.” It would be a great way to assist the little man in Serbia by having a place for them to market their products to the massive diaspora and others.

And more…..

I need all of you Serbians to help me out now. Please take a minute to fill out this questionnaire. I’m seeking advice on what to see, eat, where to sleep, etc in your communities. I know there are a lot of “hidden gems” in this country, but you guys know your communities better than anyone. Please take a moment to fill out this brief questionnaire. It won’t take long, but your answers will be vital to my project.

Thanks so much for your time and stay tuned for info. We will have a beautiful website with tons of links and info to help spread the word about this awesome, unique little country.

Ready to start the questionnaire? Click here!

If you are a Serb from the diaspora or a foreigner who’s interested and have the means in assisting with  some needed cash for our project, please feel free to donate to my Paypal.  You will be listed on our website as a “friend of Serbia” for your assistance. We don’t need a lot, but furniture, website design and creation, legal fees, etc will take a big bite out of my miniscule Serbian salary. Feel free to message me for more info or throw some cash to my Paypal account at charlesserbia@gmail.com 

Volim vas!

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2015 in Through my eyes

 

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My Emergency Visit to a Serbian Dentist


dentist No one in their right mind enjoys a visit to the dentist. I have a horrible fear of the dentist. Just thinking about the sound of the drill and the smell of the dentist office, makes the hair on the back of my neck start standing. I have had several impacted molars that my old dentist back home told me to remove, but I never did. I didn’t have the time, money nor courage to do so. That was a mistake! You should never let your dental issues drag on and on because they will only get worse. The last time I visited a dentist prior to this Serbian dentist was 2013 ! He  told me that my back molar was going to need some attention in the very near future. I was about to head back over to Serbia so I just asked them to give me an estimate on what the repairs would cost. The two cavities were going to cost around $230 a piece and the “possible” root canal would be $1,100! No way was I going to spend $2000 before I left for Serbia. They would have to wait! dentist1 Fast forward to December of 2014. I was eating some chocolate cake and it felt like a hammer had just been slammed down on my back molar! The pain was massive. I thought if I just  started avoiding that side of the mouth when I was chewing the pain would go away,  but it didn’t help. I had to find a dentist! I remembered a doctor had contacted me on Facebook a few months prior. He had mentioned that his girlfriend was a dentist and they were interested in getting into the “Dental tourism” business. I searched through my messages and found him. They told me to come over the next day so they could examine the tooth! That doesn’t happen very often back home! DSC_0289_1024x681 The office was very close to the center of Belgrade and was easy to find from the bus stop. I really had no idea what to expect from a Serbian dentist’s office, but it sure wasn’t the clean, modern office that I found. DSC_0288_1024x681 My dentist, Dr. Mirjana Filipovic,  was even a beautiful young woman who didn’t invoke instant fear in me like my other dentists. 🙂 She sat me down and asked me a little about about my problems. I apologized for eating some burek on the way over! 🙂 I can only imagine how nasty that was for her! 🙂 She found the issue and told me exactly what all I needed to have done. The cavities were 25E and the root canal that was a MUST, would be 100E. I couldn’t hardly imagine that would be possible. What was she going to use? Rusty pliers? Old, outdated equipment? She showed me all the tools that she would be using and even explained everything in detail to me.  All of their products and instruments come from Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Japan, just like my dentist back in the USA. She told me that most dentists use the old silver colored fillings instead of the white ones because they are cheaper. She ONLY uses the white ones and doesn’t charge an extra fee like most other dentists. She had me sold! 🙂 DSC_0622_1024x681 She started in on her work after giving me a few shots of something that numbed my entire mouth. She would constantly ask me if something hurt or if I felt anything uncomfortable. I felt NOTHING! She explained the roots in each tooth and how the root canal would be done. She opened both teeth and placed some meds in them before sealing them off. She said that I would need to return in one week.  ROUND 1… Complete with NO PAIN! debut I left the dentist’s office to shoot 8 hours of video for a  kitchen products company in Hong Kong! Thank God I was able to talk. My final round started the morning before I was heading to Uzice, Serbia for a speaking engagement in front of a few hundred students. The doctor met me by Sveti Sava church and told me that we would need to go next door for some x-rays of my teeth. We walked into a beautifully decorated office with a pretty young lady behind the desk. She took me right into the x-ray room, snapped the x-rays, and handed them to me within 5 minutes. The cost? Only 10E!!!  The lady was impressed with my few bits of Serbian that I uttered on the way out of her office. DSC_0620_1024x681 We bring the x-rays to the dentist for her to examine. She told me that there shouldn’t be any pain this time because the roots were dead. She was exactly right! The worst pain out of this whole entire project was the shots that she gave me in my mouth and it was only a little prick. I was amazed that a root canal could be done without any pain at all! The little devices that she had to shove down in the tooth looked horrible, but you couldn’t feel anything.  She finished up the procedure and told me that I could eat anytime I wanted to because she had heard my stomach growling. We all sat down over a coffee and discussed this whole procedure and how expensive it was in the USA. They told me that they can do porcelain caps and teeth replacement within 24-48 hours for around 120E too!  I told them that I wanted to use my outreach to bring them more businesses. We called my good friend, Boris Marunic (video producer from Belgrade), and asked him to help us with a short little video! Check it out by clicking here!  I can get you a dental price quote within 24 hours of you contacting me. If you have some dental procedures that you have been putting off, contact me asap!  You could fly over here, take some  exciting tours and get your teeth fixed and still pay less than you will at your dentist! Sound too good to be true? It isn’t! Everything is possible in Serbia 🙂 You have nothing to lose except thousands of dollars at your dentist 🙂 U.S. dentist was going to be around $1900 for all the work I had done while I got it done here for $150. Serbia wins this battle against the USA by saving us an enormous amount of money and time! 🙂

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2015 in Price difference

 

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Serbia’s British Friend


kev4What is one thing that can be very annoying about having so many Serbian Facebook friends? Having your inbox flooded with the same info and links on anything that is going on in Serbia. That is how I first heard of Kevin Shannon, the adventurer , who was planning to march all the way across Serbia. There were over 20-30 folks who were sending me something from the local newspapers and tv stations about him and his mission. We had connected over Facebook and he asked me to join in on part of journey. I wish I had taken the opportunity to do so not only for my health, but to experience a little bit of his adventure.

We bumped into each other again the “Exit Festival Global Adventures” tourism conference. I was there to giving a presentation on my social network and blog while he was there to present  “Walk Serbia”. I decided to quiz him with some more detailed questions about his time in Serbia.

1. Where are you from and what do you do?

So: my name is Kevin Shannon and I’m from the UK. Currently I run my own small creative design studio called Chips & Gravy studios

2. How in the world did you get the idea to “walk across Serbia”?
 

I originally visited Serbia the first time in the autumn of 2010 whilst on 10,000 km cycling expedition from the UK to the far end of Turkey and then back again. On that visit to Serbia I completely fell in love with the country and made some great friends. During the 3 to 4 months that I spent in Serbia I spend most my time in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Sabac and Nis. When I returned home I realised that I’d only seen a fraction of Serbia and although I had learnt about the country a little there was still Hell of a lot more to see. So I decided that one day I would return to Serbian  and walk the length of the country.kev2

3. What did you know about Serbia before you came here? 

Before I visited Serbia first time I didn’t really know that much about the country. I had simply drawn a line across Europe and Serbia happened to be on that path. I knew the region was obviously famous for conflicts and I had a they recollection of seeing the NATO bombings on television when I was younger, but that was really it. But as I was cycling through countries before I got to Serbia I was warned that Serbian people what do horrific things to me once I crossed the border. Of course I don’t believe this but when your cycling on your own across Europe these warnings do not fill you with confidence.


4. Prior to visiting Serbia for the first time, give me four words that you would used to describe it…
Unknown, War, Scary, New
5. How long did your walk take?
The walk is actually two walks. The first in February 2013 took me five weeks and during that time I walked from the border with Hungary down to the city of Nis. My second walk was in July 2013 and I walked from south west Serbia back to the north of the country, which also took five weeks.kev1
6. Biggest complication.
The biggest complication was issues from walking with such a heavy pack. My left knee became very sore during the first walk, and during the second walk I had horrific blisters on the sole of one of my feet.
7. Funniest situation.
I was in a small village about 75 km north of Nis, feeling very tired and the little homesick and out of nowhere a group of young kids came up to me with pieces of paper and pencils. The oldest had a hand written note in English which said that they were big fans and have been following my journey in the newspapers. Because they knew my route, they knew I would be passing through the village and so had taken it in turns to keep a eye out for me, just so they could get an autograph – they had been waiting for 3 days.kev5
8. Favorite part of your journey.
The end? No, i’m just kidding. It’s actually very hard to pick a favourite part of the journey because so much happened but if I had to say one thing it was the generous hospitality everybody that i met on the road.
9. How would you compare Serbian food to your normal cuisine back in England? 
Serbian food is very rich with strong flavours, and of course there’s a lot of meat. Which is really the case in England. I guess if I had to make a comparison I would say that Serbian food it’s very much like a traditional English roast dinner that is served in most households every Sunday – however in England you have that once a week  and in serbia you have it almost everyday
10. Did you ever feel threatened or in danger?

I never really felt threatened or in danger, even in small Kafanas in the middle of god knows where surrounded by big, burly Serbian guys. The biggest issue with regards to safety to me was the packs of wild dogs. They were always a concern when I was walking in the mountains or sleeping out at night.kev6

11. What 4 words would you use to describe Serbia after walking from top to bottom and back?

Beautiful, friendly, Great food, my second home 

 

12. Will you return to Serbia? What would you say to someone that is considering a visit to this part of the world?

Without shadow of a doubt I’ll be returning to Serbia – in fact I returned earlier this year for a conference where spoke about my was through Serbia. I already have plans to take my fiance to Serbia,  have my stag party there and maybe one day by small house somewhere where I can spend my summers (not walking)

 

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 13. You have decided to publish a book about this exciting adventure, right? Tell me a little about the project.

OK, So the project was quite simply to walk through Serbia to try and discover the real Serbia. In my original trip to the country i felt i’d only scratched the surface and was intrigued to see more of the country so i set up Walk Serbia. When you look around the internet looking for more info on Serbia you’re met with a lot negativity (except for a few sites included yours) and i decided that i wanted to create a document of my personal journey to not so much counteract the negativity but give a truthful view of a country. Now, don’t get me wrong, i expected it to be a positive trip due to prior experiences but i was open to negativity also – i essentially wanted to create a truthful account of spending 10 weeks tramping around the country. And this is, i hope, what i’ve done.
I’m still in the process of writing the book – i’ve rewritten some chapters 4 times – but i decided that i would set a date (in my head) for it’s release. So now i’ve set up a website – walkserbia.com – which will be the hub for all things to do with the book including, the opportunity to buy the book, perhaps some videos from the road, exclusive photos and information on speaking engagements and a potential book tour. For the moment i’ve thrown up a very simple landing page which has a small blurb about the book and an area to signup to the newsletter which will give you exclusive updates, a free chapter here or there and an exclusive discount on the final book. I set up the newsletter for the reasons i just mentioned, but something amazing happened when i did – i realised just how much interest there was in reading the book; not just from Serbia but from all over the world. Serb’s from Australia, the USA and Canada and even South Africa have sent me messages to tell me they would like to buy copies for friends, families and co-workers which is exciting…and daunting.
My plan for releasing the book was to self-publish and through friends in Serbia distribute the book there and of course here in the UK. But, with the response i’ve had so far i’m not looking at other options. I’m thinking about getting the book translated into Serbian, i’m going to start looking for distributors in the US and Australia AND if the list keeps growing i could have a great opportunity to promote the book to publishers around the world  which will then (if i’ve done my job right) help to give the world a better understanding of Serbia.
Just like the journeys themselves felt like a community – i had people tweeting, facebooking and emailing to help influence what i should visit and where during the walk – the book is starting to feel the same.

 

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2014 in What others think

 

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Why did I choose Zrenjanin???


I get asked by all my followers … “WHY DID YOU CHOOSE ZRENJANIN?”

My first contact was with two Serbs that lived in Zrenjnanin. I was here for two weeks last June and fell in love with it. It is the 6th largest city in Serbia and the municipality contains 21 villages with a population of around 122K .Zrenjanin is a nice escape from the BUSY cities of Novi Sad and Belgrade but only an hour away from each. Here are some reasons why I love Zrenjanin……..

  1. short trip from Belgrade, Novi Sad, Hungary and Romania… it is great way to relax and refresh yourself after a few days in the big cities…
  2. many yearly celebrations… Dani Piva or Beer days is an absolute BLAST!!! It is held in August and features many different genres of music and of course some of the best beer Serbia has to offer!!!! They also celebrate  a folk craft celebration, “golden kettle” or cooking contest along with a “harvest fest” in July!!!!
  3. its home to many different ethnic groups and nationalities. i have meet many Hungarians, Bosnians, Slovenian, German, etc… They are all friendly, laid back and love to share their customs!
  4. it contains hundreds of small shops…coming from the USA  it is rare to see so many small clothing, food, electric, bakeries, etc that are family owned. the products are unique and cheap.
  5. it contains lots of culture!! they have a museum, art gallery, cultural center and boasts the oldest theater, built in 1839, in the Eastern Balkans with live shows every weekend!
  6. beautiful nature…. it has many parks, a nature preserve, LOTS of water! Peskara is a man-made sandy beach on the outskirts of the city that has FREE admission and beer is allowed on the beach! It also contains many unique bridges and one “dry bridge” with no water under.. i am still trying to figure that one out! 🙂
  7. hunting and fishing for sportsmen. they have a hunting club that will arrange your entire hunting trip… they also have HUGE carp in the river Begej and the local lakes and ponds. they also have a shooting range on the outskirts of town…
  8. gorgeous city center that is bicycle friendly and full of picturesque buildings! It also contains Hotel Vojvodina .. a beautiful, low priced hotel… 40,000 dinars…
  9. excellent public transportation…. there are local bus stops all over town and the cabs in Zrenjanin are some of the quickest I have encountered.. many times I will call a cab and they are always there in under 5 minutes! The train station is another affordable way to travel.. it is only a few blocks from the city center…BEWARE.. the trains aren’t the best looking or most reliable but they are cheap! Walking is also another option… everything is only a few blocks from the center…
  10. historic churches…. this is a diverse town with many different religious denominations…. they have some BEAUTIFUL churches for all faiths..One Orthodox church dates back to 1746!! A must see is the Calvanist Church or “white church”…
  11. public swimming pool … if you dont feel like going to Peskara and want a clean, cheap dip in the pool … you can’t beat the Zrenjanin pool!!!
  12. sports is a HUGE attraction in Zrenjanin.. Zrenjanin and the surrounding villages have had many olympic medalists reside here. The city boasts two sports stadiums… one of them, Crystal Hall, was built in 2009 and was built with the highest construction standards in Europe.. Check out a basketball game, handball, ping pong or volleyball match! There is also a golf course on the outskirts of town! Tennis is another big sport in Zrenjanin. There is a beautiful indoor tennis court 5 minutes from downtown!
  13. it contains 3 local tv stations and local radio with English music…
  14. over 20 schools with English programs and friendly administration for those of you who love to volunteer!
  15. affordable housing!!! you can easily find a nice apartment… no contract, cheap utilities for about $100 a month!!! Belgrade and Novi Sad are a little bit higher!
  16. former industrial powerhouse of Yugoslavia… there are remains of many factories that were in use up to the fall of communism in the early 90’s.. Zrenjanin was the center of manufacturing and still has many factories in use!

EVERYONE UNDER 30 SPEAKS ENGLISH!!!

But my favorite thing about Zrenjanin is the manyyyyyy bars and cafes that litter the entire town!! You are never far from a small cafe, pub or pizzeria!!! Here is a list of some of my favorites!!!!

  • Havana… It is located 2 minutes from the city center and has one of the most beautiful interiors of any bar I have ever been in! It is decked out in Cuban artifacts, statues and photos…. great service and outdoor, salsa music every Saturday!! you must visit this place!!
  • Green Bell… It is located smack dab in the center of town. it is beside the Hotel Vojvodina and beside the museum. Great English speaking staff and a  large, laid back room to chill out for a coffee or pivo! They also have a large outdoor stage that creates a great dancing environment for you party animals!
  • The Loft…. It is located on Svetozara Markovica street or one road back from the center. It is a small little bar that serves some the best “Big Macs” in town! McDonalds was in Zrenjanin but closed a few years back. The Loft took advantage of it and makes a burger that tastes IDENTICAL to it! They are quick, under 10 minutes, cheap and economical!!! You can get a burger, the best fries in town and a pivo for about $4!!!! If you are in the mood for a coffee it will run you about 85 dinars…
  • Cafe Bridge bar…. It offers a river view, cheap sandwiches and my favorite is a Palacinka… it looks like a burrito but has ham, cheese etc in it… only 130 dinars… less than $2 dollars for a filling meal!
  • N & N cafe… one of the most attractive outdoor bars in town.. it is located RIGHT DOWN TOWN.. they have a water fountain, friendly staff and regular priced pivo!
  • Basic… It has the best staff in town!!! Boris and the guys will treat you like a king!! I tipped all the guys 1000 dinars for Christmas and they were very grateful!! He remembers your name and your preference of alcohol! Great place for younger crowd!!
  • Santos… it is owned by the local media guy! it is right in the center of town and server some AWESOME pasta!! I love to eat here when I crave Italian…
  • Ultra Cafe… it is also located in the middle of town… they serve great pizza!!!
  • Max Cafe.. it is on the next road over and located by the economic school… lots of kids frequent this place.. they are friendly and great place to chill and watch the crowd…
  • San Marcos…. it is a larger club a few minutes from downtown and  is a great party place… many kids celebrate their 18th birthday there…
  • Inter Duo is another night club that I spent Serbian New Years eve… great dance floor and large space!! Lots of girls!!!!!
  • Museum bar…. THE BEST DEAL FOR YOUR DOLLAR!!! You can get a LARGE draft Lav for 100 dinars!! Most bars are around 120-140 dinars!!!!

There are manyyyyyyyy other little places that provide awesome service and excellent pivo!!!

Zrenjanin is a great vacation stop for everyone!! I have been here for 6 months and still loving it!! One negative is on Sunday the town is DEAD!!! No one is in the center or at the bars and its similar to a ghost town!!!! If you are looking a fun, cheap, exciting and relaxing weekend….. CHECK OUT ZRENJANIN!!!!!!!

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2012 in Through my eyes

 

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