On the Edge of a Disaster

Impressions of a Country
Overlooking Belgrade and the Danube River

Overlooking Belgrade and the Danube River

The Danube River is so pretty, it meanders through several countries, and looks so gentle. The next day it started to rain. And rain. And rain. It rained buckets and would stop for a few minutes, then rain some more.

It rained more in one day than it had in a month. And then it rained some more. The rain continued all week and flooding devastated many people.

Homes were washed away, railroad tracks were damaged, and people stayed home from work, watching the news  of those effected and the expectation of more rain.

The Prime Minister looked haggard. He had been in office less than 2 months and was grieving the tragedy of losing his unborn child 2 weeks prior. This was the first crisis he needed to handle for his country and the first test of his leadership. I felt sorry for the guy.

The Prime Minister asked for 500 able-bodied people to volunteer to help fill sandbags and over 1000 people showed up. The country of Bosnia was even more overwhelmed. People from Serbia were helping the Bosnians and the joke was “let’s finish helping each other so we can go back to hating each other.” Both countries have little financial resources in the country’s coffers, partly due to previous corruption and because of economic sanctions in relation to war.

Flooded Danube River, homes and floating restaurants along the banks

Most of these buildings are floating restaurants. It was going to be a while before the water receded so customers could eat at their establishment. I stayed with a family on the 3rd floor of an apartment building, near the top of a hill, so the rain did not effect us like it did others.

Living room of Jovanna and her parents

The living room of Jovanna and her parents, my wonderful hosts.  A guest is traditionally offered a spoon of honey and a glass of water. The honey came from an uncle in the countryside. It was the best honey I have ever tasted.

I got a lot of use from my raincoat, and explored the country.

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It continued to rain, and I walked around with the  hem of my pants always wet. Then it rained some more. It reminded me of a tropical storm as the rain came in waves. It would stop for a few minutes, I would  be sweaty and overheated, remove my rain jacket, and then it would rain some more.

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The rains lasted all week. Toward the end of the week, I decided to  purchase some paints and paint my first canvas as a gift to my hosts.

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Serbia is a poor country, and it was difficult to find a store that sold paints. I finally found one store, and they did not even have yellow paint- a primary color! It is amazing how much we take for granted. In the USA, a few paints, an 8×10 canvas and 1 fat and 2 skinny paintbrushes would have cost about $20. In Serbia, it was about $60. They just don’t have these kinds of things, people cannot afford it.

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The road was flooded and closed so people had to climb the banks, cross railroad tracks, and climb down the other side. The picture above shows one woman practically dragging another woman up the hill. It was steeper than it looked.

 

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We felt bad for the people who had very little to begin with and everything they had accumulated in a lifetime was washed away. Many of them lived in houses made of stone, and everything  inside was gone.

One week later…

The beautiful Danube River was overlaid with plastic . I saw tables and chairs, bedding float by. Anything that could float was carried along downstream. The current was as quick as a fast jog.

Flooded Danube river- fast current, the boat is not moving, just the water is

Flooded Danube river- fast current, the boat is not moving, just the water is

Houses were smashed into pieces by logs and other structures and the whole river was covered in a layer of debris, logs with branches of green leaves, high chairs, plastic lawn chairs, plastic bottles, everywhere. I wonder how thick was the debris that was all floating downstream to the ocean?

As I rode a bus through the country I could see remnants of the flooding, mud marks that were higher than me (5’4″), still flooded fields, ponds, and debris trash in tops of young trees.

muddy waters that have overflowed the Danube river and are surrounding trees

Muddy waters that have overflowed the Danube River 

Tall grasses were still laying against the ground where the water flowed over them. Many of the farmer’s fields were mud, and it looked about 10% of the  fields survived.

Finally, the rain stopped and the sun peeked out.

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I love this picture. The sun finally peeks out and reflects off the gold cross on this church.

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The rain finally stopped and people went outside again. This picture is a gypsy driving his horse and cart through the city and collecting cardboard. This is in the capital city of Belgrade.

The Serbs I met were wonderful people, and the country is pretty. Although they have very little in the way of material possessions, they were generous and caring.

The rain stopped, and people went on with their lives.

 

1st Opera in Belgrade, Serbia

Impressions of a Country

I love the country of Serbia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serbia, http://www.serbia.travel/ http://www.serbia.travel/terms-of-use/

The people I met were all wonderfully kind to a stranger, and people thanked me for coming to their country. People I met on the street, and on the bus asked me to pass the word along to tourists, that Belgrade is a wonderful destination for a holiday. And I agree, here is one example of why….????????????

 

 

I was invited by a friend to attend the Opera which had a show playing while I was there.
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 credit to http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0f/Beograd_-_National_Theater_02.jpg

I have never been to an opera (as a matter of fact, it is on my bucket list, but I hadn’t made much effort to cross it off the list yet. I was afraid of seeing one of the stereotypical operas that bore a person to death, and wanted to be sure that I enjoyed the event.) This was a perfect opportunity to visit the National Theatre – which was still in is beauty and glory and had survived communism. I felt worldly.

But I didn’t have a thing to wear!

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Again, part of the beauty of traveling and meeting interesting people along the way, was that I was able to borrow clothes that were more appropriate. It was fun wearing something different apart from the several outfits I packed for most occasions and had worn every day for the past 120 days.

Belgrade is an old city. The National theater  was built in 1869 and had only 11 rows of seats on main floor, and 4 stories of box seats on either side of the room.???????????????????????????

 

 

 

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The gilded gold details????????????????

 

 

 

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and the painted ceiling reminded me of the Sistine Chapel.

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My imagination thought of the scaffolding and the techniques that were used so long ago when painting a ceiling while lying on one’s back. And I wondered who thought of the designs?

While sitting in 7th row and not understanding a word of the language being spoken, I was able to use all of my other senses,

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drinking in the colors of the painted ceiling,???????????????????????????????????

and absorbing it into my memory, down to even the smallest detail of the brass row marker in the red carpet.

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This was truly a place of entertainment and quite an intimate setting actually. I now understood, that opera was not just about seeing a large woman wearing a dress that showed her heaving cleavage. It also was about costumes, a set,  other characters, and a story line, and most importantly, an audience who would share energy with the people in any live event.

In the end, I had a wonderful experience. I could not understand a word, but was able to get a general idea of the story. I admit, I was a little lost in quite a few parts of the story, but in end, all the characters were happy.  It was a large cast, so there was lots of singing and a variety of dancing and singing by a lot of people. I give it two thumbs up but cannot advise you to see it, since I still don’t know the name of it.