As our last blog post mentioned, we had two days off this past weekend due to an unexpected game cancellation. It was a nice surprise. Although it was very last minute, Jen, Kari, and I got to work quickly researching nearby cities/countries, finding hostels, trying to rent a car, etc.
After lots of discussion, we decided to go to Belgrade, Serbia. Saturday morning, we rented a car with the help of our team president and started our trip. It was only about a 3 and a half hour drive which wasn't bad at all. We didn't know there was a time change so we actually ended up gaining an hour. We found our hostel without too much trouble, checked in, and then spent the rest of our first day wandering around the city. It started getting dark very early there (like around 4:30) so once we could no longer see, we headed back to our hostel to get some advice on good restaurants. We ended up going to the Bohemian Quarter which is an old cobblestone street with lots of restaurants and hangouts. We found a place that served traditional Serbian food, and it turned out to be a winner.
Although it was still early after dinner, we decided to call it a night and head back to the hostel. From what we have been told, Belgrade is famous for its nightlife, but that's not really our scene, and Kari likes to go to bed around 9:00 anyways :-)
Jen and I got an early start the next morning so that we could go to Mass. We had asked several people about Catholic churches and had some maps to help us with directions. Since we didn't know what time Mass was, we figured we would just get there by 7 assuming that the church would probably have Mass at either 7, 8, or 9. To make a long story short, we never found a Catholic church. We walked for 4 hours (no joke) all around the city, and never found the church(es). We stopped to ask for directions probably 10 times, and each time, people would point us in the right direction (or at least they thought it was the right direction), but we never found it. On the brighter side, we saw almost all of the city during that little outing.
We had planned to meet Kari back at the hostel around 10:00. When we got back, all we wanted to do was sit down for a while! After we rested for a bit, the three of us set out to see a few more of the sights. We walked down the pedestrian street called Knez Mihailova, and then headed to the Kalemegdan Fortress, probably the most famous structure in Belgrade.
After we were done there, we made a plan to get ready to head back to Arad. Jen and I walked about thirty minutes to go get the car (which we had to park on the other side of the river) while Kari went to get a crepe that she had been craving. We met at the hostel, checked out, and started the drive back.
The first hour and a half of our drive was pretty uneventful. At that point, our GPS just stopped working. It was sitting up on the dashboard doing a fine job, and then it just decided to shut off for no reason. I'm thankful that it worked long enough to at least get us out of Belgrade and onto the highway. We had to ask for directions and make a few guesses, but we eventually made it to the Romanian border. Once we got there, we knew we would be able to make it back without too many problems. We did sit at the border for quite a while, however. We don't know exactly what was going on except that there was a lot of yelling and people getting out of their cars :-) Luckily, once we finally made it to the front of the line, they didn't give us much of a hassle, and we were back on our way.
Although it went by very quickly, it was a good trip. It was nice to get away and see a new country.
Although it was our first time in Serbia, here are a couple of random things that we noticed:
-People were very friendly to us. We had been told that Serbians don't really like Americans very much we weren't really sure what to expect, but we were very pleasantly surprised. Every person that we asked for help tried to help us. We had several people actually walk us to where we were trying to go when we asked them for directions!
-Most of the Serbians spoke very good English, and they spoke it confidently. Sometimes when we ask people in other countries, "Do you speak English?", they respond, "A little", or "Not really." We generally go on to find that their English, while maybe not perfect, is completely understandable and perfectly adequate to help us with whatever we need.
-As a general rule, Serbians are tall! Jen, Kari, and I are not exactly short women. We are used to standing out in most crowds. We were still taller than most of the people but not by much.
The month of November is pretty packed with games so we probably won't have another weekend like that for a while. I'm glad we got to take advantage of this opportunity to travel.
We hope you are all doing well. God bless you!
"Do not fear what may happen tomorrow. The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will care for you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering or give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings." -St. Francis de Sales
We had to stop and take a picture crossing into Serbia. We tried to stop at a sign before this one, but we got yelled at to get back in our car. So we tried again at this sign :-)
The Serbian language uses an entirely different alphabet called the Cyrillic alphabet. This presented some problems for us when we were trying to get around town since we couldn't read a single street name...but we managed :-)
Jen in our rental car in front of our hostel
Kari and Jen in front of the 'Palata Srbije' or 'Palace of Serbia'. It wasn't much to look at. Clearly, Kari was disappointed.
Walking across the bridge from New Belgrade to Old Belgrade.
On the bridge over the Sava River with Old Belgrade in the background.
On the bridge with New Belgrade in the background.
After visiting Saborna crkva (St. Michael's Cathedral)
As we were walking through a park, we saw this completely random exhibit of pictures of all 50 states so of course we had to take pictures with our states!
A bunch of old men playing chess :-)
Outdoor garden/BBQ area at our hostel
The kitchen at our hostel
Dining room and hangout area
Skadarlija, the Bohemian quarter
Enjoying a little Serbian wine :-)
Expensive dinner! It's so strange traveling from country to country and trying to figure out the conversion. This bill for 4,470 Serbian dinar is equivalent to about $50.
Kari feeling rich :-)
After dinner, we went to an Italian restaurant because we had seen cheesecake on the menu. The cheesecake was not exactly what we were expecting, but we ate it anyways. Then, Kari ordered chocolate cake which turned out to be more like a combination of mousse and fudge...it didn't last long :-)
Back to the hostel by about 8:30! Man, we are getting old!!!
Like I said, Jen and I got up early on Sunday morning to go to Mass. I set the alarm at 5:45 to get up, shower, eat, and then still have time to walk to the church by 7:00. After walking for about an hour, we ended up at this place. I was certain that it was pretty close to 8:00 and that we had missed any Masses that had started at 7:00. Then I saw the time on that building, and said, "That can't possibly be the correct time, right?" Jen sort of smiled and said, "Ya, that must be the right time. I forgot to change the time on the alarm last night." :-) So in reality, we actually got up at 4:45 and left at 5:45 to try to find a church with 7 am Mass. It's a good thing we went to bed at 9:00 :-)
Crkva Svetog Marka (St. Mark's Church)
Hram Svetog Save (St. Sava Temple)
St. Sava Temple is the largest Orthodox Church in the Balkans, and it is one of the ten largest church buildings in the world.
Still continuing our 4 hour walk
About to walk down the famous pedestrian street 'Knez Mihailova'
The Kalemegdan Fortress - they were having all kinds of different fights in front of the entrance to the fortress. The fortress, which rests on the rocks at the confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers, has a 7,000 year history in which it has been conquered 77 times.
This sign was a bit dramatic...
Jen sitting on the fortress walls with the Danube river behind her
Kari posing for a picture in the park :-)