Saturday, September 4, 2010 – Belgrade, Serbia

On Saturday, September 4th we took a bus to outskirts of Belgrade to visit a winery.  Our guide believes that the best wines are made in regions where the climate is mixed. Both Continental and Mediterranean climates are in this area so they have the best wines as the best grapes grow in these climates. To get the correct climate you need hilly areas and flat areas which causes winds which helps the grapes grow just right. You also get the best honey in these types of areas according to our guide. We stopped at a small winery owned by a family who got the land back from the Government after the Communist Government was defeated. It  was their grandparent’s land before the Communists took it away from them. But unfortunately we did not like it.  They had a dog with mange who was in distress scratching itself non-stop. The tasting room, and yard was untidy (so were the owners) and we did not want to eat or drink anything there. Russ gave them some money to buy medicine for their dog and we left. They did have a dessert wine made with 15 different spices which according to our guide is very popular with the locals.

The temperatures in Belgrade varies from 37 degrees C. in the summer to between 10 to 0 degrees C. in the winter. It does snow in the winter sometimes but it is rare. The average temperature during the summer is between 30 and 35 degrees C.  There a lot of agriculture in Serbia but the small farmers do not make enough money to invest in new equipment, they just make enough money to support themselves.  The larger farms are state controlled with modern equipment. 

After the winery we went to a beautiful little village with historical buildings and a large square with restaurants and shops. It was lovely and very romantic, a little village called Serm. Karlovci. The buildings all come up to the street and have balconies with lots of flowers hanging over the sides. The village was built in the 18th and 19th centuries by the Austrian/Hungarians during their occupation of Serbia.  The buildings are all original as this area was not damaged by any wars.  

Next we went to visit a fortress. To get there we had to drive through a very long tunnel built by bricks. Inside the fortress there was a clock tower facing out to the Danube river.  It is an unusual clock because the large hand points at the hour and the small hand points at the minutes.  This is the exact opposite of how our modern clocks work.  The reason for the difference was to help the captains of the ships carrying merchandise down the river, either into port or leaving the port, see what time it was. At least they could tell what hour it was because the large hand was visible from the river. Just as we were leaving this fortress our guide found a four leaf clover and she was very excited!!

We saw lots of “Yugo” cars here. Yugo is short for Yugoslavia. They are small boxy cars made during Tito’s dictatorship and are not made anymore.  The big joke for parents is for them to say to their kids “be good or I will buy you a Yugo car”. The movie “The Deer Hunter” was filmed here in Serbia. Also, according to our guide there was a real James Bond, a Serbian man who lived in Dubrovnik, Croatia. He was a double spy during WW II. He was also very handsome and a womanizer. I think his name was Dupopov or something like that. The director and writer of James Bond based their movies on his life.

There was another famous Serbian writer who was a diplomat in Budapest between the world wars and he also was a womanizer. He had an affair with a very wealthy Hungarian woman who built him a house which today is used as the Serbian Embassy in Budapest.  He wrote a very famous book called “When A Man Courts A Woman” and in this book he says “a man has to be smart, interesting and most important have a good sense of humor because if he doesn’t see a smile on the woman’s face she is surely thinking of another man”. 

The next place we visited was Novi Sad. This is where Einstein’s first wife was born and after their divorce she moved back here with their two sons. Our guide said that when he won a prize of money for his theory of relativity he gave it all to this wife.   Donna bought a fabulous purse here at one of the shops. After walking around Novi Sad, we left to go for lunch at a horse ranch.  This ranch was in the middle of no where and it was packed full of people.  We wondered how on earth so many people were in this neck of the woods, until they served us lunch.  The meal was fantastic and it went on for hours.  We actually cancelled a couple of the servings because we were so full. It was our best meal so far on the trip. We ate outside on picnic tables in the country sunshine and watched kids being taken for rides in a wagon pulled by small horses. After lunch we toured the barns and were even more surprised of how many horses were in the stable. They were huge horses some over 17 hands. One such horse was owned by a little girl about 8 years of age! In one stall was a mare with a new foal, cute!  In another stall was a very friendly grey horse who wanted our attention.  Donna and I wanted to bring this horse home with us.

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