1. Day 27 Kosmaj, Serbia

     
  2. Day 27 Kosmaj, Serbia

     

  3. Day 27 Kosmaj, Serbia

    What better way to start off our day for our last spomenik than with a rare chocolate croissant. Searching high and low, in the wide, broad city of Belgrade, with vast spans of roads and old architecture…….…we found croissants right down the road….

    Today was one of those few days that we didn’t get too lost. When we got close, we were next to a small mountain. Here we saw the spomenik rising above the trees on the ridge of the mountain. It was enormous. We then drove in the trees and parked. Walking up the stone path, we saw parts of the concrete massing revealing itself. It was hard to get a picture capturing the whole thing due to the trees, or being too close, but I was able to grab a couple. Unlike most days, today we had plenty of time to spend at the spomenik. It was neat to find out that each of the 5 identical forms were free standing, and looked as if they should fall due to their small base. Long elegant stretching arms reached to the sky and to the horizon. An original play of curves and angles mixed well in this piece, seeming strong yet fluid.

    This was our last spomenik visit, and after walking around it and taking pictures, Courtney and I sat together and did nothing but soak it in for a little while. We started to ask ourselves concluding questions: What will we take away from this trip? Have we made the most of it? How much will these monuments influence us in the rest of our lives? Discussing these topics, we learned from each other and grew in our understanding of design and art.

    Bringing ourselves to departure was hard, but instead of leaving in sadness, we decide to go out with a few “fun” pictures, pretending the monuments are blowing us away or drawing us in, and even pictures of us being elevated next to it. Many laughs later and shameless embarrassment of other visitors, we walked the long walk back to the car.

    For dinner we wanted to go to the same delicious restaurant as yesterday, but they were closed early on Sundays. Instead we ate a small pizza joint that was open 24 hours. It was still a little early when we finished eating, and so we walked around Belgrade for a little. I think this was a very heavy walk for us in our minds as the end of our trip is truly setting in.

     
  4. Day 27 Kosmaj, Serbia

     
  5. Day 26 Ostra, Serbia

     
  6. Day 26 Ostra, Serbia

     

  7. Day 26 Ostra, Serbia

    Our second to last spomenik. Can’t even believe the trip is almost over. This is the monument we meant to go see the day we came into Kraljevo, but had to skip due to time. We ended up cutting a different spomenik so that we could go see this one. It was hard to leave our place in Kraljevo, the host family was so great. They made us a delicious breakfast of eggs cooked in green peppers and homemade bread with a juice she had made from a local plant. It was refreshing to have something other than a pastry for breakfast.

    Got lost a bit on the way, had to turn around after driving too far, but Kyle miraculously chose the right street to turn down. Google’s only direction was to “turn right”…. no street name or further instruction. In hind sight, it would have been a good idea to get actual maps of all the places we planned to visit, but then again, not having a map has heightened our instincts. We got lost a bit more, but then somehow stumbled upon the right road and found the spomenik shortly after. This one kind of crept up on us, completely overshadowed by the monastery being renovated in front of it. We were there at just the perfect time. The clouds were puffy, the sun was shining and the breeze was slight, just enough to create a perfect temperature. You can tell that the spomenik was once surrounded by thick bushes that somewhat mimic its leaning gesture. They have since been cut down, but their multi-pronged roots remain, leaving record of their presence. It sits on the top of a small hill, the monastery grabbing most of your attention initially. The monument itself if all metal, though its somewhat matte surface allows the sun to reflect and bounce off it just enough. Similar to a couple of the other monuments we have seen, there are faces hidden within the form. In some of the other spomenici, the faces represent the opposing forces, but I think that this one represents the Yugoslavian soldiers that fought. The whole form seems like it is pressing forward forcefully.

    As we went back to the car to write, the clouds came in darker and the storm blew in. We waited it out for a bit, and then hit the road as the raid lightened to a heavy sprinkle. Another wrong turn and a half hour of driving in the wrong direction, but eventually we got back on the right road. As we got closer to Belgrade, I realized that the computer battery life was almost gone, which means our maps would soon die too with the computer. Somehow we ended up on the right road, between the right cross roads. We had to ask around and search for our hostel, which oddly enough we parked within 100 feet of. The only sign is a non-descript piece of paper pasted to an office building door. Once we got past the few flights of stairs, the hostel is actually quite nice. We settled in, then visited a traditional Serbian restaurant for dinner. 

     
  8. Day 26 Ostra, Serbia

     
  9. Day 25 Kadinjača, Serbia

     
  10. Day 25 Kadinjača, Serbia

     

  11. Day 25 Kadinjača, Serbia

    After an uncomfortable sleep and minimal rest, I still woke up refreshed.  At this bed and breakfast I felt more refreshed and relaxed than anywhere else.  I’m not sure if it was the incredibly enjoyable conversation with such a wonderful and creative person last night who now goes by the nickname “Corny Big”, or maybe it was being away from the city with the luscious trickling of the creek nearby and the fresh scent of the forest, or maybe it was just the homemade rakija (rock-KEE-ya: Balkan style whiskey) I had last night.  Nonetheless, I feel restored and ready to take on another day of getting lost for a couple hours and then immersing myself into another impressive piece of art, which is exactly what happened.  A couple hours of driving, followed by another couple hours of being lost as we approach the spomenik, asking strangers who don’t speak English, “Gdje je spomenik?” as we point to our black and white print outs, followed by a bunch of fast-paced Srpski, which we only understand the hand gestures of going straight and then right, which we actually misunderstand and then get lost further until we pull over again and ask someone who speaks English and points us in the right direction, but in the end we can’t be thwarted as this is all fun and we will never forget this sense of adventure.  Like always, we find our spomenik, and today we got to see one of the spomenici that really got our hearts beating with excitement back home. 

    It’s always moving to see visitors at these spomenici and know that these are not just abandoned masterpieces of art and architecture.  This is one we knew was much more expansive than the pictures we’ve seen and were curious to see the entire site as a whole.  We entered from the side and to our right was a walkway that had old artillery and other weapons from WWII.  We then moved into the spomenik.  It was spectacular.  Wonderfully formed structures that included more stylized faces and unique forms; nothing symmetrical but everything spatially balanced.  Large forms jutted at you and then jut away.  We were kind of disappointed that it seemed to have just got a new paint job, but it was nice to see it was being taken care of.  As nice as it looks all clean and white, I really did enjoy how these pieces have aged.  A lot architecture does not age well, and I have found that the way the water has stained this pieces has greatly enhanced the quality of it, though this may just be a personal opinion. 

    After we walked around, we headed down to the museum.  The building looked aged and may have been damaged from the later wars.  A young gentlemen greeted us and gladly gave us a tour of the museum.  He described to us that in this area, 271 workers, not soldiers, took arms and stood up to the Germans during WWII in which 250 died.  The pyramid in the middle of the spomenik was where these brave people were buried.  The spomenik is split into 3 parts.  The first represents the opposing forces, the Germans, and were enclosing you in the space, threatening you.  The second was for the partisan workers.  These seem to be falling away from you, maybe symbolizing the death of these people.  The third was the space with the large piece that has a hole in it that looks like an explosion.  This represents “Son of Freedom,” which is for the new life and freedom of the future.

    We headed back to the site but were only able to spend a moment there as we lost a lot of time getting lost getting here and had to head back.  It was definitely a shorter drive back.  We were hoping for another home cooked meal shortly after we arrived back to the bed and breakfast, but were disappointed to find out this wasn’t in the cards.  The website DID only say “free breakfast” so we couldn’t be upset.  We weren’t sure what to expect and are still grateful for what they did give us.  We were quite hungry, so it being so late, we had to resort back to a wonderful market-made-meal consisting of salami, croissants, prunes, and almonds.  A meal for champions….

     
  12. Day 25 Kadinjača, Serbia

     
  13. These were the only photos of the day! Our amazing view from the hike we took when we finally arrived in Kraljevo. 

     

  14. Day 24- Nis to Kraljevo

    Nis to Kraljevo.

    Our hostel in Nis was very nice, as was the host. But he was also quite talkative, so our day got off to a late start. We had breakfast at a great bakery by the hostel and finally took off for our next hostel. We had planned to go to a spomenik today, but no such luck. Getting off to a late start, the long drive, and our complete inability to find the hostel resulted in realizing we would have to skip the spomenik today. The maps I had made from Google were not very promising, as I couldn’t spot the building from the satellite view, but I thought we would be able to find our way regardless. I think we had followed the directions given fairly well, but we still could not find the place. After wasting about an hour driving around the rural forest roads, we turned back into town to find someone to ask.

    We had seen signs for the hotel not too far away, and figured they could help. No one spoke more than a few English words, but thankfully they knew the place and drew me a map with directions. His directions seemed impossibly simple given the last hour of driving we had just gone through, but I thanked him and went on my way. Kyle and I were both a bit hangry and sick of driving so we took time for lunch, which consisted of a trip to the market for some fruit, water, and mini chocolate croissants. A perfectly balanced meal. I’m not sure if it was the food or the driving or the stupidity of the whole situation, but we spent our whole lunch completely slap happy and laughing about nonsense.

    Trusting the directions and hoping for the best, we got back out on the road. Having only estimates of kilometers and one or two names (of towns or streets, we weren’t really sure), we somehow miraculously found the place! Our hosts are incredibly friendly and inviting, and they instantly made us feel at home. They had water and homemade candied plums for us to eat when we arrived. The house sits next to a small stream that feeds into a larger river across the way. We got settled in, and then headed out for a walk around the river. Everything is gorgeous here. It is quiet and serene and the air is fresh. Though it rained earlier in the day at the height of being lost, by late afternoon the sun is shining again and the weather is perfect.

    We came back from our walk to a home cooked meal prepared by our host. It was the perfect way to end the day, and a much welcomed surprise for our growling stomachs. It was a delicious meal of garden-grown salad, garden potatoes, a local sausage, and homemade bread. She made these amazing pastries with locally made cheese that I’m still thinking about. We sat out on the patio and talked till it got dark and too cold. The hosts and the house completely made up for how sad we were to have to skip the spomenik today. Can’t wait for the one we’ll visit tomorrow! It’s been one of my favorites ever since we learned of the spomenici. 

     
  15. Day 23 Spomen park Bubanj, Niš, Serbia