Monday, June 27, 2011

Vacation from my vacation

Last Friday, just a couple hours after arriving in Belgrade, I was given the opportunity to head out to the countryside for the weekend and I jumped on it. A friend of Rebecca's was venturing out to the Iron Gates on the Danube River. Of course I'd never heard of this place but the Wikipedia photos alone would've convinced you to join, too. The invitation was extended to Rebecca and myself but she had work to do and people to see in the city. I felt a bit intrusive by asking to go on my own with someone I'd met that night and someone I'd never met before but my desire to get a bit of peaceful nature outweighed any shyness.

And I'm so glad it did! The majority of the trip was made up of absolutely breathtaking views of mountain cliffs, enormous expanses of river and simple rural beauty. At times we encountered the less-than-beautiful, like desolate towns or reminders of a not-so-distant socialist past but I was equally grateful for both. I never would've gotten such a complete view of Serbia if I'd stayed in the city.

And I never would've had the opportunity to see any of it without my travel companions, Heleen and Selbi. Though we stuck out like 3 crayons in a box of number 2 pencils, their language skills and travel experience were absolutely indispensable to a trip outside the main city. Seriously. For some reason people don't take to me staring and expecting them to read my mind. And/or just speaking in English.

We leisurely wound through backroads and stumbled upon a gorgeous monastery that was home to 3 nuns and 7 German shepherds (love that nun:dog ratio), a very peaceful open air gallery atop a mountain, ruins from a 14th century castle and of course many places to bask in the views of the Danube.

We elected not to stay in the depressing 1980's hotel in town and instead opted to rent a room in a private home. We awoke to the sounds of goats, chickens, pigs and puppies and this was the view from our room, all for about $10 per person.

Just across the river lies Romania and I seriously contemplated making the swim simply so I could add another country to my list. I'm slowly becoming one of those greedy passport stamp hoarders.

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