national heritage


Free Image Hosting by FreeImageHosting.netOK after being absent for quite some time and have had some health issues, after having uncompleted text on my hard disc for months and with a little pushing from my friends it’s a high time to sit and finally finish part 3 (the last one) of my Northern Adventures.
(in this post there are 29 small photos and they are clickable for enlargement. If you don’t see (and want to) all 29, refresh the page)

I should say that St Petersburg is a place I was dreaming to visit for ages and to be honest I didn’t expect I’ll have a chance for this any time soon. Naturally when that chance appeared I just couldn’t miss it. Therefore St Petersburg supposed to be the pearl of this voyage.

Everyone who has read Dostoyevsky (and I presume that readers of this blog have read at least few of his books) have one image of St Petersburg and I was truly hope I’d have a chance to see the other ones. After having mostly fantastic weather in Finland (something that quite surprised Finns as well) my hopes were quite high that it will be the same case in Russia. However weathercast wasn’t promising whatsoever: first day – rain; second day – heavy rain; third day – heavy rain. I was on hot line with my friend in Belgrade who were informing me everyday of the trip if there’ll be some changes. The answer has been always the same. I do love rain indeed but you REALLY don’t wish rain in place you are dreaming about for so many years.
When we crossed Russian border and enter in Leningradska Oblast (!) it was early in the morning, morning where sun was struggling with clouds so I thought “OK, hope dies last” and while we were approaching to St Petersburg through kind of spooky Karelia the weather was moving from bad toward worse until finally it didn’t appear in all his beauty that Dostoyevsky wrote about. I couldn’t believe; I’m finally here and it’s raining and everything is gray. In the distance we could see church towers trying to break grayness with their bright domes (not very successful I’m afraid). In the end I decided I’m not allowing rain to spoil my dream!

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After arriving in hostel we had to make a plan very fast. Spend only 3 days in St Petersburg is a sin but it was take it or leave it. We selected as a main destinations of each day Pushkin, Peterhof and The Hermitage. So we decided to go first in Pushkin. It was mostly cloudy so we thought to leave day with heavy rain for museum. Majority of my fellow travelers have noticed how my friend and I are organized so they decided to do whatever we do. In one moment we noticed one huge group of familiar faces are expecting from us to show them direction. I must say I wasn’t too happy with that. I mean I do have one “rule” on the trips which is going alone or with someone who has the same interest as I do. After not too long we heard “Wait for us! Can you slow down?” grrr! But we finally filled some kind of small bus. I didn’t pay the ticket at all, actually I didn’t have a ticket. Chauffeur was selling the tickets on the entrance of the mini bus and since we were big group with members who just had to put their butts on the seat (as if 8000km of sitting is not enough) he took some amount of rubles (without giving any ticket I believe but I’m not sure), closed the door and start the engine. Those mini buses are actually kind of cool stuff cause it’s much easier for maneuvering through the big city. However, finding right stop is small adventure. It seems there is one area where the stops are and you just have to find right line. I did have a guide where I checked for the number of the lines but the situation on the ground was quite different. Namely there were much more busses we could use than what guide listed. Curious thing was that the ticket price varied while all buses looked almost the same *shrug*

Anyhow we didn’t have time to experiment so we entered in the first mini bus with the note Pushkin-Tsarskoe Selo.

First day: Pushkin-Tsarskoe Selo
The original estate at Tsarskoe Selo (Tsar’s Village) was a gift from Peter I to his wife Catherine in 1710, and from around 1725 she started to spend more time here. It was under Empress Elizabeth and Catharine the Great that the place began to take shape being expanded and aggrandized.
The centerpiece is the vast 1752 to 1756 baroque Yekaterininsky Dvorets (Catherine Palace), designed by her favourite architect Rastrelli. It gradually became the favourite country estate of the royal family. In 1837 Russia’s first railway line was built between St Petersburg and Tsarskoe Selo to shuttle the imperial family back and forth.
When you enter the complex you’re finding yourself in a magic park full of sculptures and lovely small buildings in which you can see exhibitions, concerts and that kind of events. The magnificent parks and gardens of Tsarskoe Selo were created out of dense forest by thousands of soldiers and labourers. The park’s outer section focuses on the Great Pond. During summer it is possible o take a ferry to the little island where is Chesma Column that commemorates the Russian victory over the Turks in the Aegean.
And then suddenly you’re finding yourself absolutely speechless before lavish imperial palace. I knew it’s beautiful and saw many photos but standing there was just as if I’m dreaming…

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Oh and awaking was quite abruptly: the line to enter was one of the biggest I’ve ever seen! Even thought to stand there and wait, quite possibly for hours was terrifying so *blush* I didn’t. I took my friend and just stand some 50m from the entrance (behind us there was a line of hundreds of meters). However after 15-20min we noticed that nothing was happening; no one was entering in the palace and no one is exiting. I still don’t understand what was happening but apparently organized groups were entering without problems while others were waiting for Godot. OK I tried to enter saying that I saw my friend from the groups enters the palace (which was not complete lie; she was going in exchange office) but a KGB-looking man asked me about my guide’s name. I’m an idiot! Why I didn’t say Elena? (there MUST be some Elena who works as a guide) I said “I don’t know her name” and got the answer “In the line!”. I tried to explain but all he was saying was “In the line!” (generally speaking I’m stunned how many people don’t speak any foreign language. Here even grannies know some (very rudimental but still) English) so I was in the line. At least scenery was breathtaking, that grayness has started to disappear so we all hoped that weathercast will be wrong!

Eventually line started to move and then inside it was absolute chaos with buying tickets, again standing in line, groups with guides have had priority (just like outside) etc. I don’t know, but there must be some better solution than “In the line!”. Anyway we managed to pass all barriers and entered into another world. The palace was indescribable. After third or fourth room you’re starting to feel dizziness with all that light, gold, luxury. Interesting thing is that rooms actually have been beautifully restored (!). Palace has been devastated by the Germans and there are photos showing rooms (and the exterior of the palace) prior and after the Germans. It was almost completely destroyed!. There are numerous (but really numerous) rooms with all sorts of themes and colours but The Amber Room was something really special. Room is completely covered with gilded woodcarvings, mirrors, agate and jasper mosaics. The exquisitely engraved amber panels were gifts from Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia to Peter the Great in 1716. But these treasures were plundered by the Nazis and went missing in Kaliningrad in 1945, becoming one of the art world’s great mysteries. In 2004 the strange hoax was revealed: the Amber Room was destroyed in a fire in Kaliningrad while under Red Army actions. Those responsible for the loss were so terrified of Stalin’s reaction that an elaborate myth was created of its disappearance. In 2004 president Putin and German Chancellor Schröder presided over the opening of a new Amber Room, restored largely with German funds.

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Oh the curious thing was that there were lack of organized groups which spoken English. Majority were in Russian and then there were several in Spanish (evil grin). Naturally I joined one and silently translating to my friend what guide were saying. Guide was so sweet, Of course she noticed I’m not from her group but she didn’t mind. I had some question as well and she was quite happy to answer them. Moreover when they were moving into other building she mimicked me “Are you going?”. And then one (big) lady from the group who, I can bet wasn’t that interested in the story guide was telling, approached me and told me how she can’t listen properly because I’m in between her and guide. I started to laugh “What, my presence is so deafening?” She wasn’t pleased with my answer. Of course I remained with her group and she started to pointing my presence to others in the group but they didn’t find that annoying whatsoever. I wonder how would she react if she knew I’m not even Spanish (because my Spanish professor (who is Spanish herself) said that I looked completely as her compatriots)?

Second day: Peterhof
This most stunning of the tsarist palaces around St. Petersburg was first built by peter the Great (and it is also known as Peter’s Palace). Over the years his successors continued to build and expand to create the astounding ensemble seen today. It all started after the victory over Swedes at Poltava in 1709 when Peter decided to build a palace “befitting to the very highest of monarchs”. After his visit to Versailles Peter expanded his ambitions and employed more than 5000 labourers, serfs and soldiers, supported by architects, water-engineers, landscape gardeners and sculptors. Work proceeded at a frenetic pace until Peterhof was officially opened in 1723.
Indeed Peterhof is the most popular day trip from St. Petersburg for visitors. And that has its price, sometimes quite huge and I’m not talking about money but about nerves! Namely again we faced with “In the line” (it seems that’s the most used phrase in English) so we were obedient (sheep) and after a while we noticed that there are two lines: one to buy a ticket (some 300m long) and equally long line for entering the palace after (!) you buy the ticket. It was unbelievable. So my friend and I decided to split roles: I’ll wait in line to buy ticket and she’ll be in line to enter the palace and after I buy the tickets I’ll join her. And so we were standing in unmovable lines for ages. Eventually when I reached the girl who sells the tickets she spoke with her lovely voice: “No ticket!”; “No ticket!!! What on earth that suppose to mean?” and she explained: “Now only Russian people”. “I’m Serbian! It’s the same! Serbs-Russians-Brothers!” It was pointless. Oh, she can’t be serious!!! But she was! She was painfully serious! Apparently we were late some 30 min to catch time that allows us, non-Russians to get inside and therefore we had to wait some 90 minutes. The catch is maybe there are some note about that but ALL bloody notes were in Russian!!! So what’s the point inform in Russian people who are not Russians and therefore probably don’t speak Russian that they have special term to enter the palace! Gosh I was furious! We lost almost an hour waiting in the line to find out that we have to come in about 2 hours!

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Oh well we used those 2 hours in best possible way. We were marveling Peterhof’s park and fountains. I’ve never been in Versailles so I can’t compare but Peterhof left me speechless. Of course the most impressive is magnificent Grand Cascade, a symphony of over 140 fountains engineered by Peter himself. The central statue of Samson tearing open a lion’s jaws celebrates (as so many things in St. Petersburg do) Peter’s victory over the Swedes at Poltava. Shooting up over 60m it was unveiled for the 25th anniversary of the battle. From the Grand Cascade goes a canal, Water Avenue crisscrossed by bridges and bedecked by smaller sprays, leading from the palace (Grand Cascade is in the front of the palace) to the ferry dock in the Baltic.
The grounds at Peterhof include Upper, Lower and Alexandria parks, covering vast area of more than 600 hectares. As well as the numerous palaces and fountains there are three-lined avenues, wooded paths and the Baltic shore. The grounds next to the Great palace have been designed to be laid out in the French style with geometrically arranged flower beds, sculptures, summerhouses and pergolas. As I said fountains are just amazing and countless, there are so many that you really have to think hard not to repeat a wish if you wanna make one with each fountain! Beside magical Grand Cascade there is an imaginative variety mostly concentrated in the Lower Park, includes triton and lion fountains, dragon fountains with checkerboard steps, and smaller fountains with fish-tailed boys blowing sprays through conches. Most playful are trick fountains such as the Umbrella which “rains” on those who come too close.
So those 2 hours of waiting weren’t that bad after all.

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Grand Palace is an imposing edifice, although with 30-something rooms it’s not nearly as large as a typical tsarist palace. It has been transformed during the reign of Tsarina Elisabeth when a third storey and wings with pavilions at either end have been added. I don’t know what more I should write about royal palaces. Basically the story is pretty much the same as the one about Catherine’s Palace in Tsarskoe Selo: luxurious and breathtaking…

Third day: The Hermitage
Free Image Hosting by FreeImageHosting.netThe Winter Palace which is located in the historic center of the city used to be the Imperial residence. Several rooms in the palace were used to house unique works of art, and these rooms came to be known as the Hermitage. Later more buildings were constructed for the growing collections – the Small Hermitage, the Great Hermitage, the Hermitage Theatre and the New Hermitage. All these buildings now make up the State Hermitage – an enormous museum of art, history and culture.
Someone told me years ago if someone wants to see all what is in the Hermitage (and spend reasonable amount of time for each object) one would have to spend two years in the museum. The museum is a monster! My friend asked me “How can you use such a word for something so magnificent?”; well I don’t mean in negative way. I mean it’s horribly demanding, you literally need to be physically prepared as if you’re going to compete in the Olympics but also you have to know what you wanna see; you must have prepared priorities because there’s no way you can see everything. I was in shock when I completely accidentally peeked into some secondary, even tertiary corridor far away from the main halls and in the moment I was turning away my head I froze: “Have I just saw Van Gogh there in the corner?” It was Van Gogh, and then Gauguin , etc they are placed somewhere where I never thought they would. Of course there is a special room for them as well but that part on the lower floor is so easy to be missed. Then the next thought raised “Gosh! What have I missed so far in those countless other hidden corridors?!” So you can imagine what’s in the main halls!

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I’m not going to write about how I felt; I don’t think I could. I mean just to write the names like Leonardo, Michelangelo, Rafael, Caravaggio, Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt, Cezanne, Monet, Picasso, El Greco, Van Gogh, Matisse, Rodin ….. should be breathtaking (and those are only painters and few sculptors and there are so much more!).
If you scroll down you’ll se an image of my computer and “The Dance” by Matisse. It’s one of my favourite paintings and I was so eager to finally see it. It’s was on third (last) floor… I knew it’s big but I couldn’t imagine how big until I finally enter in the hall where it hangs! It was on opposite wall of the huge hall and it occupies the entire wall. It looked like a mural. I really couldn’t believe I was standing there, even now while I’m writing this  (tomorrow will be) exactly 9 months later I’m shivering.

* * *

In between those main daily destinations I was cruising through the city hungry to see as much as possible. When I said cruising I meant literally: the best way to see St Petersburg in all its beauty is from the river (which mostly doesn’t look like a river but the sea). Neva is enormous and I can only imagine how the city looks when the river is frozen. St. Petersburg is built on 42 islands at the Neva delta where the river flows into the Gulf of Finland and it has it has over 300 of bridges! That’s why its most famous nick is “Venice of the North”.

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I’ve never been in Moscow but I saw St Petersburg as an example of Orthodox Christianity splendour! It is very different from what we have here in Serbia and I was little stroked, it reminded me on those cathedrals in Western (Catholic) Europe. Indeed we have the biggest Orthodox Temple in the world here in Belgrade but it’s not nearly like those churches in Russia. I’m not saying this in any negative way, I was just surprised. And when I saw how impressive churches are I was thinking “Oh God, please make they have candles inside instead of those machines where you put the coin and the small light turns on” (First time I saw those machines in Spain and I was shocked, even disgusted. At first my mind refused to believe they’re replacing candles. I mean even duration of time when the light bulb is on depends on the amount of money you put in. I found them utterly non-religious). Honestly I was deeply happy when I saw candlelight in those magnificent temples of St Petersburg. I was surprised that someone who is accustomed on different kind of religious beauty was so emotionally overwhelmed in those temples.

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There are countless number of churches in the city but the most important are the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ (The church is known as “The Saviour on the Blood” because on that place Alexander II of Russia was mortally wounded and the church is erected as a memorial to him), the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan (that was modeled after St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The church was dedicated to the victory over Napoleon in Patriotic War and General Kutuzov is buried in the cathedral), the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, St Isaac’s Cathedral (The largest cathedral in the city and the larges church in Russia when it has been built. During Soviet Union it served as a museum of atheism!!!).

Kazan Cathedral

Of course only three days for city like St Petersburg is not nearly enough to see all what is offered. But it was surely enough to say that this is the most beautiful place I ever visited. Hopefully I’ll be back one day…

* * *

From Russia we continued our journey and the next stop was Riga, capital of Latvia.
It’s really cute town, especially its old part with lots of cobbled streets and lovely architecture. Sadly we spent only few hours there before we continued journey to Krakow once again.
The roads were horrible and we arrived in Krakow few hours later than it was planned and therefore I was late to visit Auschwitz. I really wanted although my friends who were there advised me not to go because I would be so horribly moved that the feeling will gloom all positive emotion I’m having from past three weeks. Some of them still have that feeling in the stomach only when they heard I was aiming to go there and they visited the camp years ago. Anyway since we arrived late I had to modify my plan and go in “Wieliczka – Salt Mine”, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s absolutely incredible, it reaches 327 m depth and is over 300km long. Everything there is made of salt: passages, staircases, tunnels, statues of historic and mythic figures and the new ones (like Pope John Paul II) or scenes from the Bible like Journey to Egypt or replica of Leonardo’s “Last Supper”. We had great guide, she was fantastic and beside she gave us incredible amount of information she was enormously funny. I had to mention her here because she was really very nice memory from that visit. Oh and indeed everything is sculptured in the salt rock – I licked it *blush*.

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And that was almost everything I have to write about my fantastic Summer 2008 journey.
I hope you who were brave (or crazy) enough to read the entire story will find it interesting. I know I will keep coming back to these three posts to refresh my memories.

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Four years ago, on March 17th 2004 the biggest attack on Serbs since arrival of international UN peacekeeper troops has happened. Attacks on Serbian enclaves and mass destruction of their properties were apparently surprised international forces and their reaction was too late and too weak. During this ethnic cleansing 4000 Serbs have been banned from Kosovo, 19 people lost their lives; 6 towns and 9 villages were completely ethnically cleaned. 800 houses has been destroyed and 35 churches/monasteries and 18 cultural monuments.

“Cause” for this attack was campaign of Albanian media against Serbs who have been accused for death of three Albanian boys who have drowned in the Ibar river. Investigation performed by UNMIK showed that those accusations were false.

March 2004 part 1

March 2004 part 2

Four years later investigation is not over; organizers of the ethnic cleansing are still free. Reconstruction of damaged houses is minor.

And today, on the anniversary KFOR has manifested its power against Serbian clerks in the court of Kosovska Mitrovica. Few days ago Serbian clerks have taken court building demanding to reestablish rule of law; they wanted to go back and start work again. They protested in a front of the court since 21st Feb and since the officials were deaf they managed to enter in the building last Friday. Of course now is clear why they didn’t have any difficulties then. What have happened today was planned from a start. Of course it was completely unnecessary.

This morning at 5.30 am soldiers were broke windows were the clerks slept, they tied them refusing any talk, took their cell phones and arrested them. I should tell you that those clerks are middle aged people who worked in juridical bureaucracy which means that any force was unnecessary. But of course since they were watching ethnic cleansing four years ago and done nothing KFOR decided to use an extra force today.

Naturally when Serbs in the town found out what is going on in the Court building they surrounded it demanding to let go arrested people.

More than 100 people are injured mostly of shock bombs, tear gas and explosions.

What a proper anniversary! UN forces are forcing democracy indeed; who needs law in the presence of peacekeepers anyway!

Thursday Thirteen

1. Today I received an e-mail from a friend as his reaction about my previous blog post about Kosovo secession from Serbia. This isn’t nearly easy thing to write and I don’t have clear concept so forgive me if this TT is a little bit chaotic.

2. Few months ago I stopped to post comments on blogs about Kosovo independence after I received more/less same comments. Namely while debating with the authors, on their question what argument Serbia has I was answering “International Law and Charter of the United Nations” and usually reply was “Well yes, but that is only thing you have. What is else?” Oh, I didn’t realize that’s not enough. Of course it wasn’t enough. And why? Because International Law can be changed, depends of the issue because of something I’ll be accused, charged, executed you could be awarded! The only catch is what’s in judges’ interest, right?

3. My friend in his e-mail mentioned democratic values, he even said how his country “tries to promote democracy worldwide”; my comment on that is that he doesn’t realize enormously fortunate fact that he’s not familiar with the methods of achieving this noble goal his country has and how he’s blessed cause he doesn’t know how many faces that “democracy” has, again depends of the issue and the interest.

4. Not only he, everyone is talking about democracy and law and how these two will be the fundament of this newborn country. But somehow everyone is neglecting the fact that this newborn has been conceived precisely by flagrant violation of those fundamental values. As if they said “I was nasty but don’t punish me. Close your eyes just this time and I promise I’ll be good in future” and big players closed their eyes. Or they even turned their back completely. They avoided Security Council UNO, they neglected their own laws, the same scenario they used with NATO aggression on Yugoslavia. Of course this is still the same film so why would methods be different?

5. It’s so disgusting to read statements from international community how “Serbia is a friend, ally in both World War who has scarified so much” (indeed Serbia is a country who suffered the most of all countries in WWI. 33% of entire population or 60% male population of Serbia lost their lives).

There are statements that says that “Serbs are our Christian brothers”; well why don’t you look what you have done to your Christian brothers:

6.

Dozens of churches, monasteries and shrines have been destroyed or damaged since the UN military forces came 1999 in Kosovo, the cradle of Orthodox Christianity in Serbia. The Serbian Orthodox Church lists nearly 150 attacks on holy places, which often involve desecration of altars, vandalism of icons and the ripping of crosses from Church rooftops. 800 houses and 29 Serb Orthodox churches and monasteries – some of them dating to the 14th century — were torched in only few days (these are data from March 2004).

7. 15th century Devic Monastery:

You can click on these images to see Serbian religious and historical heritage on Kosovo:

8. All this happened despite the presence of UN peacekeeping forces.
And you awarded them with a country. It seems some instances of ethnic cleansing are more acceptable than others.

9. Yes, other friend of mine posted a comment on my previous blog post and she said that “Changes are scary”. Oh indeed but I’m not sure that we think about the same thing. She probably meant on changes here (on local level) but in reality the worst change and the scariest one is on global level: law has been dismissed! Everything is possible now when Pandora’s Box is open. Declaration of independence of Kosovo is a means towards legitimizing the dissolution and breaking up of sovereign states on a global scale. Gosh well known politician and “expert” for Balkan Carl Bildt said “we must preserve at
least a semblance of international law”
about recognize this independence. (here I don’t have a comment)

10. Of course many other regions want to declare independence as well but big player said “Kosovo is a unique case”. Oh? Why’s that? Maybe because the biggest US military camp Bondsteel is there and not in Abkhazia or South Ossetia or Nagorno-Karabakh or Taiwan or Palestine or Basque province or Catalonia? You’re not familiar with that camp? Oh just wait, soon you’ll watch braking news from there because 11. the Kosovo declaration of independence was a declaration of dependency and surrender to colonial forces. And I’m not sure if they (Kosovars) realizing that. You should know that Kosovo prime minister was a commander of KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army), drug-smuggling, arms-trafficking terrorist organization which is still active. The KLA was among the first international terrorist groups linked to al Qaeda in the late 1990s. Western intelligence agencies observed its members training at al Qaeda terror camps a decade ago and more. It was listed as a terrorist organization by CIA but in spite that it has been supported by US government.

12. Without any doubts Kosovo would have had greater independence as an autonomous province in an agreement of autonomy with Serbia but the talks between Serbia and Kosovo were never meant to succeed because the US was determined to establish another protectorate in the former Yugoslavia. During last session of negotiations they were stressing that if negotiation failed the only solution will be independence and that they are willing to accept it. Under those circumstances what motivation Kosovo team had for further negotiation? Kosovo leaders just waited deadline to do what they’ve done.

13. And they have transformed their land into a colonial outpost of Anglo-American interest. Under the so-called independence roadmap, NATO and E.U. troops and police officers will formally administer Kosovo. And if you think the KLA will accept that, you don’t have a clue how wrong you are, you’re breast-feeding a snake (we know, we’ve been there, fight against terrorism didn’t wait 9/11).
In God you trust? Well if you’re doing all this in the name of your God then he is not God I believe in but do pray your God that you have enough milk.

P.S.
If you’d like to leave your comment please scroll up!

Thursday Thirteen

1. I was absent for so long but OK I’m back now with another Serbian story for cold Thursday (actually Wednesday) evening. This time I’ll write about one exclusively Serbian custom: Slava.
2. Slava is a religious custom and it represents the day of the home/family’s Patron Saint. It’s unique in Christian world and represents one of the greatest characteristic of the religious life of the Serbs.
3. Slava is actually celebration of spiritual birthday of Serbian people. Namely our ancestors have had accepted Orthodox Christianity collectively by families and in commemoration of their baptisms, each family began to celebrate in a special way to honor the saint on whose day they received the sacrament of Holy Baptism.
4. St. Paul said that each Christian family is church by itself and just as churches are dedicated to one saint (who is protector of the church), Serbian families place themselves under the protection of the saint on whose holiday they became Christians. 5. To that protector of their homes, they pay special homage from generation to generation, from father to son, each and every year.

St Arhangel Michael

6. The celebration of Slava requires the Icon of the family Patron Saint (mine is St Archangel Michael, you can see the icon) and several items that symbolize Christ and the believer’s faith in his death and resurrection: a lighted candle, žito, bread, and red wine.
7. Candle reminds us that Christ is the Light of world. Without Him we would live in darkness.
8. Žito represents the death and resurrection of Christ . Žito is prepared as an offering to God and also is to honor the Patron Saint and to commemorate our ancestors.
9. Bread represents Christ as the Bread of Life and 10. the red wine, of course, represents Christ’s blood.
11. As I said Patron Saint of my family is St Archangel Michael and we are celebrating his day every 21st November (so that was last Wednesday) and it is occasion to whole family and friends gathered.
12. I could say I’m a religious person I guess but I don’t like to express my religion publicly and also there are many things I’m not familiar with. for example I had to check symbolism of certain custom (that’s probably normal since those are become common part of my life).
13. However, in Serbia there are many atheists but they are also respecting institution of Slava as a beautiful part of Serbian tradition. There is such a strong bond between Slava and being Serbian so that people often forgets it’s actually religious celebration.

Thursday Thirteen

1. If someone would ask you about the eldest culture what would you say? Egyptians? Greeks? Romans? Oh well … this TT is about one ancient civilization you probably have never heard before; civilization 3000 years older than ancient Egyptians. Unfortunately for that culture is that is located in Serbia and therefore condemned on existence in the shade of ignorance at least for now (don’t get me wrong, we Serbs are partly guilty as well). I guess this is my small contribution.

2. First I’d like to write something about natural habitat of that ancient culture: the mighty Danube and its breathtaking Đerdap gorge. Đerdap gorge with its Iron Gate (on the photograph) is a center of Đerdap National Park which is on tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage located in the eastern Serbia.

Danube

3. The Đerdap gorge is the longest fissure in Europe and a rare natural phenomenon. There are sections where the vertical cliffs rise 300m above the level of the Danube and the measured depth of the so-called “cauldrons” goes up to 82 m (one of the greatest river depths in the world). 4. Gorge was always a world for itself, almost isolated from its surrounding and that especially in early Holocene when surrounding plain region had become deserted. Big River was the main sculptor in creating this remarkable mountain landscape which is why there are so many changes of altitude in one, relatively small region and therefore there are several ecological zones with many endemic species.

5. That breathtaking landscape was the settlement of civilization whose discovery marked a new chapter in the study of European prehistory: Lepenski Vir. Lepenski Vir is an impressive illustration of the link between man and nature, of the role and significance of the natural environment for husbandry and the organization of life and culture in general. 6. Archaeological site Lepenski Vir in spite the fact that it is place of immeasurable value and significance cannot shine in its full beauty due to its location – Serbia and its quite limited financial support (hopefully that will be changed in the future). It is the center of one of the most important prehistoric culture that had existed 8000-4500 BC.Lepenski Vir

7. First population were tribes of hunters who had stayed on these fertile river banks establishing first settlements. Then around 5300 BC culture of Lepenski Vir had so called “Neolithic Revolution” when they along with fishing and hunting started to domesticate animals. It was beginning of agriculture and cattle breeding.

8. They begun pottery manufacture and making tools and other objects including religious ones as well. It was birth of different beliefs and establishing of the cult of Mother Earth. 9. Therefore they had specific way of burying: in the position of embryo which confirms beliefs of ancient farming cultures that everything is coming from Mother Earth and that everything is going back to her (“dust to dust” sounds familiar?).

10. Figurines founded in the settlements have enormous significance and are representing divinities. Those stone idols are fish-like humanoids and that’s why we’re guessing that divinities are connected with the river.

figurine from Lepenski Vir11. Remains of the “villages” are amazing. Namely in order to use the terrain in the best possible way they’ve had to build houses according to some plan. There is a central building with the empty space turned toward the Danube and that was sort of main square. Other buildings had surrounded the central one framing the square and forming “streets” to the main square or Danube. Thanks to these facts we know that Lepenski Vir is the eldest known urban settlement in Europe.

12. “Houses” have had base in the form of trapezium with tent-like wooden construction above it. In the central part of the house was hearth with the place for sacred figurines. What it is fascinating is that heat from the hearth was spreading equally by the floor thanks to the material and way of building. So it seems they had one of the eldest (if not the eldest) floor heating 🙂

13. Life in Lepenski Vir died out 4500 BC when its inhabitants moved in search of bigger arable lands.

This was the story about my prehistoric “compatriots”. I hope you liked it.

Happy T13!

P.S. If you’d like to leave your comment please scroll up and click “Comments” under the title of this TT (and above TT photo with newspaper and coffee). The one which is above this entire post is for the book and not TT. Thanks!

Thursday Thirteen

1. Every nation has 1 date in its history which it considers more important than any other. For the Serbs, the most important date in their history is June 15, by the old calendar – June 28, by the new calendar (Vidovdan).
2. On that day, in 1389, 618 years ago, Serbian and Turkish armies clashed on the Kosovo Field. Both the Serbian ruler Tzar Lazar and the Turkish Sultan Murad I died as a result of the battle. Based on many of the Turkish historical records, it is believed that th
e Sultan was killed by Miloš Obilić who was pretending to be dead, while the Sultan was walking in the battlefield after the battle. On the other hand, in one account in Serbian records he was assassinated by Miloš Obilić, who made his way into the Turkish camp on the pretext of being a deserter and knelt before the Sultan. He stabbed him in the stomach while kneeling before him.

3. According to historical documents neither the Serbs nor the Turks won the battle, Serbia was so exhausted that it was unable to continue resisting the Turks’a few decades later the heirs of Prince Lazar recognized Turkish suzerainty and 5 centuries of domination of the Serbs by the Turks ensued. That long and martyrlike enslavement changed the course of Serbian history and interrupted the cultural progress of the Serbs, which was clearly evident during the rule of the Nemanja dynasty.

4. It is difficult to assess the importance of the Kosovo Battle for world history. Such is also the case with the battles at the Alamo or Gettysburg, which are so important for American history. However, it is undeniable that the Battle of Kosovo was exceptionally significant not only for Serbia, but also for Europe and European Christian civilization. (The Painting is “The Kosovo Maiden” by Uroš Predić 1857-1953) The Kosovo Maiden

5. It is a fact that on Vidovdan, June 28, 1389, the Serbs, without help from a single European nation, defended on Kosovo Field not only the frontiers of their own territory and lives of their people, but, at the risk of losing their national independence, they also defended the interests and security of Christian Europe. In the conflict of 2 rival civilizations, the Muslim and the Christian, the Serbs checked the wave of the Turkish invasion, interposed themselves as a wall between the Turks and Europe, and enabled Europe to make preparations for its own defense. 6. It is questionable whether the history of Europe would have been the same without the Battle of Kosovo and the sacrifice of the Serbian nation.

7. No matter how great the historical value of Kosovo and Vidovdan may be, for the Serbs they have an additional unique dimension and preeminence. Persons of non-Serbian origin may consider Kosovo as only a far-away, strange, and, even, unimportant geographical territory, and Vidovdan, June 28, 1389, as a date of a battle of which they know little or nothing. 8. As far as the Serbs are concerned, Kosovo is their Holy Land, the cradle of Serbdom, and their inalienable, historical, national, and cultural heritage. As far as they are concerned, Vidovdan, June 28, 1389, is not just the date of a battle, but their nation’s identity, and the sacred will and testament which contains religious, ethical, and national principles for all Serbian generations from the Kosovo Battle until the present. 9. In the national consciousness all of Serbian history is divided into 2 periods: prior to the Kosovo Battle and after the Kosovo Battle.

10. As a geographical territory, Kosovo was Serbian even before the year 1389, before Vidovdan. That ownership was not marked by sticks, in the way the prospectors for gold marked their claims, nor by the deeds written in ink on paper, but by ancient and magnificent churches and monasteries and by Serbian cemeteries and tombstones. The capitals of Serbian kings and the thrones of Serbian archbishops and patriarchs were in Kosovo.

11. In the course of 6 centuries the geographical boundaries and demographic constituency of Kosovo, as well as the political and social conditions have changed. Serbs, who represented a majority in Kosovo, have been reduced to a minority. Uncontrolled migration of thousands of people from neighboring Albania to Kosovo on one hand and, on the other, mass exodus of Serbs from that territory, because of the merciless oppression to which the Serbs have been subjected by the newcomers, especially in the period 1943-1988, has changed the status of the Serbian population from a majority to a minority. Atrocities, unheard of even in uncivilized countries, have been perpetuated against the Serbian population in Kosovo. (Observe the eyes of Queen Simonida; an Albanian has dug out her eyes. It is fresco from the Gracanica monastery built between 1317-1321)

12. This is why we say that Kosovo is Serbian Golgotha. It is the Cross through which one nation entered into eternity and uncovered the eternal and divine dimensions of its existence.

13. After arrival of UN forces in the province more than 200 churches and monasteries have been destroyed. Majority from 12th-14th century; some of targeted monasteries are part of UNESCO World Heritage.

(PS
My apologize to everyone who have left comments here and whose blogs I can’t visit. Namely I still have problem to open certain blogs (not all) on blogger.)

EDIT TO ADD:

I have been asked to explain how is celebrated today.

Vidovdan is religious day; it is the Day of St Vitus (in Serbian St Vid (“Vid” is a name but also in Serbian means “Eyesight”). St Vid was a healer especially he was healing problems with eyes. But as of Battle of Kosovo Serbian Orthodox Church is celebrating that day as day of St Vid but also as the day of Holly Tsar Lazar and holly warriors of Kosovo.

In every Serbian Orthodox church in the world there are liturgy and requiem for all victims of Kosovo, from 1389 ‘till the present day. That’s why today is not happy day, we shouldn’t sing or dance today.

Vidovdan commemorations, which have been celebrated annually for centuries on the field where battle has been, are reconfirmations of both the Serbian ownership of Kosovo and of the Vidovdan-Kosovo ethics, which are the core of the Serbian national image and the essence of Serbian identity.

It should be emphasized that the Vidovdan commemorations are not celebrations of a Serbian military victory over the Turks, for the Serbs were not victorious in the Kosovo Battle. However, it is incorrect, and even malicious, to claim that at Vidovdan commemorations the Serbs “celebrate their defeat in the Kosovo Battle.”

On those occasions the Serbs honor and commemorate the heroes of Kosovo who laid down their lives defending their faith, freedom, nation, and country. At the same time, Vidovdan commemorations are the annual reviews of the post-Kosovo Serbian generations. They are evaluated in terms of Vidovdan-Kosovo ethics and on the basis of their reconfirmation of the Pledge of Kosovo. On Vidovdan, June 28, 1389, on the Kosovo Field, the Serbs chose once and for all their religious, cultural, ethical, and national identity. Their choice, in the form of an unwritten pledge, was handed down to all post-Kosovo Serbian generations and, through 600 years, Serbs have lived by that pledge.