Ilok, Croatia to Novi Sad, Serbia
At the border, the custom officers that had to allow us out of Croatia took their time with the first of our vans. It took at least half an hour. We were allowed to proceed fairly quickly after our driver showed our passports. One hundred metres further we had to show our passports again before entering Serbia.
From there it was a very nice drive through the countryside and villages. We arrived in Novi Sad between 3:30 and 4:00pm. Our hotel is called Zenit and is very close to the centre of the city. We got settled into our (large) room and then we all went for an orientation walk.
We walked to the Liberty Square right at the center, admired the Roman Catholic Church of the name of Mary. We did not go inside. From there we walked down the street to the Serbian Orthodox Church of Saint George. The inside of an Orthodox Church is very different from a Roman Catholic Church.
Dusan (our tour leader) was has been raised in the Orthodox Church explained the history of how the division in the original Catholic Church happened. Literally ages ago there was a power struggle between the Church leadership in the west (headed by the Pope) and the leadership in the East (Patriarch and the emperor).
The inside of the church is very ornate with fresco paintings on the ceiling and large images of the saints and especially of the Saint to whom the church is dedicated – in this case Saint George. Throughout the church there are other pictures of saints placed in a few places. There is space to light a candle in the front of the church.
Services in the Orthodox Church are held on Sunday mornings, starting at 8 am and lasting until about 11 am. People are standing during the service, there are no chairs or pews. The only seats are against the wall for the elderly and those that are disabled. Orthodox people use the Julian calendar which is different from our Gregorian calendar. This means that they celebrate some holy days later – Christmas is celebrated January 7 and Easter is later also.
As we stood outside, while Dusan told us about the history and the Orthodox religion, we watched several men go into the church. They kissed the outside door, make a four pointed cross and bow their head before proceeding into the church. The four pointed cross is to bless God, Son, Holy Spirit and the Church. It is done with three fingers. In the church they pray and kiss four or five pictures of the saints and leave some money. When they leave, they do so walking backwards and again crossing themselves and kissing the door.
Dusan told us that his family’s patron saint is St. George – the saint to whom this church is dedicated. Families celebrate the particular day of the year when “their” patron saint is being remembered. Dusan said that he believes in God but the discrepancies in the church are bothering him, especially the financial discrepancy between the wealth of the church and the a Currency Exchange to Patriarch and the poverty of the people. It was touching to hear Dusan talk so freely about his beliefs and doubts.
We walked back to the Liberty Square and had free time until dinner. We then went to exchange our left over Hungarian Forints for Serbian Dinars. The Dinar value is quite a bit lower than our Canadian dollar. Ten dinar is $1.20 Canadian.
Back in our room, we rested a bit and then got ready to go out for dinner. Dusan is bringing us to a restaurant in the centre of the city. We sat outside in the courtyard behind the restaurant, away from the noise of the street although it was not a busy street. We had a spot under a wooden overhang. Just after we had ordered our food, it started to rain, then pour and then quite severe lightning and thunder. The temperature went down and the waiter brought blankets – it was cozy to have around my shoulders.
The food was excellent. We shared a dish of bacon-wrapped chicken fingers with fried potato wedges and a very small salad. As a side dish we chose a Waldorf salad. The salad was very different from when Eke makes one. This was a pile of shredded celery in a yoghurt-like sauce with some apple slices as a decoration and a walnut on top – it tasted quite bland. We have learned that the portions are very large in restaurants. This was plenty of food for us; each had a skewer with four chicken fingers. We didn’t even finish all the potato wedges. Another group member across the table had ordered roasted vegetables as a side dish. She couldn’t eat it all, so Eke enjoyed those!
Everyone enjoyed their food. By the time we asked for the bill, it was dry again. The waiter just asked what we had consumed, added it up and told us the total – he didn’t give us a record of it. We paid – needed to borrow some Dinar from Christine. Some of us later discussed that the price of our meals was pretty high and we were overcharged. We had no way of checking it out, told Dusan about it and considered it a lesson learned.
Back in the room, we updated our trip journal and went to sleep at midnight!