Category: Ed's Blog
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And so I prepare to leave rural mountainous Serbia. These are not high rugged Alpine climbs - these are steady strong uplands - sparsely populated by a proud people. The thing to realise about Serbia, the Balkans, is the extent to which the cross roads to Europe and the East has affected the reach of time and place. Few people here have a heritage that reaches back more than a couple of hundred years - but in countries that have seen more war and conflict than most of us can imagine, that is long indeed.

Here in upland Zlatibor there are families who go back six and seven generations - in part that is due to the reality - that there is little that is bold or brash or noisy. Lifestyles are subsistence, the quiet is dominating, the natural is normal. Here woods, vines and moss take over and buildings crumble back into the earth if they are left or forgotten - eaten by the earth and her history.


But it would be wrong to suggest that there is no memory - rather here despite the solitude, the distances, the rural its - everyone knows everyone else, strangers stand out - as a visitor I feel like I am wearing an luminous Alice band - the transactions here are sealed by handshakes, coffee, a smoke and of course rakia.

What was fascinating was when I went off-piste for a walk up into the hills, through the pines. The woods are sparse and you cans we clearly where you are going. Ahead of me was a stooped lady carrying her shopping. In was able to gain on her quickly. But my haste was foolish over her surefootedness. In no time I stumbled and narrowly avoided a sprained ankle - she just glanced and shuffled on steadily. I slowed my pace. But still my pace overtook her and as I got to the top of the hill I looked back and she had quite literally disappeared out of sight. I was struck that her, where trees appeared to be apart and visible it was possible to merge, meld and be unseen.

But I find that rural communities are perceived to be stand off-ish and cold and reluctant to welcome visitors - here this is not the case. Zlatibor is a community that has over the years welcomed visitors, become an upland escape for city dwellers - they have in fact acted as a guardian for old rural Serbia. Happy to share and preserve, but the deal is that you return back to your urban idyll whilst they conserve their traditions and lifestyle.

And so to the market - here local traders sell their wares - pots, pans, utensils, lace and more - no shortage of woollens and warmth for sale here (extending to the unfashionable animal skins long shunned in London). And so I reflect on my own country - where tourist routes have become the extremes. World tours with a back pack, climbing mountains,skiing as a norm. When was the last time I visited small communities and enjoyed the simple undulating hills of Derbyshire, the wet-flatlands of north Norfolk or the slow march of history in the Shropshire marches? I think it might be time for me to look again at my own county and reflect.

Farewell, Zlatibor, infrequently visited by me, and now back to Belgrade and my Roman history, and the across to the busy crossing point that has become Sid where refugees cluster to enter Croatia and beyond. I am chasing knowledge and experience perhaps over-much, but my time here is limited. I'm grateful to have been here, I regret missing the Museum of Knitting (yes there is such a thing) but my time and schedule pulls me away and I will never know what I didn't see. And thanks. X