Sunday, May 16, 2021

Serbia, Stepping Back in Time

"Nothing in life is as important as you think it is, while you are thinking about it."
~ Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow

I am pushing a wheelbarrow through the Balkans, accumulating within it stories and photos, and I either need to move more slowly so I accumulate less, or shovel faster, because my wheelbarrow is full to overflowing. You could look at my VW van as a manifestation of that wheelbarrow, and lately he's become the star of the show. But that is not his designated role! As the meme goes, "VW van, you had one job, One Job!" Maybe he's just mad that I never gave him a name; lots of van people like having a name for their vehicle. I'm not really one of those van people, even though the van that I drove with Whitney through Central America for a year was named Basura Blanca, which translates to White Trash. Feel free to cancel me for that name, cuz the suspense is killing me. Cancel me now and let's get over with. I will agree that I'm terrible person if it makes it easier.

The current status of my nameless green steed has not changed much. It runs great, doesn't put out any visible exhaust, and is still consuming coolant at a much faster rate than it should - it shouldn't be consuming any. Since I sometimes smell a whiff of coolant when I'm driving, one possibility is that the heater is leaking. Another possibility is that my brain is leaking out my ears and prevents me from taking more mature and reasonable actions befitting my age, like buying a new van, going safer places, or staying home. A few years ago when I told my friend that I'm not actually crazy, she said, "That's what all crazy people say." You really can't deny that logic.

Yesterday I was pretty far south in Serbia, nearing the borders to Bulgaria or Macedonia. I'm not 100% sure how it happened, but tonight I'm in Macedonia! I was running out of days in Serbia, because I am only allowed 90 days and I have 14 remaining. I need to go back for my second vaccination and I'd also like to get some dental work done. As I was sitting in the line of cars at the border I was searching for what language they speak in Macedonia. In the gas station when I fueled up I had no idea what I was paying, I just put it on my credit card. As I drove through the crowded small towns looking for wild camping in the hills, I saw some Muslims and thought, oh right, it's a Muslim majority country. Nope. It's roughly 2/3 Macedonian Orthodox and 1/3 Muslim. But now that I've been here for a few hours and driven past a few houses, I'm kind of an expert. If you have any questions I'm available.

Is there a topic? I forget. Enjoy the photos, whilst you ponder the amazing history of Serbia. Personally, I find it fascinating!

Road trip! When you snap a picture through your windshield, does that really count as photography? How about if you take pictures with your phone? I think I have two strikes against me. (If anyone wants to cancel me they're still welcome to!)

My research leaves a little bit to be desired. As I was driving on the freeway I saw a tourism sign to something that sounded Roman. I looked it up and a few days later came.

There was a substantial Roman fortified palace built in the third and fourth centuries AD.

It's called Felix Romuliana.

And it was built by the son-in-law and emperor successor of Split's Diocletian. I'm excited about that because I've been a huge fan of Diocletian's Palace in Split since I first saw it in 2010.

So 1,700 years of history takes its toll on unmaintained buildings - let this be a lesson to you people with houses.

In my last newsletter I had this view taken at sunset. Just after this photo I wanted to go for a drive with the van to test the consumption of oil and coolant. Instead of going back the way I came I followed Google Maps. And I kind of think Google's never been to Serbia, because what looked like a paved road on the map was actually some freaking steep tilted forestry road that once I got started down it, I couldn't easily turn around and come back. So like the dimwit that I am I just kept going. I don't make those kind of decisions once in a while, I make them with great regularity. But why? (To my credit, I almost never get stuck.)

A friend suggested staying near bigger cities while I was testing my van, which would make perfect sense. So what do I do? Work my way down this windy little road in the middle of nowhere, in a narrow valley where there's neither internet nor phone service. It was a great choice, as the next photos will show. But was it a reasonable choice? This is the van that night, with a few clouds and stars in the sky.

I wasn't sure it was a great idea to go further into the valley, but it really was incredibly beautiful and I couldn't resist.

I had no idea what this sign said as I took it, but just now I translated it using Google. Good for them!

I was fascinated by this little village at the end of the road down this narrow valley.

It really felt like going back in time.

I had never seen this before, horses dragging logs down the road. How old would you say this technology is??

This guy told the horse to stop when it got close to me so I could step over the branches. It stopped immediately, no hesitation.

This barn is a little older than the other ones, but almost all the houses in the village had this same look.

This is a close-up of a foundation to a house or a barn. Instead of a more sturdy stucco, it looks like a mix of clay and soil and straw. I don't imagine it has much insulation value, or resistance to weather.

I love this old bridge.

House? I guess so.

House? Barn? I'm not sure.

I'd love to know more of the history of this place. I think that tractor is the only thing that would be out of place 200 years ago.

Driving back out of the valley, this was a road I'd seen on the map. A group of Polish adventurers drove their vehicles across that long stretch of water. But they did it with great care, making sure that they'd all get across.

Last night I headed towards a lake and saw this nice sunset on the way. I didn't find any spectacular wild camp sites, and ended up just to the side of a small road. Sometimes this happens!

And today I had about 3 hours drive to cross the border into Macedonia. It was a really beautiful winding road through green valleys. If you look across the river you can see a small road, and I'm standing at the other end of that road. I guess tractors or other special four-wheel drive vehicles drive all the way across that river.

I've started using Google Maps with Google satellite view to find places to wild camp, and sometimes it works out great. I was driving through busy neighborhoods this afternoon and almost gave up before I saw a lake on the map. This was the substantial dam for the lake.

Et, voila. This is my little spot for the night. A little bit ago I heard hooves of a horse clopping by, I assumed with someone riding it. But then an hour later I saw the horse along with a car, as the car was herding the horse back home!
(The End)