Monasteries of Fruška Gora
The main point of this day trip was to visit Novi Sad, second city in Serbia by its size, after Belgrade. Novi Sad is in Voïvodina; a region which does look much like the French “Champagne,” at least as seen for the first time from the highway. Vladimir’s cousin, Olja has taken a day off from work and is day our chauffeur and guide that day. I found Novi Sad to be a bit of a disappointment perhaps due to the facts that it was extremely hot (easily 40 degrees Celsius in the sun), that we had had a hard time finding parking (there was construction work going on all over town) and that we had also had a hard time finding the restaurant which we had picked out of our tourist guide. On the way back to Belgrade, after visiting Petrovaradin, the fortress on the other side of the Danube, right across from Novi Sad, we make a stop in Sremski Karlovci, which our tourist guide of Serbia mentions as being one of the prettiest towns in Serbia. It is indeed a lovely small town. Houses are painted in various shades of white, yellow, ochre and green. The first serbian high school was started there. There are kids playing and riding bicycles on the streets, and very few cars. On this day of mid-August the late afternoon light is quite beautiful. We walk up a street away from the town center and happen upon an open metal portal leading to farm buildings. The portal bears a sign where it is written “Wine for sale.” We walk in. A little old man who does not look in the best health is sitting on a chair in the courtyard. His wife is more sprightly and takes us into the cellar to taste the house wines. Without wanting to be too picky, the white wine is decidedly not great. The red is not bad but the winner is the other red wine called “Bermat” which the proprietor says is made with all sorts of herbs. It is more of an apéritif than a wine and tastes similar to red “Lillet.” Proud of our discovery, we buy a bottle of that and two bottles of red. Olja does not want to taste anything because she is driving us back to Belgrade.
We get back on the highway and although we had planned that morning to visit some of the monasteries of the region (they are located in a region called Fruška Gora), tired as we are, it is tempting to postpone this visit until some other time. This is not really an option though since Vladimir’s father had been telling me for years that I should absolutely visit the monasteries of Serbia when I go there ─ we simply cannot skip them all today (there are more than twenty in Fruška Gora alone). We opt to visit Krušedol and Grgeteg which are nor far from the highway. And right there, right after leaving the highway, we find ourselves in the countryside: small roads, corn fields, hedges of blackberry bushes. This looks eerily like the French countryside. We have no trouble finding the Krušedol monastery but a sign at the entrance indicates that one should not be wearing shorts to visit ─ not a good start. Olja who is wearing pants goes in and finds out that we are OK to enter as long as we do not go into the chapel. The white walls of the monastery buildings on the cloudless sky background of intense blue are a magnificent and peaceful sight. Everywhere you look it is an interesting mix of shadows and low light. Here are geraniums in pots under the white arcades, there are onions drying up, over there is a big quince tree which bears heavy green fruit. Peace and quiet. Although this is supposed to be one of the most visited monasteries of Serbia, the three of us are the only ones here today. In the background, barely perceptible, the brothers in the chapel are singing the evening prayers.
Text by Arnaud Jacquin
Travel to Serbia
what to see in Serbia