Reconnecting With My Roots, A Trip To Serbia - Brusnik Village

By Goran Prvulovic

Having not been to Serbia in close to twenty years, one of the first stops we went to was my mother’s village called Brusnik where I used to visit my grandparents. It’s a small village on the easternmost portion of Serbia, near the Bulgarian border. A 2002 census showed that the population was at 456, but after visiting their firsthand, I would say it’s closer to maybe a hundred people.

Not much is left here from my past, except for my mother who spends some time there with some of her friends. Brusnik is renowned as a significant wine region in Serbia, and at one-point bottles were exported even to countries such as France. Even still, the population of the village was never greater than 1,500 back in the 1950’s, and it has slowly shrunk since then.

With only a small general store in the village, everyone knows each other, and they are constantly inviting one another over for food. On that topic, most people tend to grow their own gardens of vegetables, as well as have their chickens, pigs, cows, and other animals. Yet if you visited you would be surprised to see just how bountiful the meals are – it’s more food than I eat here in Calgary!

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I didn’t take too many picture landscape pictures of the village, so it might be hard for you to understand the scale of this little village. Instead, I chose to capture more of the smaller, close-up moments, such as this picture of my mother’s barn. On her lot, she has two houses, a garden, as well as a barn that used to house hay, some wine barrels, as well two dozen or so chickens. This is the view of inside the barn with some pretty good lighting outside peeking in from the cracks.

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Here’s a picture of the same door but instead from the opposite side. From the outside looking in, it looks like a dark cellar that you wouldn’t want to venture into, whereas the other picture looks a lot better, almost like it was a still frame from some Hollywood western movie. It’s interesting how things can look so completely different from the other side.

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Inside the barn is a small wine cellar where my family kept a variety of liquors. Although traditional red and white wine are typical, it is customary for many families to brew their own type of brandy made out of various fruits. Here’s a picture of a few of the wine barrels my mother still kept in her cellar, although most of them are empty.

 

 

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For a village as small as Brusnik, there are many abandoned homes across the area whose owners either have passed away or left the village and left nobody to occupy it. Here’s one such home that has become overgrown with various vines and foliage. Seeing sites like this across my childhood home can’t help but remind me how much things have changed over the decades.

 

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Another color picture of a neighboring house near my mother’s place. Most of the homes in the area were constructed by the people who lived there, as it was quite rare to see people buying homes outright or getting a mortgage as they do here in North America.  

Although there aren’t that many people in Brusnik anymore, the small community that still lives there keep a Facebook page regularly updated.

 

Until next time,

Goran Prvulovic

 

Reconnecting With My Roots, A Trip To Serbia - Felix Romuliana

Continuing from my previous blog post regarding one of Serbia’s most historical monasteries, later that same day my son and I drove right beside one of the countries largest archeological site’s I had seen in my life.

As an armchair enthusiast of Roman History, I spent a good couple of years dedicated to reading almost everything that I could during that period of time, so when I had a chance to drop by and visit the famous Felix Rumuliana, it was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.

If you look on Wikipedia, the entire archeological site is called Gamzigrad, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site that is the location of a series of ancient Roman palaces and temples called Felix Rumuliana, which was built by Emperor Galerius.

Early explorers first thought that site was a military camp, but later found out that it was an Imperial palace for a Roman emperor himself. In case you’re wondering, the place was named in memory of Galerius’s mother, Romula. The palace continued to exist until the Huns plundered it in the mid 5th century, and over the next few hundred years faded into obscurity until it was found again, much to the delight of history and archeology enthusiasts across the globe.

“Gamzigrad is one of the most magnificent monuments of the past…one of the largest and best-preserved monuments of Roman architecture in Europe.”

-F. Kanitz, according to Discover Southeast Serbia

With armed with some of the historical knowledge in mind, here are some of the pictures I took of the site. I had more luck this time then I did with Ravanica, as I was allowed to photograph the insides of the surviving ruins, although there wasn’t that much to picture in the first place – the most interest parts of the site was outside.

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I also have to quickly mention that the weather for the trip was excellent, especially when we were traveling throughout the countryside.

This is one of my favorite pictures, although it doesn’t show off to much of the site itself. With the spectacular scenery of the countryside, clouds, and blue sky in-between the two walls, it’s a beautiful shot.

 

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Here’s another picture showing off more of the surrounding countryside, along with more of the peripheral ruins. If you look closely, you will notice some of the walls has been refurbished. An interesting fact is that the same stone used to build this complex thousand of years ago was mined from the hills in the surrounding region, so when archaeologists came to fix up the wall, they used the same rock that was right nearby to preserve historical accuracy.

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Now here is a beautiful, classic picture of the heart of the ruins itself. These pillars are some of the oldest surviving columns in ancient architectural history. Aside from the beautiful Serbian sky and clouds, this picture has excellent composition. Even looking at the tops of the pillars, we can draw a diagonal line leading up to the largest and most complete pillar. This little aspect of visual geometry helps make the pillars, the central aspect of the shot, stand out even more.

It’s paralleled by the bottom of the courtyard, which has another long diagonal line running in the opposite angle from the top of the pillars. If you follow the lines from the center outward, it almost looks like it’s trailing off in the distance. These lines help guide our eyes to the most essential part of the picture. Although in many ways you can’t control the angle of the buildings itself, you can control the angle that you shoot, which allows you to setup these critical factors in your pictures.

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I still took most of my pictures with a black and white lens, and here we have one of my favorite examples from the session. This closeup picture of the ruined tower allows us to see a lot of the detail of the millennia-old bricks, which lends some aspect of the character to the picture.

Ravanica and Felix Romuliana are two of the most notable tourist sites in the Serbian countryside, and although I was there once when I was younger, it was nice to be able to see it all again, especially with my son alongside me.

Until next time,

Goran Prvulovic