Reconnecting With My Roots, A Trip To Serbia – Belgrade Part 2

By Goran Prvulovic

In my previous blog post, I wrote at length about the second half of my trip to Serbia, which was spent in and around the countries capital city, Belgrade. My wife’s family lives predominantly in the capital city, as opposed to my extended family which is spread out over the countryside and my hometown of Negotin.

In addition to meeting several more of his relatives, my son and I explored not just the cities architectural wonders (click here to read more about some of Belgrade’s churches) but many of its café’s and restaurants.

Perhaps the most notable part of Belgrade for a tourist is it’s Knez Mihailova Street, a pedestrian, tourist, and shopping zone with numerous buildings and mansions that were built during the 1870’s. Real estate prices are so high that when one small store in 2016 was sold, it fetched a price of approximately $35,000 per square meter.

Amidst the site of many beautiful restaurants and buildings is a photographer’s dream come true. This picture I took while walking through a side alley on Knez Mihailova, passing by a restaurant that took an innovative approach to providing shade for its customers. Once again the weather was excellent, the spotless blue sky in the background compliments the red umbrellas perfectly (see The Red Umbrella Street).

It would hardly be called a vacation if we didn’t stop by some of the best café’s the city had to offer. While passing by one fancy spot me and my son tried, they offered a complimentary sample of fresh basil-water. It might not be anything special, but sometimes it’s shots of the little moments in life that really stand out (Basil Water).

As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, fountains are a common site across Belgrade, as the countries natural groundwater is constantly bursting forth from the earth. Over time, Serb’shave built springs that capitalize on this, giving residents access to fresh, healthy spring water that gets recycled into the countries water supply. Belgrade is no exception, with many fountains across the city bring their own sense of charm to the eyes of ongoers – both tourists and photographers alike (The Old Fountain).

Belgrade has a reputation for being a city with a vibrant nightlife, although neither myself nor my son is fond of that sort of thing. Here is another picture of Knez Mihailova street, where you can see some of the traditional, 19th-century buildings in the background (Knez Mihailova At Night).

Here’s another picture of Knez Mihailova during the night on our second last day, where it was raining profusely during our time. It’s a different look in comparison to the sunny, vibrant look of Serbia that’s been the norm for most of these blog posts (The Old Street).

It would be a shame to end this blog post without a picture from one of Belgrade’s most notable cultural monuments, the Kalemegdan fortress. The 160-acre fortress, which doubles as a park, boasts over 2 million visitors every year. First built close to 2,000 years ago overlooking the point where two rivers come together, Kalemegdan boasts one of the most beautiful views of the city. Many statues, churches, museums, street vendors, military displays, and other amenities make this park one of the most popular locations throughout the city.

This brings an end to this long-running blog series on my two-week trip to Serbia. Travelling isn’t something that I get to do too often, so I always make sure to take advantage of the opportunity when it comes my way.

Until next time,

Goran

View from the Kalemegdan Fortress

View from the Kalemegdan Fortress

Reconnecting With My Roots, A Trip To Serbia – Danube River and the Golubac Castle

By Goran Prvulovic

After visiting throughout much of rural Serbia, my son and I decided to take the scenic route back to Belgrade as we travelled alongside the famous Danube river. As we drove alongside the famous geographical landmark, which demarks the Romanian-Serbian border, we got to see some of the most beautiful scenery that the country has to offer.

An interesting fact that you might not know is that the Danube’s widest and narrowest point is both in Serbia, quite close to each other. The river flows through a narrow gorge called the Iron Gates, which stretches for around 134 km before opening up into an area so wide that it looks more like a lake than a river.


At the end of this gorge where the river opens up sits a gorgeous expanse of water, 5.5km at it’s fullest, being overlooked by the famous Golubac Fortress. It overlooks one of the most beautiful vistas in all of Eastern Serbia and a frequent site for watersport competitors to race or train for their next competition.

Travelling up from my hometown with my son, the 134 km through the valley brought us past many villages. One of the places we stopped for a scenic break was beside one of these coastal settlements on the river (see photo 1). I couldn’t help but take a picture of my son overlooking the scene. I liked how he turned out – looking at his side
with the pier on the other side of the image.

One of the most beautiful pictures of the river I managed to capture was photo 2. Both the sky as well as the river were in perfect condition to show off some of the beauty that Serbia has to offer. The only thing that, in my eyes, blemishes the picture is the wind turbine on the top of the hill, a piece of man-made machinery in an otherwise beautiful portrayal of nature’s perfection. Across the river in Romania, so if you could swim across what is the largest river in Europe, you would be in another country – literally.

Once driving through the ravine that is the narrowest part of the river, the scenery opens up to what seems like a lake, but is, in all reality, a continuation of the same river just now at it’s widest part. Breathtakingly, tourists who take this route through the valley will be greeted not only by the site of this body of water but also of this ancient medieval castle that looks over the river (photo 3).

Again, the weather was spectacular not just for sightseeing, but for photography as well.

Here is another picture of the fortress, albeit I prefer the other picture a bit more. The narrow scope of the photograph misses out on the beauty of the river, and the close-up of the hill I feel doesn’t add too much to the image (photo 4). For the most part, I prefer having my landscape subjects more to the side than in the centre of the picture, although there is always an exception to the rule…

Here’s a picture of the fortress from the other side (photo 5). Once you drive through a tunnel, onlookers will notice a tourist/cultural site where they can stop by, get food, and learn more about the castle. This is the view from within the site - you will notice that the castle was unfortunately under renovation, but it doesn’t detract too much from the shot.

This is a case where even though the subject, the castle, is in the centre; I still think it’s a pretty good picture nonetheless. There is a greater harmony between the colours in this image as opposed to the other one - not only do you see more of the beautiful river and sky, but also the nice stone sidewalk, and a pleasant looking forest off to the right-hand side. Pictures that have a more vibrant colour palette not only look better, in my opinion but also sell more as well.

That concludes my rural adventure throughout Serbia – but there is still much Urban photography I have yet to share.

Until next time,

Goran

 

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Reconnecting With My Roots, A Trip To Serbia - Bukovo Monastery

By Goran Prvulovic

My trip throughout Serbia has led to me revisiting a number of places from my past, most notably would be areas surrounding my hometown. I was born in a small city on the eastern side of Serbia called Negotin, close to the Romanian border and the Danube River. It’s mainly known as a wine region, but also for some of its historical monuments, such as Ravanica, which I wrote about earlier.


One particular site to note is the Bukovo monastery. Founded in the late 13th or early 14th century by the Serbian king Stefan Milutin (1282-1321), it’s a small albeit fascinating church surrounded by a forested area that helps keep the site secluded. Something that foreigners will notice in Serbia that’s uncommon in North America are the natural springs in the area. Fountains of pure, gushing spring water are built in areas where that same groundwater comes out of the earth naturally. As such, it’s a common sight to see people driving all the way to the church to fill up some of the site’s spring water to take home.

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In this black and white picture of the entire site, you can see the fountain to the bottom right, just below the cross. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve been getting in the habit of shooting my pictures in black and white so I can focus on my compositional skills more, something that you will notice throughout the rest of my photos from Serbia.

 

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Here is a close-up of the main tower, one of the oldest, untampered parts of the church. Although some parts of the building were refurbished, this part is largely undisturbed. When walking into the church, you’ll notice a set of abandoned stone stairs that lead up to the tower. Although we weren’t allowed to access them, you could almost imagine what it must have been like as a monk hundreds of years ago living in this location, secluded from civilization.

 

 

 

 

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Another version of the same picture, here I am trying to replicate an old, early 20th-century style of picture. I got fairly close, although you will notice that the fresco still has some color to it, something that was a deliberate decision on my part. It’s an interesting contrast, to be sure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Here’s the sight from the entrance of the monastery walking straight in, with that staircase I mentioned being along the right-hand side. The architectural style is fairly interesting, with an array of pillars leading to a fountain inside of the site.

 

 

 

 

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Here is a close-up of the door leading inside of the church. Although we weren’t lucky enough to be able to go inside and see the interior of the church, we had to settle with just touring the inside of the complex – which is beautiful enough as it is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Here we have a close-up of the pillars in the central hallway of the site. Notice the Byzantine crosses on the pillars. I’ve also positioned myself so the pillars line themselves up in a nice way through proper composition, creating a series of leading lines that draw your eyes along the image.

The church also has a residential area perched right above the tourist site where the priest and clergy live, although it’s not a common spot for photographers to capture.

Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed some of these pictures, and I will have some more to come in the future.

Goran Prvulovic

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