Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sirogojno - October 2006

For breakfast, we were treated with a large spread of traditional local cuisine. Homemade yogurt came in cute little ceramic round pots. Fresh bread, kajmak (spreadable slightly salty rich cream), local white cheese, and užika pršut (hard, smoked beef slices) were enough to satisfy all. We then went and began taking photos and touring the ethno museum grounds. Since I was the only one who had been there before, I became the tour guide.

Sweater shopping was the next item on the agenda. We started by going to the local ladies who had booths at the edge of the museum grounds. Pat commented that the quality seemed to have improved, but said she already had two sweaters. We then walked down to the Sirogojno sweater shop where they sell sweaters/jackets made locally but with Icelandic wool. The quality of the wool is much better and the knitting is more sophisticated as well – as is the price. I spotted the color and style I had eyed previously and decided it was time to buy. Nancy and Olja also found ones to suit their personalities. After buying a few accessories back at the local ladies booths (souvenir shajkaca hats, woven hats & mittens), we then put our purchases in the car trunk.

At the local church, a wedding celebration was in process. Outside, a brass band boldly played their upbeat tunes. A decorated horse-drawn carriage was waiting, presumably for the bride and groom. The carriage driver had a bottle of rakija, which he was sharing with some older men wearing shajkacas (traditional hats of the region). All seemed to be having a fun time. The wedding celebration continued late into the night at the local hall, playing live music. Pat explained that sometimes village weddings last several days.

For lunch we met up with Pat’s son and girlfriend who were vacationing in nearby Zlatibor. She also bought a sweater – what a good morning the shop had! Initially the place was quite crowded (some school groups who had toured the ethno museum were also eating) but we managed to set up two tables to accommodate all of us. I left a bit early in hopes of meeting Zorica so we could make plans for my upcoming exhibition at the ethno museum. At the church, a memorial service was being held. That’s quite a bit in one day for such a little church and village!

Walk in the Village
Later on, we went for a walk in the main village of Sirogojno. Since it’s very small, getting lost is not a problem. Spotting some apples on the grass next to the road, we picked up a few to eat – small and crunchy, and definitely natural. Shortly thereafter, the elderly woman who lived there came out, picking some off the tree and offering us some. Nancy was surprised at the woman’s generosity, presuming instead that the lady might have shooed us away for picking the apples that had fallen by the road. Another example of local kindness. We headed towards the home of the couple that I had met my first time in the area. In April I returned, giving the wife a printout of the painting I made of her. I hoped they would be around so I could say hi. The husband was outside and recognized me, welcoming us and insisting that we come in for a bit. He proudly showed Nancy how he made rakija, even though the plum crop this year was too poor to make any of the beloved drink. Back inside the house, the wife pulled out the print I had made for her and warmly welcomed me as if I was a relative. It was gratifying to see how such a small gift as the print was appreciated. She then proceeded to make the Turkish coffee and bring the honey, spoons, and water glasses. The husband brought some 7-yr old rakija for us to try. As none of us are real drinkers, we were a bit hesitant, but you really can’t refuse. To everyone’s surprise, the rakija was very smooth and not that strong. As soon as the tiny glass was finished, he proceeded to fill it up again. We then had the spoonful of honey, followed by a drink of water. Turkish coffee topped it off. Thanking them for their hospitality, we headed back to our cabin. I’m so glad that Nancy was able to experience local people and their genuineness.

Serious Card-Playing
With the ethno restaurant closed and the only store in town closed, we decided to head down to the town restaurant, buy a bottle of wine, and play some mean cards – UNO. We had a lot of laughs and turned a simple kid’s game into one of competition. I wonder what the waiter thought. When it was time for closing, we headed back to the cottage, at which time Nancy and Pat did their beauty treatment. It was fun watching them.

Sunday - Last Day :(
Early the next morning, Pat and I went for a walk and took some photos. The early morning light was beautiful – casting warm tones over the fall hued landscape. We also experimented with the placement of a goat skull we found for some still-life shots. After breakfast, we modeled our sweaters, first in front of the cabin and then by the museum buildings, much like they did in the Sirogojno sweater catalog. It was fun. Nancy and I met Zorica, who gave Nancy a copy of the book she wrote about the local church and gave her a list of some other sources of Serbian art and architecture. We then decided that my art exhibition would occur in June when my parents come, so we’ll have some planning and work to do on that. I’m glad my parents will be able to see the exhibition.

With the rental car due back in Belgrade, we reluctantly had to leave. Between the wonderful company, beautiful sights (natural and man-made), and gorgeous weather, it was a perfect 4-day weekend.


Randy said...

hi melissa, this is randy form the getty list. I love reading aobut oyur trips. I do have a question for you. As part of my winter theraphy I research images of father christmas grandfather frost, or any holiday gift givers from other countries. than I paint their images. Any traditions and info that you might pass on would be appreciated.

tombetz said...

Hey Melissa,

I ,too, have some recent experience with rakija and other assorted Balkan pleasures. That's some firewater! Great narrative- a real pleasure to read your blog.