|The view from our campsite|
|Theron in Tara National Park|
While we were in the mountains, we drove through the winding, poorly marked roads of Tara National Park. Theron’s knowledge of the Cyrillic alphabet from his high school Russian classes came in incredibly useful. The lakes in this area were beautiful and we went for a swim. We also tried to find a medieval village down a remote road but we were unsuccessful. “Medieval village” has become a code word for any place with think might be non-existent (or hard to find). It’s a frequently used word lately.
|The only well marked sign in Tara National Park|
While we were in Serbia, we visited the cities of Novi Sad and Niš. Novi Sad has a great vibe in its beautiful town center with countless outdoor cafes. They also have a beautiful park along the Danube. Niš has some incredible historical sites. There are 4th century Roman ruins with mosaics comparable to those in Rome. There is a tower built of the skulls of Serbian soldiers by the Turks to celebrate a victory in 1809. Many of the skulls disappeared when family members recognized their fathers, brothers, and sons.
|Evening in Novi Sad|
In Niš, we also visited a World War II concentration camp run by Nazis during the Axis occupation of Serbia. In this camp, 12,000 Serbians were murdered over four years. The Germans instituted a policy in which one hundred Serbs were killed for every German who died, and fifty were killed for every wounded soldier. It was the site of the first successful escape from a concentration camp, involving over 100 prisoners. The guide told us that the tall concrete walls surrounding the camp were built after the escape. One of the strangest aspects of this camp is that there is a school built right next to it, since it is in the heart of a living city. I can’t really imagine what it must be like to be a student there, with the reminder of these horrors outside of the classroom window every day.
|Crveni Krst Concentration Camp|
This week in Serbia has made me spend a lot of time thinking about war and brutality, particularly after just serving two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I really believe that international peace is built by individual relationships. It is about having conversations with strangers, just like we did with our Serbian hosts. Only with these experiences will we breakdown stereotypes, learn to value our differences and, more importantly, recognize our similarities.