Exploring Fruška Gora

Fruška Gora (pronounced Frushka Ghora), more commonly known as the Frankish mountain outside of Serbia, is a beautiful forest-covered mountain in Serbia. A small part of it also extends into Croatia, but mostly it’s a Serbian thing. It’s also referred to as the “jewel of Serbia” due to the amazing landscape.

From Belgrade we traveled by car to a small and picturesque town called Vrdnik, just on the edge of the park. It vaguely reminded me of the small Swiss towns on the edge of the Alps and was filled with lush greenery, sweet little homes and local establishments. Here we rented two apartments for a few nights and I was genuinely impressed with the low cost.

From Vrdnik we proceeded to explore the beauty that is Fruška Gora. There are tons of old Serbian Orthodox monasteries in and around the park which are a delight to visit. The forests are incredibly beautiful and lush and there are hidden treasures everywhere you look. The Gypsy’s family also owns a plot of land inside the park and we had fun finding it and having a look around. Sadly the little cabin had long since suffered massive damage due to disuse and general decay, but we have dreams of building a little cabin on it one day:)

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This was probably one of my favourite spots. If I had my way i would be getting married right there! Unfortunately things haven’t worked out quite that way…but it is spectacularly beautiful. This spot is just a short walk into the forest behind one of the little monasteries..and boy was it worth every meter walked.
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More or less where the family plot is…it’s truly beautiful!
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Just one of the many beautiful Serbian Orthodox Monasteries nestled inside the park we explored.

 

 

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Inside one of the many churches. Photos couldn’t possibly do the art inside these buildings any justice, and out of respect I did not take close-ups.
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Another beautifully hidden one. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to go inside as I wasn’t wearing appropriate clothing…neither was the Gypsy as he was wearing a pair of shorts 😉
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This was probably one of my most favourite signs outside one of the churches. No hand holding No smoking No cameras No make-up No dogs I had to take this picture hiding behind the Gypsy and keeping a wary eye out for the rather stern Nun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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All throughout the forest we found these sweet little hearts painted on trees. To this day I still have no idea why they are there or who put them there and none of the locals I was able to converse with could give me a reason, but they did make for some really cool photos:)

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One of many selfies taken during the course of our trip. This specific one was outside one of the churches where we weren’t allowed to explore the inside due to lack of appropriate dress. In our defense it was really boiling and i was wearing a spaghetti top dress and he was wearing a pair of shorts. Neither were considered appropriate. So we soaked up a bit of sun and explored the outside of the monastery instead.

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The bee population in the park is doing exceptionally well:) All across the park there are thousands upon thousands of multi-coloured beehives and if you asked me what sound i would associate with the park it would definitely be the sound of bees. In some cases old trucks or buses had been converted to house these hives in order to move them around more easily. The bees are MASSIVE and slightly scary looking. Those smudges in the pic are due to bees buzzing outside the car window:)

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This is probably one of my favourite signs in the whole wide world. Literally every town has them. “You are now entering a town”, “You are now exiting a town”. Hours of entertainment during our long drives at spotting them…..because sometimes it doesn’t exactly LOOK like a town….

 

 

On one of the days we traveled to the City of Novi Sad, explored the old fortress and the old part of town and had an amazing meal on the banks of the Danube.

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With The Gypsy’s parents on top of the wall of the old fort in Novi Sad
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“Old Town” Novi Sad with just a dash of the modern city on the left hand side.

img_7119Lunch started with fish soup….which to be honest I wasn’t sure i’d like. I’ve never been a fan. but it was delicious! Served with a bowl small pieces of raw dough, cheese and bacon pieces which you add to your hot soup (the finely chopped pieces of dough quickly cooks through) it was SUPER delicious and I could easily have eaten only that! This was followed by fresh fish…now let me tell you…in SA we are spoiled. Fish is processed and provided to you sans head and fins and STUFF. Not here. As you can see the Smooch is quite literally cooked as is with head and tail and fins and EVERYTHING. It freaked me out a bit at first, but it was delicious and I enjoyed every single bite (once I stopped looking at what i was eating:P )

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All in all Fruška Gora is a spectacular place and if you ever find yourself in Serbia or even just in the general area I would SERIOUSLY recommend a visit. VERY affordable, absolutely beautiful and a place that will steal your heart over and over and over again:)

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Dear Belgrade, Serbia

As promised, I am finally getting around to writing about our amazing holiday earlier this year. I posted a ton of photos on instagram and twitter (#RAGISAC) and tried to send a message to my family at the end of each day with a little summary of what we did and a few photos to show them.

We traveled from Jozitown to Belgrade, Serbia via Abu Dhabi, explored Serbia and then proceeded to drive to Croatia. We spent the first few days in Rovinj and then took a ferry through to the island of Rab, where The Gypsy’s mother lives. In this post I’ll be focusing on my experience of Belgrade.

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On the plane and on our way! #RAGISAC

We arrived in Belgrade on a Saturday morning and was greeted at the airport by The Gypsy’s parents as a surprise. We were only supposed to meet up with them a bit later in the day, but they took a bus to the airport to surprise us instead. His father awaited me with a bunch of flowers and a big bear hug and his mom wouldn’t let me touch my own suitcase once we showed our faces in arrivals. And this behaviour continued throughout our trip. Whenever we spent any time with them we were spoiled rotten! And it was glorious:)

Belgrade is an incredible city. We spent a day or so exploring before heading off to Fruška Gora (more on this in another post) and then did some more exploring in-between returning from Fruška Gora and heading off to Croatia. It is a city of absolute contradictions. In one block you will see the most beautiful houses right next to a building that looks like something that should be condemned. But even the buildings that are falling apart are beautiful in their own way. It was later explained to me that in some cases the people let the buildings deteriorate on the outside in order to avoid paying property taxes, but i was assured that on the inside they are quite beautiful. In addition, due to the suspicious nature of the people, you may be labelled as an associate of the “mafioso” if you flaunt any sort of money, and not beautifying the homes on the outside is one way of avoiding such flaunting. I have no idea if this is true or one of those “jokes with a hint of truth” or complete fabrication, but honestly it kind of makes sense.

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I’m not sure what I was expecting exactly, considering that they were in civil war like only 20 years ago, but let’s just say Belgrade won my heart. The little shops hidden away in holes in the wall (literally), the friendly (yet slightly suspicious) people and the food was an amazing experience and i would definitely recommend people to visit.

 

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On the bus tour with The Gypsy’s parentals

On the day of our arrival we decided to do a hop-on-hop-off bus tour of the city and then proceeded to explore the forts, city wall and the spot where the Sava and the Danube rivers meet. It is SPECTACULARLY beautiful! Most of the city has recovered from the bombings but there are still a few buildings that carry the scars of a civil war less than two decades ago.

We discovered the cutest little pub, lemon beer (which, let’s face it, is the best thing in that heat) and the most amazing food…seriously…the food! Three of my absolute favourite food related Serbian things are Börek (The cheese one to be specific), kajmak (it’s a cheese) and Cevapi.

It’s hard to only choose a few random shots as there were so many amazing things, but if i had to post ALL my photos this post would be miles long. So instead I’ve picked a few pictures below which I think sums up most of the highlights of this spectacular city:)

A little something I learnt

I recently learnt a little something. Truth be told it’s probably something I’ve always known, but being forced to face the reality of it has been good for my soul. The truth is….no one gives a damn.

Let me catch you up. If you follow me on twitter or Instagram, you will be well aware of the fact that I recently went on a long and incredibly beautiful holiday. The trip related blog posts are still a WIP but they will hopefully be up soon enough. We spent a number of days in Serbia and then slowly made our way to Croatia and finally spent the last 2 weeks on an island off the coast of Croatia. It was delightful, and we spent a lot of time soaking up the sun and swimming in the mirror like Adriatic Sea.

While I was packing for this exquisite trip the Gypsy and his mom (who lives on the island!!!!) advised that I pack more than one bathing suit/bikini/whatever tickles my fancy as we will spend a lot of time swimming and sunbathing and sometimes having a second one to change into so that you don’t walk around in wet gear is nice. The swim wear packing caused me a bit of stress and frustration…and here’s why.

I am currently over weight. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not obese…I’m not FAT….i’m not HUGE, but I am over weight in that I have curves, I could definitely stand to lose some weight and I’m probably the biggest I’ve ever been in my life. It’s caused me a lot of frustration of late because I eat healthy, I exercise, I sleep better and I drink a ton of water, yet nothing seems to make a difference. I tried to lose weight in the months preceding our trip, but because I was traveling all the time before we left this wasn’t as easy as I had hoped.

The really funny thing is, even though I could definitely stand to lose some weight I don’t have massive issues about it. Because, while my ex was all about body image and being fit and trim and thin and concerned about what other people think, the Gypsy smothers me in love and attention and tells me how beautiful I look (even when I really don’t…bless his soul). Without realising it he led me to a space in recent months of focusing on being healthy rather than thin and being happy and comfortable in my own skin. It’s been an amazing journey and one I am certainly grateful for. It doesn’t mean that I don’t still aim to lose the weight…it just means I’m not obsessing about it. And that makes me a lot healthier in all aspects.

But back to my original story. The whole point of the above explanation was to make it clear that I am most certainly NOT bikini ready. In addition, I’m extremely self-conscious about the huge scar running all across my diaphragm area as a result of the gangrene related butchery, which has caused me to rather wear tankini tops of late. Not to mention the fact that in my entire adult life (even when I was much thinner) I don’t think ever wore ONLY a bikini. I always wore a pair of swim shorts. It was just the thing to do when you didn’t exactly look like a runway model. Everyone did it that way and quite frankly there are always comments about the less than model like people who dare to walk around in only bikinis.

So I packed two tankinis and a pair of swim shorts. On the day of our departure the Gypsy managed to convince me to pack my bikinis too, stating that I might change my mind and regret not being able to get  a better tan while I was there. I laughed at the thought but shoved two in my suitcase (just in case), mostly to humour him.

When we got to the island and went for our first swim I confidently went out in my tankini and swim shorts…because this is what I always do. But I ended up abandoning the tankini tops within two days and the swim shorts two days later. For the first time in my adult life I was swimming, walking around and sun bathing in a bikini ONLY in PUBLIC! The horror!

But here’s a thing I learnt from the locals about body image. NOBODY CARES! The island was covered in locals walking/swimming/sunbathing in the smallest garments you could possible imagine and sometimes even nude. It didn’t matter if you were small, big or quite frankly huge….you wore whatever you wanted to…and nobody even gave a second glance. There was none of the sniggers and whispers I had grown accustomed to in SA when a really massive middle aged woman started walking around in the tiniest bikini I had ever seen. In fact, no one but me even gave her a second glance.

I’ve learnt that South African are actually pretty damn judgemental. I learnt that the only person truly judging me for how I look is me and the ONLY person causing me to be self-conscious about how I look and what I dress in is me. I learnt to get over myself….and it was an amazing and freeing moment.

It helped that the Gypsy’s only reaction when I finally appeared in a bikini only was to give me a hug and a kiss, gleefully exclaim that he’s so happy that I’m finally completely comfortable and then proceed to tell me that he has no idea what I was on about, because I look fabulous. (this guy…so sweet)

So the lesson I learnt: nobody cares. So embrace who you are! Stop worrying and have fun. Life is too short to worry about other people will think when most of them don’t matter anyway. Life is definitely too short to put off doing things because you don’t look the right way. Live in the moment and embrace where you are. Because NOBODY CARES!

Dear Europe (Day 7)

Yes, it’s been a year since my trip…I realise this….but I’ve already spoken about my lack of blogging in the last year here.  After much consideration I decided to complete my posts on my trip regardless of the time-lapse.  They are lovely to look back on and with so many awesome memories they are definitely worth putting up.  So I’ll steadily be posting the last few days of my holiday last year.

So….Day 7…the day I meet up with my tour group from TopDeck Tours.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous.  Here I was all on my own in a strange country where very few people understood me waiting to join a group of people I didn’t know from a bar of soap.  The group was only scheduled to arrive at 2pm as I was joining up with an already existing group who had been traveling for a week already, so I went for a bit of a walk about in the morning to explore my immediate surroundings.

Rome is AMAZING!  It is the strangest mix of absolutely ancient history and modern buildings all rolled into one.  There is so much to see and the locals LOVE the foreigners…it’s the strangest thing…they just want to chat to you and find out all about you.  I wasn’t brave enough to explore the public transport system yet at this point, but I headed back to the hotel lobby to meet up with my group.  They were slightly late, but when they walked in I was engulfed in a group of loud, all over the world awesomeness.  The group consisted of people from Australia, Canada, America, China, Italy, Japan, Korea (north and south), Nieu-Zeeland and Romania, and of course when I joined South Africa.  I was immediately included and regarded as a friend and some of them I still consider friends:) The tour guide, Micelle, is actually originally from Rome, so we were in for a treat.

Shortly after their arrival we set off on a walking tour of all the major areas of Rome.  Micelle showed us how the public transport system works and gave us a map of the city with all the major touristy things marked and he made sure to indicate to us where our hotel was situated.  The walking tour basically teaches you all about the city and its history without going into all the major touristy places….so we went to the Colosseum but we didn’t go in etc. There would be plenty of that the next day when we were free to roam Rome.  It was during this walkabout that we ate ALL the gelato in Rome…truly, nobody makes it like the real Italians.

A street scene from our walkabout in Rome
A street scene from our walkabout in Rome

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The Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain

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That's our tour guide, Micelle, sitting up top telling us a story...
That’s our tour guide, Micelle, sitting up top telling us a story…

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A mixture of old and new
A mixture of old and new
The Colosseum..it is majestic!
The Colosseum..it is majestic!

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We ended off the day in a quaint little restaurant where we had a choice of all kinds of awesome Italian dishes and wine and where I scored a LOT of free wine due to the fact that I was South African.  I thought Micelle had been joking when he said I will probably find that people in general would be drawn to me because of where I come from..he was not wrong. I even got a tour of the wine cellar:) After dinner we went out for a couple of drinks and then headed back to our hotel…super tired and excited for all the exploring we would do the next day.

Love
Ruby
xxx

 

Dear Europe (Day 6)

The day I leave my travel companions behind in Switzerland and jet off to Italy had finally arrived. I was super nervous and super excited all at the same time.  I was up early to make sure all my stuff was packed and ready to go and then all 6 of us jumped on a bus to Zürich.  The plan was that we would lock up my suitcase in a locker at the train station in Zürich (as I would need to catch a train to the airport from there later in the day) and explore Zürich (read visit the Lindt factory) for the day.

Zürich is an incredibly beautiful city, and I’d be lying if I said that I wouldn’t love to live there. It is an interesting mix of old and new and not a second goes by without feeling safe and secure…even when you’re a female walking all on your own. There are fresh water fountains throughout the city, everything is CLEAN and we were amazed to find tons of people just swimming or floating along the river going through the city. Apparently this is the “in” thing to do during summer in Zürich.

How awesome is this piece of "art" I found in a shop window?
How awesome is this piece of “art” I found in a shop window?
MINIac for life:)
MINIac for life:)
The view from one of the many parks....those dots in the water = people swimming/bobbing
The view from one of the many parks….those dots in the water = people swimming/bobbing
Proof that I was there... :P
Proof that I was there… 😛

 

One last selfie with G before leaving
One last selfie with G before leaving
Fresh water fountains everywhere in the city
Fresh water fountains everywhere in the city

We spent the day visiting little markets and exploring and finally spent a good amount of time and money in the Lindt factory. Guys….this place is heaven…I swear. You can smell the chocolate from blocks away and because everything smells like delicious Lindt chocolate even the lampposts and side walks look good enough to eat. And then you walk inside and there is just chocolate EVERYWHERE…more kinds than we could ever imagine here.  Right in the centre is a Lindt ball pick and mix bar with so many different balls…..the choices seemed endless.  I bought a fortune of chocolate….for me, as gifts, for my folks…for me.. *side eyes*.

A rather limited view of the inside of the store at the factory...Lindt FTW
A rather limited view of the inside of the store at the factory…Lindt FTW

And then it was time for me to catch the train to the airport.  I was a little sad to say goodbye to my friends…it had been an amazing week with them.  But I was super excited to see Italy and France and to meet new people. Switzerland had stolen my heart. It is an amazingly beautiful country. EVERYTHING about it is awesome…and even now as I think back I can’t recall a single thing I didn’t love.  But my Alitalia flight was waiting and Italy was calling my name.  Tonight I’ll be sleeping in a hotel room in Rome and tomorrow…tomorrow will be filled with Italian adventures.

Love
Ruby
xxxxx

Dear Europe (Day 5)

On day 5 we got up early and hopped on trains and buses to Bern to meet up with one of my travelmates’ sister and her husband who were joining us for the weekend from the UK. After a rather sweet emotional reunion between brother and sister we made a mad dash back to Lucerne in order to catch the ferry to Mount Pilatus.

Now Pilatus had been one of our pre-decided destinations for various reasons.  a) The view is AMAZING! b) The top can be reached with the world’s steepest cogwheel railway and c) During the summer months you can ride the longest toboggan track in Switzerland.  Basically a non-ice version of bobsledding…I mean really..who wouldn’t want to do that?????? We decided to experience this particular tourist attraction in the “Golden round trip”, being the Ferry from Lucerne, cogwheel up, cable cars halfway down, bobsledding!!!!!, cable car the rest of the way down and bus back to Lucerne.

Going up!
Going up!

It is hard to try to explain the view and the steep climb as the cogwheel train ascends the mountain.  One moment you’re right next to Lake Lucerne, and the next moment it is WAAAAY below and everything is looking small.

Heading into one of the many tunnels on the way up
Heading into one of the many tunnels on the way up

The view from the top is unbelievable…in fact I don’t have any words to explain just how beautiful it is, so I’ll just post some pictures and you can see for yourself:)

The view from the top...that little red dot is the first cable car we will be taking down
The view from the top…that little red dot is the first cable car we will be taking down
This little church can ONLY be reached by foot.
This little church can ONLY be reached by foot.

The most fun part of our day was without a doubt the bobsledding.  I must admit that while I was awaiting my turn my nerves got the better of me.  This is like a rollercoaster ride except that you control the speed and nothing is actually keeping you attached to your ride o_O I had to wait quite some time as most of my companions had chosen to go down very slowly and the waiting just made me more and more nervous.  The operator gave me one look and asked me what car I drive back home.  Upon hearing I drive a Cooper S he laughed and said I’d be fine once I start, I obviously love speed…and he wasn’t wrong:) I LOVED it! AND I clocked one of the fastest speeds going down.  Once you reach the bottom your little sled is connected to a cable and they pull you all the way up again..giving you some well deserved time to take in the breathtaking view.

And I'm off on a summer bobsled ride!
And I’m off on a summer bobsled ride!
Heading into the tunnel
Heading into the tunnel
Being pulled back up...almost at the top again
Being pulled back up…almost at the top again

I was heading off to Italy the next day, so we spent the evening preparing and enjoying a Swiss delicacy at home. A gorgeous cheese fondue prepared by G. I couldn’t have asked for a better week in Switzerland….but the most exciting part of my adventure was yet to come and this time I’ll be on my own.  I was nervous and excited all rolled into one.

Love
Ruby
xxxx

Dear Europe (Day 4)

The one thing I had insisted on doing while I was in Switzerland was to visit the Jung Frau. And while I was the one who originally insisted upon it during planning, everyone was super excited about by the time we got to Switzerland.  So we woke up super early on day 4 and raced to our local bus station to catch the first bus out of town.  Now a lot of people will suggest that you buy tickets to go up via the internet the day before.  This is a brilliant plan as long as you’re not African.  You see…we tried very hard to book our spots before hand, but none of the African countries were listed as “approved” on the website, so we were unable to secure our tickets and therefore had to leave as early as possible and hope for the best.  Sadly….this particular dream of mine was not to come true.

We were super early and managed to catch the sunrise en route...it was spectacular!
We were super early and managed to catch the sunrise en route…it was spectacular!

We were there super early, but all the spots for the day had been filled.  For a while we walked around town feeling all sulky and miff and without any real plans for the day.  We had been so sure that we’d be able to go up that we never even considered the possibility of failure. Then finally we decided to have a cup of coffee and a croissant at one of the little coffee shops.  I’m not sure if it really was the very best coffee and croissant I’d ever had…but it certainly felt that way and the friendly manner of the people around us and the realisation that we were in Switzerland and surrounded by beauty no matter where we went soon dawned on us again and we were determined to save the day.

The water around this area was very different - still en route
The water around this area was very different – still en route
Attempting to cheer each other up...our sulkiness was quite bad...I won't lie
Attempting to cheer each other up…our sulkiness was quite bad…I won’t lie

 

With some advice from my friend’s mother (who knows Switzerland better than most) we hopped on the first train to Murren.  This little town was super beautiful and had amazing views, and while it might not have been going up to the Jung Frau, it was still pretty spectacular.

How gorgeous is the little town of Murren?
How gorgeous is the little town of Murren?
The train going up the mountain from Murren
The train going up the mountain from Murren

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Our lunchtime view
Our lunchtime view
An OLD swiss home
An OLD swiss home
More glaciers! It's a bit ridiculous how excited I got every time I spotted one of these
More glaciers! It’s a bit ridiculous how excited I got every time I spotted one of these

We ended the day with a beautiful ferry ride across Lake Lucerne from the station in Lucerne to the port closest to home.  I could help but think how awesome it must be to live and work there.  Take the trains/buses to work in the morning, then after work you take the ferry home, have a drink on board and see the beauty all around you.  I would be the calmest and nicest person ever. No traffic, no rude people..amazing no?

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Because sometimes you have to look at the world through rose tinted glasses
Because sometimes you have to look at the world through rose-tinted glasses