Monday, June 25, 2007

Dinner In Vojvodina

The northern third of Serbia is taken up by the region of Vojvodina which enjoys the status of an autonomous province (just like Kosovo until it became a de facto state under UN control). Vojvodina, on the other hand, has never had secessionist ambitions, possibly because the flat land would make a guerrilla war very difficult, but more likely because the place is itself a mini melting pot of many different ethnic groups (26) and 6 official languages - Serb, Hungarian, Slovak, Roma, Croat and Rusyn. So, depending on the ethnic make-up of a particular town signs will generally be in two, or perhaps three, languages.

During the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia the region was heavily targeted and many of the bridges that cross the Danube linking Vojvodina to Serbia proper were destroyed (three alone in Novi Sad, the capital). Since it's so far removed from Kosovo and of little strategic importance (it was the equivalent of bombing Plymouth to help protect the Scots in their bid for independence) that some analysts suggested that NATO wanted to push Vojvodina into separating from Serbia as well (still others believed the main reason was that the Americans had too many old bombs lying around and wanted an amusing way of getting rid of them). That was never going to happen as the people are far more interested in parties than politics. During the day in their spare time most Vojvodians(?) are down by the beach not caring in the least that they are landlocked: they have the Danube, they have sand and they have parasols so they're bloody well going to the beach. And in the evenings there always seems to be some sort of free live music either in town or by the river, and lubricating this party machine, like the oil of mirth, is copious amounts of beer.

For those with a penchant for something a little more serious Vojvodina has its share of history and spirituality. When the Turks captured Serbia and pushed their borders up to the Sava and Danube many Serbs fled north setting up a new patriarchate and many monasteries in the area around Fruška Gora leading to the low hill to become known as the Holy Mountain. Today it is a national park and there are many hiking trails that wind through the forests linking the still-functioning monasteries. Going further back during the last days of the Roman Empire and the Tetrarchy, the city of Sirmium (today's Sremska Mitrovica) became one of the capitals of the empire. But before any history buffs start packing their bags and making travel plans there is woefully little to be seen from the time (even the standard low walls look frightfully forlorn), though the town has a nice art nouveau centre.

1 comment:

Ex-Shammickite said...

Great posts in the last couple of weeks, very informative and descriptive. I think you have a great future ahead of you as a Lonely Planet writer.