Monday, June 30, 2008

Ostrog Monastery, Montenegro (June 22-23, 2008)

Ostrog Monastery was built directly into the side of a steep rocky mountain overlooking the Zeta River Valley in southwestern Montenegro. The Serbian Orthodox monastery was founded by St. Vasilije in the 17th century, and his body is enshrined in a small frescoed cave-chapel within the upper monastery. Today, the monastery is one of the Balkans' most popular pilgrimage sites for Orthodox Christians.
The view of the monastery from the winding road below
After a fire destroyed most of the complex, the monastery was rebuilt in the 1920s. The beautiful 17th century frescoes within the monastery's two cave-chapels survived the fire, but sadly, photos are not allowed. Prayer cards for sale in the monastery courtyard
A closer view of the monastery
Looking out over the Zeta River Valley from the monastery courtyard
The monastery at night. Basic lodging (mats and blankets) is provided free of charge for pilgrims and visitors.

Mostar, Bosnia and Hercegovina (June 21, 2008)

Mostar is a 14th century city in the south of Bosnia and Hercegovina, a few hours outside of Sarajevo. Mostar came under Ottoman rule in the 15th century and served as a chief administrative center for the Ottoman Empire in the region. The city was later absorbed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire during the 19th century and became part of Yugoslavia following World War I.

During the Bosnian War, Mostar was subject to an 18-month seige in which thousands of Bosniaks were injured and killed, and most of the town's buildings and its landmark 16th century Old Bridge were destroyed. The bridge and the historic Old Town were rebuilt in the late 1990s/early 2000s and together were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.
Mostar's famous landmark: the reconstructed Stari Most (Old Bridge) over the Neretva River. The Old Bridge was first built in 1556 to replace a wooden bridge; the 21st century reconstruction was done using the original 16th century techniques. Stari Most, with the historic Old Town behind. Note the man at the top of the bridge; at one time, young men would jump off the bridge just to impress the ladies, but today they'll jump off for 50 Euros!
The view of Kujundziluk (Old Town) from the top of Stari Most A closer view of the Old Town, with its cobblestones and Turkish-style shops
Inside the Koski Mehmed Pasha mosque, built in 1617 on the banks of the Neretva River
The view of Mostar from the minaret of Koski Mehmed Pasha mosque

More Photos(IV) of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Hercegovina (June 19-22, 2008)

Looking down on the Miljacka River and Sarajevo's many bridges from the old city walls. Sarajevo's most famous bridge is Latinska cuprija (Latin Bridge), where Gavrilo Princip assassinated Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, precipitating World War I.
Sun breaks through the clouds behind the 19th century neo-Gothic Cathedral of Jesus' Sacred Heart
A woman surveys her fields on the outskirts of town; in the background is Sarajevo Airport
The 16th century Goat Bridge linked central Europe with Istanbul along an Ottoman caravan route
The Miljacka River, with the green hills of Sarajevo behind

More Photos(III) of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Hercegovina (June 19-22, 2008)

A relic of the war. In the downtown area, some of these concrete scars have been filled in with red resin, earning the name "Sarajevo roses."
The Tunnel of Hope was built under the runway of Sarajevo Airport in 1992 to link the besieged city with the free territory beyond. The tunnel was used to transport people, food, communications cables, electricity and arms into the city. Today, a museum stands above the remaining part of the tunnel.
Crumbling buildings along the Miljacka River
An artist transforms an old artillery shell from the war into a decorative vase
One of Sarajevo's many graveyards; all of the gravestones date from 1992 to 1995

More Photos(II) of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Hercegovina (June 19-22, 2008)

Gazi Husrev Bey Mosque was built in 1531 and is considered the most important Islamic house of worship in Bosnia and Hercegovina. Approximately 80 percent of the Sarajevo population is Muslim.
A young woman sits in the courtyard of Gazi Husrev Bey Mosque People browse among Sarajevo's many craft shops and cafes. This street divides the city into the "old" town built by the Ottomans and the "new" town built by the Austro-Hungarians. A cat watches visitors at the Gazi Husrev Bey Mosque
Intricately tooled copper coffee sets on display in the Old Town. Bosnian coffee is served in such copper sets, with a piece of Turkish delight on the side.

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Hercegovina (June 19-22, 2008)

Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Hercegovina, is a riverside city nestled in a valley below steep green hills. Over its long and colorful history, Sarajevo has been inhabited by Illyrians, Greeks, Romans, Slavs, Byzantines, Ottomans, Venetians and Austro-Hungarians.

Centuries of Ottoman rule brought Islam to Sarajevo, along with many traditional Turkish influences that remain to this day. Under the 19th century Austro-Hungarian rule, the existing Turkish-style buildings were preserved amid the new European-style architecture. The resulting fusion of East and West is both beautiful and fascinating.

While it still bears many scars from the Bosnian War of the early 1990s, Sarajevo is a friendly and vibrant city that inevitably charms visitors.
One of Sarajevo's many quaint bridges over the Miljacka River
The National Library (previously the Town Hall) was built in the 19th century in the pseudo-Moorish style by the Austro-Hungarians. The building was severely damaged during the war and is still under reconstruction.
A busy square in the heart of Bascarsija, Sarajevo's Old Town. The Old Town dates back to the 15th century during the period of Ottoman rule, and its narrow cobblestone streets are lined with craft shops and coffee houses.The sebilj (kiosk-shaped public fountain) in this photo was built in the 19th century in pseudo-Moorish style and is a symbol of Sarajevo.
A busy street in the "new" (Austro-Hungarian era) part of town
Sarajevo at sunset, as seen from the old city walls above the town

More Photos of Belgrade, Serbia (June 17-19, 2008)

Kalemegdan Fortress, on a hilltop overlooking the two rivers, was originally built by the Celts, expanded by the Romans, and then rebuilt in the middle ages and again in the 18th century
Today the fortress grounds have been converted into a military museum and a large park with tennis and basketball courts
Vendors sell popcorn (a very popular street food in Belgrade) and traditional crafts, while people relax in the shade of the trees in Kalemegdan Park
The 19th century "?" Cafe is one of Belgrade's oldest restaurants. Since it sits across the street from the Orthodox Cathedral, the cafe was once called the "Cafe at the Cathedral"; church leaders objected to the name, so the owner's temporary solution was to hang a "?" outside of the building. The name stuck.
Elegant buildings near the Orthodox Cathedral in Belgrade's Old Town
Sveti Sava has been under construction for more than 100 years and is one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Belgrade, Serbia (June 17-19, 2008)

Belgrade is the capital of Serbia, situated at the junction of the Danube and Sava Rivers. Because of its strategic location between East and West, Belgrade (whose name means "White City" due to the color of its ancient hilltop fortress) has been ruled in turn by the Celts, the Romans, the Slavs, the Byzantines, the Bulgarians, the Hungarians and the Turks.

Over the centuries, the city has been burned, bombed and rebuilt so many times that locals call war Belgrade's 5th season following spring, summer, winter and fall. Despite its rocky past, Belgrade has an upbeat spirit and friendly, welcoming people who are determined to enjoy life.
One of Belgrade's main thoroughfares: Bulevar Kralja Aleksandra
Outdoor cafes and restaurants line Knez Mihailova, Belgrade's main pedestrian shopping avenue, and the surrounding streets
An old man in traditional Serbian costume plays the flute on Knez Mihailova
Traditional Serbian shoes for sale in Kalemegdan Park below the city's old fortress
The confluence of the Danube and Sava Rivers as seen from the top of Kalemegdan Fortress
The Classical-style Parliament building, from the early 20th century

More Photos (III) of Novi Sad, Serbia (June 15-17, 2008)

Old car, older buildings in the streets below Petrovaradin Fortress
The Memorial to the Victims of Fascism sits on the north bank of the Danube. Behind the statue, you can see the remains of one of Novi Sad's bridges that was bombed by NATO in 1999.
Bee hives buzz with activity in the small baroque town of Sremski Karlovci, on the outskirts of Novi Sad
Families, friends and people of all ages gather in the main square of Sremski Karlovci during the evening
Boys play soccer in Sremski Karlovci's main square while their parents sit and chat at the nearby cafes

More Photos (II) of Novi Sad, Serbia (June 15-17, 2008)

The neo-Gothic Church of the Virgin Mary sits in Trg slobode (Liberty Square) at the heart of the Old Town
An ornate building in the Old Town, with a funky tram car cafe in front
Cafes and colorful buildings line Zmaj Jovina, the main pedestrian street in Old Town
The 19th century Orthodox Bishop's Hall sits at the end of Zmaj Jovina. The onion dome in the background belongs to the 18th century Orthodox Church of St. George
A group of traditional folk dancers rehearses for an upcoming performance