My first destination today were the Fruška Gora, the small range of hills just South of the Danube between the Croatian border and Novi Sad. The two highest peaks are just a bit over 500 metres, but since Novi Sad is as low as 70 metres, my ascent via Petrovaradin and Bukovac took its time toll, as did the hiking path indicated by google maps (and the printed map I had received at the Tourist Office at Novi Sad too), which had been made almost impassable by profusely grown (thorny) brambleberries, thistles and other itchy plants (not to mention the assaults of midges, mosquitos snd horse flies). It got immediately better, once I entered the shady forest, whose oak, beech and linden trees cover most of thehills. Particularly interesting is the etymology of the place name Fruška Gora: It originates in the old Serbian word ‚fruški‘, used for naming the Frankish people – which precisely is it’s German translation: ‚Frankenberge‘ or – as can be read in old documents ‚Frankenwald‘. The hills served back then as a natural border to the Frankish empire. Funny enough, and perhaps for the same reason, there is a ‚Frankenwald‘ in Northern Bavaria near Hof, where I grew up.
The Fruška Gora with more than a dozen surviving medieval Serbian monastries is considered in the Christian-orthodox world as one of the three holy mountains – the others being Mount Sinai with Saint Catherine’s monastery and Mount Athos with Hilandar monastery. It was a rather break-neck path leading down to the Grgeteg Monastery, where above the old monastery a brand new five-domed church had been built (and a gatehous was in full construction) in a somewhat nouveau rîche style: intricately carved snow-white marble (Carrara I wondered?) banisters, that looked like lace and would have fitted perfectly into the Taj Mahal, brand new mosaics with lots of awfully expensive looking golden, emerald- and sapphire-coloured pieces. Upon my (undesired?), in any case uninvited trespassing, I was approached by a very small old nun adressing me in Serbian and then, when it became obvious that I didn’t understand, she threw „russki?“, „polski?“ and finally a „nemački?“ at me, and gestured with her frail hand towards the church repeating continously „no blazing, no blazing“ which I interpreted as I would not get a blessing by the priest. Thus intimidated, I only peeked into the interior, where amidst plumes of frankincence the priest recited his rites. This being all too archaic for my taste, I took my bike, pushed it out of the monastery’s grounds and hit my pedals to put as quick as possible as much distance between me and this strange place (for me!) – that I skipped nearby Krušedol Monastery goes without saying!
Belgrade was still some sixty kilometres South of me, so I took the most direct and unfortunately also the busiest road into the Serbian capital and got there in the late afternoon. I took my time for a small tour of the old town and the forteress, found my restaurant for tonight (‚Manufaktura‘ – specialized in Serbian food, but the more refined variant) and checked eventually into my hotel ‚Constantine the Great‘ – for this Roman emperor was a born Serb (avant la lettre) from Niš.