Favorite spot on trip to Serbia has lots of patient people
The other day a few friends and I were discussing what prompted us to retire. The general consensus was the lack of patience.
This was not the instant gratification type of non-patience, but something much deeper.
Something that stirred a reaction in us that we didn’t like. It seems that as we get older we want time to be used more productively, expect people to act more responsibly, and undertakings to be completed more efficiently. None of those 10-20 year projects — especially if we personally have a major interest in it.
We saw patience exhibited many times over this past summer as we traveled down the Danube. Earlier I told you of the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral known as St. Sava in Belgrade which has been under construction since 1895, and still requires several human lifetimes before it can be called complete.
Today I want to tell you about one of my favorite spots we visited on our trip. It too involves a lot of very patient people. One morning our bus took us through a desolate looking landscape that is a home to thermo-power plants and coal mines in the area of Stari Kostolac, Serbia. We passed a grouping of small run down houses that were close to the river, evidentially homes for some of the plant operators.
The town consisted of the houses, many with small gardens; a school for grades 1-4; and a small café. The most interesting thing in the town was the Yugo in one of the garages.
As we got closer to our destination we passed a gypsy commune consisting of several large buildings in great disrepair. Some of the family members were in the yard and, as fascinating as it was, we were hesitant to look at them for fear of making eye contact. One would definitely not want to have a car or bus breakdown in this area.
As we neared our destination we saw in the distance large smoke stacks of the power plant. The area closest to us was farm land planted with fields of corn. The fields faded into bare land and then the massive power plant.
We learned that from 1850 to 1950 the coal mines used to fuel the plant were underground, but since that time they have begun strip mining. Land is being purchased from the farmers for the coal beneath it.
Between the green of the corn and the smoke stacks lies the exciting excavation of Viminacium. This was discovered in 1882, by a man named Mihailo Valtrovic, an architect and the first professor of archeology at the Collage in Belgrade.
He started the excavation with the help of 12 prisoners because the State couldn’t help him with a better work force. Just what is Viminacium? It is a city and military camp dating back to the first century AD and contains archaeological remains of temples, streets, squares, amphitheatres, palaces, hippodromes and Roman baths.
It had 40,000 inhabitants and was one of the biggest cities at that time. In addition, there is a cemetery with an area three to four times the size of the city. Because of the extraordinary geographic position as a port on the Danube, this became a wealthy and influential city. It was destroyed in 599.
As we approached the dig, all we saw were the buildings that house the ongoing work.
We went into the largest where we were able to walk through an area referred to as “The Balkan Pompeii” because of the number of gravesites that were uncovered.
In addition, there was a totally unlighted underground 40-foot tunnel which we were permitted to travel and off to the side of that were allowed, one at a time, to crouch into small burial sites with colorful fresco paintings.
We held onto ropes to guide us and could see the frescos only with very dim special lighting.
We visited another building covering the area where the public baths were being unearthed. This had been a huge facility in the city and was engineered to allow soaking tubs with varying degrees of heated water with the steam from the hottest water used to heat the floors.
It is interesting to note that the baths had been enjoyed by men and women together until the influence of Christianity caused them to bathe separately.
Those involved with the work of the excavation are competing for the land with those who want to strip the same land for coal for the power plant. The two are getting closer and closer and the sad part is that they are not at all compatible.
In 2010, only 2 percent of Viminacium had been excavated. Yet there are groups of people working to complete the unveiling of this city. Because of floods depositing soil in the area the city has become farther from the river bank. The workers have dreams of returning the area again into a port city.
People working here have a passion that is not often seen and although they realize they will never live long enough to see the final results they move ahead with great strength.
How many of us would start working on a project that we knew would not be completed for hundreds of years after we had left this earth? Emerson said “Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”