At 8:30am we set off for Novi Pozar. Vlad has called in sick, and Innes and Mija are on vacation, so Mija’s brother Mirko is driving, and Milena from the NCSC office are acoompanying me. The trip to Novi Pozar is about five hours the the South West of Belgrade. The country side near Belgrade, and to the north is relatively flat, but the further south west you go, the more mountainousness the terrain becomes. The highway is narrow and winding for the last 2 ½ hours of the trip and it reminds me of travelling on the Crowsnest highway (#2) in Southern BC. The landscape is green, hilly and beautiful. Not quite as mountainousness as in BC, but familiar never the less.
We arrived at the Novi Posar courthouse right at 2pm and were greeted by Vice-President of the court and their Systems Administrator. We talked to them about the proposed donation of a computer, printer and internet connection, and possibly a photocopier and fax machine. They are expecing a large donation of computers similar to what the Kragujevac Courthouse will be getting, but they are in next phase of the EU project, and they are not sure when they will get the computers. We visited the reading room in the courthouse and there is plenty of space for the equipment. They have only dial-up internet for two computers in the building, so we talked about options for getting high speed internet for the library computer, and possibly for other computers in the building. It was a good meeting.
At the end of our visit, the Vice-President offered us the services of the courthouse driver to take us to an middle-age monistary just outside the city. The monistary is called Sopocani, and was built by King Uros I in the first half of the 13th century. It was partially destroyed at least twice by Turkish armies over the years, and was abandoned for 200 years before work on its restoration began in the 1930’s. There are still several beautiful fresco’s in the building, that withstood the weather during the 200 years that it had no roof. It is currently in use again as a monistary. While we were visiting, one of the top leaders of the Eastern Orthadox church in Serbia visited the monastic complex and walked into the church while we were admiring the outside of the chapel. I purchased some trinkets from the little store on their site, and then we headed back down the mountain, and into town.
We ate dinner at the hotel we are staying at. I had the equivalent of the meat lovers special, which consisted of a variety of traditional Serbian grilled meats along with a bit of rice and vegetables. It was very good. We then went for a walk around the down town area of the city. Novi Posar probably doesn’t have more than one hundred thousand inhabitance, but I counted at least four mosques in the down town area. About eighty percent of the population in the city are Muslim. That percentage is much lower in the country side however. There are many little shops, selling cloths and jewlery in the narrow streets in the older part of town. I will do some shopping before we leave in the morning.
It is very interesting. Right now sitting in my hotel room I can hear a man from a near by mosque singing the evening prayer over a loudspeaker. I can also hear other men singing along with him. I wonder which direction Mecca is from here. One other thing that Mirko (our driver) pointed out to me as we were walking around this evening, is that there are almost no women sitting in the side walk cafes. While there are very few women who wear the traditional Muslim head covering, other traditions are firmly entrenched. I asked Mirko why there were some many problems between Serbians and Muslim Albanians in Kosovo, but everything seemed fine in Novi Pazar. His response was that he thought it was only a matter of time before there were problems. Given the history of the breakup of Yugoslavia over the past ten years, I can understand why he is pessimistic. I hope he is wrong though.