Welcome back to the Balkans! If you missed part 1, you can find it here. Together we went to Albania, Kosovo and Serbia, exploring riddles and layers of multifaceted histories. Thank you for the lovely feedback from so many of you.
Still in Serbia, I was introduced to the dragons of Montenegro, before venturing deeply into Romania. All along, I often felt as though I was running through the pages of a thick open book full of colour, every page deeply gripping my attention. Life all at once, overwhelming quick successions of new impressions at times, then getting stuck when two pages seemed glued together until they suddenly came apart and I could move on. Join me once more in a Serbian village, and come with me to Transylvania, with it’s strong ties to a Saxon past in some areas, Hungarian villages in others, and Gypsy communities all across.
Rogača in Serbia
Rogača, the village in which I spent a full month, is one of the most prosperous ones in Serbia, situated between two marble mountains, one cracked open to extract its treasure and frequency – worlds are clashing. My local friend and I speak to a village member who tells us of shame about old, traditional buildings on their property, made from local clay and straw; shame because these buildings don’t fit into a modern life which is perceived as the status quo and viewed as a measure of success. The old beauties are sprinkled in between modern houses made of concrete and highly chemical, imported bricks – the pride of the family. The breathing, living edifices are falling apart – one is used as a chicken coop, well at least it gives the chicken a healthy home. When we ask why we are told that there is no money to maintain these treasures. In reality very few financial resources are needed as the local soil is rich with clay, and straw is piling up in many sheds.
An old man, the grandpa of the family, who is roasting an Easter lamb on a stick over a fire admits that he feels the difference between the natural and the synthetic, “but no one wants these anymore”. My friend suggests to the family to renovate one of the old beauties and to offer it as an accommodation to digital nomads rather than driving to Belgrade for work every day, getting sick from endless commuting and unhealthy city work environments. I like the idea. So many of us are craving a return to natural building and here it is still part of the land, but falling into pieces unvalued, unseen.
A primary school teacher who lives in the village of Rogača, but works in Sopot, a nearby town, tells us about recent changes of her work conditions. Teachers and parents used to meet twice per month to discuss, exchange, connect. In 2020 everything was moved online, password-secured social media groups were formed to ‘safely’ continue the conversation. The switch back to personal exchange never happened. Now she has to continuously follow the posts in the online group for teachers, the group for parents, the group for administration – you are getting the picture. We met her on a Sunday morning. She was in front of her phone scrolling though new posts, telling us how she has developed an eye disease over the last 2 years, and how her eyes and head often hurt from the endless hours of staring at the screen. There is only one way forward: to break out of these systems together and to create something new rooted in our own initiative and wisdom. It is time to get very busy with building what we wish to see and what we want to inherit to our children. This world can be anything we want it to be. We are shaping our surroundings and communities every day with our choices – for better or worse.
A member of a different family of the same village called us crazy because we enthusiastically picked up the old, large and heavy wooden door frames that had ended up on their garbage pile. We tied them to my friend’s trailer and she explained to me how they will become the frame for a little tool storage building – the walls will be made from hemp and clay. We position the frames on her property and can already see ourselves sit inside with a cup of coffee, admiring the view over her pond, listening to what sounds like a hundred frogs singing.
In Serbia it has become illegal to sell the medicinal hemp tea, and to grow hemp from one’s own seeds. The seeds have to be purchased from centralised, controlled providers, every year anew. Inspections of the fields take place unannounced and at any time. No freedom on one’s own property. Medicinal tea kept away from a people which has grown and used this plant for hundreds of years. Hemp does not contain the components of cannabis varieties which are smoked for the experience of altered states. Why are we going along with this?
Still in the same village of Rogača I find non-pasteurised, young goat cheese, something which is now forbidden to trade in many countries in the name of safety. This cheese is alive. It does not clog my system. It is nourishing and I don’t need much of it to meet my needs. The goats from whom the milk is taken are not terrified like the sheep I have encountered everywhere across the pastures of western Ireland who run away in panic when I am 100m away.
Rogača is a beautiful village with a special frequency, and I hope that the so desperately needed changes here, throughout Serbia and across this planet will happen, that the chained dogs and locked away chicken and pigs of Rogača, Greece, Romania will soon run free once more, that the people of Serbia can recognise their wealth, break through the anxiety left behind by recent NATO bombings of this beautiful country. Everything can be healed and there is no limit to what we can build.
The dragons of Montenegro
I have not traveled to Montenegro, but my Serbian friend has. She has lived in this beautiful country which her mom’s side of the family is strongly connected to, and she still has a tourist business there. She told me a story that I would like to share with you. I was watching a video, quietly and half-hidden because it was about scientific research on dragon myths around the world and I felt awkward expressing my curiosity about the topic. When I finally told her what I was doing her reaction was a great surprise. Instead of ridicule or polite silence she shared how she once witnessed 3 dragons during a thunderstorm. It was not a vague sight, but an experience that she was able to describe in great detail.
During thunder and lightening which she was watching from her balcony, 3 dragons appeared suddenly out of a large cloud. She described them as electric beings. The structure of the body which would be the equivalent to our bones was lit up while the surrounding material was dark but still visible against the night sky. The shape was very clear, with short tails, only one head (many myths describe dragons with several heads), a pair of wings. They were large, crossed the bay which laid in front of her, and appeared to attack a mountain on the opposite site of the water in powerful ways. They then disappeared into that same mountain. Gone. The whole event only lasted a few seconds.
My friend said: “I don’t know how they perceive us, maybe in the same way we perceive ants. They are clearly of a completely different world and have nothing to do with and no interest in us humans.” She said that very clearly. Curiously on the same hill in which the dragons disappeared there are several religious buildings which show a variety of dragon symbols on the outside. The names of the families and the mountain also include the word dragon in various ways. Another world? Whose world? Just something to think about…
Romania – again so many layers. In some villages of northern Transylvania where I stayed for an 8-day work exchange, only Hungarian language is spoken. Some people have never left their villages. On the other hand, in towns with a Saxon history such as Sibiu I ran into large communities of Germans with their art, music, religious preferences and typical traditional architecture. Sprinkled through it all are gypsy houses and communities of bright, alive colours, some with mirrors around all windows on the outside of the building. Women are dressed in beautiful, colourful dresses and easily recognisable for their ethnicity.
Upon entering the country from Belgrade on a large van run by what seems to be the only company that offers public transport between northern Serbia and Romania, I first went to Timisoara. A city full of history, parks and green spaces along the Bega river. At the hostel, bent over a map, an inspiring very young Danish woman explained to me how the city still shows a remnant of its previous star-like, hexagonal shape – a design which used to be typical for cities across Europe. Naarden in the Netherlands is an impressive, largely unaltered example of such perfect symmetry – in this case two overlaying hexagons – so is Palmanova in Italy, Almeida in Portugal and Terezín in the Czech Republic. Why this design? For military purposes we are told. Really? How does such beauty, obvious skill and precision fit into the picture of a history of gradual human development towards higher levels of sophistication in recent centuries? Time to question the narratives…
On the road again the very next day I feel a profound change in frequency west of Deva, leaving behind the endless, flat fields of industrial chemical farming which dominated the scenery since Belgrade. At last we entered a world of green forest-covered hills, and beautiful traditional villages – the Carpathian mountains. Life once more unfolding in front of me. A sigh of relief escaping my lungs. So much beauty. Some of Europe’s last remaining relatively old forests are what I connected with Romania before coming here. Now I begin to sense that reality which stayed with me throughout Transylvania, then south along the Olt river, into Bulgaria.
A profound concert in Sibiu
In Sibiu I attended a concert at the Lutheran church which is part of the old Saxon history and community here. Being German I thought I should see and feel what it is like. ’Messias’ by G.F. Händel was played. The contrast in frequency and style between Lutheran and orthodox left a deep impression on me, and has never been so vividly in my face before. Earlier on that same Sunday I visited an orthodox church in Sibiu and witnessed incredible singing voices. In Serbia my friend and I missed the orthodox Easter liturgy in the old town of Belgrade but met some of the singers in the parking lot right afterwards. These wonderful people decided to sing for us right there next to the cars. It was incredible. I don’t know how to put it into words. Something happened with my body when I listened. The notes, the range, the aliveness – entirely different from the Messias concert.
Then the difference between the churches. Colourful paintings and mosaics – many made from natural materials – a representation of incredible art work, abundance, a deep sense for harmony, versus large grayish, empty walls. Simplicity does not have to be a downgraded monotony. I know I may offend some people by writing this so openly – my mom has been affiliated with the Lutheran church, and has been an active member for many years – but I have the need to express my honest perception because there is more to it than personal preference. There is a difference in frequency, in aliveness, which is very real and which is visible not only in the more recent historical unfolding of religions, but also in every other aspect of our societies: music, education, architecture, farming, medicine etc. Are you ready to see?
The experience of Messias was intensified when I read the lyrics of sin and sacrifice, and compared them to the message conveyed by the two Serbian orthodox songs I heard in that Belgrade parking lot: the wish of a long life for my friend and me, and deep connection with the divinity of life, with ourselves, found from the inside out. Not a coincidence that I ended up in this Lutheran church in Sibiu when Messias was performed but a deep insight into the history of my home country, and of this planet, that felt like a slap in my face due to its strength and profoundness – the deep physical experience of something I had been very aware of before, but never seen as clearly as on that evening.
Transylvania – Living stones and Earth-connected schools
In the villages of northern Transylvania I saw a school embedded in a stunning landscape of forests, meadows and hills, with large greenhouses in which young people learn how to grow food. That food is then used in the school’s kitchen – a beautiful wooden old-style building with wooden benches and tables on which the fruit of the work is enjoyed during lunch breaks. Some of the produce is sold and goes towards covering costs of schooling, increasing affordability of education. I liked it very much. We bought freshly picked cucumbers and were gifted bananas (the latter not grown locally).
Another day, my workaway host and I went on a forest walk and found friends in the mud of a small creek. Trovants – the growing, or living stones of Romania form in areas of mineral- and sediment-rich water and are considered a type of sandstone concretion. Growing as if alive they are usually round or elliptical, some are perfect spheres. Reading about these beings I learned that their cross section often features rings resembling those found in trees. I can’t stop touching and admiring these stony creatures of which I had heard 2 years ago. Entirely forgotten was their presence in Romania and my happiness was great upon their encounter. I love this country for its nature, and also saw bears and deer during the same forest walks – very nourishing.
Sadly, from local people I also learn about the lack of community in the Hungarian villages and across Romania in general. Lost is the sense of togetherness and belonging, the daily unfolding of mutual support, the desire to shape one’s environment as a coherent unit, and the compassion that we all know and long for. People stay to themselves, emphasising difference rather than what binds us together. An Adventist church gathering on Sabbath felt like a short prearranged procedure – a strange combination of world news and religious texts and song – with villagers arriving 5min before and leaving within 5 min after the event – no exchange, no spontaneity, no connecting. I left thankful for the invitation into this space and for the young man who sat behind me and quietly translated from Hungarian to English throughout the entire event, but I felt perplexed and didn’t speak much for the rest of the day. Yet this same man who translated is one of several inspiring local high-frequency young people who are taking their lives into their own hands and are working towards and embodying change. Beautiful futures emerging…
A poem for you
This poem was written in the incredibly beautiful and historically rich town of Sibiu, in Transylvania, Romania.
An old triangular square in a town full of beauty and mystery.
All along its cobblestone stairs flows the richness of its history.
Pigeon flocks and age old rocks
Summer peace beneath the tower clocks.
Frequencies of forgotten times,
When life was rich and full of rhymes.
When food was alive, when we didn’t know worry, or strive.
A moment in time dissolving day and night.
Do you remember those ages of water and light?
Every being shining so bright.
Every cell, every fiber of my body knows
And is craving that love in every hour that flows.
Where is everyone? Where is the match?
Why am I feeling alone in a new world so hard to catch?
Inside there is music, there is silence out of time.
And suddenly around a corner I find a reflection of what is mine.
A long moment of standing still right here and now,
Yet nowhere, never and no need to bow.
The same material beyond form and shape
That gives me life and can’t be recorded on tape.
There are no words but it is so alive.
Immersed in it my surroundings thrive.
A golden touch of memory
Written in the land – what a treasure, what a symphony.
A remnant of old technology
Singing at a beautiful frequency.
Lost and forgotten, yet right here.
What is it? How to grasp it? How to return to its gear?
No need to ask. It is happening now.
A dream unfolding, beyond imagination, yet so loud.
Recognition, connection – it’s becoming real every day.
Inside us, it is us, no more delay.
1 thought on “The Balkans 2”
Thank you for this beautiful travelogue. It is so vivid, I feel almost like having been there through your writing and images. – The downgrade in frequency that happened to many religions seems so evident now, through your contrasting experiences of orthodox and Lutheran expressions. I also grew up around Lutheranism, I know what you are alluding to.