The awakening has given me the opportunity to see the surroundings of the hotel without a single person ... totally different image than we saw while we went for breakfast with the guys. The situation in the restaurant was similar to the hotel: only older! Sakis was stiff with his comments!
At the 9:30 a.m. we were able to depart a little later than our plan. The truth is that having been able to pull out the program of the previous day today was not anxious at all. So, following the road to NIS about 10km. after Kursumlija, we turned left to Blace, guided by signs to Kopaonik Natural Park (77km.). In the village of Blace we made a stop for refueling, and we found a shop that had a possibility of paying with VISA. On that occasion we made a short stop.
Sometime in the gas station stopped a motorcyclist on a Suzuki 250cc., apparently due to the presence of our motorcycles. We were asked were we come from. When we answered him, he made his cross and kissed his hand, showing the common belief that having the two nations, but especially the solidarity we feel. He left without saying anything. A little later, as we were ready to depart, he appeared again holding a bag of croissants. Knowing English, says: "... these are for you!!!». We honestly did not believe it! He went and bought something to cherry us. We started chatting and he told us about his trip with the motorcycle in Greece, his relation with the Greeks and how he liked it. We thanked him and shortly after we left. On the way a thought and a question I had created ... what was it that finally united us with this man: Origin, motorcycle, travel???
Approximately 30km after, we turned left (it was marked) and we found ourselves on a path that crossed a green area. The state of the road was fairly good and the traffic was minimal. As we continued, we were rising up hypsometrical and the scenery became more and more impressive and with more vegetation. After the village of Brece, we found the most impressive part of the route: it had very high trees - mostly fir -and a twisty road (in very good condition) which in many ways was parallel to a small raging river. Wherever I looked I saw incredible beauty!
Eventually we came across an open field to our left. We liked it and we stop to enjoy it more and we eat what our Serb friend treated us. The area had a small wooden bridge and a wooden gazebo. Looking better, you can see that this point was used for some rest. So what we did. By the time we decided to depart, there came a family. Something they said among themselves (from what I understand they would probably have said that we were Greeks), and then asked me in Greek if we are Greeks and where we travel to ... I was beginning to think now that most in this country probably know more Greek than English!
We continued to the beautiful winding path with comfortable turns. The altitude increased and the vegetation began to decline, creating alpine landscape. At the highest point of the route we were in 1800m. We stopped somewhere where we could enjoy the panoramic view of the Kopaonik Mountain. It was really impressive! After a while we met the namesake ski resort, from the most famous of Europe. The truth is that you could easily find the tourist development that exists in the region, while at the peak was been built an imposing chalet of stone and wood, that was fully harmonized with the surrounding area!
After a while we reached a junction where we followed the right direction to Josanicka Banja, with stunning scenery and a -maybe- even denser vegetation. In many places, you could not see the sky. Green everywhere! I really hoped that this journey will never end! Perhaps is from the most impressive that I had ever ridden... In the village of Josanicka Banja we made a stop at a cafe near the river, which was used as a beach by the locals. After about 10km. we found the main road connecting the towns Kraljevo and Novi Pazar. Our aim was to move south to spend the night in Raska or Novi Pazar. However, initially, we moved north to visit the most famous Orthodox monastery in Serbia, the Studenica.
In the village of Usce (20km), we found the junction where we turned left for the monastery (15 km). It was not difficult as there is a marking. The route was comfortable, which leads right in front of Studenica. We left our bikes and walked to the monastery surrounded by tall imposing walls. Before going inside we found a couple that was speaking Greek (!) once again! The woman was Serb and the man from Rethymnon(Greece). They were impressed that they saw us there, especially the man who remembered his youth, when he was traveling by motorcycle. We chatted a little and we entered the interior of the monastery within the walls.
The monastery of Studenica is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It is the mother church of all churches in Serbia. It was built on a fairly long time. In the first phase, projects were completed by the spring of 1196, by King Stefan Nemanja. His successors maintained it and expanded it, as it became known for its frescoes. It suffered terrible losses from an earthquake and a fire. However, it has been renovated and is now one of the major attractions of the country. In the interior houses the relics of Savva (third son of Stefan Nemanja), his mother and his wife. We sat a long time to enjoy it while we had the opportunity to talk to a priest who knew English.
Later we departed going southwards. The traffic was a bit high. In Raska said to try our luck for accommodation. But aside from the fact that it was a nice town, it had nothing special. We felt it would be better we stayed in Novi Pazar to have the opportunity to visit. So without much thought, we left. Our mistake is that we trusted the GPS and, as usual, we went from a bad path parallel to the main road. Hopefully was not for long...
Late in the afternoon we entered in Novi Pazar (= New Market), perhaps the most famous city that is dominated by the Muslim element. As soon as one reaches the center he understands this immediately! The mosque gave the mark of the region. Without knowing exactly where we go, we went in the Muslim district with its narrow streets and the old two-storey houses. Actually I felt that I was somewhere else. It came to me memories of other trips. We saunter lost in the streets, until we went to a main road. We stopped to discuss what to do.
We were approached from strangers that wanted to speak with us. But no one knew English, some little German. Most city residents are Muslim and have been immigrants in Germany. Eventually some youths volunteered to help us to find an accommodation. Indeed one of them with a motorcycle led us to a place (near center) were existed 2 hotels. We chose the second Palma Hotel (30€/double room + breakfast), which was recently partially renovated. Unfortunately the lack of water in the bath caused a temporary irritation, especially George Z, but eventually, we all make fun of it and everything was cool. This incident became the reason of comments and fun at the rest of the journey...
At 9pm we went for a walk in the central city square. It was crowded and the people became more as the hours passed. When we went there, from mosque loudspeakers sounded the voice of the imam, making us feel that we are at a country of the East. After a short tour on the main paved road with its many cafes, we arrived at a Turkish restaurant opposite of the city walls. We preferred to try local cuisine, ordering the same way as the previous day: "Bring us whatever you believe best..." We sat for a long time... The point was too good to observe the people who passed and those who sat in the square. The Muslim element was intense. Nevertheless you could see and contradictions: from the one side girls with headscarves and the other girls dressed in tight pants and high heels! A melting pot of cultures ... From our contact with the residents of this corner of the country I could describe them as "Balkan Muslims" ... with the exact etymology of the words...