The scenery slowly changes from flat to hilly to mountainous as we approach our destination, a small village at the foot of the tallest mountain in Serbia. We are making our way south, staring out the windows at the blazing hillside with its oranges and yellows and reds. Crisp air outside, faded cigarette whiffs inside.
Through the villages we drive, one after another, back to back, seeing both the “entering” and “exiting” signs that say, “That was a village. Yes, those ten houses were a village.”
These once tiny villages are shrinking in size. Not in land but population. The youths, craving modern life, and the adults, out of the necessity of supporting their families, leave the tiny rural villages for bigger cities. This exodus results in the villages slowly fading away while still existing. The infrastructure is present but the inhabitants have vacated. Ghost towns villages.
A majority of the houses have rotting wood, missing doors, and completely downtrodden everything else. Driving down the streets, every other house is empty. Or maybe they just look that way.
The inhabited buildings are distinguishable by the smoke pouring out their chimneys, heating the house, fueling the stove, and providing a cemetery for the countless cigarette butts. Although in better shape, many of them still look questionable to someone used to living in a country where housing excellence is expected.
The original village houses were created with a mixture of hay and mud, wood paneling, and other techniques long abandoned for more modern methods, but even these modern methods wouldn’t qualify as habitable by US standards.
But they are still standing and as we pull through the gate and exit the car, taking deep breaths of the mountain air, we are ushered into one of these near century old houses.
It’s not 1970 anymore. It’s now 1910.
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This is part 2 of the Serbian Slava Story. Here’s Part 1. More coming soon. Also, a video recap!