13-14 May 2006
Participants: Serbia Travel Club members, around 30 of them (us)
Text: a group of co-authors
Translation: Ivana

The first ecumenical gathering of the Serbia Travel Club members – the night climbing to Trem, on Suva planina (Dry Mountain).

The Novi Sad section of the Serbia Travel Club rub their eyes, wash their faces with cold water, yawn, curse and load backpacks on their backs. Slowly, a hill made of tents, backpacks, bags, jackets and whatnot rises at the railway station. It all began with Omu calling everybody to join the action of “setting up the south tracks”, which was supposed to be a small gathering of the STC members, but eventually turned out to be something really big. While we, still feeling sleepy, watched the sunrise, the train, late by definition, was slowly crawling into the platform. On shaky legs, the drowsy Novosadians climb the train, while Belgraders sleep blissfully, and in Nis it probably hadn’t even dawned yet :)

We picked up a couple more people in Belgrade, and with fifteen total we headed to Nis. The day was beautiful and through the whole weekend we had nothing but a nice weather...

Nina: And so, after a sleepless night, we turned out to be on the railway station in Belgrade. Dear Lord! Fifteen of us! The discount cards started flashing straight away - ETC, ISIC, Euro26, the local simple one in pink color with 30% discount for the local railway service…and it would do us well if they could put a discount for the number. Of passengers, of course :) There were no free seats in the compartments, but they were too small for all of us anyway. Some were selfish enough to plunge their asses into some dirty blue seats while the rest of us decided that we prefer to hang together in the spirit of true backpackers (the expressions on passengers’ faces I won’t even mention!), so we took our sleeping mats, spread them in front of the toilet in the last carriage and neatly settled there.

With the first “flip” of the whiskey bottle Nikola brought to celebrate his promotion into a full forum member, and the first spitted out olive pip that turned out of nowhere, a few drunkards from the near-by compartment, or is it enough to say just – the coupe :), decided they should examine what the today’s youth is doing. To examine, be on, with no bad intentions. And so, after voting, they sent the most handsome one among the equal, a nice, wrinkled uncle in a suite equally nice and wrinkled, in black-and-white check coat and the evident lack of teeth. And a breath that woke us all up in a second.

“Sniff, sniff, sniff ! What’s that over there?”, asked the delegate.

“Whiskey, uncle, we’re celebrating.”

“Give it over here!”, (the sounds are heard: gulp, gulp, gulp). “Mates, come over, there are some nice kids here. And where are you traveling to? Aaaaa, to Nis! Evryone’s gonna get off in Mladenovac now, no worries, kids, you’ll have empty seats for you in the compartment. I know, I’m a railway man, trust me. These mates here as well. We’re just returning from work!”, said the nice uncle, finishing the bottle with his mates and getting off in Mladenovac.

The journey by Serbia’s safe, ultra-fast railways was to be continued. And promising…

In some time of the day the train dragged itself to Nis where Dobri, fresh from Sofia, and our buddy Kika, one of the hosts from Nis, were waiting for us at the station.

At the Nis fortress, on the agreed spot, under an old oak-tree, the rest of the crew were waiting. There was thirty of us now.

And then the chaos began…The bus that was supposed to take us to the village of Donja Studena was about to leave in less then 45 minutes and we weren’t even half way there with buying all the camping necessities. The bigger fuss and mess the city of Nis hasn’t seen ever since the Turks left. A convoy of thirty people heavily loaded with backpacks, tents, food and a few bottles jammed the city streets. In the end, one part of the travelers rushed into the bus while the other part occupied the biggest lawn at the fortress and with a straw between the teeth started to loaf in the thick shadow.

Donja Studena (group 1)… Of course, we ran to the dilapidated bus that was already moving. Three youngsters from Nis, the freshly recruited members, stopped the vehicle in Matrix style and a fraction of us got on board. God knows what happened to the others. Inside - us, 15 more passengers and a mountain of backpacks, tents and sleeping mats. All rather bulky. While passing through beautiful countryside on our way to the mountain, the 3 above mentioned youngsters explained us in detail and showed where exactly the places Niska Banja and Gadzin Han were. We arrived in no time. Further down the road we came upon a tractor with an empty trailer. It didn’t take long to organize ourselves, although the old man kept saying that he’s only going one kilometer uphill. He has no idea how big a kilometer is with a backpack on your back and 6 more kilos of additional equipment in hands, mostly food :)

Donja Studena (group 2)…When we got off the bus, we met an elderly mountaineer who explained us the shortcut to the old mountain lodge and told us how many times he climbed Trem and that every year he does the Fruska Gora hiking marathon. The two grandpas almost got in fight over whether it takes three or three and a half hours to get to Trem. And then the climb began… some of us took it easier, for some it was harder to bear… An hour and a half uphill to the mountain lodge with all our equipment in hands and on backs. The other group was patiently waiting for us.

In the blink of an eye nine smaller and bigger tents were spread out in a wide circle in whose centre a fire cheerfully cracked while the night was slowly falling. Marina persistently tries to count the people but no one is standing still and the result is always different. While the fire was slowly growing the big group of young people were, with the help of stories, songs, grilled sausages and a kebab or two, and a bit of viljamovka and manastirka liquor, waiting for the new morning or a deep night to start conquering Trem, the highest peak of Suva planina (Dry mountain).

Somewhere around 2 o'clock in the morning the bustling around camp began and 20 or so people set forth to the peak to welcome the new day from a totally different perspective. The others remained, snoring, in the tents.

Irena: After we divided ourselves into the snorers and non-snorers… I spent the night (the whole 2 hours to be precise) in a non-snorers' tent with Nina, Kika and Jovan. It was dreadfully cold outside, pitch dark, an abnormal wind blew and I only waited for the moment it will take the tent away! That, however, didn’t happen. But something much worse did… Kika, our host and leader of the trip, started waking people up because it was time to go, and I had no intentions of leaving my beautiful warm sleeping bag. Jovan and Nina said in unison: “We are not going!” I was relieved for not being the only one and just turned to the other side. But no way, Hose! Kika was persistent and kept coming every 2 minutes to shake us up: ” …C’mon, this is what you came here for!” But he was just a baby in comparison with Lazar who, no more no less, caused blindness with his strobe lamp and definitely forced us to get up. It was the worst awakening in my life! Still, I’m deeply grateful to them, because everything that came after was worthy of those torments.

Slumpy: An appreciable excitement startled me from sleep, and I looked around the tent searching for my watch and thinking it was time to go. It was 1.30 after midnight. I listened: there were no more murmur outside and all you could hear was just the strong howling of the wind. My head still echoed with the sounds of crackling camp fire and clutter of people around it which lasted till midnight. I closed my eyes and dozed off. The next time an alarm clock woke me up – it was 2am. I went out of the tent – the drowsy and not so talkative people were coming out of all of the 9 tents. The expedition was about to set off.

The night was fresh but pleasant. While the others were preparing to move on, I watched the faint moonlight rays fall upon Trem, thinking what I should bring with me because I didn’t have a clue how it was up there. I looked at the sky – it was starry and beautiful. At 2:23 am the expedition of 20 or so people started the climb to Trem peak which, from the altitude of 1.810 meters, overlooked the whole of Southeast Serbia…

Franzee: And not only was the moon full, but the crew of the Serbia Travel Club was lucky enough and had a once-in-a-lifetime chance (and I’m not joking at all) to see the following picture: the ridge between Trem and the other peak stretches in north-south direction and practically divides the world in two halves, the eastern and the western half. At that moment, when we climbed the top of the ridge from the west, which was then the dark side of the world, the completely full moon appeared, on a cloudless night sky, spreading its gray light all over the sleepy villages on the dark horizon and distant mountains. On the east side, the dawn was tearing apart the night clouds, the rays of the rising sun were just a hint of indigo purple over whose gradient the Morning star ruled. Yes, the Venus reached its climax in those days and glared the whole dawn in all of its magnitude scorning the full moon on the opposite side of the horizon beside which, miraculously and just to point out the wonder of this story, the mighty Jupiter still ruled, its grandeur and power not in the least diminished by the full Moon!

The earthlings who found themselves on this mountain ridge, under heavy gust of wind, on the border between two worlds, had the chance, which I so shamelessly described at the begging of this paragraph as unique in every way, to see at the same time the 4 greatest celestial bodies, undisturbed in their shape and appearance, that can be seen from our little blue pebble of a planet.

The rising Sun, the setting Moon, Venus and Jupiter gazed at each other that day not knowing that somewhere between them there was a pebble, on whose surface one almost invisible route was at that same moment being conquered by an enthusiastic group of nano -organisms…

Lazar: After the endless sliding across the narrow path in the woods, incised into the slope, we came upon a cliff behind which, round and greenish, specially dressed for this occasion, Mr. Moon waited patiently. The sky was black, the icy wind hurled like a wounded beast over yellowish grassland, and somewhere in the distance the moonlight fell drop by drop on the villages asleep in the valleys. We bode the rocky Trem who, like in a fairy tale, swelled and grew in the fragrant night. A cudgel in hand, jacket buttoned to the neck, hood pulled over to the nose, and off we go. On our left side, the day squatted behind the horizon gathering strength, dreaming up the best way of launching an attack against the night.

A few of us stayed to „look after the camp”, oh well, somebody had to do that as well :)

Marina: The morning was magical…while I was listening to the birds twitter and the wind murmuring, the sun lazily showed its warm rays through the tent’s wing…but the ground was cold and forced me to get up. My first big camping. There, on the top of the watch-tower around 5:30 I was in spirit together with my friends who from the top of that wonderous mountain looked at the fire ball throwing its fingers across south Serbia…A little cloud here and there spread itself in to the weak haze still standing in the hollows beneath me…The air like in a fairy tale…without the city noise…I adore the silence in an early morning…But I still don’t like mountains… :)


I climbed the Trem
Didn’t finish what I'd dreamt
Into the night we went
But forgot jackets in our tent
The 1800 meter when climbed
The wind blew me off and didn’t mind
I put a fire up
To warm up my scalp
Oh leave me don’t ask for a poem
I could hardly find a tap in the camp

Jelena: I had heard them arriving and waited patiently. Seeing the night already falling, I’m losing the last hope that it will happen today. Their nearness makes me dizzy as I lapse into a nightmare. In the dead of the night I wake up fretfull and suddenly decide to start the game. I raise the storm. Soon, I can hear thumps at the foothill. Those are the bravest, trying to ignore me while hammering the nails of their tents that went wild. Still, I wake them up. As if by command, the drowsy convoy staggerly moved on. I develop a tactic: I’m strengthening their will with the soft moonlight, gentle nature and tranquilizing silence. I’m not letting them give up. To their tiredness I give a cosy shelter, soaking in first drops of sweat from their bodies. I’m refreshed, but still dry. I want more! I make them drunk with the sky so that they won’t lose the strength. I deceived them easily, cunningly hiding the distant peaks. I make noise, stretch the distances and decide to silently wait in the ambush at the top, enduring barely the devastating thirst. I wait for them, one after the other, and pierce them with wind whose blade masterly scrapes all the accumulated sweat. Ravenously I suck in every drop. Refreshed, rejuvinated and reborn, I let them go in peace, gently caressing them with the warm rays of the Sun.

Acketa: …foot by foot, foot by foot, foot by foot… seed by seed – a bread, stone by stone – a palace, step by step – a mile, meter by meter – a mountain… Some two shoes, on some two legs, respectively, interchange in a perpetual effort to get somewhere. The rhythm of slaves on a galley… Some heart pounds in another rhythm adding arhytmia to this percussion ensemble Two drops of sweat slide down the eyebrow, trying to free themselves from their creator and go back to Earth… A look on the dried grass whose faith is secured by a wind, two or three undersized bushes and two more legs, somewhere near here. Another rhythm… somewhere further, two more, further yet, another two. Army of legs thumping over the barren landscape in a rhythm known only to them… A turn and a look, behind my orchestra some other orchestras are performing, some big, some small, some fast, some slower, each following its own rhythm but playing the similar, but not the same melody… Dixyland. The galley drum lets no one take a breath. And so the melody grows between day and night, as big as the mountain. Appropriate light effects accompany the music… In the meantime, the barren plateau behaves as if it’s a big wedding cake on which you can never see the cherry on the creamtop… galley timpan impatiently speeds up: Ram speed!... The melody culminates and the mountain gives up, and timpan and the two legs stop thumping… Somewhere below we can still feel the others, hidden by the rocky stories. The wind wipes away the last drops of sweat, the deep greets us… The Sun, the bliss…

And somewhere in the south of Serbia, on a mountain called “Dry”, they say a group of friends climbed the peak to greet the Sun…