Although I could not find much information on the Internet about this small
mining town (lead and iron) about 95 km south of Belgrade, I decided that
the adventure would be worth it. My companion Olja, a Serbian teacher at our
school, heard that Rudnik was a good place to hike. After paying around $5
for a bus ticket, we hopped aboard and headed out of the capital city. When
I commented to Olja about the fact that there was no smoking on the bus, she
replied that it has been that way for many years a very good thing.
Along the way, the bus stopped at the small towns and villages to pick up or
drop off passengers. There were no signs or markings indicating that it was
a bus stop, but obviously the locals knew. Yugoslav-made tractors with the
slow-moving sign pulled over to the side of the road as far as possible to
let traffic pass. Conical haystacks dotted the countryside. Laundry was hung
outside. Vineyards, apple and other fruit orchards dominated front yards.
Windows planted alongside the house and flowers. In the town of Topola, the
bus stopped for about 7 minutes, at which time many passengers darted off
the bus to get a couple cigarettes in. About 2 1Ž2 hours after our journey
began; we were in the small town of Rudnik, dropped off right in front of
our one-star hotel. Early evening, the fog had already begun rolling in. I
could see an orthodox church on top of a high hill and intended on visiting
it the next day on our big hike. We were given rooms on the top (4th) floor,
away from the discothčque and a wedding that was to occur Saturday night. My
room consisted of four single beds (each containing a simple blanket,
pillow, and bedsheet) and a narrow bathroom.
After dropping off our small bags, we went for a small walk. I took a couple
of pictures of the lush, deep hills, but didnąt realize that the amount of
sunlight and visibility would only decrease during our weekend. A path took
us into some woods, through which a small stream ran. Ferns covered the
forest floor. Combined with some familiar weeds, I felt like I could have
been walking through a forest in Wisconsin. We passed several people
splitting wood, getting ready for winter. The sound of chainsaws echoing
through the woods indicated that others were doing the same. For supper, we
ate at a small restaurant near our hotel. I had pork sausage links (I was
served 10) with Kyamak cheese, along with lepinja bread that was still warm.
The next morning, I looked outside my window to check out the weather. I
hoped that the weather forecast was correct and weąd have a sunny day.
Unfortunately, those low clouds and fog were very dense and quite stubborn.
I couldnąt see the church until about 9am. After an omlet and tea (included
in the hotel price of around $21 a night), we headed towards the high hill
with the long hiking trails. On our way, we stopped at the small church. It
was empty, except for a few reproductions of St. George (patron saint),
Mary, a small wooden cross, and a plain wooden altar. Coins were piled
around most of the paintings. The varying colors of the bricks indicated
that the church probably had been built over time, pausing when the regionąs
patrons ran out of money.
A short ways into the forest, we reached a guesthouse. It catered to hikers,
both for meals, a rest stop, and a place to stay. Olja explained that
elementary-aged students often went on such hiking trips as a class trip.
After seeing the rooms, taking a quick look at the map sign, we anxiously
headed off to begin our hike, as it was now around 9:45. Located on some
trees were red and white łtargets˛ which indicated that we were on a path
which one, we didnąt know. Sometimes the painted łtargets˛ were close
together and placed in a reassuring location, while other times their
presence was definitely missed. Worse yet, sometimes arrows pointed either
direction in a forked path, or you had to walk on a path a ways to see if it
was the right one. The growing fog didnąt help anything. Spotting a slight
clearing in the trees, we paused to take in the view. Rolling and deep hills
filled the landscape. Small farmhouses and farms dotted the view. Sheep
In the damp forest, the fog became thicker, making it even more difficult to
see markers. The path was also quite wet, often times partially or
completely covered with puddles and/or mud. Sometimes we made the right
decision on where to walk; other times we ended up with a muddy shoe. Along
the edges of the paths were blackberries. When I saw some ripe ones, I
paused for a snack. Following a sign that indicated that a river, the path
and surrounding area became moister. Moss grew up the sides of rocks.
Mushrooms of varying types were on the path and sides. A small trickle of
water went down the hill and over the path. Nearly stepping on a moist black
newt, I stopped abruptly. It crawled over the path and into a small hole.
Within a short distance, we saw several more newts.
A few hours into our hike, Olja spotted another sign, this one indicating a
shrine for the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary. Curious to see what it was,
we decided to follow the direction of the arrow. A few times, we had to
retrace our paths, as we were on paths with no targets. Hearing a chainsaw
ahead, we decided to ask for our location. The man said that we were indeed
on the path to the shrine, but that it still was ahead. Replying to the
manąs question from where we came, he was quite surprised that we had walked
all the way from Rudnik. I could tell his surprise even though the entire
conversation was in Serbian. Considering that it already was around 2pm, I
didnąt really care if we saw the shrine. Olja asked the best way to get back
to Rudnik. He told us to take the next two rights, and to be careful not to
get lost. Walking back, we came across a meadow. Olja picked some of the
wildflowers/weeds while I took some photos of some various floral species.
We both wondered how beautiful the view must have been if only we could
have seen farther. In some parts of the forest, it was especially dark and
foggy almost a spooky feeling. An occasional raindrop threatened, but never
materialized. Happy to see familiar markings, we were glad to be on the path
to Rudnik. We could hear the sounds of bells clanging, but couldnąt see the
Around 5 pm, we finally reached the town of Rudnik. Hungry, we had a meal of
veal soup, salad, and crepes. It felt good to take off the muddy shoes and
shower. We spent the rest of the night relaxing. The low clouds had once
again rolled in for the evening.
Before our bus arrived the next morning, I went for a short walk to the
Sunday green market. Beautiful red peppers were stacked in many stalls.
Several tractors were parked around the area, some barely larger than a
garden tractor. A small cage behind one tractor held several pigs, all
huddled together. The bustling indicated that this small market was an
important meeting place for the local community.
Standing next to a WWI monument, we boarded the bus around 10:00am, taking
the same route back to Belgrade. Although it wasnąt foggy, we were somewhat
glad to see that at least it wasnąt sunny. Shoes were scrubbed and muddy
clothes were washed. It was time to prepare for school.