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Saturday, August 31: Day 131 – Tales of the Crypt

We got up this morning to take a bus to St. Sava. It is the largest Orthodox Church in the world.

However, the interior is being restored so you can only see the crypt. Well, we had seen other crypts and thought that we would skip it. Milan, our guide from yesterday, encouraged us to go, that we shouldn’t miss it.

Ironically, we saw him at the crypt entrance where he was guiding others. He was so happy that we had decided to come.

A large group was allowed to descend a beautiful white staircase. We turned the corner and WHOA!!

This is not like any other crypt that we have seen…and if this is the crypt, I can only imagine what the interior will be like when it is restored. Here is a close up … the woman at the well!

We had a tour focusing on the history of Serbia in the last 150 years. That was quite a lot in itself.

A young man from Australia joined us. We told him that we were from the USA.

“It’s too wild there … everybody has guns!!”

We told him that we were from Ohio and he said, “That’s a swing state, right?”

“Why, yes. How did you know?”

“I had money on the 2016 election. I chose Trump and my odds were 5:1. After Hillary was gaining ground in Florida, the odds went to 60:1. I missed out on that.”

WOW! It was almost like a play by play account. Most Americans couldn’t comment on the Presidental vote like that. He also told us that it is illegal in Australia not to vote. If you don’t vote, you are fined. Hmm.

Today Republic Square reopened. It is very plain, but has a statue of Prince Mihailo. In the 19th century he liberated Serbia from the Ottomans. The square used to have beautiful flowers.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire was a big European power of 50 million people which included many nations. Their biggest mistake was not having colonies. Serbia gained its independence from Austria-Hungary in 1878.

Japan, China, and Spain are friends to Serbia and have given them tram cars as noted by this sign.

Germans are fascist enemies. They cancelled their earlier agreement and on April 6, 1941 Germans bombed Belgrade.

Even though the royal family of Serbia is not recognized as having any power, they are related to the Queen of England. Yugoslavia Royalty

We asked our guide what he would pick as the best country. His answer was unexpected but was a window into the world of one who has grown up during socialism.

He said Bhutan because no one is really rich and no one is really poor and no one is forced to worship.

NATO Bombings

According to our guides the NATO bombings of Serbia in 1999 were not justified. The bombings lasted for 78 days. The guides claimed that while in one village 45 Albanians were killed, 43 were wearing the mark of a terrorist organization. They said that this was an open conflict and not ethnic cleansing. It was a NATO decision to create Kosovo as a separate country, which is disputed by Serbia. 250,000 Serbs live in Kosovo. Half of the world recognizes Kosovo as a country, and the other half does not.

There is a Museum of NATO Bombing. The guides are prohibited from advertising the museum. The USA wanted to close it.


Tito was a beloved leader and hero in WWII. He was a passionate hunter and enjoyed whiskey and the fine things in life. Tito’s Blue Train was a 5-star hotel on wheels. He knew how to fence and play the piano.

May 25 is the day chosen to celebrate his birthday. The youth from all over Yugoslavia pass a baton much like the Olympic torch.

It was given to Tito at events where there were huge displays of athleticism.

Also, many batons were made in hope of being selected. Hundreds were on display in the museum.

Tito is best described as the leader of the neutral socialist country of Yugoslavia. He was declared Marshall which made him the undisputed leader of country and the military. He wanted the country to be self-sufficient.

The Soviets liberated Yugoslavia, but Yugoslavia didn’t want to join the Warsaw Pact. We were told that today Serbia is pro-Russia since “they helped us when we couldn’t defend ourselves. We are brothers, but they don’t have a big impact here.”

Our guide said Yugoslavia feels that they won WWII. Tito had more than 450,000 partisans under his command. He was the only leader to fight from start to finish.

Battle of Sutjeska aka The Fifth Offensive (1973) starred Richard Burton as Tito in the battle. Richard Burton was hand-selected by Tito to portray him. Our guide said that Burton was drunk most of the time during the filming.

In 1948, Yugoslavia excluded themselves from Politburo. Stalin and Tito were good friends. “You are daddy over there, but not over here.” He then turned to America. The enemy of our enemy is our friend. When you choose sides, you may not be an enemy but you are no longer friends.

Yugoslavia was the only country with fighter jets from Russia and USA. “We play with everyone.”

After Stalin died, Khrushchev wanted to be friends again. He came to Tito in 1955. Tito said, “I will deal with the devil if it is good for Yugoslavia.”

In 1968, there was a large student protest. Tito said, “We are wrong. Give them what they need. We designed Yugoslavia. They are the caretakers of our future.”

On May 8, 1980, Tito had 209 world leaders at his funeral, the greatest funeral gathering ever of world leaders. This record is likely to stand!! (This scenario would have made a good plot for a novel. What if someone hatched a group assasination plot and all these world leaders were killed? What might be the aftermath?? I shudder at the thought of such turmoil.)

Jimmy Carter did not attend. He sent his mother!

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