Serbia — Day 6October 3, 2017
We had beautiful weather for our first full day in Novi Sad.
Last night folks took time to explore the central area, and many discovered the famous Black Sheep ice cream company. (There were more visits there today!)
This morning we started at the American Corner, and were greeted by Milica and Marko who run the Corner, and who are recent winners of an international diplomacy award (I believe they are the first non-diplomats to receive this award, so it's a big boost of the Corner. We will visit the Corner more extensively tomorrow.)
We were then escorted by another Marko, another member of the Corner staff, to the European Corner of the Novi Sad City Library. Ljiljana Kosijer is the excellent librarian there, who has pretty much single-handedly created the library as a branch of the Novi Sad library. (She designed the space - an old , dilapidated shopfront - and it is now an entrancing space with two-tier galleries running round the inside and making full use of the space.) She runs an astonishing number of programs in conjunction with many European cultural centers, as well as programs with many non-European countries as well. We were delighted to be able to bring with us 40 books she had on her wish list - for children, teens and adults. (We brought a total of 130 books with us on this trip, the remaining 90 being divided among the various American Corners in Serbia.)
We had a short break before our next tour (although a few of us managed an impromptu tour of the children's department and adult fiction department of the main Novi Sad library) and then we set off for the Library of Matica Srpska. (Which means queen bee of Serbia - the emblem is a beehive.) Matica Srpska was founded in Budapest in 1826 to preserve Serbian culture when there was no actual country of Serbia, the Serbs living some in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and others in the Ottoman Empire. The library moved to Novi Sadin 1868 (on two steamboats down the Danube - the whole town turned out to escort the 16 cart loads of books from the quayside to the library.) Matica Srpska is a interesting mixture of old and new, with one of the finest collections of old and rare Serbian books and manuscripts (it was not damaged during either of the World Wars) all of which are now digitized and available on their website. It is a deposit library, so all materials must be used on site, but it is also very popular with students as a study space, so the reading rooms are well patronized.
We had time for an excellent Serbian lunch (we are becoming rather used to excellent Serbian meals) before heading of to the Gallery of Matica Srpska. They have an astonishing collection of Serbian art from the 15th century through to the present, and it is very interesting to see the history of Serbia through it's art. (We had an excellent guide who explained the different artistic influences, from when Serbia was under Turkish rule, the influence of the Russian Schools on religious art, the slow adoption of various styles - Baroque, Rococo, and so on - the rise of portraiture in the 18th century, the first women artists in the 19th century etc.
We also had time for a whistle-stop tour of the Museum of Vojvodina (the region in which Novi Sad is located) seeing everything from female goddess figures from 6000 BC through all kinds of artifacts from the Vinca culture, the neolithic period, the copper, bronze and iron ages, some spectacular gold-plated Roman helmets up to the present day.
We have now dismissed for the evening, and I'm sure there will be some more visits to the Black Sheep before the night is out.
We have another busy day planned tomorrow and will return to Belgrade in the evening.