We're just back from a long day in the city of Nis, about two and a half hours south east of Belgrade. The weather was glorious - blue skies and bright sunshine as we drove south through more mountainous terrain to Nis. Our first stop was at the American Corner - another interesting space, but on the top floor of an older historical building. For historical building read - protected from alteration so not possible to install an elevator! It's a long climb to the top!
There we were greeted by the Corners staff, and immediately introduced to our hosts for the day - 10 high school students who had applied to meet us and spend the day with us. They were great. We had about an hour's conversation in small groups before we then set off the visit the university library - which is only five minutes' walk away.
The University of Nis is fairly modern - founded in 1965 - and has about 30,000 students, so it was an interesting contrast with the older and larger university in Belgrade. However it is another place where the library is not in a purpose-built building, so it was enlightening to see how they cope with the challenges. (This building was at one time used as temporary offices by the Yugoslav government just before the start of the First World War, and one of their reading rooms is actually the office of the then Prime Minister, Nikola Pasic, where he received the telegram from Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia, which began WW1.)
After a tour of the library we headed off to the Nis fortress, again only five minutes walk from the library, and enjoyed a tour of fortress with a very knowledgeable guide, who gave us a lot of details of life in Nis at various points, who occupied it when and so on. This part of Serbia was actually occupied by the Ottoman empire for over 500 years - northern Serbia around Belgrade for "only" 300 - 350 years.
We then had time for lunch with our young friends and an excellent opportunity for my students to get a picture of what life is like in Serbia for teens. (Lunch was a traditional Serbian meal and delicious as usual.)
All too soon I had to prise my group away to start the journey back to Belgrade. There were quite a few naps taken on the return trip - we are walking a great deal, making lots of visits and eating excellent food - a nice nap is very necessary.
Tomorrow we are off to Novi Sad, a city to the north of Belgrade, and will visit 4 different libraries and archives.
Everyone is still doing fine.
More news tomorrow.