Syrmia 2021, part 1 (Vojka, Stara Pazova, Golubinci)

The first version of this trip appeared almost two years ago. The time went by and the excursion got bigger – originally I planned only one day of sightseeing, but in the end I came to the version where a very comprehensive visit to this part of Serbia was distributed over three days, with a wonderful rest during the breaks. It still remains though that everything I saw could be visited during a single day, but then one should get mentally ready for a huge quantity of impressions.

To start with, here is a rough map of the trip, but in a couple of places I slightly changed the route for very different reasons which I will mention when during my story telling I come to these deviations.

I would describe the area I visited during this trip as the central part of eastern Syrmia. By the way, Syrmia is a region in north Serbia, a part of the province of Vojvodina, nestled between the Sava and the Danube. Its name in Serbian is Srem or Срем (in Cyrillic). I went on this trip from Belgrade and so the description of the route and the sequence of the visits are given in line with this. To start with, I decided to follow the “old road” to Ruma, rather than the motorway. I find motorways great if one goes far or is in a hurry, but if I go for leisurely sightseeing, then I prefer the “old roads.”

In addition, just as a matter of circumstances I went on the trip at the beginning of June and the weather was ideal at the time – dry, mostly sunny, but still not summerily hot, as it can be at this time of the year.

Driving through the centre of Zemun, I just continued going straight and so I reached Batajnica and then Nova Pazova as well. I hadn’t gone along this road for a while and the surroundings had changed quite a lot during this period. It is all reminiscent of an almost continuous industrial zone. Still, I did not regret not opting for the motorway. There were traffic lights, occasionally a combined harvester on its way to a field, which certainly decelerated my movement, but I still enjoyed the experience. When I drive more slowly, then I can look to the left and right leisurely and yet safely.

At the very exit from Nova Pazova there is a crossroad and there I turned towards the village of Vojka (Војка in Cyrillic). Very soon I could spot the bell-tower of the Church of St. Nicholas in the village. Since there was not much traffic, I just slid a little to the side and without leaving my car I took the photo of the road in front of me through the windshield.

Road to Vojka and the bell-tower of the Church of St. Nicholas in the distance

Still, before reaching the very centre and the church, the main road from Nova Pazova that enters Vojka gets the name of Braće Kočijašević street and there at number 52 there is a house, a granary and a maize barn that are under some prior protection of the state. The gate was locked, but from the street I could see some parts and concluded that nobody lived there now.

House in Vojka

The structure that continues into the maize barn and granary

As for the granary, there is some data saying it was built in 1920 and even the names of its builders are known. Although this monument of culture is obviously not in a very good state, it is still an important specimen of vernacular architecture and clearly reflects the economic position and taste of the owner from the first half of the 20th century.

The structure that continues into the maize barn and granary

The structure that continues into the maize barn and granary

The next structure within the scope of my sightseeing tour was the Serbian Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas.

Vojka village and the Church of St. Nicholas in the very centre

I got closer to the church by car, leaving it on a parking lot, and then I visited the church itself.

Church of St. Nicholas in Vojka

This church that has the status of the monument of culture was built in 1857 as a single-nave church. On its east side there is a semi-circular apse, while the bell tower rises on the west side.

Church of St. Nicholas in Vojka

The interior of the church is dominated by the iconostasis the supporting framework of which is made of carved wood, while the icons were painted in the second half of the 19th century.

Church of St. Nicholas in Vojka, the interior

Church of St. Nicholas in Vojka, iconostasis details

Across the church there is a small square and a park, and I also saw a café, but it was far too early for me to make a break, so I just continued with my sightseeing, since already 0.5 km farther in the direction of Stara Pazova there is another rural house that should be seen. This is an immovable cultural property of great importance (within the categorisation system in Serbia this is the 2nd highest level).

Rural house in Vojka

The house was built at the end of the 19th century. I found the street facade particularly interesting, specifically the gable where one can still see remains of colours, with numerous different decorative details.

Rural house in Vojka, the gable

There is an entrance door on the side of the street, but the house can also be entered from the courtyard, that is, via the porch that extends along the structure.

Rural house in Vojka

Although it seemed that nobody lived in the house here as well, I did get a hold of the handle of the gate leading into the courtyard and as it turned out the gate was unlocked. Just as I started to open it, a black dog came running from the courtyard and it started to bark quite angrily, while I hastily shut the metal gate. Since I’m tall, over the fence I took some photos of the courtyard and this also provides for a better view at the porch of the house, as well as the courtyard itself.

Rural house in Vojka, the courtyard

The next place within my sightseeing tour of this part of Syrmia was the small town of Stara Pazova (Стара Пазова). First I found a suitable place to park my car and then I started with the visit to the centre on foot.

To begin with, I stopped at the town’s park where one immediately comes across a monument to the People’s Hero Janko Čmelik. The monument has been categorised as the landmark and it was built in 1948. Janko Čmelik (1905-1942) was a Slovak who during WWII fought as a member of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia against the Germans and their local counterparts, i.e., the Ustashe. Namely, during WWII, Syrmia belonged to the Independent State of Croatia, a puppet state of Nazi Germany, ruled by the fascist, ultranationalist organisation of Ustashe. It was precisely the Ustashe who arrested Čmelik and after some indescribably horrible torturing they also shot him by a firing squad. (By the way, even the Nazis themselves were very often appalled by the actions of the Ustashe.) Čmelik was declared the People’s Hero already in 1943.

Monument to Janko Čmelik

On the same side of the street, in continuation towards the main crossroad in the town, there is the Slovak Evangelical Church built in 1771. This church is an immovable cultural property of great importance.

The Evangelical Church

Unfortunately, at the time of my visit the church was closed, so I could not see its interior, so I left this for some other time when I work on “supplementing” my sightseeing of this part of Serbia.

In any case, the church was built as a single-nave temple with a Baroque bell tower, which was seen nicely from the other side of the street. By the way, the church is located on the southwest corner of the town’s main crossroad.

The Evangelical Church

For the time being I headed for the birth house of Janko Čmelik that is located in a street of the same name, but it was also closed.

Birth house of Janko Čmelik

The next day, when I was at the museum in Ruma, I was told that I should have probably called the tourist organisation of Stara Pazova in advance and then somebody would come and open the house for me since it is apparently very nicely organised. Namely, as they told me, the exhibition of ethnological character is organised in three rooms: the Slovakian, the Serbian and the Croatian rooms, for although they have been living together for a long time, each one of these peoples have their specific characteristics. This certainly sounds inspiring for me to come here again as well. For the time being I had to content myself by taking a photo of the courtyard over the fence.

Birth house of Janko Čmelik, the courtyard

Then I headed back towards the centre and the town’s main crossroad, but this time I followed a slightly different route. So I came across a classic car. I found it truly impressive how shiny it was, so I stopped in order to take a photo of it.

A classic car in Stara Pazova

Just as I had taken the photo, the owner came out of the house by which the car was parked and then very proudly he offered to me to take a photo of the interior as well because “it was all made out of wood.” This did not mean much to me, but I accepted the offer and thus here is a photo of the interior.

A classic car in Stara Pazova

Then I sat down at a café I came across and there I got some coffee and rested a little. Following that pleasant break I returned to the main crossroad and there are two important buildings there. On the northeast corner is the building of the former Savings Bank of Large Landowner Nikola Petrović (Zgrada štedionice veleposednika Nikole Petrovića) which nowadays aptly houses a branch office of the Tax Administration in Stara Pazova.

Zgrada štedionice veleposednika Nikole Petrovića

The edifice was built in 1905 and nowadays it is categorised as the immovable cultural property of great importance. Namely, the building was made for business and residential purposes and together with the edifice across the street it constitutes a nice example of urban architecture from the beginning of the 20th century.

So, across the street, on the southeast corner, there is another immovable cultural property of great importance – the Building of the “Srem” Hotel (Zgrada hotela „Srem“) which was also built in 1905 when it was called the “Petrović” Hotel.

Zgrada hotela „Srem“

From here I went to my car by which I moved almost 1 km to the east from the main crossroad since there is the Church of St. Elijah there. The church itself was undergoing renovation at the time of my visit, but it was in fact not the object of my interest that was focused on the vodica - the votive chapel dedicated to St. Elijah. By the way, vodica suggests water.

Namely, in the place where the chapel is there was a well where people used to come regularly. At some point, the first temple was built next to the well and at the end of the 18th century or the beginning of the 19th century it got the form of a chapel made of wooden boards and covered with wooden shingles. The chapel that is seen here today was built around 1850 and there is an interesting story linked to its construction. According to the oral accounts, there was a shepherd called Ilija Križan who was ill and then he dreamed of St. Elijah who advised him to wash his face using the water from this place. Having done so, shepherd Ilija (Ilija being the Serbian version of Elijah) recuperated and then he decided to build this chapel as a token of gratitude.

Vodica chapel dedicated to St. Elijah

The chapel was restored at the end of the 19th century and then it was also fenced off. There is no well here any more, while the chapel itself is used rarely being too small for the liturgy.

With this I finished with my sightseeing tour of Stara Pazova and the next place according to my plan was village Golubinci (Голубинци). Under normal circumstances, one should head westwards from the main crossroad in Stara Pazova and the first settlement on that road, 8 km farther, is precisely Golubinci. However, in June 2021 this road was not in use because a crossing over the new railway line was being built and so I had to go via Inđija and village Lukovo. This was not a problem at all and I found it particularly interesting that I came across that classic car again, but this time it was on a car hauler and was being transported somewhere. I even managed to take a photo of it while driving since we were going relatively rather slowly.

An interesting sight on the road

The road from the direction of Inđija led me directly to one of the monuments of culture that I was specifically interested in since this is an immovable cultural property of great importance. Concretely, I’m thinking of Castle “Šlos” (Dvorac „Šlos“).

Dvorac „Šlos“

Let me first say that irrespective of the name, as it may be seen in the photo, this is not a castle that used to be inhabited by kings, but rather this is a manor house that was used as an administrative building and for the habitation of officers and their families, since the border of Austro-Hungary had to be secured. The castle was built in the second half of the 18th century and most often it figures in the story about an alleged secret love of Ludwig van Beethoven and the wife of one of the officers. Regardless of different accounts, as far as I could dig out, there is in fact no evidence of any romance between them, but it certainly does not prevent people, especially those working in tourism, to take advantage of this attractive possibility. Apparently, even her personal cookbook has been found somewhere and then they got a recipe for some cake out if it that was supposed to be promoted last year, but it seems that because of the covid pandemic it all fell between the cracks or at least has been postponed.

As I’m mentioning cakes and pastries, when getting ready for the tour, I also searched for some recipe specifically linked to Syrmia, but as it turned out in Syrmia, just like in the whole of Vojvodina after all, there is one big mixture of mutual influences bearing in mind the numerous peoples that have been living here for centuries and this all mostly reflects the gastronomic scene of Central Europe. Still, I read somewhere that strudels are made in Syrmia more often than in other parts of Vojvodina and so this inspired me to make a poppy seed strudel for myself after the trip, which is then a fabulous reason to provide my recipe for this delicious pastry.

Poppy Seed Strudel

* 100 g of butter
* 25 g of fresh yeast
* 1 tsp of sugar
* 1/2 cup of warm milk
* 400 g of all-purpose flour
* a pinch of salt
* 2 eggs
* 75 g of sugar

* 1 cup of milk
* 1 tbsp of honey
* 1 sachet of vanilla sugar (12 g)
* 300 g of ground poppy seeds
* 2 tbsp of raisins or candied fruit peel (I actually used my own home-made grape jam)
* 1 tsp of cinnamon

* 2 tbsp of butter

The yeast is dissolved in warm milk that already contains the sugar. Then this is combined with the melted butter and then with the flour and salt. The dough should be kneaded for a couple of minutes and then put into a bowl, covered and left to rise for half an hour.

After half an hour, the beaten eggs and sugar are added to the dough and then it is all beaten well with a wooden spoon until bubbles start to appear in the dough. This step is the true test of the muscle strength, patience, endurance and dedication, but if it’s not done well then the strudel will not reach its maximum. When these bubbles eventually appear, the bowl with the dough should be covered again and left for the dough to rise for another half an hour.

The filling should be prepared by warming up the milk with the addition of the honey and the vanilla sugar. When the milk starts to boil, the ground poppy seeds are also added. This should be “cooked” for a short while (it becomes dense) and then the fruit should be added (this is not mandatory at all), as well as the cinnamon.

The risen dough (rather soft) should be spread on a floured surface into a rectangle about 1 cm thick and then the filling is spread over it. The dough should be rolled along the length and placed on a flat baking tray covered with parchment paper or into a bread baking tray so that the end of the dough is on the bottom. Then everything is left to rise again for yet another half an hour. After that the strudel is covered with melted butter and baked at 180 degrees for some 35 minute.

When the strudel is cut into slices, these should be dusted with icing sugar.

Poppy Seed Strudel

Now, let me go back to the story about my sightseeing tour. Castle “Šlos” was closed when I was there and I’m not actually sure that there are any visits organised there at this time, but I looked in through an open window and concluded that some works were being done, so I hope that this venue will soon be developed and prepared for interested visitors.

Interior of Castle “Šlos” at the beginning of June 2021

Then I walked to the nearby local Orthodox church that is also categorised as an immovable cultural property of great importance. This is the Church of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary or more appropriately in this case, since this is an Orthodox church, the Church of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple and it is dedicated to the presentation/entry of the Mother of God at the temple in Jerusalem where her parents consecrated her to God.

Church of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple in Golubinci

The church was built between 1784 and 1788.

Church of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple in Golubinci

The church is a single-nave edifice that has a semi-circular apse on the east side and a bell tower on the west side. The bell tower has a square ground plan adjacent to the ground plan of the nave.

Church of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple, the bell tower

Near the south door there is a grave of the local parish priest from 1785, which only goes to emphasise additionally the duration of this church. Here I was quite lucky to have run into the priest who let me in, since he was just getting ready to lock up. I could see that some works were going on at the church, while some of the icons had evidently been taken away for restoration with the reproductions being put into their place.

Church of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple, the iconostasis

After the visit to the church, I walked back to my parked car and then I continued with the sightseeing of Golubinci by driving. Golubinci is not a large village, but now I wanted to see some interesting maize barns and granaries that are located at different ends of the village, so it was wiser to do that by car.

To start with, the maize barn is a traditional storage for maize (corn) ears that extends lengthwise and in the past it was precisely the length of the maize barn that reflected the economic position of the owner. Most often adjacent to the maize barns there are granaries that are wooden storage spaces often within the maize barns used for storing grains. Bearing in mind that this is a markedly agricultural area, there is a large number of both maize barns and granaries, but some of them are particularly important.

First I went to Šimanovačka street (the road to village Popinci). In different documentation I came across three numbers, 21, 124 and 130. I drove to no. 130 and there I found what I was interested in. Here it was clear that there were people living at this property, but I did not want to disturb them, so I just took a photo of the granary with the maize barn over the fence. The granary and the maize barn date back to 1876 and they are categorised as the monument of culture. They are positioned over the walls made of bricks and they are separated by a shed.

The granary and the maize barn from Šimanovačka street

After a short break here, I drove also to Pazovačka street (practically the road that connects Stara Pazova and Golubinci) for there are two granaries with maize barns and both of them are categorised as immobile cultural property of exceptional importance. In the case of the first one there are also some contradictory data regarding the number, but there on the spot I ascertained that this concerns no. 68. This is one of the most beautiful structures of this type.

The granary and the maize barn from Pazovačka no. 68

The structure was built in 1913. The wooden granary and the maize barn are placed on a high socle made of bricks that is used as a cellar. The front side (facing the street) is also made of bricks and like the entire granary and the maize barn it is full of many details. One can easily notice numerous niches and there are also some pilasters with beautiful Corinthian capitals.

The granary and the maize barn from Pazovačka no. 68

Judging by the new wooden gate that reflects the motifs from the built part of the fence, I think that soon enough there will be some conservation works conducted here that are so obviously needed. I was painfully aware of that when I took photos of the structure over the fence and then I looked at the photos on my camera. Currently the structure is in a rather sad state.

The granary and the maize barn from Pazovačka no. 68

Before I share my opinion on the subject of the state of this monument, let me first show a few more details that are so abundant in the case of this structure. Both the granary and the maize barn are reached by an overhang/balcony, but currently the otherwise wooden steps are missing. The walls of the granary are made of vertically placed wooden boards that are decorated in the middle by a circle with an oak leaf.

Granary from Pazovačka no. 68

The maize barn extends from the granary, there is a long porch in front of it and it was made of obliquely positioned wooden laths between which there are openings, thus allowing air circulation.

Maize barn from Pazovačka no. 68

Although I was very sorry that this important monument of culture is in such a state, I must admit that I have quite a lot of understanding for this. First of all, Serbia is a traditionally poor country. Second, there are so many holes to be patched that even if the state’s budget has indeed been filling up in the recent years, it is difficult to decide what needs to be tackled first. And finally, we as a nation do not have a habit of visiting monuments of culture in our own country. It seems to me that on an average we are much, much more interested in food and then possibly in nature. If more people were to come here, ask around and do the sightseeing, then maybe it would be easier to allocate funds for places like this. As the things go now, the churches do get renovated, since people visit them more often, but granaries and maize barns are much less popular.

The same could be said for another granary and maize barn in the same street, Pazovačka no. 42. that are also categorised as the immobile cultural property of exceptional importance. They were built in 1921-1922.

The granary and the maize barn from Pazovačka no. 42

Here, the situation is somewhat better, at least looking from the outside. The granary and the maize barn are a part of a property that also includes a house.

House from Pazovačka no. 42

Still, the main structures here are the granary and the maize barn that extend from a brick-built and plastered maid’s room that faces the street. The front side of this room has a gable done in the style of the rural Baroque and it mirrors the house, so it is believed that the structures were built at the same time.

Maid’s room, the granary and the maize barn from Pazovačka no. 42

Entrance into the maid’s room, the granary and the maize barn from Pazovačka no. 42

Here, too, there are numerous very beautiful and decorative details done in wood.

The granary and the maize barn from Pazovačka no. 42, details

The granary and the maize barn from Pazovačka no. 42, details

In addition, this structure is important because it shows in which way the auxiliary structures were brought together in relation to the house as the main structure on the property where the owners wanted to take maximum advantage of the narrow, but elongated space of the courtyard that is typical of the settlements in Syrmia.

With this I concluded my visit to Golubinci and so I moved on by car farther westwards. On my right-hand side, in addition to the vast fields I could also see Fruška Gora mountain in the distance.

Fields in Syrmia

And in front of me, there was the road...


Verica Ristic

Born and lives in Serbia. Free-lance interpreter/translator for English, but also speaks other languages (this helps a LOT when travelling). Grateful to the Universe for everything.

Belgrade, Serbia

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