From Grocka, Serbia
CRUISING DOWN THE DANUBE ON FOUR WHEELS, PART 6
A relaxing day at my nephew’s country place in Grocka on the Danube
This was Elizabeth’s second-most favorite day of the whole trip (#2 – ✮✮✮✮).
“It was so beautiful, so relaxing,” she ruminated at the end of our trip about this June 14 day we spent in Grocka (pronounced Gro-tz-ka). “Everything was so serene. Like magic.”
The day started with music, featured music in the middle – both by Stasa and myself – and also tennis, cherries, watermelons, and a pink Danube sunset at the end. It WAS “like magic,” as Elizabeth put it.
MUSIC IN BELGRADE TO START THE DAY
First, before we started driving to Grocka, I played the piano at my nephew’s apartment in Belgrade while Elizabeth read a book on the couch next to me.
Along the way, we stopped at a cute fruit stand and bought some watermelon and other fruit from a local lady. She insisted we sample her products before buying them and cut us generous portions of both the watermelon and other fruit.
But what enchanted Elizabeth’s the most were the cherry trees my nephew Stasa has around his house in Grocka. She wasted no time helping herself to her favorite fruit right off the tree. And where she could not reach, she used my longer arms to get at the cherries.
MY FIRST TENNIS GAME IN NEARLY 20 YEARS
For most of my adult life, I used to be an avid tennis player. Twenty two (22) years ago, I hung up my racquet for good. The reason? Repeated back injuries.
In 1998, when my nephew Stasa, who is now hosting us in Serbia, came to visit us in Arizona, I came out of retirement just for him. And today, nearly 20 years later, he drew me out of retirement again.
His and his wife’s Nina’s country place in Grocka (pronounced Grotzka) has everything I have ever dreamed of when I was a young man – a tennis court and a pool. Back then, I could not afford either. So I played my tennis at various tennis clubs where I also did laps in their pool.
When I suggested to my nephew that we hit a few balls for the sake of old memories, he jumped at the chance. He is still a very good tennis player and played with me today with the kindness and gentleness I remember displaying myself when I was coaching someone or playing with my younger daughter.
My timing was way off, and my wrist hurt as I have not hit a ball in nearly 20 years, and my footwork was like that of a beginner. I was all arm. And when I did hit the ball hard, it felt as if my wrist would break. Atrophy, I suppose, after such a long layoff.
But as it turns out, I was playing with my old racquet. After I retired from tennis, I had given my favorite racquet to my nephew. And he has saved it and is, in fact, still playing with it himself, he says.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth was playing the role of a sports photographer, taking action shots. So here are now some photos she took both with her camera and mine.
Then came the best part… relaxing by the pool (and doing some laps in my case) and eating a watermelon we had bought at a roadside fruit stand on the way here. Yum!\
MY NEPHEW STASA: ENGINEER, PROFESSOR, TENNIS PLAYER, MUSICIAN
Music runs through our family veins
My nephew, Dr Stasa Jovanovic, had been an outstanding host for Elizabeth and me during our 4-day visit to Serbia. We spent two nights at his apartment in Belgrade, and two nights at his country home in Grocka. In between, he drove us around everywhere and also arranged for that wonderful cruise down the Danube to the Tabula Traiana.
Stasa is a civil engineer, like myself. But unlike myself, he actually made a career out of it. He has a PhD in railroad design and maintenance field, and is a professor at the University of Novi Sad. Stasa is also an excellent tennis player, as you have have seen from those pictures Elizabeth took when he and I played at his country home in Grocka.
And now, you will have a chance to see how the right side of Stasa‘s brain works. While I was working on my computer on the terrace of his beautiful country home, he was playing the piano. I surprised him by turning on my camera and recording the past part of Chopin‘s “Fantasy Impromptu.”
As you can see, music runs through our family veins.
And in Stasa‘s case especially, Chopin‘s music. For, he is half-Polish. His mother was a ballerina at the Warsaw Ballet Company.And Chopin, of course, was 100% Polish. Stasa’s late father, my brother (in Serbian or first cousin in English), was the closest friend I have ever had.
Take a listen and watch him play Chopin after we finished playing tennis…
Dr Stasa Jovanovic playing Chopin‘s “Fantasy Impromptu” at his country home in Grocka, Serbia – June 14, 2017 – a video by Bob Altzar Djurdjevic –
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THE BLUE DANUBE TURNS PINK IN GROCKA, SERBIA
Four years ago, I recorded Johann Strauss’ “Blue Danube” as part of my Desert Quest 2013 https://youtu.be/-MY8KSBcd2Y).
At the time, I told Elizabeth, “I don’t know what Strauss was smoking when he wrote this music. I have never seen the Danube blue, neither in Vienna nor anywhere else.”
Until yesterday. As my nephew Stasa, Elizabeth and I went out to dinner on a boat restaurant in Grocka on the Danube, the mighty river was changing colors from blue to pink under Father Sun’s artist brush.
And then this morning (June 15) again, Danube turned blue again, just in time for our day’s sailing trip down the Danube to and through the “Cauldron” (Iron Gates) in the Djerdap Gorge that separates Romania and Serbia.