Three hours after our return from Skopje I was on the road again with my host family driving to Kopaonik, what Miki, my host father, referred to as the Yellowstone of Serbia. The week prior he'd asked me to name a couple of National Parks in the States so I told him about Yellowstone and Haleakala. Kopaonik is a National Park in Serbia but it's mainly viewed as a popular winter sports destination. And that's what it was for me!
For five days we skied from 9am to 4:30pm taking a break for palacinke (crepes) and topla cokolada (translated to hot chocolate but more like melted chocolate in a mug) around noon. Everything about skiing was exciting and foreign to me last Monday but in just a week I've taken such a liking to it and I wish I could go back right now! My host family was so generous to take me with them and I had such a blast on the slopes. My ski instructor, Crni, didn't speak any English so miscommunication was inevitable at times but he was super fun and encouraging and those sorts of characteristics transcend language barriers. Initially I played it safe on the slopes I wasn't familiar with but after a couple of times I became speed-happy which led to a few fumbles and a lot of fun. I'm not sure the level-corresponding colors in the States but here it went blue-red-black from easy-medium-hard. I only did one black course and I took that one extra careful but my favorite and most skied (18 times!) was a red slope called Pančićev vrh (a type of pine found on Kopaonik named after Josif Pančić, a Serb botanist who discovered it).
Monday and Tuesday were blizzard days so the snow, I was told, was good but vision not so much. Crni said those were good conditions for me to learn how to ski since I couldn't see the sides of the slopes or how steep they were so I had to follow right behind him and trust him. But on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday it was beautiful and even hot at times. On those days, from the highest point on Kopaonik we could see Montenegro and Kosovo--actually the border between Kosovo and Serbia was just 100 meters away--which was really neat because it framed part of the Balkans for me. I really had the best time with my host sister and dad and I can definitely see a lot of skiing in my future!
Some slike (pictures)
Prelepo (more than beautiful)
The buildings reminded me of the pictures of the Alpes from my French textbooks, I have no idea how accurate that is but I love how cute and quaint everything is
Princeton pride! Quite a coinkidink actually, I borrowed the ski gear from Ceca (our program director) and I was thrilled when I saw the color combination.
Also this is the highest point, Kosovo is behind me off to the left!
This was the first day and after that I kept my hair hidden away. I had taken my hair down around 3pm and this was taken just 90 minutes later! Proof of the blizzard
My absolute first time on skis, this was a couple hours before the blizzard waltzed in
Pančićev vrh is off to the left