Hike to Sokograd Fortress -- Part 1 (Hopefully) (Serbia)
Friday, July 3, 2009 at 11:55PM
Bob Redpath in Hike, Ruins, Serbia, Sokograd

Sokograd Fortress outside Sokobanja, SerbiaThe daily rains we've been getting in Serbia are, we're told, pretty unseasonal. Usually it's very hot and humid, but dry-skied this time of year. Given that, I haven't minded the bursts of thunder storms in the morning or afternoon and the cooler temperatures and clear skies afterwards. It is however, making it tricky to plan hikes and longer treks to ruins. Today we debated -- drive into Nis, a nearby city, or hike up to the ruins of Sokograd, a fortress in existence since Roman times. We looked toward the sunny skies and all agreed -- Sokograd! As we parked the car we heard distant rolling thunder. Julija and her young son Ilia turned back and said, "Go ahead, we'll wait." The rest of us went on. It's an easy enough hike, with mossy rocks and pebbly paths. As we reached the top the hike got harder -- steeper --and we needed to climb with hands and feet to make the last 20 yards or so. The skies were dark and rolling, and the wind was picking up. Terribly exciting! As we reached the peak of the mountain where the fortress is, the highest point for miles around, the lightning started. We huddled inside the roofless ruins for a few moments, then Brenna and I decided, we're here now and we want to see the top. What's the worst that can happen? We started out onto the ledge that leads to the top of the tower, and as I turned around to make Brenna pose for a picture, the mother of all lightning bolts landed on the ridge behind me. The thunder crashed almost simultaneously. Time to go down! We hoped to beat the rain and get down the super-steep slippery part first. No such luck. I ended up frantically stowing camera gear, and scrambling down a very wet and slippery rock face. It poured all the way down the mountain. The kind of rain drops that pelt and soak you instantly. The kids marched down with their hands over their ears because the thunder was so loud. When we got to the bottom we could see blue skies ahead, and by the time we reached the car, and a worried Julia, it was barely sprinkling. We were wet, but the kids were over their scare, and Brenna and Darinka couldn't stop giggling. Julia assumed that we would want to go home and dry off, but the toss up between hungry and wet went to hungry. We decided to go have lunch in a nearby restaurant tucked inside a cave, wet or not. We'll try Sokograd another day.

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