The winter holiday season is finally over in our house, and I am looking forward to getting back to the routine of things. There's been too much rich food, cooking and rushing around, although there have been great payoffs, like the incredible closeness I felt to my grandmother as I baked her favourite cake for Orthodox Christmas, and lots of fun activities like parties and walks in the woods.

I've been good with remembering to take my camera with me, and here are some photos from the last couple of weeks. I am still trying to cope with the fact that I can't do both writing and photography at the same time, and feeling that processing photos is a chore is greatly offset by the camera that consistently churns out pictures that don't need editing, as well as a really good progress on my book.

I gave first 12 chapters to my sister. We are a hypercritical family and don't like to sugarcoat things, which is what every writer needs in a beta reader, but I couldn't have hoped for a more flattering feedback. She dreamt my first chapter, really liked it, and now on Chapter 5 she can't wait to keep reading, she is very proud of me and says that reading the draft is a pleasure and a privilege! I'm floating on cloud nine atm, not because I expected praise, or because I fear criticism, but because I'm so grateful for such encouragement. Every writer fears their novel is awful, or that they are delusional when they think it's alright, so the fact she doesn't hate it is in itself all I could ask for. I keep wishing I could post some excerpts on the blog, but publishers don't like that, so I'm holding back. I'm just like any other writer, an utter tart with my writings, just want everyone to see them. But enough of showing off.

Here's the beginning of a walk in the local forest. As everything else on this island, it is beautifully maintained and ready for tourists!

We are one of the rare places left that have lots of red squirrels. This is a trend all over the island, using fallen or dead trees to make beautiful wood carvings and leave them where tree once stood. This is a large wooden squirrel that kids can ride.

My doggy leading the way. His new harness looks a bit like a superhero cape :)

Squirrel observation point.

"I've spotted the squirrel, let's go!"

Signals man wood carving.

On our way back.

Before we left I just snapped a photo of me wearing Tom Ford 'Moonlight' lip shine, it looks better in daylight, but my lips were cold...

Traditional food on Orthodox Christmas - ćevapćići (meat rissoles), French fries, Urnebes salad (feta, garlic and ajvar - a roasted pepper relish), prebranac (Serbian baked beans with onions and paprika), turšija (pickled raw vegetables) and, of course, šljivovica (Serbian plum brandy, behind the icon)

St Sava is the family saint on my father's side. His real name was Rastko Nemanjić and he was the youngest son of Stefan Nemanja, the Serbian nobleman who established Nemanjić dynasty and Serbian empire in 12th century, that went on to rule much of the Balkans and Greece. St Sava was a monk, a diplomat and the first Archbishop of Serbian Orthodox Church, which he ensured gained independence from the Byzantines. He is also the author of first Serbian constitution in 1219.

St Sava built the Hilandar monastery on Mount Athos, which remained a beacon to Serbian people during times of Turkish and every other occupation (Germans, Austrians, NATO...). In fact, Serbs used St Sava's flag and image as a symbol of resistance to Turkish zulum (injustice), and in revenge, Turkish Sinan Pasha dug up St Sava's bones and ritually burnt them on the square in Vračar in 1594. St Sava Cathedral has now been erected on that spot, to commemorate his and all our struggles through the ages. I used to live in Vračar when I lived in Belgrade, in a gorgeous apartment that overlooked the rooftops of the Old City, and I still walk those streets in my dreams (and novels!). 

Turkish Ottomans were just one of many foreign armies who tried to take Serbian land and crush the spirit of Serbian people, but they never prevailed, even if it cost Serbs many lives and much destruction. And St Sava is a symbol of that fight, for the right to exist on our ancestral land as free people. Also, due to his kind and learned nature, he is considered a patron saint of students, teachers, schools and universities. Our slava, the St Sava patron saint day which we celebrate in my family, is on 27th January every year. But the icon is the only one I have in my home, and it comes out every Christmas and Easter, as a symbol of remembrance of my ancestors, my people and my country.

Christmas tree was burned, with many sparks and beautiful, big flames, which predict a bountiful, happy and lucky year for our family. 

I'll conclude with one of my favourite traditional Serbian military songs, performed by Vienna Orchestra. For Serbs, who lost 30% of their male population fighting Austrians in WWI (and winning) this is a truly remarkable moment. 

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