Dibonis Winery and Duzijanca.

These "Duzijanca" garlands of wheat can be seen all over the city.

Our weekend started Thursday evening with the opening of “Duzijanca” (pronounced doozh-ee-yan-ka). Marko and Lela met us for drinks and explained that “Duzijanca” was the festival of the first harvest, and it was a very important time of celebration for the Serbians. This year marked the 100-year anniversary of the festival, so it was an extra special time for us to experience Serbia.

We moved from a little café into the city centre where the festival was taking shape. As the sun set on Subotica, the beginning of the festival was announced, stage lights flooded the square with a warm, inviting glow, folk music filled the air, wine and beer vendors started taking orders, chairs were filled with the elderly and children started to dance to the traditional sounds of Serbia.

Marko ordered a Serbian dish for us to share –four different preparations of pork. Pork on a stick, pork hot-dogs, ground pork, and succulent bacon. Hmmmm yummy! I didn’t know that pork could be prepared so many different ways, but we both thoroughly enjoyed it!

As we bid Marko and Lela good-night (Laku noc – in Serbian), Lela reminded us that on Saturday, her folklore group would dance during the Duzijanca festivities. We promised that we would not miss it.

On Friday evening, our friends from Senta, David and Attila, planned a special wine-tasting and tour for us at Dibonis Winery. We really had no idea what to expect but David assured us that would be "shocked." We drove about 4 miles out of Subotica's city limits and turned into Dibonis Winery. I looked everywhere for the vines, but all that I could see were fruit trees. I later learned that the vines were a few miles away, and we were just at the tasting room and restaurant.

The wine maker - nicknamed "Lotty" - greeted us warmly. His tanned skin and deep smile lines made me think that he must have spent years tending the grapes in the hot sun. . . all the while smiling because he loved his job and adored his wine. Lotty spoke only Hungarian and Serbian so David translated for us as we walked into the fermentation building that housed about 15 of his wines.

We tasted about 8 wines straight out of the fermenters, and Lotty lovingly described every single one. All that I could think was, "Man! I want this job!"

On the way to the next part of our tour, David proudly pointed out all of the awards that Lotty had won for his wine and palinka. Palinka is sort of a brandy that is distilled with fresh fruit. In Serbia and surrounding countries, it is customary to begin and end a meal with a shot of palinka.

The next part of the tour took us into the barrel room. Lotty explained that he experimented with putting the same wine in American and Hungarian oak barrels, and he wanted us to determine which was our favorite.

In this picture you can see how Lotty is taking wine out of the barrels for us to taste. This was such a fun experience, and honestly, his wines were some of the best I have ever had.

It seemed that every wine Lotty poured was better than the last. I found that I stayed true to my taste because I loved the pinot noir that was aged in American oak. Chris preferred the same wine aged in Hungarian oak.

As we headed to dinner at Lotty's restaurant "Shiraz," I discovered the best part of the tour - the wine cellar! Apparently we can even have our own wine-locker here!

We ended the tour with a fabulous dinner. Thank you David and Attila for introducing us to Lotty and Dibonis Winery. We will most definitely be back - often!

Once Saturday evening rolled around, Chris and I made our way back to the city centre for more Duzijanca festivities. The evening was dedicated to showcasing the Serbian folklore dances, and we were most excited to see Lela and her group. It seems that everyone in Subotica was outside enjoying good food and the music of their history. I really loved every single moment of it.

These "circle" dances are typical in the Balkan region and in a lot of Slavic cultures. Lela's friend, Darko (the assistant choreographer for her dance group), explained that these dances are symbolic of community and living in harmony.

This is Lela's group performing. Their outfits are from central Serbia. They are so beautiful and colorful. I have this dance filmed, and I will try to post it eventually.

Lela and Marko.
At the end of the evening, Lela and Darko asked if I wanted to walk in the Duzijanca parade on Sunday. The parade wraps up the festival and everyone in the town is invited to participate if they have a traditional Serbian outfit. Darko said that I could wear an outfit from the dance studio, and that I would be the first American to ever walk in the Duzijanca parade. Of course I said YES!

I will write about the parade tomorrow!

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