Dositej Obradovic – Enlightment´s Odyssey

In Hopovo and other journeys Where Dositej got that kind of money for his journeys Dositej as irresistible charmer


Man who, in its time, saw and knew more than any other living Serb.
- It all started with unsuccessful runaway from home

First running away from home of fifteen years old Dimitrije Obradovic, son of furrier Djurdje from Cakovo (Temisvar´s Banat) and Kruna (from Paunkic family in nearby Semartin) was not successful.

Boy early left without parents, so his uncle Nicolas Parcanin accepted him and thought of preparing him for priest. He went to school in Cakovo and sincerely loved book. He read on Serbian and Romanian and he read the most hagiographies – lives of saints. Pruned of dreaming and imaginative he decided to follow saint’s example and commit himself to ascetic life of monks. He met some monk Isaije Decanac that came to Cakovo to beg and went with him toward Turkish border with the intention to go to monastery Decani. On that very same day, when he founded out that he is gone, uncle ride the horse and around midnight found them in monastery where they stopped to stay over night. He returned Dimitrije home and sent him to cap maker’s craft in Temisvar.

But, nothing could stop Dimitrije in him intention. In first part of his autobiography ˝Life and prikljucenija˝ that he issued twenty-nine years later he wrote of that escape: ˝… even if sky and ground conciliate against me, I will leave!˝.

Barely one year passed and Dimitrije escaped again. And – escapade was successful. With his friend Nick Putin he stole out of Temisvar and near Slankamen crossed to Srem and on July 31 {August 13} 1757, around 14 hours, got to monastery Hopovo on Fruska gora. Prior Theodore Milutinovic, born in Valjevo, took him as his student. On February seventeen 1758 he was admitted to monks order and received name Dositej, according his role model Saint Dositej that in age of seven left his parents and went to monks. On April sixteenth metropolitan Pavle Nenadovic gave him rank of deacon.


"Here I am in Srem, in legacy land of last Serbian despots...

Early in the morning we started traveling at eligible Fruska gora… Hopovo was in our heart; we covet for it. Around noon we came to Irig and went toward monastery… As we stepped to monastery’s ground we felt like we came to garden of Edam.

And when we come to my lovely Hopovo, what people will look, what they will agitate, what will admire the most and wonder of?… He wants to know…let him come to Hopovo when he is pleased from spring to autumn, and let him return home, he can see if he can tell everything that he heard. ˝


˝It was around two o’clock in the afternoon when we entered to monastery yard. Brother monks left the dinning room; finished their lunch. Younger is shuffling and patriarchs set with prior. When they saw us, they asked us to come to them…˝

Dositej Obradovic (parts from Life and prikljucenija)

He stayed in Hopovo for three years and three months.

(More of Dositej in Hopovo in part about Monastery New Hopovo)

Disappointed in monk’s way of life, in rough and lazy monks, lost ˝each desire for sanctity˝, on November 2. {15} 1760, he escaped. He headed over Slavonia Slavonia to Zagreb with deacon Atanasije. It was in period of seven year when Austria and Russia war against Prussia. He thought of joining some orthodox priest in Austrian army and come with him to Germany where Russian troupes were settled and where many Serbs served as officers. Some of them will take him to Russia. He counted on going to Kiev to study science.

Born nomad

Road to Russia failed. No harm done. His nomad nature, irrepressible tendency fro changing places and environment turned him to the other side. Toward Mediterranean. He left Zagreb on March 1, 1761.

In northern Dalmatian, he spent four years among Serbs. He was also in Montenegro. And then, it was decided. Runaway monk from Hopovo went ˝abroad˝ (his favorite word that he commonly uses in his autobiography). He surrender with his whole soul to the challenge of not known, curiosity irresistible led him to meet foreign countries and nations.

In 1765, over Trogir he came to Split where he boarded on ship for Krf. He stayed on Krf for month and half, went to Morea and stayed there for two months. From Navpleon he sailed to Saint Gora and autumn and winter of 1765 spent on Hilandar.

In spring of 1766 he went to Smyrna which he left in 1768, went to Epirus, in Hormov he stayed until the end of year and then returned to Krf. He stayed on island until May, and in June 1769 over Venice and Zadar returned to Northern Dalmatic. In autumn 1771 over Trieste went to Vienna where he lived for next six years. From Vienna he went to Modra, near Bratislava, traveled to Karlovac visited his and his mother’s birthplace, that he hasn’t seen for nearly twenty years and then headed to Bratislava.  

In autumn 1779, inexhaustible traveler was in Trieste. On the following year, he traveled through Italy. He visited Venice, Ferrara, Bologna, Florence, Pistoa, Luca, Pizza and Lavern and then headed to Constantinople. He sealed besides Corsica and Sicily and on island Hios he stayed for eleven months, until March 1781 when he went further to Bosphor.

He left Constantinople fastly, being afraid of plague. He caught first boat toward Black sea, continued on Danube and unshipped in Galc, in Moldavia. He spent year in Foxan, Jas and Roman and then headed to Germany.

In autumn 1782 over Poland, Sleazier, Breslava and Leipzig came to Hale and on the following year moved to Leipzig. Two years after over Frankfurt on Maine, Majhajma, Strasborough, Nansy, Metz and Lineville came to Paris. He fulfilled his ancient desire to see French capital. He stayed there for three weeks and went on to London.


How Dositej had that kind of desire for traveling?

In introduction of his first work ˝Life and prikljucenije˝ he said that only heaven determined him to spend his life with various nations. Word traveling strikes him like magnet. He was always ready to rush to distant countries. He wrote about himself: ˝I learned with long experiment that I should watch not to think where to go, because if I am up to, I’m going, I don’t actually know how˝. Once when he started traveling, he carefree drifted, to good luck and his blissful nomad’s volition. When plague forced him put of Constantinople, he climbed on first ship for Black sea not knowing at all where he was going. He noted: ˝Whether it is heading (ship) to Crimea or to Trapezont or if will got to Cavcas, I will go with it, just not to be where plague is, I don’t want to be friendly with it; it couldn’t care less me not seeing Paris or London, yet˝.

Impatient to see as much as possible, he took very difficult staying in one place for longer period of time. It happened to him in Moldavia: ˝My good friends advise me to stay another year and retrieve more. No, there is no way, because I am afraid to get fond of money and peace and stay there until I die˝.

In Paris after three weeks, in a hurry, he wrote: ˝Where is London? It is not a time to stop. Ahead!˝ in his fortieth year he wrote to bishop Josef Jovanovich Sakabenti. ˝…as far as I am concern, there is no joking with traveling. If it is only mentioned traveling in joke or seriously, I couldn’t care less; I must travel.˝

Cruising Europe

He arrived in capital of England in the beginning of December and stayed there for six months.

On first days in June 1785, Dositej was in Hamburg and at the end of month in Leipzig. He visited Saxon cities: Dresden, Altenbourg and Cajc and in the autumn he was in Vienna. He stayed there for two years.

At the ending of 1787 he headed to Russia to Sklov to general Simeun Zoric (at his invitation), former lover of Empress Catherine. He stayed on his estate for six months.

In summer of 1788 he traveled over Liflandia and Sesvegen (July), Riga and Klasen in Kurlandia (August), came to Keningsbergh September 12, on 30th in Berlin, October 8 in Vitermberg, 20th in Leipzig.

In the beginning of 1789 he rushed to Vienna. He spent there nearly fourteen years and in summer 1802 he moved to Trieste.

Two years later, in spring of 1804, first news about revolution in Serbia came. Desire for motherland that he never visited was getting stronger. In June 1806 he left Trieste and in August 1807 he crossed from Zemun to liberated Belgrade.

He died in March 1811, in year 72.

Jovan Skerlic said for him that he was a man that in his time ˝saw more and knew more than any other living Serb".