Friday, June 4, 2010

Welcome to Serbia

We went to the Balkans not really knowing where exactly we would go to.   I take Anthony Bourdain's motto - "No Reservations."  I always have a vision, I know where we will end up, but not exactly sure the path we will follow.  Sometimes this leads to frustration finding a room late at night or ending up in places we don't really want to be, but most of the time it leads to some wonderful surprises that we never expected to experience.   We were leaving Skopje, Macedonia and wanted to get to Bosnia.  We had 3 choices - 1.  Take a nightmarishly long bus ride with a pregnant wife and no bathroom, 2.  Risk crossing Kosovo and being stopped at the Serbian border (Serbia doesn't recognize Kosovo, so if you arrive from Kosovo, they may consider that you illegally entered their country), 3.  Take a night train to Belgrade, spend the Day and night in Serbia and then spend the next whole day on a train to Sarajevo.  We chose option 3.

We chose to visit the "Bad Boy" of the Balkans.  In America and Western Europe, they are known as the aggressors.  They had Slobodan Milosevic, the man who tried to purge Europe of the Kosovo-Albanians and ravaged the city of Sarajevo.  He succeeded in killing 230,000 people and displacing 3 million.  In the end Nato arrived and restored order.  This does not mean that Serbian's agreed with the west.   To quote one man Cindy and I spoke to the train from Belgrade to Sarajevo, "Why does the West (United States and Europe) have to interfere with everyone else's business.  Your country killed millions of native americans, why can't you let us kill to retain our homeland. (Kosovo.)"

In the short 24 hours we were there, we visited both Novi Sad and Belgrade, getting only a flavor for the place.  In the end it really felt depressing, so the short visit was not regretful.  Somehow the photos are still intriguing and did not embody the sense that we had.

This is Serbia:

About 1.5 hours north of Belgrade lies the city of Novi Sad, known most for being the largest rock festival in Europe.   It was not the time to rock, so we found good food and the Petroaradin castle overlooking the city on the banks of the Danube River.  Here is an Orthodox Serbian church in view from the walls of the castle.

Nestled near the castle, lies a plethora of character home in varying states of life.

A traditional door-knocker in this part of the world.

Belgrade's transportation hub of busses, taxis and my personal favorite, the train.


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