Friday, December 22, 2006

Sex and the City

We’ve been planing to see this film for a month, but always ended up saying “Ah, we’ll see it tomorrow”. Finally, yesterday it just felt like it was the right time to see it. Even trekking through the mushy snow and the thought of uncomfortable wicker chairs and cigarette smoke in Akademija 28 café-cinema didn’t seem like too much to handle. And good thing too, as it turned out to be the last day of screening. It would have been a real shame to miss it. I think Shortbus is a beautiful film.
Although there’s more explicit sex then I’ve ever seen outside of porn, I don’t see this film as pornographic. Pornography is simply supposed to arouse physically whereas this is a positive and emotional film with a warm and deeper message.
In fact, most of the sex takes place at the very beginning, in a way to get it over with and then deal with the really important issues. What I saw was a simple and honest film showing how people are obsessed with imaginary problems or real problems which they blow out of proportion, how they overcomplicate things when life is in fact simple and beautiful if we just relax and see what is good around us. And it is a film about love, which is not always easy but is always the best solution.
The actors seem genuine, and today after reading about the film and the years of workshops and preparations I realize why, and really respect their efforts. The music is wonderful especially the final song with which the film ends in a scene of cathartic liberation, bursting with happiness.
The incredible animation linking the scenes reminded me of my own little New York. And New York is such an important part of the film. The film echoes so much of my own view of the city. And before someone asks “What on earth did you do there?” I don’t mean literally but the energy and vibrancy and some sort of creative insanity.
Having said that, parts 2 and on of my American impressions will follow soon, I promise. Don’t give up on me yet

Monday, December 04, 2006

The CSs and the Cs

There are two types of people that really annoy me. I don’t know whether they exist anywhere else in the word, but they are particularly abundant in the proximity of any form of Belgrade’s public transportation. Let’s call them the Conversation-Starters and the Commentators. They are closely related and quite similar. They can be both male and female, and 40-something and up.

The first, less aggressive “species” is characterized by a desperate desire to communicate with anyone about anything as soon as they are left idle for more than 1 minute in any situation involving waiting for or driving on a bus/tram/trolley. Usually they let out a recognizable sigh, deep exhale or pant, before making a general comment about oh, well anything, really, in the hope of drawing some unsuspecting victim into a pointless conversation. Fortunately it usually happens to be another conversation-starter, so the worst thing that can happen to the rest of us is to be bored senseless.

The second has a similar tactic but with the aim of spreading negative energy and/or picking a fight. They hope that a comment will force an annoyed fellow passenger to reply which could start an argument, which helps their commute just fly by. Their field of interest is quite narrow and usually revolves around more liberal factions in politics and young people in general.

I am no stranger to getting up for people on public transportation. But, I draw the line on old people, people with disabilities, pregnant women and people with small children. I have no intention of getting up for strapping forty-five-year-old women who look like they could pluck my arm out with two fingers. Well, maybe if they ask me nicely. On the trolley on Friday, this burly woman started her soliloquy about how “children” have no manners, do nothing, and spend all day running around in school or playing games on their computers and then do not have the decency to get up on the bus. Lady, maybe this “child” had a tough week at work, so just go away, but thank you for noticing my boyish good looks.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

So, How Was It? part 1

The habit of writing seems to be one that is hard to establish but so easy to loose. Having recovered from my organism’s complete refusal to accept its original time zone, from getting back to work, and from going through 3 CDs of New York photographs with every single person I know, it’s high time to return to my badly neglected blog.

It makes no sense anymore to recount in detail our activities during the trip, as I failed to do more than just scribble a few words in my notebook the whole time we were in the US. So I will try instead to write about my impressions and observations and make some comparisons between here and there (this might take some time).

Although most of it was tourism and pure fun, these two weeks were very important to us in a more substantial way. After we decided, due to a fortunate turn of events last year, to move (at least for a while) to NY, we needed, in a sense, to verify our decision, and see how feasible and realistic our choice was. So how does it all seem now? After all, America is supposed to be the land of opportunity.

And in my view, it is. I like America. A lot.

Before I elaborate, it is probably time for a little disclaimer: I understand New York is not America. The US is more than a country, it’s practically a continent. Even within smaller countries, differences between various parts are huge. London is quite unlike other parts of England I’ve seen. Belgrade has little in common with Serbia proper. Besides, how much can you really experience in two weeks? Tourism is not real life. It covers only the most pleasant a city/country has to offer.

On the other hand, I have to admit I’ve had some prejudice when it comes to America, especially as a potential residence. All our lives we are bombarded with stories of America as an inferior, wannabe Europe, a land of racist fat people who eat junk-food and drive to their own mailbox. I knew that was not true, and I’ve heard many wonderful things as well, but on some level I was burdened by it.

As I said, I really like America…

to be continued...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Jet Lag

Back in Belgrade. Back at work. Back on the web.
Disoriented, late for work, exhausted and excited, happy and depressed.
New York was all I expected it to be and more. Big, fast and chaotic, but nevertheless warm, charming and friendly. The history of cinematography has really done it justice and I fully understand what makes this place the center of the world.
To the people who have been visiting this page, I apologize for not posting. The internet connection at our friend’s house in NY failed. Admittedly it was also a perfect excuse to not spend time in front of a computer without feeling guilty.
I’m glad to be able to see family and friends, but Belgrade looks so tiny and unimpressive. I realized the best whay to beat jet lag would have been not to stay.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

First Impressions

Running around these last few days I just couldn’t find time to sit down and organize my thoughts. It is a rainy midday in New York City and here’s a, hopefully, short recap the first few DKNY days.
I really love it here. I somehow knew I would. On Friday coming back from work, I stepped of a stranded trolleybus in the middle of Slavija circle. The first snow caused Belgrade’s traffic system to collapse, but as I headed home on foot, cold and wet, past angry, cursing drivers I nevertheless had a huge grin on my face. I just couldn’t wait to come.
Appropriately for traveling to the city that never sleeps, we didn't get any rest in the 30 hour day that took us from Belgrade to New York. After finishing packing very late and only a few hours of restless sleeping, we got up before dawn to get a cab to the airport. Appropriately, the Scissor Sisters were playing happily on the radio. A short delay, one aerial view of the Eiffel tower in the mist, several plastic-wrapped meals and an ocean later, we landed. Oh, again appropriately, the in-flight movie was the Devil wears Prada.
First impressions were a bit strange, though. After the architectural splendor of Charles De Gaulle, JFK seemed gray and drab. The long line of tired and nervous travelers waiting to give their fingerprints didn’t really improve the atmosphere. Our friend was waiting, fortunately, so we got in the car immediately and hit the roads. I knew America was the land of cars but I was still a bit shocked. First of all, the cars are huge, and they are everywhere. As we drove, for what seemed like hours in the awful traffic along this and that expressway, motorway, highway or parkway I wasn't all that impressed, but as we passed by the East River and saw the lights of Manhattan in all their glory I was bought.

We got off the highway into a whole different world. Brooklyn is lovely. Carroll Gardens is a nice quiet neighborhood with beautiful brick buildings, small shops, good restaurants, and friendly people who say hi in the streets. Walking around the city these last few days, I realized New York was like a series of small cozy towns hiding between the streets of the huge metropolis.
Not everything was great though. I managed to get my wallet stolen. I was terribly upset. I didn’t have too much money, but with no money and no Metro Card we had to walk for hours in the weak rain, through some not very representative neighborhoods to get home.
Despite that, I’m very happy that we’re here. We decided to first handle all the formalities and then let go and enjoy ourselves. So far, we finished all of Ivan’s paperwork, and visited most of the schools I’m interested in. Today we’ll brave the rain and finish the rest of the work.
Although we’ve been busy with other things, in the process we still got to walk around Manhattan’s avenues, see the Marathon runners in Central Park, and the flags fluttering at the UN, and go to Williamsburg where walking along one street you move back through time, from the hip artsy neighborhood to the orthodox Jewish community. We sat in Washington square park where a hard core band played and little girls in pink coats happily jumped around. There’s so much to feel and see and do and everywhere it is just bursting with life.
I think I could get used to this.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Start Spreading the News...
Reluctant Dragon is off to New York. As of this weekend, and for the next two weeks or so, under this heading, you will be able to read all about Ivan’s and my experiences from the big city.
The title is, if I do say so myself, cleverly coined from our surname initials.
This visit is mostly tourism, but also some sort of fact finding mission for great plans that lie in the future – getting the feel of the place and finishing up some business which could eventually take this blog over the Atlantic for a much longer time.
Wish us luck and stay tuned.

Monday, October 30, 2006

... Spilled Milk

Can’t you feel it? How everything is just better now? The two “bright days” of the referendum have sadly passed, but we have a new constitution, and suddenly our problems are all gone, as our big Serbian hearts pump Kosovo through our constitutional bloodstreams.

Yeah Right! “The bright days for Serbia” were ironically, and I would say symbolically stormy, rainy and gloomy. But, hey, what can we do? The constitution is here, we’ll soon see how they (ab)use it. I’m sorry it has been passed. I’m glad that it wasn’t passed as overwhelmingly as I thought it would be. I’m glad they got such a slight majority despite the incessant brainwashing through every medium imaginable. Elections are hopefully coming soon, so at least we’ll have more choice.

I’ve had a lovely weekend, though. I got to do all the things I had planned and more, thanks to daylight savings. I have a busy week ahead. Lots of things to finish up before a welcome break from the country of Serbs and insignificant others.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

What to do for the Weekend?

It’s best to stay in bed late on Saturday, and fully recover from Friday night. Sleep or have breakfast in bed, watching reruns of “Enterprise” until it time for lunch. It may be a good time to visit your parents. Then to the gym - there’s no excuse for not exercising just because it’s a weekend. After that you should go home and rest a bit before meeting up with friends at a café. You haven’s seen them in a long time, what with being very busy. Check who is out of Big Brother. Don’t stay up too late. You need the rest.
Wake up fresh, bright and early on Sunday morning. Try to get some autumn sun, if possible, over coffee in the garden of your local café. There aren’t many sunny days left in this year. Go to the market and buy some fresh fruit and vegetables. A long walk on Ada would be great, but if it rains go to the book fair or the October Salon, or just stay at home, cuddled up with someone and watch the rain outside the window. Have dinner at a friend’s house. You can cook together. It’s fun.

Why… that leaves no time for the referendum. Shame. Oh, well, better luck next time.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Abolish the Army

My “soldierly” life continues. I’ve just received my belated first paycheck for services so far rendered to our fatherland, of which Kosovo is an integral part (is the last bit obligatory now?).
Extravagant as I am, I’ve spent it all in a matter of minutes.
The whole 4 Euros and 50 cents of it.
Seriously, are people in civilian service supposed to be in an equal position as those recruits with guns? I was lucky, I keep saying that. But what about those people who have too many obligations in the civil service to continue working? How do you survive for a month in Belgrade on 4 and a half Euros? Any suggestions?
The guys in the regular army at least have a bed and three meals a day. Isn’t this discrimination based on the rejection of violence as a way of life?
Despite this, less and less people choose to do their duty in the actual armed forces.
Why doesn’t the army deal with these problems, one might enquire? Is it because it’s busy defending the “sovereignty and territorial integrity” of our shrinking homeland? No, it’s too busy blowing up small towns in central Serbia.
I’ll spend much of next month on regular leave. At least, they were kind enough to give me a permit to leave the country during that period.

I say abolish the whole thing. Now!

No More Revelations

A woman was walking carelessly across the sunlit Students' square, when a huge chestnut fell from a tree, missing her by just a few centimeters. That could really ruin one’s day. And such a gorgeous day it is. It’s autumn again, and again, winter seems to be nowhere in sight. I’ve rarely been happier to be wrong.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


One has to accept the inevitable. Winter is on its way.
It was today when I stepped into my pleasantly warm office and realized that the central heating has been turned on, that it dawned on me why I felt so cold this morning when I left my house in a thin autumn jacket. It’s time to unpack those winter clothes.
It won’t be long before those awful “what to do for New Year’s” conversations start.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Pain in the Blog 5

New and improved Reluctant Dragon from now in Beta!

Whatever that means…

The transition of my blog into the new format has been very smooth. Thank you to Blogger for making some things more user-friendly. I’m also grateful for labels of posts. That always seemed like a logical development.

Off course, as they say in Serbia “There’s no pleasing the people”, so we get to the nitpicking part. The choices in modifying one’s template are still very limited, so if you want more you still have to deal with html. I would like to play with the visual side of the blog and though common sense has made it possible for me to perform basic adjustments in html, I’m afraid the badly needed makeover will have to wait until I have time to be bothered with it.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Let Me Elaborate

Looking through a few of my previous posts, a comment by BgAnon (to whom I apologize for regularly failing to answer his comments and questions) compelled me to elaborate on some of my views.

I may come across as a grumpy young man, but I am an optimist, a cautious and critical one, but an optimist nevertheless. I think that if you want good things to happen you have to believe in them.

And I am, on a personal level, very content and happy. I’m in a loving relationship, I have friends and family, I have a good, relatively well paid job. But on a more general level, I do think that Serbia is becoming a darker and more sinister place. I am certain this course is not irreversible, but I sincerely feel it as such under my skin.

The new constitution which is being imposed upon this country has certainly left us all in the dark. The few bits that have surfaced have sadly shed little positive light on the matter. The hastily constructed document, pushed forward for all the wrong reasons defines a nationalistic centralized state and will eventually bring us into conflict with either the world or ourselves, or both.

There has been progress in recent years. That cannot be denied. Economic development is in part the reason why people like me can be content on a personal level. But I think all of this is mostly cosmetic. Sure we can eat in fine restaurants and shop at Zara, but on a more substantial level we haven’t moved far from the 90s, which, in my view, having in mind the opportunities that we’ve had is equivalent to going backwards.

Serbia, with some exceptions, is a corrupt, conservative, right-wing state pushing its agenda through tasteless promotion of religion, Cyrillic letters and crowned emblems.

A rare opportunity to create a modern state has been missed.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Fear of Embassies

Embassies make me queasy. It’s like going to the dentist. One expects something bad.
I’ve traveled. Not as much as I wanted to, but quite above average for a Serb my age. The pages of my passports (current and expired) are graced with holographic stickers of European stars and numerous stamps of cars, trains, airplanes from various border crossings.
Still every time I head for a consular office of a foreign country, the inherent Serbian fear of embassies kicks in and I become nervous and insecure. But can we really be blamed? It is a fear of humiliation and inferiority, it is an aversion to bullying guards and grumpy clerks, it is an intolerance of bureaucracy. The bottom line is – it is a fear of captivity.
I’ve never been denied a visa. I always have good reasons to travel and all the paperwork. But that is one of the things that bug me. Do you really need a GOOD reason? Isn’t wanting to go somewhere reason enough?
Well I can’t change the system, but I can overcome my fear. It’s a slow step by step process. Another visa, another stamp and a step closer to peace of mind.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Little Apple

Have you ever been given an entire city?

Sunday was Ivan’s and mine second anniversary. He made me a model of New York City as a sign of things that might be in the future

This future is still a long way away but things have started to develop. A lot of hard work is ahead, a lot of nerves will be lost.

In the meantime we have the gently swaying transparent buildings of an imaginary Brooklyn.

We sit on a sofa in our little red apartment careless and relaxed like in the original photograph from a seaside vacation.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Oh, Brother!

Globalization can be slow but it’s unavoidable. Big Brother has finally turned his eye on Serbia. Unlike many people I know I don’t see this as the end of civilization as we know it. Sure it’s somewhat mindless but it’s harmless and at times entertaining.

After the BB rehearsal – the unappealing introduction into the world of reality shows, which was a bit too real, reminding us of where we live and of all that is wrong with this country, the real thing is here, and it’s surprisingly decent.

What we could have learnt from the trial period is that Serbia seems rather superficial in selecting the only two decent looking people to go through to the actual show. But the one thing that really stands out, in my view at least, is the disproportional amount of attention on homosexuality. It is a topic in every episode, in conversations, on forums and in newspaper articles. After the appearance and later elimination from the rehearsal show of the first openly gay character on Serbian TV, we now see inklings of a debate or at least acknowledgement of an issue that is absolute taboo in our society.

Whether this was deliberately done to draw attention or not, I think it’s a good thing. It brings the problem into the homes of regular people, especially now that B92’s ratings have grown to levels they could only wish for with more intelligent programming.

I’m sure real surprises are yet to come. Personally I think it would be wonderful if Ivan and Marko hooked up. I’d enjoy it on both a symbolic and a personal level, but it’s not likely to happen. The good thing is that the first person to leave the house was kicked out by the housemates for being too intolerant to gay people. Hopefully some of what we saw on this surreal “reality” show will spread into our real reality.

Monday, September 11, 2006


It’s amazing how extraordinary events can make you remember completely insignificant details and forever embed an otherwise ordinary day into your memory.

I remember a cloudy September afternoon in Belgrade half a decade ago. Serbia was still enthusiastic and energetic less than a year after its conversion to democracy. Bitef, the theatre festival, was about to start, like every September, and after work (on the first serious job I ever had) I met up with a friend at a café in Kosovska Street to browse through the program and decide which plays to see. We made our choices and made our way in the weak rain to buy tickets. The ticket office was closed so I went home.

At home I found my transfixed family staring at the television and the surreal scenes from New York. I spend the rest of the day and night skipping from channel to channel in horror and morbid fascination, dreading the third world war which I thought would follow.

So what has changed five Septembers later? No WW3 for now, but, we live in a world which seems a little scarier and less safe. Maybe it is the same, only we are a bit more paranoid. I do feel, however that the world turned darker, more extreme, more repressive. Serbia turned darker too.

I have the disconcerting feeling that no lesson has been learnt from this terrible tragedy. Terrorism is no closer to being eradicated. Nothing has been done to address and prevent the reasons for its appearance. In the “democratic” world 9.11 has become yet another abused legacy of innocent victims - an excuse for human rights abuse and deepening prejudice.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

In the Army Now

In the woods of central Bosnia, young Slovenians, Croats, Bosnians and Serbs fought a fierce battle. This time, fortunately, they only used paint, the teams were mixed, and it was all in good spirit. Ironically, I spend the weekend ahead of the start of my civilian army service playing paintball. There goes my “objection to arms” argument. Hopefully no one will know.
As always when I find myself surrounded by people that I used to share a country with when we were just children we get along perfectly. Whether it was student seminars in Slovenia or festivals in Bosnia or now this meeting with my colleagues from the region, my generation seems open and genuinely nostalgic of times it hardly remembers.
But it’s not easy to forget what happened. It’s never far away, especially in Bosnia. Hiking in the mountain you can’t help but think whether there are landmines if you step off the beaten track, and every once in a while you come across a burnt house riddled with bullets. Paintball perhaps isn’t the perfect sport for that country. One of my Bosnian colleagues said it was rather disturbing when the “bullets” started whizzing past her head. I can understand.
All the war games bring me back to the beginning - and the army. In Montenegro, army duty has just been abolished. In Serbia we still have to serve, albeit with a civilian alternative. The good news is that I got what I asked for, an institution which is flexible enough so that I can continue working.
I am however angry that this outdated concept still exists. I am angry that for the next nine months I am only allowed to work in my company on contract and not full time, which technically makes me unemployed, all because the army is officially paying me 5 Euros a month! I even feel a bit guilty about the watered-down request I submitted for civilian service. Instead of saying what I really feel I wrote some general observations on pacifism. Yes, the result is favorable for me, at least as favorable as it gets. I did what was practical and pragmatic, I played a along. But by playing along we maintain a system which is rotten and should be dismantled. Such things really annoy me.

Thursday, August 31, 2006


Guca is upon us once again. I do not intend to go. The sweaty public drunkenness and the cacophony of trumpets are really not my cup of tea (bottle of brandy).
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Guca, as such. Let people party in whatever way they see fit, but labeling this a supreme cultural event or saying that there is something uniquely and authentically Serbian in getting drunk and losing control is just wrong. “It’s a Serbian brand, it’s a Serbian brand”, desperate voices cry out to defend the festival from its critics. Sure it’s a brand. It is a big tourist attraction, an important event in the Serbian calendar, a moneymaking machine, but by no means does this guarantee quality or the “cultural” and “ethnic” aspect of the whole spectacle. People rarely think of the actual trumpeters’ competition. It is merely an excuse.
Some website in the UK has allegedly voted Guca and Exit as the top two festivals or carnivals in the world, even ahead of Rio. I have my doubts that this is probably a website frequented by Serbian diaspora, but there is another thing preventing me from jumping with joy at the fact that I live in the certified epicenter of world entertainment.
Within Serbia there is an evident disproportion in treating these two “world famous” brands. I don’t claim one event is better than the other (I certainly prefer Exit), as it is a matter of taste, but they are deliberately and forcefully confronted.
Guca is seen as traditionally Serbian and Exit as something foreign, even anti-Serbian.
The government and the media proudly promote Guca as Balkan joie de vivre whereas Exit is always marred by criticism of drug abuse and incidents.
Neither event is certainly free from corruption, accidents and illegal substances, the death toll of Guca drunk driving car accidents is not insignificant, but that is part of life and these ugly things do not make them less important or less Serbian.
Another thing that bugs me is the approach to organizing Guca. It is graciously funded by the state and still they have the audacity to postpone the event with only a month to go, potentially ruining plans of thousands of badly needed tourists, just because someone remembered that it was time for fasting!? And here I thought we live in a secular state.
Silly me, everyone knows that any good Christian believer has to be done with al that nasty fasting business before stuffing him/herself with fatty pork and liter upon liter of brandy and beer. After the fast, it’s perfectly all right. After the fast, you can indulge in as many pagan rituals as you want. The church can even rent its frond yard to accommodate this orgy of lard and alcohol, as it gladly does. The church, naturally sees nothing wrong with its flock indulging in large scale gluttony at is very doorstep, but it does have a problem with street theatre performances labeling them satanic, and getting the police to intervene.
Here I go again, but like with every other aspect of life in Serbia lately there is a terrible trend of primitive and shallow celebration of “nationhood”, “faith”, “tradition”. Will we ever learn that faith is something deeply personal, that nations do evolve, that new traditions are bourn and that national identity can encompass so many new things that only make it stronger?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Not Dead

Finally! After first being too busy and then sick (from being too busy) and than too busy again, I can finally get back to the simple pleasures in life. Like… sleeping, or eating, or writing my blog.
But I can’t think of a thing to write about. Working around the clock and stomach flu tend to leave a person uninspired. The constant rain isn’t a lot of help either.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Cosmic Proportions

Things change. They actually do. I’ve been following what I consider is some of the biggest news in years, and I’m very excited about the prospect that even what we consider hard facts can change in a day. How many planets are there in our Solar System? someone asks. Um, Nine? one would say. Nope. Wrong. Twelve… that is if you count the “plutons”, would be the new answer.

Off course conspiracy theorists (no shortage of those) could argue this latest change was funded by an international lobby of printers, already rubbing their hands and licking their lips thinking about the profits from printing new textbooks, dictionaries and encyclopedias, but I think there is nothing sinister about it.

It just proves that science is alive and kicking, thank you very much. And it can still change our world.

Sure, the Solar System hasn’t actually changed. Apart from the regular movements of its comets, asteroids and planets it is exactly where it was a few days ago. We cannot change the laws of nature, but we can and do change what we know and how we interpret it. We do change our perception. And that’s the wonderful thing. It shows us that no system created by man is everlasting and impervious to change no matter how used to it we’ve become. Sooner or later we learn something new, circumstances change, reality kicks in, and we have to accept it and move on.

This change of cosmic proportions will hopefully trickle down through space, carried by solar winds, and our gravity will pull it down to a global, continental, regional or local level. Nothing lasts forever. Isn’t it a relief? Whether it’s religious dogma or American foreign policy or the Serbian government or international borders. And still life goes on.

This latest Solar System enlargement has given a chance to some new heavenly bodies to have their time in the spotlight. And there are more candidate planets hoping to meet the criteria for admission. Our ever changing neighborhood gives hope even to those of us living in the Kuiper belt of Europe that our time might come.

Another thing we can learn is the power of compromise. Pluto got its final status, and it’s, well, less than a classical planet more than an asteroid. Some things you lose, some thing you win, it lost its moon but gained a twin planet and got to be the reference point for other planets. And I’m sure the Plutonians don’t mind.

For a serious text on the subject: BBC

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Fast Food, or Gone Quickly

This is my appeal for the state to subsidize out-of-the-ordinary fast food. At least until eating habits of the Serbian people have changed and it becomes profitable.

The only falafel place in Belgrade has closed. The other day I went there for the first time in a while only to discover that it has been turned into yet another grill. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Serb, I love grilled meats of all kinds, and pizza, and all sorts of yummy pastries from bakeries, but sometimes one just wants to eat something else on a short lunch break. And there isn’t anything.

Is it possible that in a land with such good food and such a love of food, there is no room for something with more spice, or rice? I guess the problem is that we see these types of food as something that will bring a little variety, something that we can eat every once in a while. And that’s obviously not enough. There are not enough people who see this food as their daily bread, or hamburger, or burek.

So basically, this is also my appeal to all people of good will from the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, South-east Asia and the Far East, Africa and Latin America to come and settle in Belgrade in large numbers, building communities, bringing with them a breath of fresh air and a little variety. Maybe if we sit down and eat each other’s food, this will be a better place.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Myopia is fun

I’ve been home alone these last few days.
Last night, lying in bed without my lenses I looked out the open door of the bedroom and the red lamp at the far end of the living room seemed to be a ball of blood-orange light, like one of those summer sunsets over New Belgrade which paint the sky purple.
You rarely think about it, but Myopia sure can bring a different perspective.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

... there are some ugly buildings

Another thing I thought about this morning is that the new (not really new, but recently completed) National Bank building on Slavija is one of the ugliest buildings I’ve ever seen. It looks as if it didn’t even have an architect but that someone just pieced together every geometric shape imaginable.
So I thought I’d try something. And I’d like some involvement. I don’t know if I can pull this off, as only a few people actually comment on this blog, but here goes:
What, in your opinion, is the ugliest building in Belgrade? And Why?
I know that among the people who come here regularly there are some Belgraders, temporary, permanent or former, so I’m sure you won’t be short of opinions.
As for the criteria: Let’s not talk about houses or residential buildings, unless they’re unavoidably terrible. They get torn down and replaced. Also I’m not thinking of buildings which are in poor condition, gray, dirty and crooked. That can be fixed.
I’m thinking big. I’m thinking landmarks, buildings which have left their permanent mark on this city, one that will haunt us for a long time. So think government buildings, hotels, hospitals, museums, theaters, sport arenas, churches…
Also, to balance it out, if you want, say which ones you like, but try and avoid the usual favorites, like the Parliament or something

Belgrade is beautiful, but...

The overnight train from Vienna arrives at 6:27. I got up at five as I had to pick someone up at the train station. I decided to walk. I don’t even know how public transport works at this time of day.

I like being out very early in the morning. Everything is so peaceful and you’re the only one disturbing the peace. I like how I can hear the echo of my footsteps. I like how you can hear rumbling long before you even see a car. I like to look at the city without people and traffic, fresh and clean. It’s so unreal and out of context.

This was the first time that I walked from Slavija to the train station since Nemanjina street got a facelift. Think it looks great.

I got to the station on time. The train was naturally late. The station is filthy and stinks, so I decided to wait outside. The plato in front of the station actually looks great. Disregard the parked cars, the filth, pollution and construction work and it will make a nice square some day. It’s a pity that Korunovic’s post office building didn’t survive.

The train arrives and hundreds of young backpackers pour out of the train. I started thinking about first impressions. It’s a disgrace that people arriving to a European capital of nearly 2 million people by bus or train have to see what they see and smell what they smell. I know construction of the new train station is restarting and the bus station will be moved to New Belgrade, but this will take years and something needs to be done urgently. Maybe that’s why so many visitors like Belgrade, because after the first impression it can only get better.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


I was trying to find a reason why being back from vacation is a good thing.
At my local market which happens to be the most expensive in Belgrade most fruit and vegetables cost 30 to 50 Dinars (35-60 Euro Cents) per kg, while in Montenegro the same products are 1.5 Euros. What causes this huge difference is beyond me.
At least now I can munch on as much melon and blackberries as I want looking out the window at the gray sky and wet streets.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Heading Home

I feel uncontrollably attracted to this rocky terrain. Maybe it’s an ancestral connection, but I really think there is nothing like the nature in Montenegro. The mountains are mighty and unbelievably beautiful.
For reasons beyond my control, my vacation lasted longer than planned (not that I’m complaining) so on Thursday morning we left Boka Kotorska. Once again we chose a less conventional route and started to ascend up the winding road leading to the cloud covered mountain tops. We passed this same road at dusk on our way to the sea, but now in daylight it’s even more impressive. The air was fresh from the rain which fell during the night.
Instead of turning west into Bosnia, we headed east to Niksic. The plan was to go through Zabljak and the world heritage Durmitor national park. Curiously, in all these years it is another place that I’ve never visited. And soon I realized how much I’ve missed.

Just before Niksic we passed wonderful lakes with lots of tiny islands. The city itself, as most cities in inland Montenegro is ugly and, to me at least, looks unlivable. But the nature is unreal, and the closer we got to Zabljak, the more my jaw dropped at the Windows desktop theme surroundings

The open spaces, the mountains and the huge sky reminded me of Brokeback Mountain. My suggestion to listen to the soundtrack was dismissed, unfortunately.

We had a picnic on the shore of the Black Lake. You have to pay to enter the national park. I’m not really sure if that is common practice, but it’s absolutely worth it.

The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful. We passed the border into Serbia without even being looked at. We struggled our way through intensive construction work on Zlatibor and soon got into traffic jams stretching to Belgrade.

I’ve had a wonderful vacation and I feel energized and relaxed. Let’s see how long it lasts.

Party Town

Budva is a big city which caters to all needs – on the main promenade stalls offer everything from fish-themed temperature-measuring refrigerator magnets and inflatable marine animals to henna tattoos and hand-crafted jewelry. There are rollercoasters and hair salons, internet cafés and shoe shops, clubs and bars. The usual Montenegrin menu of fish, pizza or pancakes, expands to anything from Greek or Chinese to McDonald’s.
The old town is beautiful and completely restored with lots of attention to details.
A wonderful discovery is a place called Hot Moon with a great choice of tasty smoothies and delicious fusion food of Mexican, Indian and Montenegrin origin.
Although the ability to endure a day at the beach with tens of thousands of other people is something I’ll never develop, I see why the off-beach content attracts so many. It’s fun. In September, it’s perfect.

The Quest Continues

The quest for the perfect beach continued yesterday. We decided to go to a place called Perazica Do where my sister and I went a couple of times when we were kids. I remember the cute houses nestled at the bottom of a steep cliff , and a pebbled beach with turquoise water. I also remember a luxury hotel carved into the cliff on one end of the beach, its terraces and swimming pools. I’ve heard in the meantime that the hotel had closed and fell into disrepair, but we did not expect to find what we found. The hotel has been demolished as if a huge bite has been taken from the mountain. A crane towered above ghostly concrete remains and bulldozers were plowing what was once the hotel beach with its pools. The whole place was transformed into a huge construction site and debris and sand have covered the beach and muddied the water. Disappointed, we left. We’ll be back when the new hotel is built.
But, we were left with a dilemma - how to spend a pleasant day at the beach on the Budva Riviera the most crowded part of the coast? If you want peace, look for luxury. We thought of checking out the beach at Sveti Stefan but the 10 Euro price tag just for the parking was a bit too much. So we headed on to Milocer, where parking is only three Euros, but the beautiful Queen’s beach with its former royal residence is closed for the public so that the president can take a swim.
It was already noon, very hot and the traffic was terrible. Skipping Becici with its new fancy hotels on a very unappealing beach and Budva, we moved on determined not to compromise and to find just the righ balance of tourism and wilderness. Therefore one by one the ant colonies of Jaz, Trsteno and Ploce were eliminated. Even at the risk of being boiled alive, the five of us in a small car decided to take the back roads over the hills in the blistering sun and go to Bigovo. On the way the only life we saw were snakes and some sheep under an olive tree.
But it was worth it. Bigovo is a fishing village in a small bay, far from any important naval or terrestrial routes. It isn’t much to look at, but it is pleasant and laid back. Outside the village there is a nice beach. The water is very clean and there is a lot of fish and shells something I haven’t seen in Boka in many years. In fact on the town pier we find dried remains of some quite scary sea creatures. I hope the water is not that clean.

Trip "Abroad"

Although Montenegro is now independent, the visit to Ulcinj was the only time that I ever felt as if I were in a different country. I’ve spend every summer of every year of my life in Montenegro, but this was my first trip to the south end of the coast.

The stretch from Ulcinj to the confluence of the Bojana River and the Albanian border is an enormous beautiful sandy beach, which for most of its 15 or so kilometers is divided into lots where different owners have created almost identical forests of umbrellas surrounding beach bars and crisscrossed by wooden walkways to keep people safe from the burning sand. The beaches have names like Copacabana or Malibu and outside on giant parking lots are seas of cars with mostly Kosovan plates (I didn’t immediately get what KS means so I was surprised by the number of tourists from Kazachstan)

After some wandering and instructions from a friendly guard of the nudist colony we managed to find a “wild” piece of beach near the confluence of the river which is home to the occasional bather, kite surfers and a shabby bar with a Brazilian flag. I’m used to the typical Montenegrin stony beaches but I did enjoy walking in the sand and there is nothing more comfortable for lying all day in the sun. The sea is shallow for more than you can walk without getting bored and a bit murky from the sand lifted by huge waves. We spend a lovely lazy day, and I’ll definitely come again.

As the sun started to set we went into town. The old town in Ulcinj sits on cliff above the sea, but is nowhere near as impressive as Budva or Kotor. I expected hammams and mosques. It is well kept and clean but there is no impressive architecture. It also seems a bit deserted.

Downhill, however, on the promenade by the sea everything is teaming with life. You can barely walk through the crowded streets. It is noisy, sweaty and smells of all sorts of food.
As I’m a huge fan we get some dönner kebabs with the help of an interpreter. Unfortunately it’s not nearly as tasty as in Germany.
Everything is familiar, but somehow strange, more oriental. Everyone speaks a different language, people even look different. Whole families, all generations from grand parents to crying babies, out on their evening walk, snake tamers, naked children lying on the sidewalk, begging. Incredibly loud Albanian music blasts from terraces of clubs. Crowds wait outside - apparently some huge Albanian star has a concert. Funnily enough, most young man look as if they just came out of a Turkish gay club, in garish, supposedly trendy outfits. The only uniting factor of all nationalities in former Yugoslavia seems to be Ceca who found her place even hear, “thundering” away from a café. Another thing that surprised me was the number of internet cafés. Elsewhere on the cost they are small and few, but here there are so many with hundreds of computers, and they are all full.
Ulcinj was really a unique experience, a different setting, naturally and culturally. I’m really glad we made the trip.

Real Estate

One of the interesting phenomena which have come to light with Montenegro’s independence is the real estate boom. In old Kotor town agencies have sprung up catering to pockets of all depths, preferably very deep. All along the coast demand exceeds the offer. Everything goes from fully furbished villas to empty shells of long-deserted stone houses engulfed by roots of fig trees. Similar to Croatia from a couple of years ago, foreigners with some cash to spare buy, invest, sell. First came the Russians, now it’s the English. Hollywood seems to be interested as well. Friends tell me Michael Douglass and Katherine Zeta Jones were looking at a house in Perast the other day. Houses change hands and their prices go up and up. I guess now is the time to invest before the realtors move along into Albania. Hear the coast is amazing there. There’s already talk of the next big thing.

View from Perast. Skolje Islands: St. George and Lady of the Reef

Perfect Day

The Montenegrin coast, once isolated, was a peaceful haven where connoisseurs and us „locals“ could easily find a secluded place to enjoy the sea and the sun far from tourism, beach bars, rentable umbrellas and screaming children. But it seams more and more people are enjoying this type of refuge, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a piece of rock and water for yourself. Too often I find cars parked along the winding road through the bay at my favorite „secret” spots, where hidden tracks lead through the shrubs to immaculate beaches which I always thought were mine alone.
The car imposes itself as a necessary instrument in going further off the beaten track. A boat, naturally, is another good solution.

We decided to spend a day at Miriste a small cove at the very entrance to Boka Kotorska looking beyond the fortresses that guard the bay onto the open sea. The road by land is narrow and winds through olive groves – the Mediterranean as it once was, excuse my copyright infringement. Although boats come here regularly from Herceg Novi it is not as crowded as Zanjic with its camp site, just a short walk away. It is not absolute isolation, as there is a restaurant, café, showers and all other modern facilities but the number and profile of visitors makes it very relaxing and pleasant.
The water is crystal clear and tropically blue, and the view is spectacular. Nearby on a rocky peninsula is the Arza fort, another nice place to swim and dive, where a couple of years ago after a long journey over rough roads I finally arrived only to hear Vivaldi echoing through the empty halls and find out that during the summer the fort is home to some other refuge seekers. On the far side of the bay you can see the forts in Croatia and in the middle the mighty Mamula fortress on an island with weird vegetation.
Just off Miriste beach is another small island with a monastery.

As we were a group of 10 people, we easily managed to charter a boat just for ourselves and set off to explore the Blue Cave just outside the bay. The huge sea cave is a great place to dive in the predictably very blue water. Our skipper also offered to take us to the nearby Black Cave, which I’ve never even heard of on my numerous visits to its well known cousin.

It’s absolutely fantastic! As you swim inside (the entrance is to low for boats of any kind to pass) the only light is coming from under the water so bodies of people in front of you have a fluorescent glow. Swimming further your companions start to disappear in total darkness. Through the black, holding hands, you reach the end of the cave where you can stand on rocks in the water. The water gets quite cold and you shiver looking back at the sliver of light from which you came as you listen to strange sounds of water splashing and what I imagine can only be bats in the darkness above you. Very exciting and eerie. Then you swim out into the warm Adriatic.
On our way back to Miriste we stopped at Mamula, to swim and explore the wonderful fortress and its alien plant life. Stories of turning it into a casino are still there but I like it just as it is.
Back at Miriste we spent the rest of the day playing games on the beach and after the beautiful sunset we went to Rose, a lovely fishing village nearby for a great sea food dinner. We made our way back on the winding roads listening to a Mozart cd which accidentally made its way into the car. But it sure made for a wonderful ride.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Back in Belgrade

After a prolonged 20 day vacation I’m back in Belgrade, and back at work. I’ve only managed to post once from Montenegro, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been idle, just that every time I went to Kotor, the only internet café was either too crowded or didn’t have electricity, but it did have a wonderful fruit tart to help me forget why I came. I’ll organize my notes and photos today and share my adventures and impressions. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Montenegro - Beginning

Getting up at six on a Saturday is not really my idea of fun but we had to hit the road before it gets too crowded and hot. Serbia at dawn is bursting with (unused) potential. The nature is lush and beautiful.
On Zlatibor we take a break and visit Mecavnik. The village is cute although crowded and artificial. If only real people lived in villages like this one. You have to pay to get in. Not too thrilled to give money to Kusturica, but officially it’s for charity. Hope I’m not aiding and abetting war crime fugitives...

For certain reasons we take the road less traveled and chose a route through Bosnia. It’s supposed to be fantastic, and it will be a welcome break from the usual trip via Podgorica. The roads are much worse though, we have been warned.

Munching on cookies my mother baked, we come to Visegrad. The famous bridge on the Drina still stands dominating the city and the river. It’s much more beautiful than I ever imagined it. Nature keeps getting more spectacular.
Driving along the river through the Drina canyon, I simply don’t understand how come this country disintegrated so violently. How can so much aggression be stored in people who live surrounded by such fascinating beauty? Traces of the war are still visible everywhere, houses burned or scarred. People are apparently moving on. There’s regular life amid the signs of struggle. It’s strange and I feel uneasy. I hope this will work out.

We stop at a meadow near Sutjeska and sleep a bit in a green flowery field. We are awakened by a cheerful yellow dog. Cows graze around us. The site of more battles this time from WWII the Sutjeska river provides even more breathtaking nature. The old stone monument perched on a hilltop, gray and forgotten is nevertheless powerful. Clear streams wind through a countryside reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings films.

The terrain becomes flat although we’re still high in the mountains. The surroundings look almost alien. Never been, but it reminds me of some pictures of Greenland. Bare land with shrubs for trees and a strange town of bland preassembled houses surrounding a huge power plant.
Lakes fill up the holes in this rocky terrain. Towns and villages seem lifeless and deserted.
We enter Montenegro at a remote border post. Policemen look surprised to see us/anyone, but kindly welcome us into the new state. The international road from the border looks more like a run down hiking path than a motorway. We navigate with difficulty, as the road is not wide enough for two cars to pass each other by, let alone a car and a truck (although we manage. twice), all the more difficult /scary, as on one side of the road there are sharp rocks, on the other an abyss. Fortunately there’s not much traffic. Since we left the main road in Zlatibor we only saw about a dozen cars and the two trucks (probably lost).
We pass through scary ghost towns, and further amazing backdrops, and as it starts to darken, we reach the mountain tops above Boka Kotorska. The view of the bay is spectacular, the road even more scary. We look with envy at the new modern road still under construction and begin our descent towards the sea
Arriving at our final destination, exhausted and happy to be alive, thrilled with the fantastic and horrifying journey, we pass out and sleep like babies.

Hastily I’m constructing this post on the lap-top sitting under a lemon tree in the garden, trying to squeeze an impressive one day journey through three countries and some of the most incredible and diverse nature I’ve ever seen into a short text. Next time we’ll have to bring camping gear and take time to explore.
When I’ll be able to post is a big question. I’m not in a hurry to go into town.
As for Montenegro, it’s still the same. Nobody really talks about the referendum, but I sense my friends are divided about its outcome. I congratulate those who approve; I try to persuade others that it will be ok. I think it will be. They will be fine.
What certainly hasn’t changed is how beautiful everything is. We lie in the sun all day. The sea is refreshing, perhaps a little cold. In the evening the wind blows and it’s pleasantly cool. I can never sleep so well in Belgrade. I really needed this.

Friday, July 14, 2006


Now that twists of Balkan politics have turned me into an international real-estate owner, I’m off to my Adriatic summerhouse on holiday. It will be my first trip to Montenegro since independence.
I’m interesting in hearing what my former compatriots and continuing friends at the seaside think about the whole thing, but even more I’m interested in swimming in the warm see, sleeping, and generally lounging about, in the sun or in the shade.
I’ll spend the summer with Ivan, my sister, a number of friends, their significant others, and even some Dutch people I’ve never met, who agreed to sleep on the living room floor. Sounds like fun.
This badly needed getaway will also be a test for Reluctant Dragon. Will I be able to post and how often with very limited internet access? Will the change of scenery bring a breath of fresh air into my blog or will the see and sun make me too lazy to even consider posting let alone write anything?
Well, we’ll see. Even if I don’t write for a while, I’ll certainly be back in August.Have fun everyone and thank you for coming.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


We’ve moved back to our apartment as our friends are coming back from vacation. No need to look after the dog anymore. I feel sad. I’ve grown quite attached to the little guy. He’s a loving and loveable dog, and I’m going to miss our walks, even those half-conscious ones at 6am after a whole night partying at Exit and the uncomfortable train ride from Novi Sad.
Indoors he is calm and quiet, but outside he becomes an uncontrollable torrent of energy. His favorite past time is digging up mole holes on a nearby meadow. He can spend hours digging until he can barely walk and collapses under a shady tree.
Unfortunately a few days ago leisurely activity turned into tragedy as he caught and, in the process, killed an unfortunate mole. He proudly paraded it around, and all attempts to get the dead animal out of his mouth were in vain.
Another hobby of his is that from time to time he likes to run away and although he doesn’t wander very far, he successfully evades capture and is not fooled by offerings of food or playful coaxing.
However, everyone has a weak spot. As Ivan put it: He likes moles more than he likes freedom. He was caught while he was digging, oblivious to the world around him. Just as the mole’s, the mole hole was his undoing. I guess, what goes around, comes around. Not that going home to get fed and being killed by a digging dog are very much alike. Bad analogy.
Anyway, the point is - as long as someone’s entertained, one can get away with anything. So don’t be caught in the mole hole.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


This years Exit was more international the ever, the official language seemed to be English, and I like that a lot. More and more people from other countries are finding Serbia an interesting tourist destination, hidden from the outside for so long, lovely, friendly, cheap and weird. The internet and other media are full of affirmative though somewhat shallow stories about the aggressive dictatorship turned party land. At the forefront, Belgrade is once again full of tourists. I hope this welcome contact with the world will help promote openness and tolerance. With this in mind I wanted to share some tourist related thoughts from yesterday:


I feel, and always have, that people who don’t pay for public transportation tickets deserve to get fined. Public transportation in Belgrade is far from perfection, but it’s much better than it ever was, and I don’t think we can expect it to improve further unless we all do our part.
Yesterday, on a trolleybus, I witnessed a quarrel between a guy and girl and the ticket controller. From what I could understand, the girl, a local, had her monthly ticket, while her friend, a tourist, didn’t have a ticket of any kind.
The ticket control guy said they could either pay the “penalty ticket”, give the girl’s personal data (tourist boy didn’t have a passport) or get out and wait for the police. He was polite, for ticket control guy standards. The girl accused him of being unfair and unreasonable for daring to pick on a foreigner, who “just got here and didn’t know he should pay for the ticket”!?!?
Really?! Unless he had come from, I don’t know, a village in central Burkina Faso where there is no public transportation, or some weird country where they have state-sponsored buses, he should know you have to pay for public transport.
Eventually they unwillingly paid for the extra ticket, after first pretending they have no money and then complained about this “outrageous” incident for several stops.
Cultural differences are one thing, this is just plain rude.

Beautiful Belgrade

Is it just me?
Have you ever noticed how Belgrade/your city looks better when you’re showing it to someone from abroad? I was taking some friends from Zagreb around town, and the streets seem cleaner and wider, the buildings larger and more monumental, the parks greener. Have you noticed how you yourself feel a bit like a tourist?
Is it that we tend to take people to the most representative sites, avoiding the ugly bits? Or is it that we open up and appreciate things more when we look through the eyes of others? Perhaps it’s that the superficial view of a tourist allows us to look at the surface, disregarding all social, political, communal, infrastructural complaints that we usually have? When you don’t delve deep, you just see the lovely facades, the great views, the lively streets and tasty food.
Belgrade is beautiful.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

EXIT, day 4

WOW! The Pet Shop Boys!!! … and the Scissor Sisters!!
The best show on Exit! Ever! Still recovering…

But let’s start at the beginning. We spend Sunday afternoon strolling around Novi Sad, which for those who don’t know, is a beautiful place, a sort of a tasty bite-size city, which you can explore, experience and enjoy in a short time. A lot has changed since my last visit, mostly new shops and cafes, but many buildings have had facelifts too. The city looks better and much more alive. Replacing the cobblestones in Dunavska Street with stone tiles is, however, a crime against humanity.
Surprisingly for Novi Sad, I managed to eat some terrible food, a cardboard sandwich and detergent flavored ice-cream. It was hot and humid and as we sat on the grass in Dunavski park, I was feeling quite cranky and dark clouds were starting to loom. Literally. We decided to disregard the impending tropical rain storm and have a great time.

After a couple of drinks sitting on the banks of the frothy Danube, and looking at lightning tear through the gray sky above the fortress, a bit tipsy and in much better humor, we made our way across the river in the fleeting rain, past entrepreneurial people selling over-priced garbage bags as first-aid against the weather.

On a short tour of the fort, we wandered past half empty stages, as everyone was in the open-air cinema watching the world cup final. The skies had cleared as we got to the main stage, where Chicks on Speed had already started. They’re great fun, crazy, kitschy and humorous and we danced our way to the very front rows.

Then … the Pet Shop Boys - the first truly spectacular concert in the history of Exit festival - a simple modular set, which through lighting and projections changes from the lacy curtains of Suburbia to a marching ground for queer soldiers and a sky full of pink fighter planes; amazing dancers with great choreography; witty, sarcastic costumes; political references and ultimate pop music!

Even before they got on stage we were all screaming like teenage girls on Mtv. (I must admit I feel a bit ashamed). Some songs from the new album, and a collection of hits from throughout their career, ending with collective hysteria to It’s a Sin and Go west.

My throat and neck were hurting from screaming and straining, my legs sore from jumping and dancing, but I was utterly happy.

And then, the Scissor Sister put on another amazing show, energetic and wild. The singer, a disco version of Jack from Will & Grace, has a wonderful voice and dances insanely.
With the last atoms of strength we danced some more, not believing it was physically possible.

All in all, it was a wonderfully gay night, in every sense of the word. Aching and tired, but ecstatically happy, we headed to the train station, gobbled up some delicious fruit tarts on the way and fell asleep in the uncomfortable plastic seats.

Exit 2006 was a huge success. Keep up the good work, people!

P.S. Sorry for the poor quality of the photos, I have a crappy camera

Sunday, July 09, 2006

EXIT, day 1

We didn’t get to experience much of the festival atmosphere on the first day of Exit. Arriving to Novi Sad at 8, there was no time to lounge about, so we joined the streams of people flowing down city streets, across the bridge and onto the fortress.

Everything went like clockwork, and somewhat mechanically as we made our way past ticket control and police, got some drinks and arrived to the main stage, where the Cardigans appeared at 15 to 9, right according to schedule.

This seems to have surprised a lot of people, as it wasn’t too crowded in front of the main stage. In the past years Exit has become progressively more accurate. In the first few years, you could never tell who was playing where, and when.

The Cardigans were lovely. There was a friendly sing-along atmosphere as they played all their hits and some new songs. Some hard-core fans were there, screaming “we love you, Nina”, as she started playing her mouth-accordion. It was nice to hear Love Fool, and after some screaming and roaring, there was an encore, and they played Favorite Game, which is my personal favorite.

During the half an hour break after the concert we decided not to move, to keep our good spot close to the stage, and it was becoming increasingly crowded. Getting to the bar and back in these conditions is an impossible task, especially with a glass of beer, so pouring beer into a water bottle is a smart thing to do.

Franz Ferdinand appeared with a bang, and from the first moment the crowd went wild. For me, at first, it didn’t feel too right, the music was great, but the vocals were a bit weak, and there was a lot of pushing and shoving as drunken kids started to throw themselves around.

But very soon it got much better. You could feel the positive energy (and the heat) rising from the people, and on stage FF gave it their best, so we jumped and screamed without stopping. With every song a hit and an ecstatic crowd, some obligatory phrases in Serbian, a historic act of reconciliation with dedicating a song to Gavrilo Princip, and some frantic drumming in the end, the concert was a huge success. The spectacular fireworks that followed seemed very much in place.

Having learned nothing from previous years, at 1, I insisted that we head to the train station immediately, as I hoped there would be a way of getting back to Belgrade before morning. Off course we ended up sleeping on a bench waiting for the first train at 3 am. Serbian railways leave much to be desired, but arriving to the unfinished but already decrepit future Belgrade Central station, I was just too happy to be home.

Today I hope to get to Novi Sad and Exit a bit earlier. I don’t think the experience is complete without walking through town, or having lunch on the grass in Dunavski park. I want to check out the other stages as well. At least, now we know the train schedule, there is no need to rush. I’m sorry I missed Morrissey on Friday, but I’m sure tonight will be wonderful too.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


I’m heading to Novi Sad today for the first day of Exit. I’ll also be back there for the closing night of the festival. Tonight I’ll be listening to the Cardigans and screaming to Franz Ferdinand! I have a feeling this time a Franz Ferdinand will fare better among the Serbs than his predecessor. On Sunday, I expect a pop extravaganza with the Chicks on Speed, Scissor Sister and the Pet Shop Boys.
Stay tuned for reports and photos…