Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Tourism

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:

Rude

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.

3 comments:

Viktor said...

Good post.
As for the bus ride, i dont think it has anything to do with cultural differences of course. I would do the same thing, and i guess you would too, if you forgot to buy the ticket. People try to get away without paying penalties no matter if they come from Burkina Faso or Monaco. And i would too try to use my foreign guest as an advantage to try and avoid paying for the penalty ticket.
On the other hand i would never forget to buy the regular ticket, but that's another story :)

Sandra said...

Marko,
I think Belgrade IS beautiful - but I don't live there - and also has a lot of character - the two do not always go together! I agree, showing a city you know well to a tourist is like wearing tinted sunglasses and it gives us a new perspective on streets we've paved a million times... (God! ;-( I wish I were in a place I know well!! )
Enjoy your Montenegran (spell?) holiday! We'll even forgive you if you slow down on Reluctant Dragon...so long as you tell us all about it when u return! ;-)

Viktor said...

This is bganon pretending to be Viktor - I was hauled off a bus some years ago by inspectors having just returned from Croatia - and with an American tourist carrying a backpack - complete giveaway.

Didnt have any dinars on me and with no bankomat anywhere close to the bus station (at that time) I was pretty pissed off at the situation.

Belgrade is beautiful it just needs a little more care from those that live there. A taxi driver once told me that we are the only city in Europe that washes its streets every night. Got me thinking - what would be so difficult about getting those guys to hose down dirty walls too - even if only state owned buildings...