Pokretači #31 Donald Niebyl – Spomenik Database / Illinois, USA

Donald Niebyl founded and manages Spomenik Database, a website dedicated to monumental Yugoslav WWII memorials. Donald not only travelled up and down former Yugoslavia visiting monuments (or ‘spomeniks’ as they are called in local languages), but he also researched and wrote detailed history of many of them, soon to be published as a book – ‘Spomenik Monument Database’ (pre-order on Amazon). Notes Spomenik database on … Continue reading Pokretači #31 Donald Niebyl – Spomenik Database / Illinois, USA

Zagreb: a Belgrader’s take

Despite being named as the best destination in Europe by travel guide publisher Lonely Planet in 2017, Zagreb was the target of a scathing and, at points, hilarious review in the German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel last July. The review not only claimed that Zagreb is the most boring capital in Europe, but also said that its highway to Croatia’s famed Adriatic coast was the best thing … Continue reading Zagreb: a Belgrader’s take

Finding Count Vronsky in Serbia

In 1878 Leo Tolstoy somewhat abruptly ended the story of desperate and broken Count Vronsky in Anna Karenina by sending him to Serbia to fight in the Serbo-Turkish War of 1876-1878, where he sought adventure, or even death, as penance for his famously ill-fated affair. A century and a bit later, this slightly inelegant end to the story of one of the protagonists of this … Continue reading Finding Count Vronsky in Serbia

Why are Serbians not outdoorsy?

As we were climbing around the ruins of Machu Picchu, feathery clouds clung to peaks covered with thick emerald forest. Rain, which pounded from the morning, stopped and allowed sunlight to shyly caress the sheer black cliffs above the foaming river. Around us, hundreds of tourists were jostling with selfie sticks to capture these magical scenes. My chain-smoking Belgrade-born-and-bred mother slowly moved uphill, panting. Once … Continue reading Why are Serbians not outdoorsy?

Sarma, Testicles and Kid-roasts: Rural Serbia’s Real Foodies

The global foodie trend made urbanites in Serbia more conscious about their consumption, and even inspired some of them to try their hand at making healthier, or at least, tastier food. In Belgrade, there are now numerous events devoted to producers of anything from Serbian truffles to Serbian tabasco. Although there are some misfires, Belgrade’s Cheese festival, Night Market and Wine Jam constantly deliver a … Continue reading Sarma, Testicles and Kid-roasts: Rural Serbia’s Real Foodies

Serbian New Year: the perfect time to start appreciating Turbofolk

The extended holiday season in Serbia finally ends with a bang and a hangover on Serbian New Year’s day, on January 14. Like our belated Christmas, it is a consequence of the Serbian Orthodox Church’s continued adherence to the old Julian calendar, which lags 13 days behind the predominantly used Gregorian calendar. Unlike Christmas, Serbian New Year’s eve is a very raucous affair and a … Continue reading Serbian New Year: the perfect time to start appreciating Turbofolk

Westsplaining the Balkans

Twenty years ago, while the embers of war in Bosnia and Croatia were still smouldering, Bulgarian historian Maria Todorova published “Imagining the Balkans”. In this seminal work, she detailed the ways in which the Balkans have been perceived and documented for centuries both home and aboard – most often as a somewhat brutal and uncivilised forecourt of Europe. Todorova called this discourse “Balkanism” as homage … Continue reading Westsplaining the Balkans

Serbia’s Magic Mountain

Rising majestically above the rolling hills of Eastern Serbia, Rtanj mountain has long captured the imagination because of the strange, pyramidal shape of its highest peak, Siljak (1560m). The mountain’s reputation for the otherworldly goes way back, as a local legend says the mountain was the site of a castle of a powerful (and bling-loving) wizard who decked it out with gold and diamonds, before … Continue reading Serbia’s Magic Mountain

Tirana Transformed

My first impressions of Tirana in 2008, were that the city did not look like anything I’ve ever seen before. Outside of the planned central core, buildings, new and old, were shooting up randomly, making the drive around the outskirts a vertiginous experience. The whole city was marked by almost five decades of Enver Hoxha’s Stalinist isolationism and its chaotic aftermath. There were bunkers, grand … Continue reading Tirana Transformed

Zašto planinarim?

Autor: Jelena Gatalica Možda za nekoga planina predstavlja samo gomilu kamenja, preveliki napor, ludost i rizik da bi se stiglo do vrha, ali za mene je mnogo više. Ne mogu da kažem, nažalost, da imam dugačak staž kada je planinarenje u pitanju, ali ponosna sam što je moj prvi uspon bio na Prokletije. Krenula sam na taj put, ne znajući ni zašto, ni kako. To … Continue reading Zašto planinarim?

Bosnia’s dramatic north: Jajce, the Vrbas River Canyon and Banja Luka

For most people, tourism in Bosnia and Herzegovina is synonymous with visiting Sarajevo and Mostar, and perhaps Trebinje, Medjugorje and the Sutjeska national park. This, however is unfair to the rest of this stunning country, which does not only offer a lot of wonderful unspoilt nature throughout, but also ancient fortresses, churches and mosques, which have persevered through its turbulent past. Last week I went on a … Continue reading Bosnia’s dramatic north: Jajce, the Vrbas River Canyon and Banja Luka

Bač: fortress in the plains

Bač’s medieval heritage juts out awkwardly from the tree lined streets of this quiet town. The remaining fortress tower overlooks one story homes where elderly ladies snooping on visitors, probably with the same passion of medieval guards.  A wonderful gothic gate protects an unremarkable concrete bridge over Mostonga. Honey-coloured tower of the monastery, dating from the crusades, pierces the endless Pannonian sky. This quiet town … Continue reading Bač: fortress in the plains

Day 4-7: The Bulgarian Riviera, from Varna to Rezovo

There might something in the mix of testosterone and sea air, or the fumes from sun-screen lotions, that makes men of all ages behave like they are teenagers whenever they approach the coast. This strange effect descended on us as soon as we entered Varna’s brutalist suburbs, and started discussing horrid facial hair experiments and buying fake Adidas tracksuits. It was the air, and definitely … Continue reading Day 4-7: The Bulgarian Riviera, from Varna to Rezovo

Day 3-4: The Balkans, Veliko Tarnovo and Zheravna

From Sofia we drove north-east towards the old Bulgarian capital of Veliko Tarnovo and its impressive UNESCO-protected citadel Tsarevets. We were going deeper into the Stara Planina (Old Mountain) and the scenery was lovely. It was this mountain range’s Turkish name, Balkan, meaning “a wooded mountain”, that gave our peculiar region its name. In the early 19th century a German geographer Zeune, wanted to find … Continue reading Day 3-4: The Balkans, Veliko Tarnovo and Zheravna

Guča: Serbia’s Dionysian spectacle of trumpets, cabbage and beer

Originally conceived as a festival to promote the fledgling institution of a brass band 1961, Guča Trumpet Festival (aka Dragačevo Fair) evolved in the past two decades into one of the most popular festivals in Serbia and a somewhat divisive cultural institution. For all but the musical purists, Guča is much much more than an ethno-music festival. Although the festival is devoted to preserving this … Continue reading Guča: Serbia’s Dionysian spectacle of trumpets, cabbage and beer

The Nutshell Guide to the Montenegrin coast (2): Budva, Lake Skadar, Podgorica and Cetinje

This is the second part of my guide to the Montenegrin coast aimed at visitors planning to spend a weekend or a week in Montenegro. The first part suggested places to visit in the Bay of Kotor.  Budva Both metaphorically and physically, Budva is at the heart of the Montenegrin riviera and concentrates all of its best and worst features in its wonderful bay. On … Continue reading The Nutshell Guide to the Montenegrin coast (2): Budva, Lake Skadar, Podgorica and Cetinje

The Nutshell Guide to the Montenegrin coast (1): The Bay of Kotor

Despite its great natural beauty and diversity, until relatively recently Montenegro was under the radar of tourists outside the Balkans, Italy and Russia. Tourism in Montenegro started in the times of Yugoslavia, from the opening of the luxury peninsular fishing village/ resort of Sveti Stefan in 1955, which has since hosted glitterati like Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren and Bobbi Fisher, to the nudist camp at … Continue reading The Nutshell Guide to the Montenegrin coast (1): The Bay of Kotor