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Serbia 2012

by vbo Mon Jul 23rd, 2012 at 03:29:30 AM EST

Hi everyone! Just came back from my holiday in Serbia so here is a little diary.
I am not going to talk too much about politic all tho at the time I was in Belgrade there were presidential elections. I did not vote for two reasons. First is that I do not feel I am to choose anything or anybody because I do not live there and I am not to take consequences of my vote. Not to mention that I do not know many details that should determine my vote. Second reason is because I do not believe that whoever comes to power will be actually able to choose important things about politic there...it will be determined elsewhere (deals between Russia and USA to be precise). That is considering foreign policy anyway... As for inside policies it is always about who's going to throw more money/benefits over their shoulder to a poor people and I believe people there would know better about this stuff.
In any case people are now used to "democracy" so they do not take hard if their candidate lost this time , because there will be another election in few years ( maybe even earlier) so there was no protests or any kind of anger amongst them. They just want government to be formed so that things can go on. It took some time for government to be formed and SPS (Socialists which is Milosevic's party and his people) are simply unavoidable because no matter what percentage they have no one is going to be able to make government without them. As for a President ( Toma Nikolic) who is an ex Radical ( Seselj's / presently in Hague/ ex colleague) most of the people are embarrassed of his appearance and foreign language incapacity, because he is going to represent them now worldwide. Most of them at the same time believe that no matter what his pre-election promises were he or his government will not dare to do anything radical. That's about it. As why it took so long for government to form , the reason is not that  their programs differ so much (because they do, but who cares, the most important thing is to cling in to the power). Real reason is that they could not agree who is going to get what exact ministry and especially power over the BIA  ( Serbian CIA) and also even more importantly DB (military intelligence agency in Serbia) that by now used to be under jurisdiction of SPS /Milosevic's people in reality no matter that formally they should answer to government. Enough about politics...

Belgrade and Serbia on the other hand for someone like me, coming periodically to visit, seems to actually look better and better every time I visit. Things are happening there to my surprise. Belgrade has long way to go to catch up with Western Europe's infrastructure but things are going right direction. Belgrade just got new modern bridge over the Sava River;

they finally repaired another very important bridge. Builders are still building those new and very much up to western standard buildings with new apartments all over the city but elsewhere in Serbia too. Many new commercial buildings are there now too.

Generally things seems to move as opposed to here where I live (Brisbane/Australia) where no matter how good news we all hear about Australian economy nothing significant is actually happening for 4 or more years now, except investments in mining industry.
Belgrade is still great destination for tourist. There are many historical places to be visited in Belgrade and Serbia

combined with great restaurants with delicious food and low prices, cafés, bakeries, shopping malls, quite a few very good hotels now, beaches on river Danube and Sava...

ah so much is there for tourist to enjoy

and I was pleased to see groups of tourists from China (imagine that) not just in Belgrade but also in Novi Sad which is another nice destination to visit in Serbia (and not only because of EXIT music festival).

I also spotted group of tourists from Turkey visiting Kalemegdan fortress and I made a joke how they are inspecting their former colonies as they are rising as an economical but also military power .  Now it is obvious what countries are doing well when you see their tourist far away from home, ha-ha. Interestingly right now they have a lot of Turkish serials (soap operas mostly)  on Serbian TVs. Years ago it used to be Spanish soap operas all over TV but now maybe just one. Also I spotted Indian one...So times are changing. I was never in to the soaps of any kind nighter here or there but I became very interested in historic serial Magnificent Century about "Suleiman the magnificent"  which is also kind of soap opera but it has been done interestingly ( one you can see here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XCwGCIKD0Q with English translation . I can't wait for new season, ha-ha.
Anyway...I am going to post few photos here but as I have literally millions of them you can also see some of them here: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.4357021572584.177767.1499073105&type=3
As about how people live in Serbia right now...Unfortunately Serbs did not have chance to experience benefits of a good times in recent past because of the wars and sanctions and transition etc. etc. A little bit of that good feeling they had maybe about 4 or 5 years ago...just to taste it and then it was gone. The biggest problem is obviously unemployment that   no one can really even measure to real extend. It's kind of horrific especially when one bears in mind how government does not really have social programs that would actually help. Many people that are close to getting pensions are out of jobs and after exhausting up to 2 years of some kind of unemployment benefit these people are with no income so families have to cover for them until they can get pensions. Young people are also broadly unemployed and I am not talking about those uneducated but the opposite, people with university degrees can hardly find jobs too. It was always the case in Serbia that in order to get a job you need good connections and you need to pay someone to get it. It's still there but one new thing is that company would very often employ your child if you promise to leave and go to pension or whatever. It sounds incredible but that's how it is and people are using this opportunity to employ their kids. This goes for state companies.  On the other hand those who are lucky enough to get job in foreign companies are enjoying extraordinary high salaries compared with others. Somehow no matter how people in Serbia are crying out loud that they are having such a hard time making ends, for me  looking from outside  they seem to live pretty normal lives. They are driving newish cars, are dressed better then more Europeans and not to mention Australians or Americans. They eat well (oh food is unbelievable) and in the end they managed to go on holidays this year again (some are going to Turkey because of ridiculously low prices and luxurious resorts, some to Greece to show solidarity, some even to Croatia)... How they manage to do it I do not know but Serbia was always a wonder land and people seem to be magicians when it comes to money.
As for stuff that one can buy in Belgrade's   shops I was impressed. Coming from Australia where APSOLUTELY everything is made in China I was pleasantly surprised to see stuff from all over the world. And there is something for everyone's pocket. Cheap Chinese stuff for the poor, much better Turkish stuff for middle and all those world's brands for those with money. Also there is great choice in furniture and other stuff from all over the world. Yes that means that Serbian factories are hardly working at all...No matter what there are benefits from the fact that Serbia is in Europe and is now open.
I can write for ages about my impressions but I will finish here with telling you that I had a great time in Serbia. Every time I go there and I come back to Australia I am more determined to go back and if not live there then spend much more time in Serbia once circumstances allow for it. Obviously one of the things that I miss the most is family and those gatherings with family and old friends that miraculously did not forget us and are very happy to spend time with us whenever we come.
I hope this man made financial crisis will eventually come to an end ( when those man that made it  decide to lose some money) and that Serbia and others in Europe will get new start...cause no matter what Europe is a great place.

Great photos, it looks lovely.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Jul 23rd, 2012 at 06:53:12 AM EST
and for the pictures.

paul spencer
by paul spencer (paulgspencer@gmail.com) on Mon Jul 23rd, 2012 at 01:44:52 PM EST
Did the film Parada come up in any discussions you had?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jul 23rd, 2012 at 03:25:00 PM EST
Not really...I haven't seen that movie yet ( but I will)... But we did touch this topic about gay parade in Serbia and all I can tell you is that regular people do not want it. They feel more like I do that gay people are free to be who they are , like everyone else but street parade is not something people would like to see. Being a gay was never that easy in Serbia but also they were accepted by regular people( not so much by some extremists like football hooligans etc.). But even that parade may happen in a near future because people are coming to a state of mind that they simply do not care any more about stuff like that...not because they really support that parade.
Obviously young people are more tolerant...

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Mon Jul 23rd, 2012 at 06:47:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think at this point australia is just selling dirt to maintain its standard of living.  This is because it is a land of 'dirt by sea', there is a lot of it and it's easy to ship.

I am not convinced that the buildings were a great addition - modern buildings tend to be built to the false premise that doing something completely different will make the place better.  On the contrary, what makes many great cities great is the careful architecture inside a vernacular.  Combine with what appears to be the typical disease of making huge roads and encouraging car traffic and I predict belgrade will lose its charm and livability.  Hopefully the food will remain good.

by njh on Thu Jul 26th, 2012 at 12:54:20 PM EST
Yeah...as much as I like to see new buildings architecturally more aesthetic then those from 60, 70, 80s, people there are not that happy. There are few reasons for this ...first that infrastructure is not adequate to accommodate now more people all tho these buildings are not too high (Belgrade is not aiming up to the sky like Australian cities). Most Belgrade streets are not very wide anyway (old city) and people park their car on the edges on a both sides. This makes streets even narrower so driving there is a nightmare for me after living in Brisbane for so many years. Yes those new buildings have garages but people tend to make either residential or commercial properties out of them because they are built on perfect locations, close to the centre of the city. The other reason people do not like higher buildings  is that they  want to preserve life style that they had, having a house and garden (as we had) in the middle of the city. But it is not realistic because Belgrade is rapidly growing...
As for Australia I do not know what is happening elsewhere but here in Brisbane there was a time when everything was changing fast so when we used to show Brisbane to our guests we would say " this building wasn't here when we came...this wasn't here year ago, this wasn't here yesterday joke." But for the last few years very little has happened. I must admit that they made for many years very big infrastructure traffic project airport link now finally in use...and that's about it...Here and there very little is happening. Having in mind all the money that comes from "dirt" these days one would expect more to see. Maybe mining areas in QLD are thriving but I am not sure. In September I am going to visit some friends in Perth (first time in Perth for me) so I will see what the "dirt" has given to them...


Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein

by vbo on Thu Jul 26th, 2012 at 08:23:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I disagree about the value of narrow streets.  Narrow streets are the best parts.  This guy makes the case far better than I can be bothered in a comment http://newworldeconomics.com/archives/tradcityarchive.html

The problem is perhaps the lack of public transport and a mistaken belief in the value of cars in cities.

I wish Australia would uses its money on building up its public transport and densifying its cities.  The more I live in the dense urban parts of the world, the more I appreciate them.

by njh on Fri Jul 27th, 2012 at 12:01:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Do not get me wrong I love narrow streets if I look at them as tourists attraction but hey if it is a matter of traffic in your everyday life it's a nightmare. As for Belgrade's public transport , it is much more frequent and cheaper then here in Brisbane. All tho buses  are not of same standard unfortunately ( some are very old and without air condition etc, but also they got some pretty good ones as a present from Japan and other countries and some they bought new). Families in Belgrade used to have just one car per family for ages but yes it has changed...families now have more cars. On the other hand people use public transport much often then here in Brisbane.

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Fri Jul 27th, 2012 at 08:15:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hopefully the food will remain good.
Unfortunately I am not holding my breath on this because industrial production of food is slowly taking place there too. Small farmers are rare now (they say this production is not viable) but one can still find them on "green markets". My generation has a habit of buying from green markets regularly but younger generation is buying more in numerous supermarkets with great variety of stuff. So we'll see what will happen. It's going to be great loss if food will taste like everywhere else in western world. We are joking here but it's not far from truth that if someone gives you to bite strawberry here in Australia with your eyes shut, you wouldn't know if it is strawberry or tomato by its taste...It's a pity to lose all those tastes...

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Thu Jul 26th, 2012 at 08:40:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In the US west coast latte sipping areas it has swung back towards locally grown, with farmers markets attracting large crowds.  So there is hope :)

Farmers markets were just taking off 2 years ago in Melbourne but they mostly hadn't worked out the important part that you need to run every week to be useful.

Of course living in Brisbane you'll struggle a bit to get strawberries and tomatoes as they are cool season fruits (more so apples and pears).  On the other hand, you can try more tropical fruit and veg.  Jerry Colby-Williams has done quite a bit on growing food in Brisbane on Gardening Australia.

by njh on Fri Jul 27th, 2012 at 11:57:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah...I hear that in England also people tend to go and live in country side lately...but I have a feeling that is more because it's "posh" then because they really want to farm , haha. Interestingly in Serbia after small farms survived "industrialization" during socialism right now people are not keen about  farming  even when they actually live in rural areas and possess agricultural land and do not have any other  formal education. One would say that youngsters nowadays simply are lazy only sitting and watching TV and dreaming about big money and lifestyle they have seen on TV. Or what is the case here I do not know...

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Fri Jul 27th, 2012 at 08:29:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Delightful diary and photos. Thanks.  

On the point of voting or not; I'm going to vote in the USA presidential elections forever, as I feel that we all have to suffer the results of their elections and I still have property, family and my Social Security pension there (quite a different situation than yours) so I am directly affected.

I hope you get to follow your dreams; it would be nice to have the possibility of meeting you someday.

'tis strange I should be old and neither wise nor valiant. From "The Maid's Tragedy" by Beaumont & Fletcher

by Wife of Bath (kareninaustin at g mail dot com) on Sun Jul 29th, 2012 at 04:20:26 AM EST
I wholeheartedly second every comment you make here!  

Now, speaking of diaries, what are the chances we could have a photo diary from you, WofB, chronicling your recent sojourn to the states? Being the fine photo snapper that you are, you must have a ton of pictures that you could share, together with perhaps your thoughts on how things have changed since you've been living on this side of the pond. Inquiring minds want to know.  :-)

by sgr2 on Sun Jul 29th, 2012 at 06:19:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You are right sgr2.

WofB I would really like to see that diary too...Please...and photos...a lot of them...

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein

by vbo on Mon Jul 30th, 2012 at 01:11:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
 I'm going to vote in the USA presidential elections forever, as I feel that we all have to suffer the results of their elections
I totally understand what you mean and agree. But that goes for USA...Serbia is just a small "pond" all tho very often in history we have stirred it a lot, ha-ha.
I would like to meet you too...who knows maybe one day...

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Mon Jul 30th, 2012 at 01:08:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I forgot to put few photos of Dubai airport because we traveled via Dubai. So here they are...It is big and glamorous but they need to learn a lot from Asians about customer service. Others in this industry need to learn from Asians too. Emirates staff at the plane were OK but at the airport they do not seem to care to much to help travelers. If it wasn't for Emirate's flight attendant  who we met accidentally on airport and she accidentally was born in Belgrade of Jordanian father ( studying in Belgrade) and Macedonian mother, we would miss connection flight. No one bothered to explain to us that our terminal is like 40 minutes buss drive from where we were.

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein

by vbo on Mon Jul 30th, 2012 at 07:05:26 AM EST
And I can note resist to post photo of a sunset yesterday taken from my house here in Australia...

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein

by vbo on Mon Jul 30th, 2012 at 07:12:18 AM EST

How do you get such beautiful sunsets? No volcanoes in Aus...

Oh I know... must be all the dust from the mining.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon Jul 30th, 2012 at 08:39:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Really it was like 10 times more beautiful in reality.
Sky was all orange...awesome...It's a pity that camera cannot capture that. I have never seen sunsets like these here in my life...Yeah...must be that dust, ha-ha.

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Mon Jul 30th, 2012 at 09:40:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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