Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Quick Serbia impressions, August 2013

We flew into Belgrade from Tokyo last week. Eleven days in Japan is such a huge bolus of experience that I'm still digesting it, so the ongoing travelblogging will be out of order. (You probably don't care, but this does bug my OCD tendencies a little.) On the other hand, what follows will often mention Japan as a point of contrast.

Japan has a reputation for being a conformist culture, but upon landing in Serbia, one of the first things I noticed was that, to a first approximation, all young Serbian men seem to have the same utilitarian close-cropped haircut, which is a contrast with the carefully styled and sometimes flamboyant male haircuts sported by many young Japanese men. Likewise, Belgrade women's dress is casual and, again compared to Japan, almost drab (which isn't to say that it's drab in an absolute sense), for which I'll advance two tentative hypotheses. First, obviously, Serbia is a dramatically less wealthy and densely developed society. Fewer people can afford to invest extensively in personal ornamentation, and the lower level of economic specialization also leads to fewer opportunities to invest in distinctive fashion. Second, perhaps Japanese women, and especially women in Tokyo and other major Japanese cities, feel more pressure to invest heavily in self-presentation, although I'm unsure whether that's social pressure from peers and acquaintances, or dating market pressure. (Somewhat relatedly, the MR bloggers have a speculated rather extensively about where women are beautiful, but I'm not sure any of their hypotheses explain Japan very well.)

Belgrade is a small, easily digestible city. You can walk around the entirety of Old Belgrade in a day. The museums we visited (Nikola Tesla, Zepter, the Ethnographic Museum) were similarly human-scale. You will never have the feeling, familiar to anyone who has visited the Met or the Louvre, of spending three hours in a museum, being exhausted by the ancient, massive profusion of human culture, and still feeling that you have not even seen the whole museum. Of course, this is because Belgrade's museum collections are much more modest, but that's the tradeoff. (Note that several of Belgrade's major museums have been under renovation for years and are thus currently unvisitable.)

At current exchange rates, everything in Serbia seems cheap by developed-world standards. We stayed in private double room at a hostel in the city center, about three blocks from the National Assembly, for about 4000 RSD (US$47) per night. 1200 RSD (US$14) will buy a fairly extravagant meal, including alcohol, or alternatively will feed you well for a day on more modest fare.

Three days here have hardly made me an expert in Serbian cuisine, but it does remind me of the fact that hot dogs and American megabrews (Budweiser, etc.) are both lineal descendants of central European sausages and lager. Meat and pale yellow beer are the order of the day, and for what it's worth they're done reasonably well. Vegetarians and teetotallers will feel rather deprived. On the other hand, I had some of the best cooked squid I've ever tasted at Cafe Reka in the Zemen district.

There are many, many charming places to relax with a drink. The numerous cafes and bars on the broad pedestrian boulevards, the splavs (cafes, bars, and nightclubs built on river rafts), Skadarlija street, and the Zemen district could all feature as eye-candy backdrops for some terrible formulaic romantic comedy. I'm too old to go clubbing anymore, but Belgradian nightclubs are likewise rumored to be excellent. There is abundant street life everywhere in the central city.

The people are mostly friendly. It is difficult to believe that there are tens of thousands of living war criminals walking among them. I doubt that most Serbians think the war was excusable, but the body politic has certainly not owned up to its guilt. The museum at Petrovaradin Fortress in Novi Sad contains a laughably self-pitying exhibit on the NATO bombing of Novi Sad, without a word about the wider Yugoslav War that prompted it. I can't really do justice to this subject at all, but if I get around to writing about Bosnia, I'll come back to it.

Religion seems to be taken seriously by a wide swath of the populace. Visit an Orthodox church and you will see people of all types (not just what Americans would read as "religious conservative" dress) kissing icons with evident emotion.

Overall, I think that Belgrade in 2013 would be an ideal place to visit if you're about 25 years old, not completely broke but perhaps watching your bank account closely, ideally with a mixed-sex group of five or six friends, one of whom you have an unconsummated crush on. It's cheap, fun, pretty, easily navigable, and frequently romantic, and the lack of top-tier cultural attractions is less important when you're young.


  1. You are brainwashed about "war criminals". Those wars were set-up by U.S., Germany and Britain which wanted to break up Yugoslavia into little ethnically pure or divided statelets. All the easier for the EU to digest and be dictated to. Serbs were the very first ethnically cleansed and attacked and the western media blocked that information. Serbia has the most refugees in Europe and the census results show Serbs are the biggest drop in the other statelets, such as Croatia which had a pre-war Serbian population of over 12.2% and by 2002 census was only 4.5% - and even that number counts a great number of displaced who live in Serbia or Bosnia but have merely registered to vote and try to get their property back in Croatia.

    In Bosnia you had an Islamic zealot Alija Izetbegovic, the wartime president, who was jailed about 3 times throughout his life for violence against Serbs and for wanting to create an Islamic-dominated state in the early 1980's.
    So this was BEFORE Milosevic was in power. He and several were seeking help from terrorist groups even. They were sentenced to 13 or 14 years in 1983, but were let out early and became the party which led Bosnia to war.

    Izetbegovic also signed a deal to let the Croat army into Bosnia BEFORE the Bosnia war and Croatia had 40,000 troops in there the entire war. Last year in the U.S. a Croat army WOMAN was arrested for torturing Bosnian Serb civilians in spring/summer 1992 in at least three Croat-run camps in Bosnia.

    The mainstream media was silent about that invasion.

    Also, the media and Muslims COMPLETELY lied about Bosnia. The death count was exaggerated greatly. The final death count of the entire war, including all three major sides (Croats/Bosnian Croat, Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Serbs), both MILITARY and civilian and including ALL "missing" is less than half what the media and Muslims were claiming less than a year after the war started.

    Also, it was MILITARY and paramilitary deaths which were the most and not "mostly women and children" or "civilians" as the media claimed.

    The Bosnian Muslim had a force of 200,000 that was 4-5 times greater than the Serbian forces.

    Also, UN officers who lived in Sarajevo DURING the war witnessed Muslim forces STAGING and PROVOKING attacks regularly. It was their M.O. and for PR purposes. It's in their books, interviews, and testimony at the ICTY even. The Muslim "witnesses" were very often found in clear perjury, usually scripted "testimony". It's a political court set up by Serb-hater Madeleine Albright and crew to justify NATO intervention and damage Serbs and Serbia.

  2. By the way ADMITTED Bosnian Muslim ethnic cleansers and killers were coddled and living in the U.S., as well as Bosnia and abroad.

    David Mladinov interviewed some Bosnian Muslim refugees in 1993 for the Jewish center in Boston. He learned that they had been in a Croat-run camp. He also says they told him that they, with their Croat allies, ethnically cleansed and killed all the Serbs around Capljina at the beginning of the war. He says they expressed no remorse for this but were very upset and bitter over how their former Croat allies turned on them and put them in camps - torturing them by spraying water full blast from fire hoses and such.

    I've seen photos of identified Serbs roasted alive by Bosnian Muslims. John Pomfret of the Washington Post went to Srebrenica in January 1994 to interview the commander Naser Oric. Naser Oric showed video tapes of burned Serbian villages (the Muslims destroyed scores of Serbian villages all around Srebrenica), and scenes of dead Serbs. Naser would narrate how they killed Serbs with explosives at one place, but how at another they had to use "cold weapons". He also saw a head of decapitated Serb men. Naser Oric grinned about his and his men's handiwork. Bosnian Muslims had an ENTIRE BRIGADE in Srebrenica.
    Srebrenica "fell" because that brigade - the 28th - WALKED OUT the day before. That's a fact. They all gathered under ORDERS of their brigade commanders and the UN to the north of the city. They numbered 15,000-18,000 men - that's the men's own estimates in interviews, the UN Srebrenica report has similar numbers.
    They then left in 3 shift in a north by northwest direction towards Tuzla.
    By the way commander Naser Oric and many of the top brass had helicoptered out several weeks earlier and didn't bother coming back.

    Srebrenica was an arranged fall - it was to more clearly separate the ethnic groups for the upcoming Dayton Accords only 5 months later.

    There's been talk with Izetbegovic since 1993 about swapping Srebrenica for Serbian-controlled areas in and around Sarajevo. And indeed these areas went to the Muslim-Croat Federation at Dayton.

    You believe a bunch of lying, exaggerated propaganda.
    And during the whole whining about the Muslims not having arms - shiploads of weapons were coming in on regular bases through Croatia's and Slovenia's ports for them.

    Even pre-war, Hasan Cengic, was buying arms for the war and Bosniaks were involved in Croatia's war killing off its Serbian population. Not to mention Albanians who fought in Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia and are now fighting in Syria. There was a recent mention of this in regards to these fighters going to Syria.

    Syria's being set up like Serbia and Libya was. False flags arranged by the U.S. pet terrorists on the ground and fanned by the lying mainstream media.

    Serb refugees are the ones with signs of torture and needing surgery for what the Bosnian Muslims did to them. A woman who's settled thousands of people from the Balkans noted that. The Bosnian Muslim don't show any signs of this torture their bombastic stories claim.

    Also, there was NO increase in the birthrate nor DNA nor hard evidence of the rape/rape camps they accused Serbs of.
    Meanwhile it was the Serbian women who FIRST sent testimony to the UN Security Council of rapes/rape camps by Bosniaks and Croats. 800 high quality cases with first and last name recorded.
    The UN and media was silent about this but must have given word to their pets to steal the Serbs' thunder, because suddenly without any documentation and evidence they pulled a huge number out of their @sses and the media went wild.
    But the UN never found any; never rescued and women - there would have been all kinds of physical evidence if so. There's nothing but empty propagandist claims. Shame on you for being one of the sheeple.

  3. I'm not going to get drawn into a drawn-out argument about this. Your polemical technique is familiar to me from my past arguments with creationists and climate change denialists, and I suspect arguing with you is futile. However, here's a hint for life in general: when your point of view requires that thousands of uncoordinated actors all over the world with differing incentives all conspire perfectly to fabricate the evidence against it, whereas the opposite point of view merely requires that a bunch of tightly coordinated members of a single party have filled you with propaganda, then you should question yourself.

  4. mr. Lee, do you really think that such mostly friendly people could have tens of thousands of living war criminals walking among them. Someone is wrong-you or Western media.