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Category: Yugoslavia

All blogs related to Yugoslavia, a country which disappeared on paper, but still exists in the heart and minds of many people.

Balkan style humor

Balkan style humor

If you ever think that the Balkans are boring with boring people who have no sense of humor at all, then I just would recommend you to continue reading. My attention was drawn to the following Tweet yesterday:

Of course this it not in Croatia (it is in  Sri Lanka) , but that does not matter. What matters were the replies from people from the Balkans (mostly ex-Yugoslavia) which gives you a good insight about the humor the people have in this region. For example the beautiful nature of Pančevo in Serbia, which is close to Belgrade and has massive industry.

Another person tweeted:

The Sabacki Vasar is actually a huge fair in Šabac, Western Serbia, where you can buy everything and eat of course a lot of meat. The lions from Croatia would love it:

Meanwhile you can enjoy the beautiful Ada beach in Belgrade, Serbia:

If you are really want to see some beautiful pyramids, you go of course to Bosnia:

The Ohrid Lake in Macedonia is known for it sharks:

And when you cross the Greek-Macedonian border, watch out for snow storms !

Yes the winters can be harsh as well in Croatia:

I only ask how the giraffes survives in Croatia and the dolphins in the Ada lake here in Belgrade?

Stefan from Kosovo reported me that the giraffe there was eaten by dino´s

While Maximus from Kosovo tweeted me that I for sure must have seen the snow leopards in the mountains:

Yes dino´s also exist in Croatia:

But he, we also have giraffe´s in Belgrade I discovered:

We all need a good joke sometimes, beside all the serious news we have to consume daily and people in the Balkan region know how to produce a good laugh ;-).

And yes I hate Mondays too @nada_speranza 😉

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Belgrade – Bar by train

Belgrade – Bar by train

Belgrade (the capital of Serbia) and Bar (a sea port in Montenegro) are connected by a 476 kilometres long railway. It is one of the most scenic railways in Europe. I already travelled a part of this railway line, but now finally I had the chance to do the whole trip with some friends. We took the Friday night train from Belgrade to Bar where we arrived on Saturday morning.

Locomotive 461-043 from the railways of Montenegro, build in Roumania.

We just woke up on time to see how we passed the Male Rijeka viaduct, the tallest railway viaduct in Europe (and once of the world, but then the Chinese started building).

Mala Rijeka viaduct in Montenegro is 198 meters high and therefor the highest railway viaduct in Europe.

After we passed Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, we saw the beautiful Skardar lake.

Skardar lake

After the 6km Sozina tunnel we could catch a first glimpse of the Adriatic Sea in Sutomore. When we arrived to Bar we went to drop our stuff at our accommodation and we walked to Stari Bar. Stari Bar is the old (stari means old) part of Bar and is very beautiful. Worth visiting is the fortress and be sure you visit a restaurant where the serve fresh fish ! The locals are super friendly and welcoming.

Stari Bar

When we went back to Bar we walked along the sea so we could drink a beer (be sure it is a Nikšićko Pivo, which is a very good beer from Montenegro) and enjoy the beautiful sunset.

Sunset in Bar, Montenegro

After a good night out in some local bar(s) in Bar it was time to go back on Sunday morning and enjoy the scenery of this railway line by day. It was rainy and windy and the autumn colours made it even more special.

A couple of kilometres more to the highest point of the railway line which is 1,032 meters above sea level in Kolašin, Montenegro.

The trip takes more or less 12 hours and we arrived on time in both directions. I can highly recommend you this trip: take your time, enjoy the scenery, talk with the super friendly locals and relax!

Near Zlatibor in Serbia.

More pictures can be seen here: A weekend trip by train from Belgrade (SRB) to Bar (MNE)

And for our train lovers you can go straight to the railway pictures only by clicking on the following link: Belgrade (SRB)-Bar (MNE) by railway

Here are some links to previous blogs which I wrote regarding this subject:

Situation and tips&tricks regarding the railway stations in Belgrade.

Tito’s railway

A small part of the line is passing Bosnia-Herzegovina, but the train does not stop there.
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An old railway carriage with a glorious past (or not)…..

An old railway carriage with a glorious past (or not)…..

Last Saturday I went to our train model club (Klub ljubitelja železnice Beograd) were we have a old Slovenian post wagon as our club premises. The wagon is stationed at the now closed Dunav stanica (Danube station) in Belgrade. The station is still staffed with friendly employees from Srbija Kargo , because there is still a connection to the Belgrade harbor. Old carriages are standing here now and I discovered that they stalled a “new” wagon was standing close to the former station building.The wagon at Dunav stanica

Curious as I was I took a closer look and this is what I saw on the wheels: Written in between the wheels was: ” K.P.E.V. Mod. 18A Wittman Haspe 1918 ”

I took some more pictures,as I thought this is pretty special: a train wagon which is 100 years, standing here now, I was really wow (for those who don´t know it yet: I like trains).The wagon seen from the other side.

Inside view.
I also saw this : Jugoslovenske Državne Železnice (JDŽ) = Yugoslav state railways

When home I was tweeting these pictures and one Twitter follower, Arjan de Boer, who made a beautiful website about railway history (www.retours.eu) wrote to me that this is a beautiful discovery. Most possibly this is a wagon from the famous Wagon-Lits company (who exploited the famous “Orient-Express”). The K.P.E.V. stands for Königlich Preußische Eisenbahn-Verwaltung (KPEV) and they most possibly confiscated this wagon for their “Balkanzug” (Balkan train). The Balkan zug was a train from Berlin to Istanbul during WWI as alternative for the Orient-Express which could not be operated due the war. Arjan wrote me that he thinks that this must be wagon WL (Wagon-Lits) 2463 or 2467-2470 and that it stayed in Serbia after WWI. He sent me a picture of page from a book with some information about these wagons, see below:

I was pretty amazed that I just found such a wagon in ” the wild” .

A same type of wagon which was brought from Hungary and which now stands in the railway museum in Utrecht (the Netherlands)

I don ´t know what the plans are with this wagon, I hope it will be preserved for further generations, because it is a sad when railway heritage is being destructed as so much has already disappeared. I will find out what will happen with this old wagon. Below a picture of how it must have looked like when the wagon was fully operational.

Picture from : “Balkanzug” on www.retours.eu
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“Belgrad, ici Belgrad”

“Belgrad, ici Belgrad”

“Belgrad, ici (=here)  Belgrad”, you hear in the James Bond movie “From Russia with love”, when the most famous British spy 007 arrived with the mythical “Orient-Express” in Belgrade (or in Serbian “Beograd”  which is the capital of Serbia, before Yugoslavia) from Istanbul while he was on his way to Venice.

James Bond arriving in Belgrade in the movie “From Russia with love”

Not only James Bond made a stop in Belgrade. Many, many celebrities and ordinary people passed here and set their first steps in Belgrade on the main railway station, including myself.

Belgrade´s main railway station in 2014

The main railway station of Belgrade (in the movie they used another station I think) was once a huge railway knot in Europe: if you traveled from West to South-East Europe or from North to South you could not miss it.

Sign for the international train Malmö-Beograd 

It had connections with many railways stations in Europe, like Paris (Gare de Lyon), Roma Termini, Zürich, Köln HBF, Dortmund HFB, München HBF, Hamburg HBF, Malmö C, Istanbul, Athens, Moscow, Warsaw and many others.

A page of the timetable of the Jugoslavenske željeznice (Yugoslav Railways) from 1983

In the last decades many connections were lost, minimizing the importance of the railways in Serbia. Unfortunately another sad story regarding the loss of (railway) heritage can be added on the 30th June because then the main railway station of Belgrade will be closed. The last scheduled train will arrive at from Vienna at 20:48. Then at 21h40 the last train ever from Belgrade´s main railway station will leave to Budapest.

Entry of Belgrade railway station, 2017

Beside that it is a really sad that Belgrade will be one of the few capital cities where the main railway station will not be in the city center. A historical place for the city of Belgrade and Serbia in general which disappears…

Belgrad, Belgrade, Beograd, ici “Belgrad” 

On the banks of the last kilometer of the Sava river there once was a famous railway station.
A station where people started their travel towards their dreams, their families, their loved ones.
For others it was an arrival back home or a start for new adventures.

On the platforms people cried, laughed and sad farewell to their loves.
Kings, emperors, generals, adventurers all passed here,
when travelling to or from far destinations.

A bureaucratic pencil stripe ended it all.
The rails to the station will be disconnected and
no more trains will ever departure or arrive here.

Modern times will simply vanish  everything away,
but they will never erase the memories of the people
when they heard 
“Belgrad”, “Belgrade” “Beograd” , ici “Belgrade”.

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Kovačica, the centre of naïve art

Kovačica, the centre of naïve art

Yesterday it was 1st May and that means a public holiday in Serbia so we decided to finally go to Kovačica, a village approximately 47 km north-east of Belgrade in the autonomous province of Vojvodina. We heard nice stories about the village, which is called “the centre of naïve art”, so we took the chance to finally visit it.

Gallery of naïve art in Kovačica: Painting of Zuzana Chalupová, 1986.

Naïve art is any form of visual art that is created by a person who lacks the formal education and training that a professional artist undergoes. The result is nevertheless beautiful and very touching.I really like it, the scenes in these paintings are mostly innocent and very down to earth: scenes of daily (village) life and done in a very colourful and lively way. The most famous painter of them all was Zuzana Chalupová, a Serbian naïve painter Slovak origin (Wiki).

Gallery of naïve art in Kovačica: Painting of Zuzana Chalupová, 1986.

Kovačica is a multi-ethnic village with 6469 inhabitants and exists of: 41% Slovaks, 34% Serbian, 10% Hungarian, 7% Romanian, 8% Others*. The naïve art is mainly done by the Slovaks as they told us.

Multi-lingual street sign in Kovačica.

It is a very nice village and a very nice gallery, well worth visiting it. They have other things (galleries, churches etc.) which can be visited too, but they were closed, because of the public holiday. There is, definitely, a reason to go back!

More info:
Gallery of naïve art: http://www.naivnaumetnost.com/
Municipality Kovačica: http://kovacica.org/

Gallery of naïve art in Kovačica.

(*Source RZS)

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“Sorry we did not know it was invisible”

“Sorry we did not know it was invisible”

When NATO started to bomb Yugoslavia on 24/03/1999, it was the 1st war of NATO without an UN mandate. In the heart of Europe bombs were dropped and the results of these bombardments can still be seen and felt in Serbia.

18/03/2018: Monument on the hill of Straževica (in the Belgrade suburb of Rakovica) commemorating two non-commissioned officers killed by NATO aggression. This hill was the most bombarded place in Belgrade as underneath the army HQ was located.

Besides the huge economical loss of which Serbia is still suffering, there also a lot of personal tragedies which never can be calculated in money of course. During the 78 days of the military campaign, the Serbian government estimates that at least 2,500 people died and 12,500 were injured (article).

The first time I visited Serbia, in 2004, I did not feel any hostility towards me and I was positively surprised. Ten years later I decided to live in the capital of Serbia, yes Belgrade, with my Serbian wife. In those 3,5 years I never ever felt being blamed or attacked about these bombardments. I have noticed that many people don´t want to talk about it in detail, it is still considered a traumatic event for many which I of course completely understand and respect. To quote somebody: “we could not believe that we were being bombed at the end of the 20th century”.

One truly amazing story which keeps inspiring me is the story of my dear friend Zoltán Dani. He was a colonel in the 3rd battery of the 250th Missile Brigade from the army of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. When NATO started the bombardments he had of course to do his duty and defend his country.

In the evening of 27/03/1999 he and his team shot down a stealth F117A from the US Air force, this type of plane was thought invisible. Zoltán and his team made some modifications on their radar system, spotted the plane and shot it down. The pilot, Dale Zelko, used his ejection seat and was later rescued by US forces.

That is already amazing, but what is even more amazing is that years later Zoltán came in contact with Dale by accident and they became….. friends… First Dale came to visit Zoltán in Serbia and later Zoltán went to the USA. Two documentaries were made about these visits: 21 sekund (link) about the first and “Drugi Susret” (the 2nd meeting, link) about you guess their 2nd meeting. These documentaries are very interesting to see how foes became friends (see also article here).

Dale Zelko (left) from the USA and Zoltán Dani (right) from Serbia.

Zoltán told me the background and reasons why he became friends with his former enemy, because he remembers also the pain, the fears and the angers just like many other Serbs when NATO started to bomb Serbia.

The author of this blog and Zoltán Dani, Belgrade, February 2017.

Everybody can shoot a plane down, but not everybody can become friends with his former enemy. Let this story give inspiration to many.

If you want to see “Drugi Susret” then you can come on the special event on 27th March at 17:00 to Art Bioskop Kolarac Studentski Trg 5 (Google Maps) in Belgrade (fb event here). 

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Holocaust memorial day

Holocaust memorial day

The 27th January it is #HolocaustMemorial day so that we never forget the Holocaust. Unfortunately, it seems that anno 2018 we seem to forget a lot of things.

Recently I had the honour to meet one of the survivors of Jasenovac on a preview of the exhibition about this concentration camp, which was “the Auschwitz of the Balkans“, where at least 100.000 people were killed (and this is even a low estimation). Even German SS officers at that time were shocked by the crimes committed by the Croatian Ustasas (which collaborated with the Nazi’s).  There was also the only concentration camp for children…

13/01/2018: Mr Rončević talking at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Belgrade, Serbia.

The exhibition opened today at the United Nations palace in New York and Mr Rončević (the survivor) spoke at the opening today about the horrors he witnessed.  When I brought him home 2 weeks ago he told me that he is satisfied that finally after all these years he could speak freely and that the government finally acknowledged the horrors he had to witness. The Serbian government arranged that he could speak in New York today, as during Tito’s Yugoslavia it was forbidden to speak about Jasenovac, because it could damage the brotherhood and unity between the Croats and the Serbs. Now he could speak freely about the crimes he had to witness.

Meanwhile it is for me unbelievable to see that an European country like Croatia (even member of the EU)  tried to prevent this exhibition (see article B92) and therefore try to cover the genocide of Roma, Jews and Serbs committed in Jasenovac.

Pictures below: Made by myself, 13.01.2018 at the Serbian ministry of Foreign Affairs in Belgrade.

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Sided

Sided

The area around the (current) main railway station is in development for the controversial Belgrade Waterfront project. The current station will disappear and new buildings will arise along the riverbank of the Sava river. Last Saturday (19/11/2016) construction workers, bus drivers, truck drivers, railway workers, refugees and a lonely trainspotter could be found.

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Belgrade’s current main railway station where once the Orient Express arrived.

The preparations started with groundwork so I took the opportunity (maybe one of the last) to photograph these old steam-locomotives. With the help of other Balkan railway fans on the internet I got actually to know which types of locomotives I saw.

Once those locomotives were driving through the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and later Socialist Yugoslavia, connecting the people of Yugoslavia. We can only guess how many kilometers those locomotives were driving through snow, rain and heat. They connected business people, diplomats and loved ones with each other…

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JŽ (=Yugoslav Railways) 01-085, Belgrade 19/11/2016.
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JŽ serie 1 (click to enlarge) in better times…. Source: Wikipedia.
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JŽ 01-085 (left) and 51 series ( right), Belgrade 19/11/2016.
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JŽ 038-072, Belgrade 19/11/2016.
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JŽ series 51, Belgrade 19/11/2016.

Now for ever sided in the rubbish and soon they will disappear because the future is waiting and it seems there is no place (so far) any more for those oldies…. Let’s hope they will not disappear as this is historical railway heritage.

 

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Ode to the Railway museum!

Ode to the Railway museum!

For a question which I got via my network I had to do a little research of the signalling system in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia during the thirties of last century (the inter-war period). The Orient-Express was in full operation and from Paris to Istanbul it passed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the person who contacted me need very specific details for a film production.

So the first step was the Serbian Railway museum close to my work here in Belgrade. I had been already many times there and it is an old style museum: when you enter you make a step back in time, but the step back in time is for free as the entrance is (still?) for free.

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When the employees listened to me last week of what I needed to told me that they could and will help me. Today I went back and the lady was very friendly: she heard already about the story and her colleague, who is soon going to retire, would get the desired item for me: the “signalni pravilnik, važi od 1 aprila 1932 god.” (the signalling rule book, valid from 1 April 1932) from the “Državne Železnice Kraljevine Jugoslavije” (State Railways of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia). In 15 minutes I was done and had the whole book photographed.

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Mission accomplished and I am very grateful to the kind help of the employees of the Serbian Railway museum. While chit-chatting with them they told me that due the split up (aka privatization) of the Serbian Railways the museum would most possible disappear on it is current location and current form. All alarm bells went off.

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Why ? Because during the nighties of the last century the Netherlands was in full privatization mode: let’s privatize all government tasks, because the market could do it better! I am from a family where everybody worked for the Dutch railways and I worked there as well. I was part of the bigger (European) railway “family” which thus was privatized and after that it did not exist any more.

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This did not happen only happened with the railways, but it also happened with the Dutch health care system, the post & telephony services (PTT) and many other government services. It seems this trend started now in Serbia and I personally think that it is not a good trend. Yes efficiency of course, but basic government services (health care, PTT, transport) should not be privatized. Back in the Netherlands more voices are against further privatization are even reverse it in some cases.

For Serbia it is easy, because they can learn from the mistakes they made in Western-Europe / European Union with privatizing basic government services.

 

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The statue of Rocky Balboa / Statua Roki Balboa

The statue of Rocky Balboa / Statua Roki Balboa

Until yesterday I never knew about a village with the name of Zitiste, a village in Vojvodina, a region in Serbia. It is not far from the Serbian-Romanian border and before 1914 it was part of the Austrian-Hungarian empire. I will not bother you with more historical facts , but I will save you for now.

Screenshot from 2016-09-19 19:03:10

Have you ever heard of Rocky ? Yes of course you did ! Now guess what? In the village of Zitiste they have a statue for Rocky, the famous Hollywood star Silvester Stallone.  I could not believe my eyes , but yes it is indeed.

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I can not verify the story 100 % , but it seems somebody influential in the village wanted to get more attention to his village Zitiste. Mission succeeded according to me 🙂

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