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)

Traffic safety in Serbia

Traffic safety in Serbia

I have almost been living for 4 years in Serbia and I love it here (and I have no intention to move away with my Serbian wife from here). I have been driving for 2 years here in Serbia: I wrote already earlier about “the unwritten traffic rules in Serbia” (link).

The traffic is a challenge here. I bought recently a dash-cam for the purpose of recording what is going on: I hope I will not have to use these images, BUT I hope people will realise that we have to drive safer here in Serbia and that is the reason why I posted some of my dash-cam videos on YouTube.

Last Monday B92 wrote even an article about it (which you can find here) and others (Blic, Kurir) took it over. I wasn’t informed about or someone contacted me, but OK, never mind. I got a lot of positive comments, but also some negative comments. These are reasons why I wrote this blog.

My main goal with posting those videos is that people become aware that the traffic safety has to increase in Serbia: too many innocent children & adults die or get wounded on the Serbian roads and according to me that has to stop. The money all these accidents costs can be better used for healthcare or education (or better roads!) according my humble opinion.

And if you think I want to portray Serbia in a bad light, I invite you kindly to continue to  read my blog and see how I love Serbia 🙂 . If you are still not convinced (and think that I am anti-Serbian) then also see our website www.secanje.nl : this is about our voluntarily research to the fate of the Serbian WWI soldiers who died in the Netherlands…..

“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). 

A political program for Belgrade? For free 5 points !

A political program for Belgrade? For free 5 points !

It is election time in Belgrade (and two other cities Bor and Aranđelovac) , because on 04 March a new city council has to be elected. Its metropolitan territory is divided into 17 municipalities, each with its own local council, so good luck with the elections.

I tried to find some political programs , but it is hard to find ANY political program. I have checked some of the main political party’s who are running for these elections:
1) I asked politely via Twitter to mr.Vučić ‘s (=he is the president of Serbia)  political party “SNS”, running as “Aleksandar Vučić – Zato što volimo Beograd!” (=Aleksander Vučić, because we love Belgrade), the political program and of course ~ no reply~;
2) For the SPS ( the socialists) I could not find anything on their website as well;
3) Th DS (Democratic party) called me and I asked them if they have a political program on their website and the sad sad yes. I can t find and I asked via Twitter and of course ~ no reply~;
4) “Došta je bilo” (=enough is enough) running together with Dveri  and they have a program on their website, but from 2016… ~next~
5) The political party “šta radite bre” (what are you doing) gave a me a program on the street and I got a nice button: as a Dutch I am sensitive for free stuff ( and I assume Serbs as well) , so they would have get my vote if I would have a right to vote…. And hey, how democratic, a political program, printed in my hand (and yes the button)…

Meanwhile I still don ‘t know what they all want for this beautiful city, so I can help them a bit with giving them 5 points for their political program.

1) Belgrade needs to invest in their hospitals & healthcare ( as anywhere in Serbia), thus in general the healthcare system: prio number 1 !

2) Finish the running projects for Belgrade’s Waterfront, but stop immediately with the rest before there is a democratic control mechanism on this project. Maybe there should be even a parliamentary investigation (does that exist here) about how this project was approved. Renewal is good, nothing bad about that, but only the way to it should be democratic (aka according to EU standards).

3) Upgrading public transport : a metro would be nice, but also cheaper possibilities would be possible like a tramway or a trolley. Great solutions are possible with a small budget, it isn’t difficult, you just need the brains ( and there are enough of them). We do not want a budget deficit until the year 2150, so a metro: ~ ne hvala~ Be realistic, because a metro is not realistic seen the economic situation and the huge costs.

4) Talking about economic capable to built a metro, maybe you can first start repairing the street, for example the main shopping street ?

5) To earn some money  I would suggest: tougher  control on traffic violations. Hang some camera’s  around the city roads and you will maybe even have some money left for point number 1.

Those are only 5 points , grap them here for free I would say ,  translate them into Serbian and make the best out of it !

Update 10h00: On Twitter there were people so kind to send me a link to the political program of “Ne davimo Beograd” (“let Belgrade not drown”) : https://promenadolazi.rs/program/
Great and good to see! Thank you dear Twitter people 🙂 !

The logo of their party
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.

Belgrade sunsets

Belgrade sunsets

Belgrade’s sunsets in winter can be very beautiful and today we were gain lucky with the sunset as you can see below.

Copyright: Fabian Vendrig 
Copyright: Fabian Vendrig
Serbian Christmas Eve (Badnje veče)

Serbian Christmas Eve (Badnje veče)

In Serbia Orthodox Christmas is celebrated according to the Julian calander, 13 days after  the Catholic Christmas, which is the 7th  January. In Serbian Christmas Eve is called  “Badnje veče” and it is truely a beautiful gathering with a lot of customs.

Here an interesting extract from the book “Servia, Youngest Member of the European Family” by A. A. Paton from 1848, which  describes these customs very well:

At Christmas, for instance, every peasant goes to the woods, and cuts down a young oak;
as soon as he returns home, which is in the twilight; he says to the assembled family,
“A happy Christmas eve to the house;” on which a male of the family
scatters a little grain on the ground and answers,
“God be gracious to you, our happy and honoured father.”

The housewife then lays the young oak on the fire, to which are thrown a few nuts
and a little straw, and the evening ends in merriment.

Next day, after divine service, the family assemble around the dinner
table, each bearing a lighted candle; and they say aloud, “Christ is
born: let us honour Christ and his birth.”

The church in Cvetke, near Kraljevo, with a beautiful view towards the Zapadna (West) Morava valley, 06/01/2018. 

People gathered around a huge fire, with an oak tree on fire, enjoying the Christmas eve after the mess in the church.

The more sparkles you get when you burn your oak tree branch, the more prosperous your year will be.Afterwards a dinner will be served at home with fish, bread and soup and sweets afterwards. You’ll sit on the ground with hay on the floor, just like in a Christmas stable… . After the dinner there is fireworks and people enjoy the evening in a family setting. Then the next day it is of course Christmas and much more celebrations and customs will follow.

Srećan Božić !!! (=Merry Christmas )

How our world is changing

How our world is changing

We entered the New Year 2018 and the world is changing as always. The question is if we are just the spectators who are seeing how the world is changing, or are we are actually more then just  spectators who are seeing the world changing? As one of those spectators in daily life I  saw the world changing slowly , no matter where I lived: the Netherlands, Belgium, France,Macedonia and Serbia.

Lately I have been cleaning up my digital photo albums and saw slowly the differences between ” then” and “now” in my world.  In the country were I live now with my love, Serbia, things seems to develop faster, sharper and more abrupt. On the other hand some places don’t seem to change, but if you look good you’ ll see they actually do.

Here a small overview with pictures from Serbia, the Netherlands, France and Greece: they are made on exactly the same spot, but on a different time.

 Beograd, Kalemegdan, before WWI (?)
Source: www.europeana.eu
 Beograd, Kalemegdan, 10th December 2017
Beograd, Kalemegdan fortress in the 1930ies
Source: www.europeana.eu
Beograd, 10th December 2017
 Mortagne-sur-Sevre (France), 1995   Mortagne-sur-Sevre (France), November 2006
Skopje (Macedonia), 04/05/2006 Skopje (Macedonia), 30/06/2016
 Culemborg, 1875 (NL)
Painting from spoorwegmuseum in Utrecht (NL)
 Culemborg, 21/09/2009 (NL)
 Thessaloniki (Greece), October 2004  Thessaloniki (Greece),05/07/2016
Beograd (Serbia), 11/05/2016 Beograd (Serbia), 08/12/2017
*Note: when no source stated than I hold the copyright of the picture.
2017 in 10 panorama pictures

2017 in 10 panorama pictures

Here a different year overview than all the other ones 🙂 : the year 2017 in 10 panorama pictures, I made them all myself and you can click on them to view them larger. Enjoy and of course have photogenic 2018 🙂 🙂 🙂 !

1: Snow in Miločaj (Serbia), with a temperature of -20 Celcius, 08/01/2017.
2: Roma (Italy), 01/02/2017
3: Saint Peters square, Vatican city (Vatican), 03/02/2017.
4: The Hague (the Netherlands), 22/05/2017.
5: Sailing near the holy Mount Athos (Greece), 12/07/2017.
6: Watching the sunset from Kraljev Sto (alt.1104 asml), a mountain near Divčibare (Serbia).
7: Climbing in the Ovčar-Kablar gorge, the “Serbian Mount Athos” (Serbia), 23/09/2017.
8: Beograd (Serbia), view from Kalemegdan, 12/12/2017.
9: Beograd (Serbia), view of the fortress Kalemegdan, 12/12/2017.
10: View from the fortress Kalemegdan in Beograd (Serbia) on the Sava river. The mountain on picture number 6 could been seen even from here, 12/12/2017.
The last train from/to Belgrade….

The last train from/to Belgrade….

On a memorial plate in the main railway station of Belgrade you can read:  “This building was opened 23rd August 1884 when Belgrade had 35480 inhabitants. The first train had 200 passengers and went to Niš, the railway station had two platforms. Around 1924 Belgrade had 170000 inhabitants and had a traffic of 46 trains daily with 16000 passengers. In 1939 Belgrade had 314000 inhabitants and had a traffic of 116 trains with 32800 passengers daily. The plate was revealed in 1970, when the railway station had 10 platforms, 150 trains daily with 45000 passengers”.

Today 27 trains arrive and 27 trains depart from the main railway station in Belgrade,because the current main railway station is going slowly to disappear. At one point all the trains will stop in Belgrade’s new main railway station with the name,despite being more far away from the city center, ” Beograd Centar”.

View of the current railway station,17/03/2017.

The station is not only going to disappear, because of an old plan of Tito (yes the former leader of Yugoslavia), but also because of the current Belgrade’s Waterfront plans. Construction already started and the area is transforming rapidly, see my pictures below: one displaying the situation in 2010 and one now in 2017.

Belgrade, 03/01/2010
Belgrade, 04/10/2017

The plans are pretty controversial here in Serbia, but for me as a railway fan it hurts to see that railway heritage is being slowly destroyed. It was here when the famous Orient Express halted on it’s way from Paris to Istanbul. Millions of people passed this place with their dreams, hopes, fears, sadness and  joy. It was here where I set my first step in Belgrade (28/08/2008). It was here when I was sometimes drinking a beer with for example Yvo Kuhling, while watching the steady stream of passengers arriving or departing.

It was here  when I was “adopted” by the members of “Belgrade model railway club” (in Serbian Klub Ljubitelja Železnice – Beograd, website) and where we talked about trains while drinking a beer. Their (or our)  railway wagon (with models) was moved a couple of months and now nothing: there is no more electricity so meetings cannot be held any more. I truly hope there will be a solution for our railway club.

And of the railway station ? They say it will not be destroyed, but the day the the last train arrives and leaves Belgrade main railway station is approaching faster then we think……

Belgrade railway yard, 31/12/2012.
Belgrade, the same place as the picture above, but then on 04/10/2017.

According to the information I have received the station will finally close 01/07/2018.