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Category: Balkan region

Everything about the Balkan region!

Belgrade´s main railway station.

Belgrade´s main railway station.

Belgrade´s main railway station was moved 01/07/2018. I got a lot of questions from people abroad (but also Serbs are confused) about the current situation of railway station(s) in Belgrade, because the information is not easily available in English. Thus, I would like to provide you with the information you might need. Of course I can not be held responsible if some information is changed  but it would be nice if if you have remarks , additional information etc., please share it with me.

Beograd Centar / Belgrade´s main railway station / Prokop
The (“new”) main railway station of Belgrade is ” Beograd Centar” as they call it, click for the location on the Google Maps below. All trains leave from here, except the trains to Montenegro (see below under Topčider).

So for international destinations like Budapest, Vienna, Zagreb, Ljubljana, Skopje, Sofia this is the railway station you have to go to. Also for destinations in Serbia like Novi Sad, Subotica, Niš, Vršac this is then also your station.

How to get there?
This railway station is reachable by bus 36 from the old main railway station ( at Saska Trg). Another option is trolley bus 40 straight from Studentski Trg ( = city center). When you travel from the city center the stop is called “Ortopedski zavod”. A taxi is of course also an option.

Železnička stanica Topčider /  Topčider railway station

The railway station Topičider is used for trains towards Montenegro,this is for day and night trains. Also the tourist train “Romantika” departs / arrives here.

How to get there?
Simple answer: tram 3 to Kneževac brings you here.

Other railway stations
Depending on where you are / have to go in Belgrade it can be wise to use another railway station. “Novi Beograd” could be an option for you or “Vukov Spomenik” or Pančevački most.
On this map I created you have an overview: Google Maps Železnice Srbije (Serbian Railways) The map is currently under development, but it will cover whole Serbia at the end.

Be aware that not all trains stop at those alternative Belgrade stations, so best is to check the timetables on the website of the Serbian Railways: http://www.srbvoz.rs/redvoznje.html , unfortunately this is only in Serbian. Another good option can be the site: https://www.bahn.com/en/view/index.shtml

Enjoy travelling by train in Serbia !

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“Trst je naš”

“Trst je naš”

Last week I enjoyed with my wife a small holiday in the region of Trieste, in the Northeastern corner of Italy. We were in Grado (beaches), Muggia (a small nice village on the coast) and Trieste itself. Trieste has an amazing history and lies on the border of the Roman, the Germanic and the Slavic world.

15/07/2018: Trieste as seen from Monte Grisa.

Until the First World War this city was the main harbor of the Austrian-Hungarian empire and thus an important city.  The Austro-Hungarians built the “Südbahn”(=Southern railway) , connecting Vienna with Trieste which boosted the harbor of Trieste further. It was, and still is, a free port and the most important harbor for Central Europe or in German “Mitteleuropa”.

14/07/2018: Trieste, the Canal Grande (Grand Canal).
14/07/2018: A view from the castle of Duino, close to Trieste.

After the Second World War the Yugoslav troops liberated Trieste from the Germans, but that lasted not long: the city came after 40 days under British / US military administration. In 1947 Trieste became the “Free Territory of Trieste”, an independent city state under UN protection. In 1954 Trieste, part of zone “A”, became Italian and zone “B” became part of Yugoslavia.

The Yugoslav partisans wanted to have Trieste and their sentence was “Trst je naš” (Trieste is ours). They did not get it, but now it doesn’t matter any more as the whole area (Zone A and B, plus the whole of Istria) is now in the European Union and the borders disappeared. Triest, Trieszt, Trst, Трст or Τεργέστη is a pleasant city where the Germanic, Roman and Slavic world meets. Depending of your view the Balkan starts or ends here, Italy as well and yes once back in the old days also the Austro-Hungarian empire. I can strongly recommend to visit Trieste and the region, because it is a very interesting city & region and can´t wait to go back.  As Dutch living in Serbia, loving Italy, I almost want to say:  “Trst je naš!”

14/07/2018: a statue of the famous writer James Joyce who lived also in Trieste.
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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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Living on the border of the European Union: Kenđija in Serbia

Living on the border of the European Union: Kenđija in Serbia

Last weekend I was with friends in Kenđija, located in the Northwestern part of Serbia, where Serbia meets Hungary and Croatia. When I opened my Google maps I saw the map below and was pretty surprised: according to Google I was in Croatia !

We did not passed any border post, neither we saw a sign or anything else: we were still de facto in Serbia.  The real border is currently in the middle of the Danube river. My friend who has a weekend house there told me that they pay for all utilities which are delivered from Serbia. Beside it is the (disputed) border between Serbia and Croatia, it is also the border of the European Union. Serbia is candidate member state of the EU, but until Serbia will join the EU this is an EU “outer” border.

Batina in Croatia as seen from the Serbian shore of the Danube river, 26/05/2018. 

On Wikipedia you can read the following information about this still ongoing border dispute:

The Croatia–Serbia border dispute refers to differing views held by Croatia and Serbia regarding their border in the area of the Danube River. While Serbia holds the opinion that the thalweg of the Danube valley and the center line of the river represents the international border between the two countries, Croatia disagrees and claims that the international border lies along the boundaries of the cadastral municipalities located along the river—departing from the course at several points along a 140-kilometre (87 mi) section. The cadastre-based boundary reflects the course of the Danube which existed in the 19th century, before meandering and hydraulic engineeringworks altered its course. The area size of the territory in dispute is reported variously, up to 140 square kilometres (54 square miles).

The dispute first arose in 1947, but was left unresolved during the existence of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. It became a contentious issue after the breakup of Yugoslavia. Particular prominence was given to the dispute at the time of Croatia’s accession to the European Union. As of September 2014 the dispute remains unresolved, and the line of control mostly corresponds to Serbia’s claim.

Interestingly this situation started in 1699 with the Treaty of Karlowitz, which transferred Slavonia and a portion of Syrmia (now Croatia) from the Ottoman Empire to the Habsburg Monarchy at the conclusion of the Great Turkish War. The rest of Syrmia was transferred to the Habsburg Monarchy through the Treaty of Passarowitz in 1718. And yes the Dutch diplomat Jacobus Colyer was mediating during both peace talks….

The place where we were was very nice with beautiful nature, it reminded me a lot to my old home country the Netherlands. So I spent a nice weekend with my friends on the Habsburg Monarchy shore with a view to the Ottoman empire…..

Kenđija, 26/05/2018: a view towards the old Danube river, which was the former border between the Ottoman Empire and the Habsburg monarchy , currently the Croatian-Serbian border according the Croatian government. De facto this is all Serbian territory.

 

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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…..

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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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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
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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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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 )

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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.
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