November 30, 2007

Bridge on the Drina

Not far from Mokra Gora is the border to Republika Srpska (one of the two political entities that together compose the modern country of Bosnia and Herzegovina). And just 20km after the border there is the little city of Visegrad and its famous bridge built by Mehmed Paša Sokolović in 1571 (now UNESCO World Heritage Site). The town is most widely known due to the book Bridge on the Drina written by Ivo Andrić (who was awarded for that book with a Nobel Prize in 1961).

Visegrad - Republika Srpska

the border to republika srpska

VISEGRAD - steam locomotive in front of the house of culture and
floating coffee house on the drina river

November 27, 2007

Food Patriotism

Another thing I really love so much here, are the ethno-style restaurants of the area.
The interior is nicely decorated with Serbian rural equipment, some beautiful rugs and embroidered tablecloths.

The menu is strictly local (domaca kuhinja) and the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly.
A good idea to start with a veal soup (teleca corba) or a salad (srpska salata) and then to indulge in some grilled meat (meso na zaru) and tons of bread.
Don't forget to open the appetite with a shot of rakija!

November 26, 2007

Kusturica made it!

Something really special to visit between Tara and Visegrad, located in the area of Mokra Gora (not far from highway E 760) is the Ethno-Village "Küstendorf" build by Serbian film director Emir Kusturica. He's wish was to build a village dedicated to the Art of Film-Making and to support handcraft tradition of Serbia and it is build entirely in wood.

The village was rewarded in 2005 by the prestigious Philippe Rotthier architecture prize for the reconstruction of the city.

I read they didn't used plans to build it, and if you walk around and observe the way it's made you can see how much attention to detail was put in. If Kusturica put so much energy in that,
it's not just to promote a tourist area and film-making. I think it's more the love to his country he's celebrating here. He's in the position to actually do it, because people listen to him or react at least to him.

By the way: In 2005 he got baptized Serbian orthodox, under the name Emir Nemanja Kusturica and the little wooden church in the center of the village was dedicated to St. Sava.

The village got a lot of publicity through media when it opened in 2005. There is a interesting website here and a lot of information about that village and about Kusturica in general on this site here called Kustupedija.

It's surely well known but not really easy to reach. It's about 4 hours from Belgrade (near the Zlatibor Ski Area) and the best it's to go there by car. But if someone decide to travel until here (the area of all these attractions: Mokra Gora, Sargan Eight, Küstendorf, Visegrad, Zlatibor, Tara National Park)... will be rewarded Zillion times....

November 23, 2007

The Jogurt Question

For many people from Balkan who live in Switzerland it's a big question how to enjoy the wonderful Serbian Jogurt they love to drink with everything and all the time. What is good, is that in Switzerland the choice of milk products is big and the quality is outstanding. What's also good is: I tried and tried and tried to mix and match.....and I found out how to get a near perfect Jogurt. Try it and let me know what you think! (The Serbian jury here who tested the Jogurt is 100% satisfied!)
Here is the secret (who of course now is no secret anymore):
Mix a 500gr Pro Bifidus Jogurt (blue box) and a 500gr Bio Jogurt Nature (light blue box with cows) from Migros, then add a little cold water to get the texture you want. Enjoy!

November 20, 2007

What's the name of your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather? (in serbian: kako se zove tvoj sukurdol?)

It's really easy and normal to speak with local people. They like to know everything about the visitors (how you like our country? our food?...) what brought you there (we have something interesting for your research?!) and if you're married, have children, keep contact to your family and relatives (yes, yes and yes) and so on question after question. After telling about yourself, you can start to ask them some questions. And here comes the big difference of the way to look at life: while Serbians wanna know mostly about family, I catch myself in asking some tipical Western Style questions: what do you do for a living? (farmer, nothing, this and that), have you travelled? (travelling where? it's enough travelling if i have to go to the closer cities to buy what I can't get in the village) and I quickly recognize that my questions are rather weird for this people who don't really feel like having big carreers and seeing the entire world. So I'm adapting and start to ask things like: In what kind of house/building are you living (ok, that's for me) and with whom are you living (this is more for them). The answer to the housing-question vary from farm, country cottage or stan (apartment) but what's peculiar are answers to the constellation of the family. So one might live with majka, otac, zena, sin, snaja and unuci. A celebration of kinship terminology!!! Look at here how many terms whose equivalents can not be found in any foreign language! (See also how limited english can be if you wanna speak about your ancestors...)
He doesn't want to visit Zambia but lives with his close family (about 10 people) and is now happy to go home and eat a delicious lunch prepared by his wife, or his tasta or his tetka, while he's bringing home lunch for the animals.

Mokra Gora

After seeing
Zivot je cudo I was curious to see where they made that movie. The main attraction is the narrow gauge herritage railway that runs from Mokra Gora to Sargan Vitasi, but I'm an architect, and I'm more impressed about the beautiful vernacular buildings build around the railway.

The Drina River

When I travel I like to carry a book that represent the mood of the journey.
For this moment it's Peter Handke's „ Eine winterliche Reise zu den Flüssen Donau, Save, Morawa und Drina oder Gerechtigkeit für Serbien, 1996“
This is the book that brought Handke into trouble with „Western World“ , because in this book he portrayed Serbia among the victims of the Balkan War and attacked Western media for misrepresenting the facts of the war . And the controversity still rages!
It's really not a joke: it's not accepted to speak for Serbia here in Western Europe...we prefer to read lies of journalists who believe some other lies....
Handke's book is a sensitive travel log without speculations and interpretations of things: he looks, listen and feels....and writes about it. While travelling I see this:

To understand this blog

1. It's created in November 2007 after too much ugly things I had to read in Swiss Massmedia about Serbia. What's going on in Kosovo is one thing. I don't need to write about this, there are some people doing some wonderful jobs out here and it's explained also very good here. What makes me nervous is, how western media (especially here in Switzerland) write about it. Serbia is an amazing country with a rich culture that only a few know about but many like to hate it. I felt like collecting my travel logs from Serbia and to share it with you, the blog visitor that is ready to enter this wonderful but very complicated reality.

I tried to write the blog in English (even if it's not my language) to reach more people – even if the main readers are from Switzerland (Ticino and Deutschschweiz), Italy and Serbia. So it can happen that some posts or links are in those languages. Anyway: Comments are welcome in English, Italian, German and Serbian.

All the experiences and things I write about were collected in little books like this: 4. My Serbia experience started with several trips to Belgrade in the past few years. Personally I love that city very much, but it doesn't really represent Serbia and the serbian mentality. To understand Serbia you need to go to littlier cities and small villages, where the big part of the population lives. I write about all the peculiar things in architecture, landscape and design while travelling in Serbia and the Balkans that capture my curiosity.

5. The reason why I started researches in Serbia were for Architectural purpose. (More specifically for studying Begrade Blocks). The more I learnd about the county, the more I had to relativate my studies. So I decided to finish my work about blocks anyway to obtain access to register A of the architect board of Switzerland and then to change direction. The trip started and is evolving.

6. With some fantastic Italian friends I started also a blog for Balkan Nostalgic People:
We write all the best things about the Balkan Region in italian and english. A friendly place for the Balkan Dijaspora!

November 18, 2007

From the Travel Diary

What happens if you spend a couples of weeks int the Mountain Area of Western Serbia? You simply fall in love with the stunning beauty of the landscape and the friendliness of the local people. And then there is pure air and a peacely lifestyle. It makes you almost forget the doubts of your surroundings in Western Europe, when you told to people that your leaving for Serbia. But only almost. What do you do before you visit Serbia? You read tons of books and websites, you check the situation and you try to find out as much as possible to be well prepared. Because you're not a kamikaze and you don't wanna jeopardize your life.
Why are you scared?
Because you maybe live in a country (let's say Switzerland) an in a city (let's say Zürich) where media and daily life impose you a very bad image of the country you're about to visit. And because maybe a lady (?!) of your home canton (let's say Ticino) is accusing some people of that country (let's call them Radovan, Ratko, Vojislav and Slobodan) of genocide and crimes against humanity. But you read serious history books (who starts before 1900) and you stop to read and hear the news. And then you take off.. and you arrive Tara National Park and you start a fascinating journey in an unknown country.....