Belgrade, Serbia


Crossed. 
Always excited at all that awaits.

I love backpacking, or the ideas I associate with it. I love the idea of camping overnight at airports, huddled close to my backpack; the long bus rides that take me from one culture to another; the scrimping I do, carrying my bread or pastries for as long as it lasts me; the walking, the endless walking for hours non-stop till my legs sigh with relief at the end of the day. I love the ache from my shoulders after walking around with my entire luggage to explore the city. The sweat that trickle within my body after a while – there is something alluring about the small-scale rigour I put myself through, something exciting about it.


Belgrade:

I missed out on Belgrade’s beauty. This is not the right weather to visit…….
The weather was harsh and I just wanted to stay indoors all day. We went back to play music and watch movies. Nope, I barely saw any of the city. A revisit someday perhaps.

Košava
Emir kusturica
Further from macdonalds 
They study princep as a national hero 
Can’t believe they’ve never worn school uniform at all in their lives



Braved the snow and the biting bitter winds (košava) and finally went back, curled up in the warmth watching Mad about Mambo (and dimples ;)) Missing my SG summer ☀️ Belgrade made better with 玛丽亚 😊 can’t believe they’ve never worn school uniforms in their entire lives 🏠




Slovenia is so young and hip and cool



My favourite place in Ljubljana
At this point I was undeniably tired. The weather was turning cold, I wanted to curl up indoors the whole day.
This is a cafe that serves hot tea, coffee, with multiple film screenings throughout the day. You could wait here with a book, chat with a friend while you wait for the film to begin.
Love love love


Snow and leaves:

To hear the droplets coo goodbye as they woke from their frozen slumber, sliding down with a rhythmic patter



CS in Sarajevo

I met Ivana here, in this quaint little place. And her little dog

I was so lucky actually, because the weather in Sarajevo was exceptionally brilliant during my stay. It was so foggy the days before.

I met Ena on New Year’s day. It was 3am as I walked to the bus terminal to meet her. A Polish guy accompanied me in my walk. It was cold. We talked about the refugees crisis, and I remember it was from him that I learnt about this ‘car trading’ business. His family drove second-hand cars all the way to Georgia to sell, and because they’re sought after there, they could earn quite a sum. They would then fly back to Poland. It was an annual trip they made. 
Ena. We woke up at 11+am. On hindsight I could have pushed for some hiking, but I didn’t. Instead, we went to a Turkish coffeehouse and spent the whole day talking. It still amazes me sometimes, when I think back about it, how we spent the entire day talking. Just talking, and talking and talking. It was so fascinating, especially when we drew parallels between Bosnia and Singapore. 
It was smokey, I had a chai, the people beside me unwound on the sofa with the shisha in hand
My incoherent notes:

Finding family
No man’s land 
Ovo Malo Duse
Stanica obicnih vozova
Otac Na sluzbenom putu 
Sjecas Li se Doli bel 
Atom egoyan- Ararat 
Dubioza kolektiv 
Kultur shock

‘The Bosnian nation does not exist’ 

Lawyers as the average – the ones that go partying, not sure what to do with their lives, etc 
Similarity between Bosnia and Singapore – if you covered the name, it could be bosnia’s wikipage, she said 

‘There is no nation,’ she said 
I was confused – what do you mean no nation? Isn’t it Bosnia? Bosnia is just a country, she says 
This brings to mind Anderson’s idea of nations as imagined communities 
I always thought of countries and nations as a single entity of sorts, despite studying Anderson’s definition 
It was my first encounter with a country that almost embraces this idea that they have 3 nations (?) and no single ‘Bosnian’ identity 
The Bosnian-Serbs (orthodox?), Bosnian-Croats (Catholics?) and the Bosniaks (Muslims?) 
Seems like their sense of national identity is very much tied to their religion (?) 
3 presidents? The ‘temporary’ constitution 
All a game to make people focus on nationalism rather than actual circumstances 
90% of people are nationalists 
And you can’t use non-nationalist terms somehow even as you are a journalist; there are no terms that do not contain that element of political connotation 
You can say ‘Bosnian people’ but at some point you have to use the terms Serbs/Croats etc 
A political ploy by Serbia to gain territory? For Croatia? To split Bosnia between the two? 
Even names – Croatia claims those with Slavic names have Croat origins – the importance of names – but what about mixed families? 
Croats can get both Bosnian and Croatian passport (Bosnian passport must be first)
Idea of victimhood (I was telling them about laos and they jokingly said – oh so we’re not the only victims)
Artist and what sells – war and the repeated (stereotypical) story 
You’re so lucky you have a story to tell (?) growing up in war 
Artists and their muse 
Unemployment 
They had to go to Italy to buy jeans = jeans weren’t available here 
Soaking feet in Coca Cola as a way to taunt other nations

I realised there are so many gaps in my knowledge about SG, especially Singapore history 
They had the medieval times, what about us? Where does the history of Singapore begin? I only know the part from Sang Nila Utama. I realised the national language of Singapore is Malay, even though our key administrative lingua franca is English. How can their second or third language be as good as mine? How can I improve my Spanish? 
Do the Malays want to go to Malaysia? Like how the Serbs want to? Were Serbs being attacked during the siege? 
Who was i staying with.. And (why) should that matter? 

It’s interesting because for us, we looked different but we wanted to emphasize that we were the same. For them, they looked practically the same but wanted to emphasize they were different. 
Nevertheless, the country is highly secular and religion is seen as more of a traditional and cultural identity than a set of rituals and rules




Sarajevo is special to me because it brought about multiple insights. It left me many things to contemplate about. Nationhood, war and genocides, repeated histories and international bodies…

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina



Watch 😥







With its east meets west ambience, it may feel like you are wandering the markets of Istanbul, or strolling through Vienna the next street over. This is because Bosnia was influenced by the Ottoman empire which ruled from the late 1400’s, and then Austrian-Hungarians who took control for a short period of time in the late 1800’s.


There’s something I really like about Sarajevo – the stories, the people I’ve met, it’s rich history, how the east meets west – you could be wandering the Ottoman-style bazaars on one corner and strolling through the European architecture on another. Somewhere near the Latin bridge, Gavrilo Princip assassinated Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, triggering the start of WW1.



The Latin bridge

 
Even looking through these pictures bring back the heavy-heartedness I felt when walking around the city. Has it already been more than 4 months? Wow.
I spent a long time in the Srebrenica exhibition. I went back to it the second day, because there was so much to see.



I am reminded of my time in Poland.




Near my hostel in the old town bazaar


you can still see the scars along the streets



a Sarajevo rose (without the red resin)

What happened at this very spot? I couldn’t help but wonder




After being here the words of brisi continue to float in my mind. I thought I’d be keen to find out first hand accounts of the war – I am, undeniably a part of me remains curious, but a larger part of me feels a little sickened. Sickened by the reality surrounding me. Depressed, a little. And at the same time feeling hypocritical because what do I have to be depressed about? How could I ever understand? What do I want to hear these accounts for? To satisfy my morbid curiosity, for drama?
What do you want to know this for? It feels like you come here and you take and you take all these information, and what do you give to us?





There was one thing he said that struck me – the idea that mankind learns from the mistakes of history hardly contains the truth 
The international community and its indifference 
A man wears a shirt that says ‘dead of alive’, the white slogan sprawled across his chest. He lies in a pool of red.
I pondered at the irony captured by the camera, and took out a piece of Turkish delight to chew. I stood there, watching the short film on ‘Syrias war: a journal of pain’, drinking my water and eating my sweets. What a picture I must make. 


I thought back to the hostel man this morning. He has lived through the Sarajevo siege. Anyone older that me has experienced the war in some way. Everyone that passes me. 
Too many thoughts
I think the war did impact the people and the city’s values in some ways and I could see how it did leave some kind of influence on her
Sarajevo’s unemployment rate is so high
At least 40% or sth
And seems like they get jobs by connections not qualifications
Bad for the future economy
Twin towers and contrasting theories 
As in the notion that the US could have been the mastermind behind the whole ‘war on terror’
I did read about how the war on terror could be a justification for their invasion of oil-rich countries but to think that they executed the act of destruction of the twin towers…
Calendars of Tito
International indifference
 

 

Moster – Sniper’s tower (dark tourism)

I spotted it from some distance away. I had read about it online, and I had to admit there was something intriguing about it, I wanted to see it for myself. Dark tourism – voyeuristic intentions to catch a glimpse of such a haunting past.

 

 
 
 
 
The graffiti art lined the outer walls of the sniper tower. It was in this tower that the Serbs had apparently gunned down many innocent lives.
The bulletholes leave their marks. The youths of today have tried to transform this scar-ridden landscapes and make their own meanings, to voice their views.
 
 
😦


 
 

they all end in -93
 
I walked around heavy-hearted, pondering about the people I walk by. 20 years, 20 years isn’t that long. The people next to me could have witnessed it, or their parents. I felt… sad.
 
But what do I know? Really, really what do I know? I am just a tourist, another cloud passing by, shaking my head at the poor bullet scars of bosnia’s tragedy, and then I move on, enraptured by the next panorama of a city, another picture-worthy coast. And I say ‘I felt sad’ – really? 

I felt sad, and then i felt hypocritical

 

Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Ah, from Dubrovnik I caught the evening bus to Mostar, and reached at about 9+pm. It was coooooold and foggy.



Mostar and Sarajevo are one of my favourite cities for sure. I learnt a lot from the days within the cities. 



There, the bridge of Mostar





I met 2 Turkish guys on the bus and we went to look for a hostel together. They told me a little about the history of the place; on hindsight I knew so little then. Never heard of Bosnia y Herzegovina before 2014, didn’t know how they looked, what language they spoke, the streets, the history. Nothing, no geographical imagination of it, none. (mm, ignorance i admit ignorance)


Books to read: 

The death of me of Yugoslavia
They would never hurt a fly slavenka drakulic
 
I find signs like this intriguing. It’s like seeing ‘ARGENTINA’ etched across a bus, knowing I was actually heading there. Likewise, seeing Sarajevo and Dubrovnik. These are cities I’ve heard about, read about, researched about, and I was here, standing in front of signs that were actually leading me there. My heart buzzed with excitement. 
 
Well, Mostar in the morning. I woke up at 9+, eager to head out. Said bye to the guys who raved about the bureks in Bosnia – ‘people in Turkey sell ‘bureks from Bosnia’ as a branding’ – and headed towards another hostel. It was a lovely hostel, one located in the central area of the lively bazaar.
 
 
What struck me about Mostar: the buildings… the crumbling remains of buildings. The scars of the snipers. The broken hollow echoes on the ground. I’d never seen the remnants of war so upfront, so starkly and nonchalantly sitting in the corners of the city.
It felt… strange. Understanding its history later on in the museums dropped some sort of weight in my heart as i walked along these… pretty recent remains.
 



Went into the mosque and the viewing tower


 
how many hundred(s) years old is this?


 




The beautiful Stari Most!


 
Where are the summer frogmen that dive into the river?
 
 
 
 
Such a quiet lovely place. I walked past a boy singing (basking). I gave him the rest of my oranges. He was so young, only 12 or so.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

 

Dubrovnik was nice, but it was rather touristy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being the only tourist (azn) around makes the environment more foreign, amplifying my sense of wonderment. There’s just a greater sense of exploration perhaps, being alone to curiously poke my nose and quietly observe the country’s affairs. Away from familiarity, away from my home-grown surroundings. Along the Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia/Kosovo/Albania stretches I did not meet much tourists (much less azn tourists) (possibly because I mostly couchsurfed) so Dubrovnik, beautiful and touristy as it was, did make me feel like hmm, let me go further, further, away. Of course there’s a part of me that says, why make this distinction? but it is reasonable to say that the crux of it is familiarity
I learnt to stop planning for accommodation since Grad Trip, and to search for hostels when I reach particular destinations instead (keeping in mind a couple of options / addresses though)
So when I arrived in Dubrovnik, thinking I could get a room, I was greeted with the fact that it was winter, so many hostels were not open for the season. The ones that were, were full. Did not CS because only strange dodgy male hosts offered a place.
I had no room, but a huge backpack to carry.
That was rather dampening but I went up the stairs and everywhere anyway. Then I hopped the late night bus, finished reading Rebeca by Daphne du Maurier, and left.
So I guess these would suggest why I don’t feel a special attachment towards Dubrovnik compared to the other places.

 

Durmitor National Park

I wrote in my head when hiking along the Montenegrin national park
I wrote about the fishes swimming under my feet, the loud crack that echoed across the lake as my feet stubbornly weighed upon the glass beneath
It was like a game – I tested my weight, and hopped and slid across the ice
Teasing cracks and watching as water oozes out from the slits
I watched the frozen froths, the frilly edges of the lake
Solidified in the moment
The glittering field
The sharp white blades
I walked and I walked and I walked
For hours

My mind drifted from one thought to the other

I peeled an orange and tossed its skin on the ground – decomposition, I console myself
The orange stares glaringly within the sheet of white
And I walked and I walked
And tried not to feel bummed thinking about
How it would be if I were here in the summer.





































(thinking back, this season is awesome. i had the serenity of the place to myself, i had the cool breeze)

Podgorica, Montenegro

 

 

‘Our tap water is drinkable, we get them from the mountain springs. It’s a pity all these drinkable water is used to clean the floors’

 
I have fond memories in Podgorica
I had good conversations here
meeting Marko
CABBING EVERYWHERE because its cheap, its like 2 euros or less. 
 



 








Takeaways:

– Fathers can take a year off 
– Mothers get money 300€? From government for third child for the rest of her life
– Choose btw that and retirement sum
– Edu and healthcare free
– Albania isn’t, nth for the babies
– But healthcare free but crappy
– He said tito’s communism wasn’t like that.. They weren’t that closed up, they used to go to Romania to do grocery shopping. He remembered, it was good. He was 9, but he remembered. It was only bad about 10 years after Tito died. The bombings during ww2- they had to hide in the bunkers, it was partying every night. He picked up smoking then. Can
– First Eco city of Europe
 
– Montenegro and ‘no to nato’ graffiti
– Having relatives or cousins in the village helps greatly with groceries like cheese milk vegetables
 

Tirana to Montenegro


Bye Albania. (does eagle sign)

To get to Montenegro from Albania, 

one would need to reach the Albanian / Montenegrin border.

I took the bus opposite this shiny mall in Tirana to Shkoder. 
Apparently it starts moving when it’s filled up, with no particular bus timing.
I reached at about 145pm. When I got off (in Montenegro) there were many people asking where I wanted to go, offering tours to the nearest cities, beach-style resorts around. I walked around and found myself at hotel rozafa, in a bid to steal wifi to google further. somehow, it turned out that there was the spot I was supposed to wait for the bus to Podgorica. Hurray!

The minibus set off at 215pm
5 euros, not like the 50 euros they wanted to charge

Tirana, Albania

This is a choppy post that notes down some of my thoughts during my stay here.
Memory triggers

 

Ah, I knew Tirana was gonna be good
Moments like this I think, how could I have almost let this opportunity slip by because papa said no? I couldn’t help feeling annoyed. I am more often than not caught in the struggle between trying to be a good daughter and pursuing my wishes to grow (while stifling my own (admittedly decreasing significantly) fears)

why were there so many stray dogs in Tirana? 😦

I reached Tirana in the evening. They had a huge Christmas tree in its central square. I met Ela there.

This was 11 weeks ago. How time fliesFirst impressions of Tirana:

So sunny and so warm, both the place and the people.

 

Seriously, the sun in Tirana is amazing. I’m also surprised at how developed and shiny it was.

Things I learnt in the 4 days:

– Lottery for visa to the us once a year
– Applied for 5 times already
– 100 people are selected
– Nodding head shaking head culture
– Difficulty gaining entrance into the EU. Why? Because country doesn’t have that good an impression, based on some of the things they do; eg. letting people go out to war (they say it’s for education etc but there’s fear of local influence when they’re back = Albanians not allowed in the EU), and Gvt is corrupted and they don’t even try to hide
– Some Kosovo people want to be part of Albania but others don’t
– Kosovo as an independent state might find it easier to move towards a direction that allows them to gain eu status
– Not being associated with Albania (being 100+ years old now, still weak) may give them higher chance
– No life sentence or death penalty – murder maybe max 20 years? + pay yourself out
– Vday is a public holiday
– Rs with Italy – tourism, easy access 10 hours via ferry, call centers, institutions
– Byrek- for Xmas once a year
Byrek!
= christmas pie

Christmas decor

Daily meals yummy

 

 

Here, they’re religiously tolerant. The church and the mosque exists side by side and they’re very understanding as a community.

You can drink from the tap water because they have mountain water
Ah, we have this at the north of Albania too, they said, unimpressed as I showed them waterfalls and caves and rivers
Bus system: bus collector
Bus is cheap maybe because it caters to poorer average people, richer gets cars
Average wage -200-300 euros
In office maybe 700 euros
I told her I’ll see her in Singapore, but her immediate reaction (like diljana’s) is ‘yes but I don’t think my visa…’ and only after I checked and told her did she brighten up.

 

 

 

 

It was the simple things the mum did, like giving me oranges and bananas. Rubbing my shoulders.




The Pyramid, originally a museum to commemorate the dictator Enver Hoxha, then a conference center.


 

 

Sunshine and mountains and warmth, till we meet again 🇦🇱🇦🇱🇦🇱☀ Interesting to note that Albania was the first officially atheist country in the world in 1967 under Communist rule, and all churches and mosques were demolished or converted into other secular facilities. Today they’re Muslim-majority but known for their religious tolerance. The image of Mother Teresa, one of the most known Albanian, can also be seen within and outside some churches – statues, paintings, even stained glass windows. 🕌⛪

I think my stay here made me realise how privileged I was to carry a Singapore passport. The whole visa process poses as such a challenge for Ela here. For me, when I want to visit a country, most of the time obtaining a visa is not so much of a concern. I don’t think about visa issues (unless it’s some obscure place) because I almost assume I’d be able to get a visa for it anyway. But for Ela it seems like one of the key things to consider, not to mention the cost of it, and their already low wage. Such barriers.

Her parents were banana sellers. It reminded me that sometimes I walked past these fruit sellers in the markets and after work they could be going home, tending to their children by the table, showering strangers with such kindness. They were so sweet to me. I didn’t want to be any more of a burden; I know I’m far more privileged. I bought groceries, desserts and things I got from Italy during my stay.

300 euros a month? How difficult is it to save to visit someplace else