Balkans – End

The Balkans are a fascinating, very diverse region in Southeast Europe which had to deal with a lot of conflicts in recent history – the Breakup of Yugoslavia and the resulting Yugoslav wars made it almost impossible to travel the region from 1991 to 2001.

A lot has changed since those darker days and most of the countries are back on track, the reconstruction is in its final stages and the tourism is on the rise. Changes can also be seen in the countries which haven’t been affected by the wars – Bulgaria became part of the EU, developed it’s infrastructure and is seeing an economic growth, even though this growth decreased recently.

Learnt so much about the Balkans during the trip. I find it so rewarding knowing that this was a region previously so foreign, so completely unknown to me. But now I know just a little teeny bit better.

Yay! Done with this!

Plitvice Lake




My favorite part is always the conversations – with animators, with artists, with war survivors, with people who are nostalgic about Yugoslavia / Communism / Tito times, with those passionate about their crafts and passionate about life, who grew up in environments different, yet not so different from mine, who gasp at my norms (no chewing gum?!) and challenge the notions of my own. And getting more questions, and obtaining answers to questions I didn’t know I had.




so serene


It’s a little different, you know, trudging through a plain of white in solitude
it’s probably one of the most calmi














































frozen
frozen in time



 Understanding nature and lakes a little better

Zagreb, Croatia

Ah, the lasts. I have to admit I’m trying to clear these posts. I didn’t draft anything in particular for Zagreb.
I don’t really like it. When I feel like I wrote nothing, I feel like I took nothing away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spending time in the museum was interesting. Also, Zagreb was prettier than I envisioned.

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)