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Published: September 11th 2007
The principal entrance to the Kalemegdan Citadel.
A dreary day in more ways than one . . .
We went to bed at midnight last night after what was a long night (relative to our day) and woke up about 9AM to a dreary gray sky and rain outside. On the one hand we need a break, but on the second I am feeling better. We will go out in a couple of hours and visit the Citadel and maybe go do some shopping for Jennifer who wants something from the many clothing shops on Kneza Mihailova. Despite the dreary day, I'd say Belgrade and the Serbs are still our favorite place and people so far.
Italian in Belgrade
We had lunch at Duomo, a great Italian place in the "Silicone Valley" street - great because of the food, service, and atmosphere. I just spoke to Milos on the phone and he approved of it, so I know we are not crazy, if in Belgrade, eat at the Duomo restaurant! It seems they have a little love affair with Italians here in more ways than one, with Marco phrasing it best saying that Serbians don't like to work, but Italians don't like to work even more
B-Ball Courts at Kalemegdan
No wonder they're so good at basketball!
and they do it the best, especially with the European Union there to support them . . . what a loaded statement that was. To be sure, we will return to Dalmatia (not the rest of the eastern Balkans) because it really has the spirit of Italy without the flamboyant annoyances of the residents of the Boot and minus the boatloads of National Lampooners jibber-jabbering about Tuscan this and Tuscan that (sorry - just a minor opinion on the matter).
For all of the wonderful things we saw and experienced in Belgrade yesterday, the weather was the least disconcerting today. We went to the Citadel that we cruised by yesterday which is at the confluence of the Sava and Danube Rivers and visited the National Military Museum. The Citadel is very impressive and huge, the largest of the Vauban type that I have seen yet. The views of the rivers of course are great and the park space is well-manicured and a peaceful place to come and relax, something we have not found in the other capital parks we visited. In addition they also integrated several basketball courts which looked somewhat out of place but were
Who needs a cannon?
That ought to scare those Turks away!
well done so they did not take too much away, just looked out of place. There were a lot of THREE things in the place, lots of cannons, lots of security guards, and lots of snails in one spot. These last we found near a manhole by what appeared to be a turret frolicking in the wet grass. There was at least two dozen of them and we collected them all and stacked them together in one spot. We have a picture of them if you think snails are cute.
Maria and Milos had suggested we just admire the cannons and walk around and that the Military Museum wouldn't be so interesting, but we went to hte museum anyway, curious about what we would find in there based on what the LP Guide described. The first thing that strikes you is that for such a small country this place sure has seen more than its share of wars, so many of them that it seems they have been in wars incessantly for the last two thousand years. The Citadel itself witnessed direct action 115 times in the last 2500 years which is extraordinary when you consider
Sahat Gate at Kalemegdan
It was a pretty miserable day but we still had fun.
that some are lucky if they see 10 in such a period. What caught our eye the most of course was the battered Humvee parked out front and the last exhibit showing mainly US materiel from the NATO action against Serbia about a decade ago, including the remains of downed USAF F-16 and F-117 Stealth Fighter and US Army weaponry and uniforms. Hollywood made a movie about the F-117 downing, for those who don't remember, all US personnel made it safely back home. It's interesting to us that these types of things are still displayed in their museum despite an evident desire from most Serbs to move forward and integrate into the world. From discussions with Milos and Maria last night at dinner, I think it remains difficult for them to draw a clear judgement on how they stand on what's happened to their country in the last 15 years. A Serbian website
shows pictures of the crash site, the first picture showing the piece of the aircraft thati son display in the museum and that we have photographed. Jennifer didn't like seeing these things, nor did I, but I still don't know how I feel about all of this except
Military Museum Arsenal
Cannons from throughout the ages were on display an in relatively good condition considering the environment.
that war is never a good or clean enterprise. What I think I did learn from the museum, and therefore the Serbs taught me, is that their bravado has made them war-torn for centuries because they did not know when to stop, forget and move on. I think that's how Milos sees it when he says he wants to not dwell on the past and just move on and live a good life. Jennifer and I's only concern is that the purpose of penance (dwelling) is to learn and not forget past mistakes, something which seems to have been somewhat of a challenge for the Serbs over the years, but I am reticent to judge with limited knowledge of the situation.
Commentary on Serbia
It is evident that Milos and his friends were very focused on showing us the great side of Belgrade and Serbia. So maligned they feel, torn because of their desire to be a critical part of the greater world but hurting because their bred nationalism cannot cope with what seems like such unjust turns of history. It is frustrating to be labeled the oppressor when the Serbs could so easily have been the oppressed. The
She looked so threatening a whole division surrendered.
nationalism runs so deeply in this country, it came out in Milos unexpectedly but cautiously. I have received so many posts to this blog from individuals that I have to assume are Serbian, who were violently angry about what has happened to their country. I hope they can move past the anger. Their country has seen too much of it. Anger is fine, it will happen, but how one copes with it in the long run is what is most important.
This evening, rounding out the photo set for this entry, Milos took us around to all the "right" places that were not in the LP guide. The government buildings and pretty places that made a nationalistic country proud. What a proud country with amazing talent, that has historically well-dominated its neighbors but incomprehensibly maintained that need for domination in a world that has outgrown its regional dominance. The center of the world is not Belgrade, but that does not mean it is not a wonderful place.
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