ok, as promised, about montenegro. about two weeks ago abby, maggie and i decided we wanted to see more of this region while we had some time. we are in the process of writing our independent study projects and figured we could do the writing from anywhere. since the weather had been unbelievably gorgeous but also unbearably hot, we opted for a seaside mini-vacation. montenegro is a tiny country, population 600,000 with a breathtaking coast along the adriatic sea. in BCS (bosnian, croatian, serbian-the language i’m studying in serbia that’s also spoken in montenegro) the country is called crna gora or, black mountain. the mountains in montenegro go right to the coast which makes every picture literally perfect and postcard-esque.
we arrived in montenegro after a character-building twelve hour night train ride from belgrade to bar, then took a taxi from bar to budva, the town where we were staying.
-on the way between bar and budva we passed the island of sveti stefan, a picturesque old town that is now a super posh vacation destination
budva is often referred to as the “miami of montenegro” for it’s nightlife and touristy nature. luckily we were there well before the high season and, although there wasn’t much to do in the way of nightlife, we still had an unbelievable time exploring the city (a term i use loosely). the old town of budva was unbelievably incredible (i’m running out of synonyms for gorgeous, amazing etc.)
-art installation in budva’s stari grad (old town)
-one of the beaches in budva
our second day in montenegro we decided to take a bus to the nearby town of kotor, which was rumored to be just as stunning, and it did not disappoint.
-kotor’s stari grad and the mountains
-the centuries-old fortress that winds through the mountains behind kotor
-an abandon church in kotor’s old town
-street in the old city of kotor
-after taking zillions of pictures of beautiful old buildings we decided to mix it up. this is maggie’s “OH MY GOD there are so many green shutters” face
-wow this plant is SUPER
-and a semi-nice one of the three of us in kotor
the last two days we were in montenegro were spent exclusively on the beach. i managed to get very creative-looking sunburns on my feet, but it was totally worth it to swim in the perfectly refreshing, clear waters of the adriatic.
after 4 wonderful days in montenegro we headed back to belgrade and the final two weeks of our program in serbia. WHAT?!?!? that snuck up on us. anyway. the train ride did not disappoint and maggie snagged these disgustingly beautiful pictures of montenegro.
…and we had some fun with the camera on the train. i’m sure our fellow passengers were NOT impressed with us
oh well. it helped pass the time. now i’m back in belgrade and turning in my final assignment TOMORROW. wish me luck!
wow. so a lot has happened since i last wrote. after bosnia we had a week to formulate a topic for our independent study projects (isp), write a proposal, get it approved and go on our merry way. since april 12 i have been setting my own schedule, working on my isp about refugees from the wars of the 1990s in serbia today. it’s been amazing. i have a phenomenal advisor who has helped me set up interviews for my research with some great people. everyone has been beyond helpful, and most are pleasantly surprised and slightly confused as to why i want to research refugees in serbia—it’s become an ‘unsexy’ topic so many years after the war. the flexibility of our schedules has made it very easy to take advantage of the BEAUTIFUL weather in belgrade, it’s been an average of 75-80 every day since mid-april.
the absolute first thing my group and i did after getting our isp proposals approve was go see BEYONCE kick of her world tour IN belgrade. there are no words. my host sisters also attended, but our seats were nowhere near each other. the concert was phenomenal and after i got back from the concert immediately looked up her tour dates in the US, hoping to see her again.
-one of the only semi-decent pics i got of the show. it was incredible.
the day after the beyonce concert gina-my friend from sweden who i met in canada-arrived in belgrade to visit for a week. it was beyond wonderful to have here in belgrade and to know the city well enough to show someone else around! the weather was PERFECT for her visit, and i was able to balance my isp work with visiting with gina.
-gina at kalemegdan
-my host sisters, gina and i at avala mountain just outside of belgrade
after gina left i spent my time working tirelessly (of course) on my isp. the drafts of our isp (which had to be at least 30 pages) were due to our advisors yesterday-may 3. so some of my friends and i decided to take a mini-vacation to the coast of montenegro to congratulate ourselves on being (almost) done with isp. i’ll post pictures soon, but right now everything is taking too long to upload and the beach is calling me.
update on the soccer game: Bosnia beat Greece 3-1 and the streets were full of people celebrating the win. such an unbelievable experience to be in the city that night.
i am now back from bosnia! for the past week i was on the second of two academic excursions (the first being kosovo) with my study abroad program. the country is formally called Bosnia and Hercegovina, but is often shortened to just Bosnia or BiH. the trip was absolutely amazing-fantastic and rewarding on all levels. again i will steal from my classmate david’s writings, because his writing is phenomenal and i have trouble explaining what we did when he did it so exceptionally.
The place [BiH] is beautiful and the people have been great; at the same time it’s a frighteningly complicated country that is at the same time both maddening and enchanting. There’s no shortage of things to write about. Let’s begin then….
We crammed into a rather small van and left Belgrade early in the morning. To get to Bosnia we went through Croatia, which only took about half an hour because Croatia is shaped like a pool noodle. I had one of my many brilliant ideas when I tried to take a picture of the cat sleeping at the Croatian border patrol station. The officer who saw my camera was not amused….
Having made it through one country while narrowly avoiding arrest and deportation, we entered Bosnia. Bosnia was the sight of an horrific war from 1992-1995 fought between the country’s three major ethnic groups, the Serbs, Croats, and Muslims, who are now referred to as Bosniaks because at some point somebody realized that Muslim isn’t an ethnic group. I’m way oversimplifying this but essentially the Serbs refused to live in a country where they would be the minority so they formed an army and went borderline-genocidal on their neighbors. All of the sides did terrible things. 100,000 people were killed and two million people were chased from their homes. The country only had four million people. This all happened in our lifetime.
during our first afternoon in Bosnia, we stopped in the municipality of Brčko. Brčko is an area independent from either of the two main entities that comprise BiH-the Federation of Bosnia and Hercegovina and the Republika Srpska. the political situation is extremely complicated, and only further confused by the presence of the different ethnic groups vying for recognition. I won’t go into the details, but feel free to google for more info! back to Brčko: we spent the afternoon in the town before heading to Banja Luka for two days. Banja Luka is the capital of Republika Srpska and has the shockingly emerald Vrbas River running through the middle of it.
-insanely cute pedestrian area of Brčko
-the view from our hotel room
-stunning church in the center of banja luka
after two nights in Banja Luka we travelled to the small town of Sanski Most. we spent one night there and met a wonderful man who is doing great work through an organization he cofounded that works through a transitional justice framework to improve the lives of those in post-conflict societies.
from sanski most we spent another day travelling to sarajevo. on the way we stopped in the town of Jajce to see an extraordinary waterfall.
after the waterfalls we arrived in sarajevo and had a free evening to explore. our hotel was located in the heart of the old city and it was wonderful to explore the surrounding pedestrian streets full of souvenirs and small cafes.
-souvenirs in sarajevo
while in sarajevo we had a series of amazing lectures, that covered a variety of topics and gave us a comprehensive (though by no means exhaustive) picture of the current situation in sarajevo and bosnia.
on our way home from sarajevo we stopped by the memorial for srebrenica…something that, again, david explains best.
we visited the memorial sight at Srebrenica before returning to Belgrade. I wrote most of this the night before because I knew it would be difficult to say anything after Srebrenica. In July 1995, over 8,000 Muslim men in the city were rounded up and executed by the Serb army. Being at the site is a truly sobering experience. Walking through the graveyard, I stopped periodically to read the name on a tombstone. The first two were 18 years old when they were killed. The next one was 75. “Never again,” we said after the Holocaust. Never again.
the stop in srebrenica as well as the trip as a whole was an experience i will certainly never forget. i am beyond grateful for the excursions we have. we get to learn so much about the places we visit-pristina, banja luka, sanski most and sarajevo-and also gain new perspectives on belgrade. in addition to being intense learning experiences we also have so much fun and get to know our program staff outside of the classroom. in the next two weeks we begin narrowing down the topics for our month-long independent study projects, and i don’t even know where to start thinking about topics-pretty much every lecture and discussion we have seems like it would be such an interesting project. wish me luck deciding and i’ll post again soon!
we are currently in bosnia and herzegovina for an academic excursion. it’s been so fun and interesting and i will definitely write more about it soon, with pictures. but we just arrived in sarajevo on the day of the soccer game between bosnia-greece to qualify for the 2014 world cup. so driving through the countryside we saw people decked out in all kinds of bosnian-themed clothes. and now, in sarajevo we hear the cheers in the street every time bosnia scores. it’s currently 2-0 bosnia at half time and we’re heading out to a bar to watch the rest of the game. will post more pictures soon, but here’s photo from jajce, a town we stopped in on our drive to sarajevo.
kosovo/a: this past week we went on an academic excursion with our program to visit kosovo/a (the reason for the o/a thing is because serbs call it kosovo while albanians call it kosova-from now on i’m going to stick with kosovo). this will be a very brief summary and gross simplification of the situation in kosovo. in the former yugoslavia, kosovo was not a republic, but an autonomous region part of serbia-meaning they had some, but not all, of the perks of being a republic in the yugoslav federation. kosovo is roughly 90% ethnic albanian, and serbs are the largest minority in the region. despite this disparity in populations, serbs still regard kosovo as the heart of serbia because 1389 there was a battle where the serbs defended the land against the advancing ottoman empire.
in 2008 kosovo declared independence, a political move that serbia did not recognize. today there are nearly 100 countries that do recognize kosovo (including the US), and serbia still does not. in pristina (the capital of kosovo where we stayed) there is a monument that represents the new kosovar state:
-newborn monument, painted with all of the flags that recognize kosovo, with some blank spots for countries that do not recognize kosovo as an independent state.
so, we visited kosovo as part of our peace and conflict studies in the balkans course to try and get a multi-faceted perspective on the kosovo issue, rather than just hearing serbia’s side of the story.
every day in kosovo was more busy than the last. most of our visit was comprised of lectures from various academics and organizations in kosovo as well as trips to different municipalities and monuments throughout the area.
walking tour of the city, lecture with political science professor from kosovo, visit to gracanica-serb municipality outside pristina.
-abandoned serbian orthodox church in the middle of pristina
-brotherhood and unity momument from the former yugoslavia
-serbian orthodox monastery in gracanica
lectures in the morning, afternoon trip to prizren-city about an hour away from pristina. used to be major crossroads for east-west trading.
-view of gracanica from the fortress on the hill. snowcapped mountains would’ve been stunning on a clearer day
-old part of prizren
-brigitta and i at the fortress
-maggie, abby and i in the old part of prizren, right before turkish tea and our trek up to the fortress
omg so much has happened since my last post. most importantly, i spent 6 days in kosovo/a on an excursion as part of my program. i would have loved to blog consistently while i was there-would’ve made keeping up so much easier-but spotty internet made that goal pretty much unachievable. so, i’m back and recovering and will upload pics and info about our time in kosovo/a, but in the mean time i will leave one of the most amazing ‘blog’ entries i have ever read. one of my fellow students, david, wrote this a few weeks ago and ever since i have been struggling to write a post as honest and insightful. i hope that what he wrote comes across as well for people who are not currently studying abroad. regardless, i felt this was something i needed to share.
Home is Where Your Food Is
It’s been three weeks and I’m still alive. I actually don’t find Belgrade to be strange or mystifying or demonstrably different from America in any significant way. Maybe it’s because I never really feel like I fit in anywhere, but right now Serbia seems like home, only with smaller cars and a language devoid of vowels. The people here are people. Nice people. The thousands-of-years-old fortress is something you can’t find in the U.S. though. I’m gonna go with the History Channel and say that aliens built it.
Also, the food is different. Not so much the food itself but the omnipresent requirement to eat ALL OF IT. “Eat, David!” says my host father as I am, in fact, eating. I forgot to grab breakfast as I was leaving today, leading me to fear that my host family would hate me forever, but fortunately they didn’t seem to notice the absence of an empty cereal bowl in the sink. The first thing I did when I got home from classes was to rapidly devour an apple so that if questioned, I could say look at that apple core in the trashcan! I’m eating stuff! At dinner tonight I was able to placate my host parents by saying “I eat, but I eat slowly” in Serbian. My main concern now is that I will weigh 400 pounds by the end of the semester. I don’t wanna have to buy an extra seat for the flight back to Atlanta.
Our group of students went to a club last Friday. A legit club. I spent a good portion of the night staring at a drawing of an owl on the wall with its eyes moving back and forth. That owl had style. I, on the other hand, have whatever the opposite of style is. I successfully managed to make it through the night without falling down or having a seizure. This made me quite proud. Other than that it was just pretty bizarre for me, but bizarre is how I roll. King Dave the Awkward rules his domain.
My host family is great. Whenever the father says something in English, he points at himself and says “language… genius.” I was sick yesterday and the mother prescribed brandy because it’s a cure for everything. I don’t feel homesick except for Mexican food. Mexico is what I miss most about America.
I got my dollars exchanged for Serbian dinars. “Disregard females, acquire currency.”
We’re going to Kosovo next week, which has declared independence but Serbia says it’s a part of Serbia. My main goal is to make it through the week still in possession of all of my organs. Also, I must high-five the Bill Clinton statue. I’m not sure how we’re getting into Kosovo, but I’m imagining it involving either parachutes or a tunnel.
That’s about all that comes to mind right now, aside from watching a great Serbian movie and spending ten days worth of lunch money on a taxi cab. Peace.
ćao from Beograd! welcome to my (hopefully) more regular blog posts. i’m finally getting somewhat of a schedule down and managing to get to and from class with only minor public transportation mishaps. classes are interesting, but no matter what country you’re in, school is school; which means you attend begrudgingly, no matter how interesting or exciting the material. our Serbian language courses are by far the most entertaining, but also the most challenging. I will be forever grateful to Vuk Karadžić and his ‘write as you speak, read as its written rule.’
- the man, the legend, the mustache. Vuk.
this rule essentially means i can sound out any word and don’t have to worry about spelling because there are no two-letters-making-one-sound situations (also called diagraphs). but this also means i look like a crazy person on the bus, sounding out words written in cyrillic to myself. BUT, my (questionable) proficiency in reading signs in cyrillic led me to the post office all by myself the other day. big moment.
in other news, this past weekend i checked two things off my serbian bucket list. the first was going to Gardoš, a neighborhood in Zemun. this neighborhood houses the Millennium Tower, a remnant from the Austro-Hungarian empire. the tower was one of five in the empire and used to mark the southernmost border.
- view of Zemun from the tower
the other thing on my to-do list was visit a cafana-a serbian bar. these bars play traditional serbian music and quickly turn into rowdy sing-a-longs. my two host sisters, their cousin, and some friends took me and another friend from study abroad to one of these cafanas. it was beyond fun, but next time i want to practice some of the songs so i know what’s going on.
- iva, me, anja
after a different night out with my friend ananas and her host sister, we went to an ‘american’ diner, which was definitely americanized, but didn’t serve breakfast all day….so it’s diner status is questionable. but it was nice to know exactly what food i was ordering.
but the diner also reminded me that i want to start keeping a list of interesting things i see/find/learn about while in belgrade. some of the other people on my program have already started, so i’ll probably steal some topics from them to get started. but here’s my fact for the day: in serbian, ‘r’ can sometimes act as a vowel if there are no traditional vowels in the word. for example, the serbian word for a square (like a city square) is trg. which, until today, didn’t have vowels
Zdravo from Belgrade! i have officially survived my first week of classes!!! the first few days here i was in a hostel with the other people in my study abroad group and we got a basic understanding of the city and our academic program. some parts of the week consisted of ‘drop offs’ where we were split into groups and sent off around the city with different instructions. this was a great way to get familiar with different parts of the city and led to some interesting adventures and missteps.
- ‘my belgrade’
-tacarra, me, abby and maggie on a walk along the sava river
-the view from our classroom
-more sweet graffiti
our orientation week ended with meeting our homestay families and a final, guided tour of the city. my homestay family is so so SO nice and fun. I have a homestay mom and dad, two sisters (21 and 17), a brother (12), as well as a dog, rabbit and guinea pig. we live in an older area of the city, Zemun, that used to be a separate town but, as Belgrade grew, was incorporated into the city.
the city tour was soo interesting and entertaining, but a bit cold. our tour guide was wildly entertaining and knowledgable and gave us a comprehensive tour of the city. one fun fact learned: Belgrade has changed hands 60 times in its history and been destroyed 44 times.
-our baller tour guide, srdjan
-what’s up srdjan?!?
-part of the old fortress in kalemegdan park
-the confluence of the danube and sava rivers from the fortress
-Cathedral of St. Sava has been under construction on and off since 1935. the interior is still incomplete
our first week of classes was pretty low key-focusing on our language classes and our lectures on the breakup of yugoslavia. one morning we had a scheduled visit to the Museum of Yugoslav History.
-outside of the main museum building
the museum acutally consisted of a couple buildings, most of which housed diplomatic gifts that Josep Broz Tito received from other leaders/states while in power. the museum also incudes the kuća cveća (house of flowers) which was Tito’s winter garden when he was alive and is now his burial site.
the museum also had some pretty sassy commentaries accompanying some of the permanent exhibits
-“wave goodbye to grandma”
sorry for the random and unmanageably long post. I am hoping that now classes have started and i can (for the most part) navigate Belgrade public transportation that my posts will be a bit more regular. Doviđenja!