Author Topic: The Balkans--their cultures, languages, religion and history  (Read 116888 times)

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Robert_Hall

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Re: The Balkans--their cultures, languages, religion and history
« Reply #60 on: August 08, 2005, 12:15:22 AM »
At first, I was understanding Alex's posts. I consider myself extremely "Balkan sympathetic" in some ways.  I have a love for Bulgaria and have spent the past 10 years  studying it's history, art and politics. I also have very dear friends there. You can't get much more "Balkan" than Bulgaria.  I have visited Bulgaria twice and will be back again soon this year. {sometime in between Russia, England and Scotland} I saw first hand a radical change in just 2 years. Admittedly a lot of that was cosmetic, but I think I have a grip on what [at least ] "Bulgarian Balkan spirit" is.
I also have a friend in Vojvodina.  I have not been there and I do not know near as much about  the Serbian point of view as Alex does, of course. But I can say this, my friend's views are not at all the same as his. And none of my many friends in that part of the world share Alex's other prejudices towards segments of their population.
I am no flag waving American, and I have no problem with the flag being on bras and underwear, usually a Texas proclivity [the cheerleaders come to mind]. It adorns everything from beer cans to ashtrays and now I have even seen it on condoms ! So this bit of "pro-western prejudice" does not cut it with me. Actually, I think this entire forum, even with the narrow minded, agenda motivated and arch-conservatives, the radical lefties  and the just curious are a pretty tolerant and willing lot. There certainly are prejudiced and the cultural & religous snobs, but they fast show themselves for what they are. Actually, we all do in our posts.

Cheers !
Robert

Finelly

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Re: The Balkans--their cultures, languages, religion and history
« Reply #61 on: August 08, 2005, 12:26:55 AM »
Well said, Robert!

Alex_for_King

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Re: The Balkans--their cultures, languages, religion and history
« Reply #62 on: August 08, 2005, 01:40:54 AM »
Okay, I will stop attacking the West.

There is nothing more Balkanic than Bulgaria, someone has said. Serbia is similar, very similar.

I have spent my 2 summers at the Bulgarian sea side resorts and I have noticed quite a lot of similarity in their language, folklore, behavior. Actually, I did not feel like a foreigner there.

I have tried my best to give you an idea of the Balkans.

Without saying any negative things about the West, here are the ECONOMIC advantages of the Balkans:

- an unsaturated market that is hungry for foreign investments and goods,

- a region of, say, 200 million people.

- a crossroads between Central and SE Europe, Europe and the Middle East and Europe and the Mediterranean.

- Serbia has a free trade agreement with Russia, so many Western companies come to Serbia not just for Serbia, but to access the vast Russian market more easily.

The CULTURAL advantages of the Balkans are:

- a diversity of ethnic groups and cultures which are very old and often intertwined. They can make European heritage richer. Without encompassing the Balkans, Europe's heritage is not complete.

The NATURAL advantages of the Balkans are:

- quite a lot of unspoiled nature, fresh air, clean water and organic (not generic) food.

- Serbia has about 300 dicovered mineral and thermal water spas. Some are used commercially as recreation and recovery centers, others have yet to be used once the infrastructure is built, and some provide bottled water - Serbia markets dozens of brands.

- the Balkans are rich in natural resources, many yet unexplored.

The benefits of Serbia are:

  - after Milosevic, it is again finding the main role that it needs to play in the Balkans. Recently, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) had its annual conference in Belgrade. Pavarotti had a concert in Belgrade. The European Basketball Championship will be held in Belgrade in September... So, international political, economic and cultural things are happening again for Serbia and in Serbia.

- Foreign investments in Serbia are at an average of 500 million dollars per year, since October 2000. Most investors are Americans, followed by the EU. Regionally, the biggest investor is Slovenia.

- There has been a lot of progress in the past 5 years and it is clearly visible. Of course, many people are still dissatisfied as the reforms are going slowly. But, all the analysts agree that Serbia is moving forward, but perhaps not at the desired speed.

The POLITICAL advantages of the Balkans:

On more than one occassion we have seen how trouble in the Balkans can destabilize the entire Europe. Therefore, the Balkans should be fully integrated into the EU because, with stability in the Balkans, there will be stability in Europe. That would be good for everyone.

Why you should visit the Balkans:

Whether you decide to visit Bulgaria, Greece, Romania or, why not, Serbia - now a struggling democracy, every country will give you something unique. Generally, the Balkans are a world different than the one you are used to. It's new for you, interesting, challenging, unusual, different. You will find hospitality, affordable prices and you will have a good time. Yes, some things are bound to be different, even unsatisfactory to you, but you just have to deal with it.

Serbia has had an increase of tourists 5 times. Tourists come to Serbia because they want to see what this until recently despised, isolated and bombed country looks like. At first they arrive sceptical, perhaps uncertain and afraid to some extent, because they have been fed so many bad (and often wrong) news back home. By the time they leave most have a totally different picture compared to the time they arrived.

In Serbia you will find an abundance of history, tradition. Belgrade has a blend of Western, Oriental and Communist architecture, as it sits on the confluence of two rivers. You will generally find a warm people and very good prices. But, you can also sit at the stairs of the Federal Parliament where we toppled Milosevic, or you can take pictures of bombed sites  :'( That's something you do not see back home.

I am joking, of course. Serbia has a lot to offer and will welcome you with open arms. It will be an adventure different than what you are used to, but, in the end, it will be interesting and worthwhile.


Finelly

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Re: The Balkans--their cultures, languages, religion and history
« Reply #63 on: August 08, 2005, 01:43:02 AM »
You forgot to mention that the Balkan nations have a reputation for incredible food.......

palimpsest

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Re: The Balkans--their cultures, languages, religion and history
« Reply #64 on: August 08, 2005, 11:39:10 AM »
And that you can see lots of beautiful women walking down the streets! 8) Because Europeans don't depend so much on cars and there are even fewer in the Balkans. Soo... less polution! ;D But this will probably change quickly for less beauty and more polution.

God, what am I talking about? Somebody stop me! ;D

Offline Marlene

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Re: The Balkans--their cultures, languages, religion and history
« Reply #65 on: August 08, 2005, 11:57:49 AM »
I've not been able to respond due to a keyboard issue with my computer at home ... it's lunch time at the office.

Quote
Welcome back, girl!  ;)

Laws make a society, Alex.  Yes, there are rules and regulations for not smoking, standing one side of the elevator to let people pass on the left (as it is here in DC) ...that make sense.  Better to stand on the right for the leisurely ride down or up an escalator, and let the walkers use the left. Saves people from getting pushed ... that's civilized.

There is going to come a time when Serbia will adopt the same sort of anti=smoking rules - because it is civilized.  It is much healthier to live and work in a smoke-free environment.   Smoking is neither a right nor a privilege.  It's a filthy habit that can and will kill you.

Having a baby wear a swimsuit on the beach is hardly a sign of a lack of freedom.  It makes perfect sense.  Babies' skins are delicate.  Little hats, lots of sunscreen, etc ... protects babies.  

Serbia is in the West, and wants to be more in the west, although I think that EU membership is years away.  I also think that Romania's bid for membership will be put on hold now.

My first morning in Belgrade I had breakfast at Victoria Station, which is not too far from the Hyatt Regency.  A fun place.  I ate outside because I didn't want to be surrounded by smoke, and it was a nice day, and I am a people watcher.  I was surprised by the number of people sitting around drinking beer at a time when they should be working .. either they were on vacation or they didn't have jobs ... The unemployment rate is something like 40% in Serbia.  That's not good.  

There is a time and place for everything, including dancing on top of tables.   You should have been at a neighborhood party last week on my street ... the host is Palestinian, and the guests were Latinos, other Arabs, and a few token WASPs, like me.  The music reflected the combination as well ...I think I was dancing on the table ... or was it under the table ...too many Margaritas.


(On the subway, it is written: "Please place ticket here". As if one is an idiot and does not know where the ticket is supposed to be validated. )

Well, if you are visiting the city, and might not have ever used that system before.

(Then I was shocked when certain apartment buildings do not allow pets, while some do not even allow children. That's not humane at all.)

Have you never heard of adult or senior citizen communities?  

In Belgrade, the hotel took my passport for a few hours, so the number could be registered with the local police.  This does not happen in the "West."  However, in all fairness, police registration of visitors is on its way out.

Eye scans hardly takes away from freedom ...it is already used in some airports in Europe, and here in the USA as well.  No doubt, in time, when Belgrade airport takes on more visitors, such things will also be implemented, as Belgrade could become a transit point for terrorists coming through Kosovo.

Seatbelts do not infringe on your "freedom," Alex, but they do save you from being killed or injured ...


Author of Queen Victoria's Descendants,
& publisher of Royal Book News.
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Offline Marlene

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Re: The Balkans--their cultures, languages, religion and history
« Reply #66 on: August 08, 2005, 12:02:26 PM »
Alex,  it's normal to work all day .... that's a part of life.  That's how we earn money to pay our mortgages or rents, how we pay for food, clothes, books, vacations, vet bills,  etc.

Last I checked, nuclear energy is a clean source of energy ...
I also should add that the US military is now working with the Serbian military, training the latter to adapt to being a military in a democracy.



Quote
Finelly,
I have apologized but that is not enough for you. Just as certain people can critisize the Balkans, I can critisize the West. It's funny, this is a thread titled "What is Balkanic?" and then you would not let someone from the Balkans speak.

I have not only been to Canada. I have also been to France and Italy. As well as India, Tunisia, Bulgaria and Greece. So please don't think I am some poor dude stuck in Serbia all my life. I have a fair idea of what it's like in the West, in the Balkans, and in the far East.

It's not just the music and the parties, I see that you do NOT understand, it's the general atmosphere. In the West people are alienated, they work all day, it is not so easy to make bonds between humans as is in the Balkans. In the Balkans people are more relaxed, more open to enjoying little things in life.

The West is not ideal. Its policies are full of double standards. On the one hand children are encouraged to recycle at school, and at the same time nuclear power plants are poluting the environment.

The West has restricted smoking in public places and yet in some countries marijuana is legal. And don't forget that Marlboro makes millions of dollars and has done so for decades. And will continue to do so.

Then, we have the little children in Asia working for companies such as Nike.

Then we have the behind-the-scenes double dealing - when both Hussein and Bin Laden once got support from the US and are now its enemy.

Etc, etc, etc. The West hides its bad things nicely and only people not enchanted by its consumer-society spell can see it.

Only when you live outside the West can you see the other side of it all. Just like when you live in the Balkans you can understand it fully.

I don't think I am alienating everyone else. As a matter of fact, I have made some friends here.

I am just trying to present my view. Freedom of speech, remember?

This is a thread about the Balkans and I am sorry - but I am from the Balkans and I have the right to speak. There is a huge culture clash here, a difference in backgrounds, etc, but perhaps if we all talked about things, we could all understand each other a little better, or at least try to do so.

I think the internet is a great tool for people all over the world to communicate to each other and bring the world closer.

I wish you peace. In your heart and your mind.
Alex

Author of Queen Victoria's Descendants,
& publisher of Royal Book News.
Visit my blog, Royal Musings  http://royalmusingsblogspotcom.blogspot.com/

Finelly

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Re: The Balkans--their cultures, languages, religion and history
« Reply #67 on: August 08, 2005, 12:16:41 PM »
There is a time and place for everything, including dancing on top of tables.   You should have been at a neighborhood party last week on my street ... the host is Palestinian, and the guests were Latinos, other Arabs, and a few token WASPs, like me.  The music reflected the combination as well ...I think I was dancing on the table ... or was it under the table ...too many Margaritas.

Marlene, I might have been at the same party!  (I know, we live in different parts of the world.....but.....that describes the very neighborhood party I was at two weekends ago.....lol)  And I'm Jewish, so one can hardly claim that we don't have fun in a heterogenious society here...........:)

Offline Marlene

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Re: The Balkans--their cultures, languages, religion and history
« Reply #68 on: August 08, 2005, 01:14:52 PM »
[quote author=Finelly
Marlene, I might have been at the same party!  (I know, we live in different parts of the world.....but.....that describes the very neighborhood party I was at two weekends ago.....lol)  And I'm Jewish, so one can hardly claim that we don't have fun in a heterogenious society here...........:)[/quote]


Huge smile
Author of Queen Victoria's Descendants,
& publisher of Royal Book News.
Visit my blog, Royal Musings  http://royalmusingsblogspotcom.blogspot.com/

Alex_for_King

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Re: The Balkans--their cultures, languages, religion and history
« Reply #69 on: August 08, 2005, 01:26:51 PM »
Here is my article I submitted to an American paper, I will tell you which, if they publish it.  ::)

Please let me hear your feedback. I hope you like. It's nice, positive and should make everyone feel a little warmer in the heart.

----

A trumpet with a soul

By Alex, Belgrade

SPECIAL REPORT


The Brass Band Competition is in its third day in a small Serbian town of Gucha. A group of young men are sitting on the ground, their pants rolled up to their knees and feet relaxing in the stream. Around them, a lot of beer and a brass band orchestra playing just for them. Two Frenchmen observe all this in bewilderment. After about 10 minutes of observing, they too take off their shoes and roll their pants to their knees, putting their feet in the stream. As the locals greet them and offer them beer, with a pet on the back, and as the brass band starts the rhythm, the French are loving it. “This is cool. This is the life!”, says one of them.



“The unfortunate decade behind us has created a very bad image of Serbia”, says Militza Chubrilo of the Tourist Organization of Serbia. But, she agrees that things have changed for the better after the fall of Slobodan Milosevic, five years ago. “Foreign visitors have started coming in bigger numbers in recent years, and their number has increased 3 times since the peaceful democratic revolution that has turned Serbia around. They can’t understand how a nation that has been bombed and isolated just 6 years ago is living a life of such normalcy and spirit. They change their picture of Serbia even after just one day of being here. They love our spirit, the passion and joy of life. They love our food and hospitality”, says Chubrilo.



Apart from Belgrade – in which tourists usually visit the larger area in the city center – the Kalemegdan fortress, Prince Michael Street, St. Sava Temple, the Cathedral, Princess Ljubitza's Residence plus the recently opened Royal Palaces, New Years’ celebrations in the main square, the Beer Fest known as “the Octoberfest of Belgrade”, foreigners also visit Novi Sad, especially for the Exit Fest, the Brass Band competition in Gucha and mountains Zlatibor and Kopaonik, which are  tourist ski resorts. The “Shargan Eight” is also popular. It is an old railway shaped like an eight, with the only steam engine train in Serbia. A hundred years ago it was used out of necessity. Now, it has been “brought back to life” and used as a tourist attraction. The infrastructure is in place, and so is the beautiful nature that will take your breath away as the “Chira” train slowly winds up and down the mountains, just like in the old days. Tourists also like to travel in Tito’s luxurious “Blue train”. Also on offer are monastery tours in which visitors can grasp some of the major Serbian monasteries – their architecture, mosaics, frescoes and icons, including Oplenac, where a memorial church dedicated to the Karadjordjevic royal family is located. Village tourism is growing more popular, where foreigners get to be hosted by a typical local village family where they eat excellent home made food and even learn a lot about the local customs, dishes and traditions. Ethno-houses such as the ones found in Koshtunichi, as well as Drvengrad (a “wooden town” made by  well-known film director Emir Kusturica) offer traditional folk costumes, rugs, carpets, woolen socks and sweaters and other hand-made objects which are made with much love, from experience of many generations.



About 10,000 foreigners have come this year to the Brass Band competition in Gucha. Mostly from Slovenia, but also Germany, Holland, England, even Japan. About the same number came to the Exit Fest in Novi Sad, while Belgrade has hosted the EBRD annual conference, Pavarotti and will host this year's European Basketball Championships. Things have started happening in Serbia and the energy can be felt everywhere, as the country's democratic government is trying to bring Serbia closer to the EU. The first step has indeed been made, as the country has received a positive signal for the Feasibility Study.



Most people that come here often like to return and bring their friends as well. They say bonding with people is easy, since most people are exceptionally friendly. Most young Serbs speak English and are communicative. When a foreigner enters a nightclub he quickly makes a bunch of friends and they all end up dancing together. Often, in honor of the guest, there will be a round of drinks.



Belgrade is again becoming a popular destination. For business, diplomacy, culture, sports and tourism. The fact that Belgrade is in urgent need of new 4 and 5 star hotels speaks for itself. It’s a booming city hungry to be rediscovered.



So, why not change the pattern and choose something unordinary, unusual, unexpected. Choose Belgrade. Live Serbia’s freedom and experience this country’s energy.



And if you want to take a swim in the blue Adriatic Sea, come to Montenegro. If Claudia Shiffer could do it, so can you!



Welcome to Serbia and Montenegro!



David_Pritchard

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Re: The Balkans--their cultures, languages, religion and history
« Reply #70 on: August 08, 2005, 01:40:55 PM »
Alex,

I have a standing invitation from a friend to visit his villa in Montenegro, I shall probably visit within the next year. Unlike you, he is very adamant that Montenegro will be independent again. When the vote takes place and the Montenegrian people vote to go their own seperate way, how will the Serbs react?

Remember that the rest of the world will be closely watching to see how the rule of law is respected or disrespected.

David

Finelly

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Re: The Balkans--their cultures, languages, religion and history
« Reply #71 on: August 08, 2005, 01:41:11 PM »
Now see, Alex, that is SO much better an advertisement for Serbia than any post yapping about seatbelts in Canada!!!!

Alex_for_King

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Re: The Balkans--their cultures, languages, religion and history
« Reply #72 on: August 08, 2005, 01:42:12 PM »
Hi boys and girls  ;)

Just so you don't think I am a "people hater", I am not. I am a "people person", a really nice guy although I know some of you would doubt me on that one. But, trust me, I am.

Just so you know I can make a joke about the Balkans and not just critisize the West. In this joke you will also see how I can critisize the Balkans and Serbs.  

Here it is, I found it hilarious.

Imagine Serbia in the EU. (Yeah, I know it's hard, but focus, please). :)   Imagine the entire Balkans in the EU. In the beginning, everything is fine. Everyone is happy.

After 2 years the EU administration doubles. That's because Serbs and other Balkan peoples who work in the administration start employing their cousins, relatives, friends. In five years, the administration has again doubled as the cousins bring in their cousins, and so forth...

Five years later, the nepotism and corruption is very high in the EU. (Nepotism is a term relating to empoying one's family members or cousins).

Germany is the first EU nation to step out of the EU. France follows. Then England. Then Italy. And so forth.

By 2020, all Western European countries step out of the EU.

The EU thus remains, made up of Serbia, Bosnia, Albania, Romania, Bulgaria, as well as Russia, Ukraine, Belorus and Turkey.

What do you think?!

I LOVE IT. Here I am laughing.  ;D ;D ;D

As you can see I have had such a nice day today. I am so happy.

I hope I've made you smile. :)

Have a nice day and please forgive me for anything bad that my hot little head may have caused.

That especially goes for David, Finelly and some others.

I love you all. KISS.  :-*

Alex_for_King

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Re: The Balkans--their cultures, languages, religion and history
« Reply #73 on: August 08, 2005, 01:57:25 PM »
Quote from: David_Pritchard
Alex,

I have a standing invitation from a friend to visit his villa in Montenegro, I shall probably visit within the next year. Unlike you, he is very adamant that Montenegro will be independent again. When the vote takes place and the Montenegrian people vote to go their own seperate way, how will the Serbs react?

Remember that the rest of the world will be closely watching to see how the rule of law is respected or disrespected.

David


Didn't I answer that one already? I said we have a democratic govt in Serbia and we will respect whatever the people in Montenegro choose. It's about time they made up their minds as to what they want. In 1992, they chose to stay WITH Serbia. Nobody asked Serbia.

As for the rule of law, ask your friend, will Montenegrin citizens who live and work in Serbia be able to vote? The EU has recommended that all citizens of Montenegro should be given a right to decide, not just the citizens in Montenegro itself, but also Montenegrins in other countries, including Serbia.

If that happens the referendum will not work, because there are more Montenegrins in Serbia than there are in Montenegro. That's probably a joke but trust me, a lot of Montenegrins live in Serbia.

They should be allowed to vote, too? Don't you think?

The only ones who are breaking the law are the politicians of Montenegro. Milo Djukanovic is a well known cigarette and oil smuggler. The Italians want him persecuted in court.

The only reason Milo Djukanovic, prime minister of Montenegro, is pushing for independence is so that he could avoid a jail sentence, because as a head of an internationally recognized state he will have immunity.

Montenegro is about 50%-50% divided over the issue of staying with Serbia or going their separate way. Those Montenegrins close to the Adriatic would like to stay because mainly Serbian tourists come to Montenegro. Those close to the Serbian border would also like to stay. Those in the continental area would like to split, and so would the Albanians.

Why do you ask me how Serbia will react? I am not a policy maker? And why do you imply that Serbia will do anything wrong? As a matter of fact, we can't wait for them to make up their mind already. We are sick of 600,000 people, which is like a suburb of Belgrade, blackmailing Serbia which has 7 million.

And do ask your friend, who is paying for the Union? Montenegro is giving like 5% and Serbia 95% of the money. And when donations or loans need to be taken, Montenegro is first in line, asking for 50% of the money even though it's 16 times smaller than Serbia.

So, you see, there are a lot of complex issues here, and you start off by implying that Serbia will do something wrong and that we need to be watched.

What if it's the other way around?

You know, if Montenegro's politicians could win a referendum, they would have held it by now. But, they are not sure of the outcome. And yet, the story of independence has been going for years. When there is something wrong, and a lot is wrong, they say "wait till we are independent and all our problems will be solved". I am sure that they will use all their media - most media in Montenegro are under govt control, and when they are sure of the result, they will have the referendum. But it will be tight, a few percent difference.

Alex_for_King

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Re: The Balkans--their cultures, languages, religion and history
« Reply #74 on: August 08, 2005, 01:59:07 PM »
Quote from: Finelly
Now see, Alex, that is SO much better an advertisement for Serbia than any post yapping about seatbelts in Canada!!!!



Thank you, Finelly. I guess I am learning?