Archive for September, 2009

The way back

Sarajevo
As one of our Bosnian friends said the tourist attraction in Sarajevo [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarajevo] is the war. We might not agree completely but certainly the traces of the conflict are still there. In our impression, Sarajevo is certainly a place worth defending. The city was founded as a market and rest area for the Ottoman traders crossing Bosnia, and it still feels like an oasis, between surprisingly untainted-looking mountains. The old town has islamic architectural elements, following the course of the Miljacka river  [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miljacka]
The valley widens and an Austro-Hungaric and then a Socialist neighborhood appear.
Sarajevo is full of places you have the impression of having visited before. Most of these places were the theatre of horrible massacres during the siege, such as the market or the parliament building. Power of the media.
To be short and to spare you all the poetic justice, Sarajevo is also the place where we ate the best Balkan food in the whole region, and where we found some of the nicest people we’ve met in our trip.
Mostar
Again a fucked up place. Mostar had an economy and a society before the war, but the conflict took all this away. Mostar has been shelled by the Yugoslav national army, by the Serbs, by the Croats and by the Bosniaks alike. The result is a place full of bulletholes with a town centre (and a famous bridge) totally rebuilt with the help of EU, UN and of the former warring states. The main income of Mostar now comes from tourism and this has fractured the social fabric even more. Nonetheless the rebuilt centre is still a jewel of architecture and the surroundings are marvellous.
One of these marvellous places is the Darvish monastery at the source of the river Buna. The river is carsic and exits a huge natural cave on the mouth of which a delectable Sufi Tekke, Vrelo Bune, [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vrelo_Bune] has been built.
Leaving Mostar
Right after mostar you enter the Croatian influence area of Bosnia, the partition of Bosnia in two confederated sovereign entities after the war has left the ethnic croats without a fatherland, and it shows. The place is replete with chequered flags and Croatian nationalist slogans even today.
In order to reach Dubrovnik (which we never did anyway) you have to exit Bosnia, enter Croatia and travel on the coast southwards, until you reach Neum. Neum [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neum] is the only kilometre of coast that Bosnia owns, it has two customs stations on either side bordering croatia and it’s a sprawling mass of concrete reaching down to the sea.
Split
Split is split between two Splits. One is the city centre, built by Romans as the Palace of Diocletianus, conquered by the Venetians and turned into a commercial port and then held by the Croats against an overwhelming Ottoman empire pushing from inland. The centre is layered and it’s an architectural folly. It still shows its Roman heritage very well but intermingled with Austro-Hungarian, Venetian and Slavic architectural elements. The Palace is most beautiful when the tourists are asleep.
The other Split is a Socialist metropolis, one of many, mad for its Haiduk football team but surrounded by splendid waters and islands and beaches. There we took our last seasonal bath before boarding….
The ferry
The ship to Ancona was full of italian pilgrims, on the way back from the marian sanctuary of Međugorje [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medugorje], Bosnia. Still unrecognised by the catholic church, Međugorje is the place where the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared to a group of six teenagers. Of these six three are still claiming to experience marian visitations every day. Međugorje is visited every year by hundreds of thousands of catholic believers.
The ferry was full of catholic imagery, it had a chapel with the sacred idol of our Lady of Međugorje constantly guarded by two praying nuns. It also had almost no seats, so we had to sleep on the floor, in between the praying pilgrims.

Sarajevo

Sarajevo landscape

As one of our Bosnian friends said the tourist attraction in Sarajevo is the war. We might not agree completely but certainly the traces of the conflict are still there. In our impression, Sarajevo is certainly a place worth defending. The city was founded as a market and rest area for the Ottoman traders crossing Bosnia, and it still feels like an oasis, between surprisingly untainted-looking mountains. The old town has islamic architectural elements, following the course of the Miljacka river.

Sarajevo - valley

The valley widens and an Austro-Hungaric and then a Socialist neighborhood appear.

Sarajevo landscape

Sarajevo is full of places you have the impression of having visited before. Most of these places were the theatre of horrible massacres during the siege, such as the market or the parliament building. Power of the media.

A Sarajevo invisible man sitting

Sarajevo breakfast

To be short and to spare you all the poetic justice, Sarajevo is also the place where we ate the best Balkan food in the whole region, and where we found some of the nicest people we’ve met in our trip.

Hotel Sarajevo

Mostar

Mostar

Mostar

Again a fucked up place. Mostar had an economy and a society before the war, but the conflict took all this away. Mostar has been shelled by the Yugoslav national army, by the Serbs, by the Croats and by the Bosniaks alike.

Stari most

Mostar bazaar

The result is a place full of bulletholes with a town centre (and a famous bridge) totally rebuilt with the help of EU, UN and of the former warring states. The main income of Mostar now comes from tourism and this has fractured the social fabric even more. Nonetheless the rebuilt centre is still a jewel of architecture and the surroundings are marvellous.

Vrelo Bune

One of these marvellous places is the Darvish monastery at the source of the river Buna. The river is carsic and exits a huge natural cave on the mouth of which a delectable Sufi Tekke, Vrelo Bune, has been built.

Sufi Tekke

Sufi Tekke

Leaving Mostar

Croatian Seaside

Right after mostar you enter the Croatian influence area of Bosnia, the partition of Bosnia in two confederated sovereign entities after the war has left the ethnic croats without a fatherland, and it shows. The place is replete with chequered flags and Croatian nationalist slogans even today.

In order to reach Dubrovnik (which we never did anyway) you have to exit Bosnia, enter Croatia and travel on the coast southwards, until you reach Neum. Neum is the only kilometre of coast that Bosnia owns, it has two customs stations on either side bordering croatia and it’s a sprawling mass of concrete reaching down to the sea.

Split

Split harbour

Split is split between two Splits. One is the city centre, built by Romans as the Palace of Diocletianus, conquered by the Venetians and turned into a commercial port and then held by the Croats against an overwhelming Ottoman empire pushing from inland. The centre is layered and it’s an architectural folly. It still shows its Roman heritage very well but intermingled with Austro-Hungarian, Venetian and Slavic architectural elements. The Palace is most beautiful when the tourists are asleep.

The other Split is a Socialist metropolis, one of many, mad for its Haiduk football team but surrounded by splendid waters and islands and beaches. There we took our last seasonal bath before boarding….

The ferry

The ship to Ancona was full of italian pilgrims, on the way back from the marian sanctuary of Međugorje, Bosnia. Still unrecognised by the catholic church, Međugorje is the place where the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared to a group of six teenagers. Of these six three are still claiming to experience marian visitations every day. Međugorje is visited every year by hundreds of thousands of catholic believers.

Ferryboat

The ferry was full of catholic imagery, it had a chapel with the sacred idol of our Lady of Međugorje constantly guarded by two praying nuns. It also had almost no seats, so we had to sleep on the floor, in between the praying pilgrims.

September 24, 2009 at 4:42 pm Leave a comment

Skopje

Skopje landscape

Skopje is pretty much fucked up, an earthquake in 1963 has leveled the city and triggered a feel-good socialist effort of brutalist reconstruction which has turned most of the town in a grid of concrete highrises, all the same and pretty much dull.
The old Stone Bridge still marks the division of Skopje into two influence areas. South the Soviet-style Slavic Macedonian area, North the Ottoman style Albanian Macedonian area.

Nicola
During our stay there we’ve met a curious figure, a certain Nicola, a shady former alcoholic from Italy. What makes him peculiar is the fact that he’s a former alcoholic that drinks. And much for that matter. How he manages to pull this off we still don’t know.
We were housed in a Student House, the Pelagonija Studentskij Dom. When we first got there, on August 31st Pelagonija was full of Dada installations, such as a pile of dripping and broken WCs in the main hall, a mountain of drawers on each storey landing and so on, the quantitative and classificatory nature of these artworks escaped our comprehension.
On the next day, probably following central committee directives, the artworks were removed.

Studenski Dom
In Pelagonija we experienced slight discomforts such as: psychedelic tiling in bathrooms, Dictyoptera visitations, perforation of our buttocks by mattress springs, view of ectopically decorated christmas trees from our bedroom window, lousy italian music at wee hours and the warmest mess room. Ever.
After a few days of senseless partying we finally found a band which played at least a song we liked. Actually a cover of Kraftwerk’s Das Modell. We had to seriously threaten them of throat slitting in order to extend the performance of that particular song of two mere minutes.

Room 103
Exploring Pelagonija’s corridors we found a room inhabited by three Austrian madmen. They like to call themselves Krafftmalerei and they also like to bury themselves in their dirty hostel room for ages while repeating industrial mantras and recording each other.

Austrian party

The youngest component of this collective has allegedly murdered a Dutch pizza delivery man while under the influence of “magic mushrooms”.

In his words: “HE VAS IN DE MÜD OF KILLING ME”
LC: “and what did you do?”
A: “I killd him bevoor”.

Matka Lake

Matka Lake

Matka lake (sorry croatian link) is a lake that shouldn’t be there, a lake that owes its extistence only to the sturdy Yugoslav hydroelectric industry. Its main attraction is supposed to be the boat trip in the caves, but the water level was so low that the boats hung from the mountainsides like dead ducks. The dam is pretty nice and it has been a pillar of our new approach to tourism, we like to call it infrastructural tourism.

Matka lake

Tetovo

Tetovo

Tetovo is the unofficial Albanian capital of Macedonia. You will not find any sign of a macedonian off-colour japanese war flag there, neither will you find cyrillic script signage. Only two-headed eagles and a lot of ümlauts.

Tetovo main square

Tetovo Bazaar

People in Tetovo live a peaceful life of commerce, we must say that the market is much more colourful and rich than the bazaar in Skopje.

Arabati Baba Tekke

While we were there we visited the Arabati Baba Teḱe, a former Bektashi Sufi Darvish monastery. The history of this monastery is very interesting. During the Tito rule it was converted to casino+art gallery+restaurant and hotel. After the fall of Yugoslavia it was taken back by the few surviving Bektashi (an alcoholic mystic Shiite Islamic sect) and turned into a Tekke (monastery) again.

During the unrest in Kosovo, Sunni Albanian elements took over the Tekke, jailed the old chief Darvish into a wooden blue tower (with the excuse of a contagious illness) and turned the complex into a Sunni mosque and islamist centre.

We were greeted there by a stout security guard, he was very kind to us and showed us the facilities, when we parted, after the customary photo-op he told us he had been there, on the gate tower, shooting Macedonians by the dozen. He introduced himself as a member of UÇK. We bid farewell in order not to compromise our micronation’s neutral status.

Old man

Another funny character on the premises was watering a cemetery ground, he had keen memories of the Italian Fascist domination of Albania, we didn’t, but nevertheless he was a lovely old man.

Solid house

Ohrid

Ohrid Lake

In southern Macedonia there lies Ohrid, both a lake and a lakeside town. Ohrid lake is the seasonal home of the critically endangered European eel, which migrates from the distant Sargasso Sea to this remote place in order to reproduce. The Ohrid lake has crystalline waters, slightly tainted by the recent massacre of Bulgarian citizens, drowned after their boat sunk under their recently acquired capitalist weight. In Ohrid we had our first taste of fish in a month, not fish from the lake anyway, because overfishing has depleted the stock of the even rarest Ohrid trout.

Ohrid boat

In Ohrid we experienced the hospitality of a fine Macedonian family, the quality of their friendship, their propolis flavoured rakija and their tasty tomatoes still bring us to tears.

Ohrid

End of the Biennale

Leaving Skopje

We removed our artwork and fled Macedonia to reach Sarajevo, Bosnia. Our next stop.

Way to Sarajevo

On the border between Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (actually the serbian sovereign region, Republika Srpska), we were asked to give five euros in order to cross the vast no-man’s land there. Officially this place is a natural park, called Mokra Gora.

Tetovo
Tetovo is the unofficial Albanian capital of Macedonia. You will not find any sign of a macedonian off-colour japanese war flag there, neither will you find cyrillic script signage. Only two-headed eagles and a lot of ümlauts.
People in Tetovo live a peaceful life of commerce, we must say that the market is much more colourful and rich than the bazaar in Skopje.
While we were there we visited the Arabati Baba Teḱe [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabati_Baba_Te%E1%B8%B1e], a former Bektashi Sufi Darvish monastery. The history of this monastery is very interesting. During the Tito rule it was converted to casino+art gallery+restaurant and hotel. After the fall of Yugoslavia it was taken back by the few surviving Bektashi (an alcoholic mystic Shiite Islamic sect) and turned into a Tekke (monastery) again.
During the unrest in Kosovo, Sunni Albanian elements took over the Tekke, jailed the old chief Darvish into a wooden blue tower (with the excuse of a contagious illness) and turned the complex into a Sunni mosque and islamist centre.
We were greeted there by a stout security guard, he was very kind to us and showed us the facilities, when we parted, after the customary photo-op he told us he had been there, on the gate tower, shooting Macedonians by the dozen. He introduced himself as a member of UÇK [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albanian_National_Liberation_Army_(Macedonia)]. We bid farewell in order not to compromise our micronation’s neutral status.
Another funny character on the premises was watering a cemetery ground, he had keen memories of the Italian Fascist domination of Albania, we didn’t, but nevertheless he was a lovely old man.


September 24, 2009 at 11:46 am Leave a comment

Skopje – BJCEM opening


Liquid Cat, E70 252exp 100asa
252 photographic prints, 10×15 cm each, 112×575 cm

Liquid Cat has shot a full 36 expositions roll of 35mm film for each of the seven stages of its journey by car to Skopje, starting from Florence and touching Trieste, Ljubljana, Celje, Zagreb, Beograd and Niš.
For the whole trip Liquid Cat has maintained a purely touristic and amateurish outlook, developing and printing in one-hour labs along the way.
The film rolls have been sold in advance to collectors and friends of Liquid Cat in order to cover part of the expenses of the trip. The buyers of the rolls don’t know which photos they are going to receive.

Liquid Cat has shot a full 36 expositions roll of 35mm film for each of the seven stages of its journey by car to Skopje, starting from Florence and touching Trieste, Ljubljana, Celje, Zagreb, Beograd and Niš.

For the whole trip Liquid Cat has maintained a purely touristic and amateurish outlook, developing and printing in one-hour labs along the way.

The film rolls have been sold in advance to collectors and friends of Liquid Cat in order to cover part of the expenses of the trip. The buyers of the rolls don’t know which photos they are going to receive.

September 3, 2009 at 3:34 pm 1 comment

Stage 7: Niš – Skopje

DSCN5924

We prepare to leave Serbia for the Republic of Macedonia, where we’ll find a different (or maybe two different) people, a different (or maybe two) language, a different currency, but will we find a different cuisine? The answer in the next post.

September 3, 2009 at 3:15 pm Leave a comment

Niš

DSCN5807

Niš is the hub of serbia. This is where the roads to Sofia, Thessaloniki, Skopje and Beograd meet. It is also the third city in Serbia after the capital and Novi Sad. Due to this strategic location Niš has always been a prominent settlement in the region, and for instance, is the birthplace of Constantine the Great, the very roman emperor who brought Christianity to Rome as a state religion.Niš is now a modern city of 250.000 people.

The city is home, among other historical remains, of a very curious monument. it is the Ћеле Кула, the Skull Tower of Niš. It was built by the Ottomans out of the skulls of the participants to a Serb uprising. It was like a large sign saying “Don’t fuck with the Sublime Porte!“. Unfortunately we found the place closed.

DSCN5893

Recent history has not been gentle on the city of Niš. During WWII it has been home to a Nazi concentration camp and on a hill you can visit the Bubanj memorial, where 10.000 people from south Serbia have been shot by the Nazis.

September 3, 2009 at 3:09 pm Leave a comment

Stage 6: Beograd – Niš

DSCN5765

We left Beograd for the south of Serbia. Along the way the spirit of the Big Man continued to follow us.

September 3, 2009 at 2:47 pm Leave a comment

Beograd

DSCN5666

Beograd, the capital of Serbia and former capital of Yugoslavia is quite evidently a place where power has been, and still is, excercised. It reminded us a lot of Rome. The atmosphere here is much more relaxed than in Croatia and people enjoy staying out till late and having a drink in one of the many cafés that line the city centre streets. The city is still wounded by the NATO bombing of 1999, but you could feel it as just another layer of history laid on it. Built at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, the origins of this city date to the 6th millenium b.C. It is one of the oldest settlements in Europe.

Tito

DSCN5652

While we were visiting Belgrade we couldn’t refrain to pay homage to the resting place of Josip Broz, better known as Tito. The ruler of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia lies in a very modest building, far removed from the grandeur of other socialist mausoleums. The Kuća cveća is a modern and simple building, a sort of mix between greenhouse and school gym. It was a sort of summer office to Tito, during his rule, and he expressed the desire to be interred here after his death. We guess this underlines the peculiarity of this man, who probably did not want to be buried in an “aligned” way. The mausoleum has been closed and left unguarded for almost ten years after the breakup of the federation but now it has been reopened to the public.

September 3, 2009 at 2:41 pm Leave a comment


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