Friday, February 25, 2011

"Only in the Balkans"

So here I am in Belgrade. And I'll be honest, I haven't been this comfortable/at ease since Laos. I have officially made it over my "3 month" hump (hooray!) and as the anniversary of my fourth month of travel slowly approaches I find myself in a genuinely good place. My attitude can be attributed to two things; first, the day after I arrived in Belgrade it started snowing and it hasn't stopped (and everything looks pretty with a layer of white fluffy snow on top) and second, I have my own personal tour guide, Matt.

surprise attack picture!

Matt and I met back in Seattle in 2008 and then he moved to Belgrade where he's been for 2 years now. Not only does he know how to navigate the city (once again I must be honest, I am a horrible navigator so it's nice to have someone to walk around with simply so I can focus on what seeing the city without worrying about getting lost), but he is also a fountain of Balkan knowledge. My Balkan travel guru. I knew coming to the area that he was going to be my go-to person for tips, pointers and what-not. Like I said he's been in Belgrade for 2 years, devoting his time to a photo project about unity in the Balkans. Instead of attempting to describe his work I highly recommend checking it out for yourself (if you haven't already):

Fun, yet random, thing I've learned about the Balkans in the past 4 days: Turbo-folk is the greatest/worst movement of all time. For further description see: Ekrem Jevric. Quick description of the Turbo-folk movement (is it a movement? I don't really know what to call it) old folk songs set to electronic beats. Lots of lip syncing, really bad fashion and awful back-up dancers.

To further my Belgrade education, Matt took me to a Blues bar, called... something I forget, he'll tell me later, and there was this amazing singer/guitar player who did covers of Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Lyndard Skynard, etc.

Notice Elvis int he background?
Very talented man. Very cool bar. Loved it. Great night out in Belgrade.

Moody in the snow
There is so much flippin' snow. It's gorgeous, and freezing. Just to give you an idea of how much it has snowed in 5 days:

Ahh! So much snow!

If there is one thing I had to choose I love best about Belgrade I would have to say the architecture. The mix of buildings, the juxtaposition of modern with communist era with pre-WWI/II is just... awesome. I really can't stop using that word. It just fits. 

Beginning of amazing street art.
Street art! I don't want to bore you all but OhMyGod the street art!
I think this is my favorite. I love street art but there are times when it can be a little too oppressive or angry.
However, the message is often as important as anything put up in a gallery. The significance of this particular message comes in the simplicity of the tag, the placement (outside of student square) and the language it appears in (English as opposed to Serbian). So there's my two cents about that. It feels a bit weird breaking down the meaning behind graffiti but as I looked through my pictures of Belgrade I couldn't help being drawn back to this particular photo.

I have so much more to say about the Balkans and Belgrade in particular. I promise there is more to come!

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