Category Archives: Balkans

EuroTrip ’08 – Belgrade, the pretty

I walked around town a little bit these days. My feet know the way, even if all the names of streets were changed from WWII National Heroes to saints and medieval princes. It has changed a lot – there are nice new stores, cafes, restaurants and apartment buildings everywhere, the parks are well kept and beautiful, and the people are beautiful and well-dressed. The old, gray, socialist city of my youth is gone and replaced with a modern European city:
This is the Serbian Parliament (formerly Yugoslav Parliament):

Continue reading

EuroTrip ’08 – Belgrade, the ugly

After the 1999 Clinton/Clark bombing of Belgrade, almost all of the ruined buildings were quickly torn down and replaced with modern buildings, perhaps out of spite (which is the national character trait). After all these years, the city is unrecognizable – it is cleaner, livelier, prettier, more modern and more optimistic than ever. Replacing the bombed buildings was also good for everyone’s sanity here – to forget quickly, move on, build new…
But, if you arrive in Belgrade by bus, by train, or by plane (and then take the bus into town), one of the first things you will see are these two buildings – enormous old buildings that used to house some of the governmental and military headquarters (my Mom used to work in one of them). They stay there as a reminder, almost a monument, and also as a ‘Welcome’ sign to the tourists from abroad:

Continue reading

Belgrade Is The World

There were quite a lot of events and actions in Belgrade for the Earth Day last week. I came in on that day so I did not have time to see anything. But I loved the balloon they placed in the center of the Slavija square: it was a globe with recognizable outlines of the continents. But the parts of the world were labeled with the names of main streets, parts and neighborhoods of Belgrade (with some effort to match “characters” of the places):
The balloon was supposed to be set free on Earth Day, but, just as I was speaking at the Pediatric Center, a huge storm started outside and broke the balloon lose:
[Pictures stolen from Ana]

EuroTrip ’08 – Belgrade, The St.Sava Cathedral

It took a century to build the St.Sava Cathedral. I remember playing on its foundations as a kid – a great fortress to play in. But the enterior has just begun to be worked on – I am not sure if the pictures can show the immensity of the space in there:

Continue reading

EuroTrip ’08 – Belgrade, palacinke

Last night’s dinner – crepes filled with a mix of cheese, eggs and sugar, baked in the oven with some sweet cream:

Continue reading

EuroTrip ’08 – Belgrade, fish soup

I was kicking myself all day yesterday because I forgot to take my camera with me for most of the day. First, my mother and I went to the bank to do some business which, of course, made us hungry so we stopped by a bakery and got fresh djevrek (no, although it looks like a sesame bagel, it is not – it is much lighter and crispier). Mmmmmm….
Then we went to the main building of the Natural History Museum and made some contacts there. The Director was at a meeting, but the secretary is smart, hip and on-the-ball and will be a great contact for the future as they try to design a new website and attempt to make their collection visible to the rest of the world.
Then we went to the Farmers’ Market, where I really wished I had my camera with me. Among else, we bought some carp from the Skadarsko lake in Montenegro (Danube is full of mercury after the bombing, so it is not a good idea to eat its fish any more).
Then, we got hungry again and stopped by a cake & sweets shop and got a bunch of cakes. By the time we got home and I got my camera out, 3.5 out of 4 cakes were already eaten (krempite i indijaneri) so all I can show you is a very sweet and creamy ‘sampita’ in the process of getting devoured:

Continue reading

EuroTrip ’08 – Belgrade, Open Access

OK, I posted a lot of pictures of Belgrade and my Mom’s food so far, but the real business was on Tuesday, when I gave two talks about Open Access, PLoS, Science 2.0, the future of the scientific paper, Open Notebook Science and science blogging.
In the morning, I gave a talk in the gallery of the Museum of Contemporary Art in front of about 20 people, mostly specialist librarians. That session was recorded and, as soon as the podcast is available, I will link to it. There were many good questions asked at the end and the excitement was palpable.
Afterwards I gave an interview for Radio Beograd 202 which ran that same afternoon at 5pm as well as again next morning. I will get a CD of the recording and once I get home will turn it into a podcast and post it.
The next day I gave an interview for a popular show about Digital Culture on Radio Belgrade 2 which will run on Monday morning (I think) and will be available online as a podcast at some point in the future). On Tuesday I have to go to the Radio Belgrade 1 station to be on a very hip (they say “cult”) show in the morning – it is a call-in show, I understand, and will be interesting to do. At least by now, my ability to talk about all this in Serbian language has somewhat improved 😉
In the afternoon, I went to the Pediatric Center of the Medical School at the University of Belgrade, where I gave the presentation again, with perhaps less talk about blogs and more emphasis on Open Access publishing, especially in the medical area. There were about 30 people in the amphitheater, including my Mom, her student Vuk, three of my childhood friends (from elementary school and even before) – one of whom is a professor of Psychiatry – and two high school friends: one is a biomedical researcher and the other, Dr.Vera Zdravkovic who organized the event, is a pediatric endocrinologist and also a professor in the med school.
Again, the interest and enthusiasm were huge, with many excellent questions afterwards – we kept talking in the hall for quite a while afterwards. Perhaps the most important immediate result is that local people who can and should help each other – the researchers/physicians and the medical librarians – got to meet each other and understand how they can help each other find, produce, organize and share information. I think that in Serbia librarians will be the key to the move towards modern use of online technology in scientific and medical research and publishing.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, both groups (librarians and researchers) got to meet Vedran, the guru of everything Open in Serbia who will be able to help them immensely with all aspects of opening their science to the world and managing the scientific and medical information.
The librarian of the Oncology Center, Ana Ivkovic, was at the afternoon talk. She runs a fantastic blog and she took some pictures from the event and posted them on Flickr.
The Director of the Pediatric Center is an amazing woman. I am not at all surprised that, under her leadership, her center is at the cutting edge of the use of technology in comparison to the rest of the Medical School. We had great discussion after the talk in her office and, afterwards, at lunch in the restaurant Frans. Frans is right next to the vet school and I spent many hours there during my vet-school years back in the 80s. It used to be a hole in the wall with a few tables inside and a few outside. Now it is an elite restaurant – and we joked that they made their first million off of me and my friends and all the beer we had there over the years.

Continue reading

Science Communication in the Age of Internet – in Belgrade

Yup, as soon as I land in Belgrade, I will be giving two lectures about Open Access and the Science Communication in the Age of Internet. The first one, this Tuesday at 11am, will be in the beautiful hall of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade, sponsored by the Serbian Museum Association and the Museum of Contemporary Art. The main target audience are librarians, but I gather that the lecture is open and quite heavily advertised.
The second lecture will be on the same day at 2pm in the Decanate of the Medical school at the University of Belgrade, geared more towards the physicians, students and researchers. More information will follow, as soon as I get it.
Many thanks to Vedran and two of my childhood friends who are now professors in the Medical school, for organizing these events.
You can RSVP on Facebook:

Serbian Museum Association
Salon Muzeja savremene umetnosti
Pariska 14, Beograd
tel/fax: +381 (0)11 2630 940
Utorak, 22. april 2008. u 11 casova
Predavanje Bore Zivkovica:
Bora Zivkovic je internet menadzer za Public Library of Science, organizaciju koja objavljuje naucne radove po principu Otvorenog Pristupa (Open Access). Predavanje ce predstaviti najnovije razvoje u komunikaciji nauke na internetu, ukljucujuci naucne blogove i vikije, koncept Javne Laboratorijske Sveske i Otvorenog Pristupa.
Predavanje ce se odrzati u Salonu Muzeja savremene umetnosti.
Molim vas da potvrdite svoje prisustvo na predavanju.
Kontakt osoba:
– Olivera Nastic, predsednik Sekcije bibliotekara i knjiznicara specijalnih bilioteka MDS
Muzej savremene umetnosti, Beograd, 011/3115-713.
Slicno predavanje, istoga dana u 14h, ce se odrzati u sali Dekanata medicinskog fakulteta u Beogradu. Pristup otvoren.

My Equestrian Past

My Equestrian PastThis post from May 07, 2005, was one of the rare personal posts I have ever written. Under the fold….

Continue reading


You must have noticed that there wasn’t too much effort on this blog over the past couple of weeks (except for the elaborate and too successful April Fools hoax). I’ve just been so busy lately. So, here is a quick recap, and some pictures.
Back on March 21, I went to Duke University to participate in a panel called Shaping the world, one job at a time: An altruistic/alternative career panel. From education, to public health in the developing world, to science journalism, writing, blogging and publishing. The room was full (80 people? Perhaps 100?!). I am not sure one hour was enough for all five of us to say everything we wanted, but I did manage to explain what PLoS is all about (especially PLoS ONE). Sheril was sitting in the front row and she took these pictures. Abel was sitting right next to her, and wrote more about one of the other panelists. As usually happens at such meetings, the most useful part was the hallway chatter right after. I talked to people who may be interested in publishing with us, or collaborating, or applying for an internship.
On March 22 we met at Miltown in Carrboro to say farewell to our friend Bharat. The weather was nice enough to sit outside. Anton (actually the waitress using Anton’s camera) took this picture. Bharat is going to Vancouver Island, all the way on the West coast of Canada to do some environmental work. There are many science bloggers in that part of the world, so perhaps they can invite Bharat to their blogger meetups (I cannot tell you his blog as I used his real name in this post, but I can facilitate connection).
Then on March 26th, again the weather was good for sitting outside at Milltown for a joint meetup between BlogTogether and the Orange Politics Happy Hour. There were about 20 people there, some old friends (including OP hosts Ruby Sinreich and Brian Russell, the camera master Wayne Sutton and Ginny Skalski from NBC, the Facebook guru Fred Stutzman, the Carrboro mayor Mark Chilton and many others), some new to me and fun was had by all. And we all had cards to exchange with each other. They all tried really hard to get me on Twitter, with no success… 😉 Wayne took a bunch of pictures, but here is one of me, so my Mom can see that I look decent when I go out to meet people. Actually, I was dressed up for a funeral I went to earlier that day.
On March 28th, Sheril, Abel and I went to Duke and talked about Science 2.0 and blogging to a class on science/policy communication, which was great fun, and interesting pictures are circulating on the Web (check the links).
In the meantime, I got engrossed in reading the entire Framing Science flare-up, but decided not to write anything myself (except a few comments on a couple of other blogs) as I did not want to draw even more attention to it – that would be bad framing 😉 Greg has collected the links to the first wave of these posts. Now a second wave, quite more sober and mature, is popping up around the blogs so take a look.
Last week I went to the dentist twice. I was always so proud of my perfect teeth…until I lost dental insurance five years ago. Now there is something rotten with pretty much every tooth in my head. Finally employed and insured again, it’s time to aggressively pursue a pearly smile again. They did the two most critical teeth first, those that needed swift rescuing. We’ll do the rest in May and June.
I am also busy organizing my European trip – primarily the first part, in the UK. You can meet me in London or Cambridge. Then I’ll spend a weekend with Henry Gee (and no, I will not divulge all the PLoS secrets to a Nature editor!).
I am preparing myself for two panels (one on Open Access, one on science blogging) for the science FEST in Trieste, Italy, as well as an article in their journal there. I hope Franc will be able to come to Trieste so we can finally meet.
Later, I will be giving a talk about Open Access at the Ministry of Labor in Serbia and, hopefully, also at the Medical school at the University of Belgrade. I will enjoy my Mom’s cooking, meet my highschool and equestrian friends and local bloggers.
Bjoern is organizing a dinner for me and local bloggers in Berlin. On the way back, I will stay one day in London with my cousin and will be back home on May 3rd, just in time for the NC primaries/caucuses – perhaps I will make up my mind by then (and European media may help me clear my mind about US politics). Anyway, if you are in any of those places at any of those dates, please let me know and let’s meet.
I think I’ll take Amanda’s book and Vanessa’s book for airplane reading, then buy some SF once I am finished with these.
This morning I finished my last BIO101 Lab (just the lab – no time for the lecture and lab combined) and turned in the grades, so that is one more thing I don’t have to worry about for a while. And tomorrow I will start working on my poster for the SRBR meeting.
Due to the popular consensus, I have already scheduled all the Clock Quotes for the duration of the trip. I will do the “My picks from ScienceDaily”, and YouTube videos, and “New and Exiciting in PLoS” as regularly as I can while abroad. I will also repost some of the stuff from the Archives, e.g., some Greatest Hits and, as I tend to do every year, my Clock Tutorials for the new readers. And I will post pictures from the trip every day. So, there may not be much of new, long, deeply thoughtful posts next month, but there will be something every day.
Finally last Thursday, I met a bunch of friends at Town Hall Grill. Lenore, Andrea, Catharine, Rosalyn, Sheril, David and Vanessa were there. The food was delicious, and the pictures are under the fold (blurry, as the wine was too good to resist):

Continue reading

April In Belgrade

Since I will be in Belgrade in April, this song is quite appropriate:

You can find the lyrics in Serbian here and a pretty decent translation here. I remember this song since when I was a little kid. Thirty five years ago, when he was a contestant on the Eurovision (see his 1973 spot), Zdravko Colic was already a veteran and a big star. Even after a 15-year silence, he is still remembered, and not just remembered – the new kids learned his songs and 100,000 of them filled the Red Star soccer stadium last year and sang along all the old hits.

To my Eastern Orthodox readers… ;-)

Hristos Vaskrese

Good news

Over the weekend (a civilized day of the week to hold elections – Saturday) Boris Tadic won (actually retained) the Presidency of Serbia. Sure, there were some better candidates, but this is a much better outcome than what could have happened – the various local versions of Huckabee and Paul, fortunately, lost.

My Stuffed Cabbage recipe has competition!

The 176th Carnival of the Recipes is up on The Common Room and guess what? My recipe for Stuffed Cabbage is not the only one! There is another recipe for it there so you can compare and contrast!

Happy New Year!

Coming up tonight at midnight, according to the Julian calendar.

Peking Duck – To be ugly, smart and young

Pekinška Patka – Biti Ružan, Pametan i Mlad
The beginning of Serbian punk:

I Tarzan, you Jane – Rockers From Morava

Rokeri s Moravu – Ja Tarzan a ti Dzejn (Morava is a big river in Serbia)
Yes, this is a parody of “newly-composed folk” music of the 1980s Serbia:

Continue reading

Oliver Mandic – They Ask Me

Oliver Mandic – Pitaju me
This was years before Boy George. Yes, a patriarchal kind of guy in Belgrade broke his TV screen when he saw this. The older generations could not really stomach the whole transgender experiment, but the youngsters loved Oliver because he was really cutting edge, experimental, novel and courageous:

Magazine – Do you know I don’t love you?

Another oldie: Magazin – Da Li Znas Da Te Ne Volim

Azra – Balkan

Azra was the best and most popular Croatian band ever:

Bajaga – Close Your Eyes

Bajaga – Zazmuri

How to Fix an Authentic Serbian* Sarma (Stuffed Cabbage)

Sorry to keep you all waiting so long, as there was other work to do, but here is the method for producing the most authentic sarma. As some steps may be too difficult, I will be adding tips and tricks along the way on how to do it with materials at hand – it will still be good, but you cannot call it “authentic” any more.**
Part A – Making Sauerkraut
The key to good sarma is good Sauerkraut, i.e., the sour cabbage leaves that you will do the wrapping with. And the most important piece of the puzzle for this is:
The StoneTM
Heavy, compact, dense, smooth block of rock.*** Taking one from the side of a pavement or out of a cobblestone street will do fine (but is damage to public property). But it you want the true bragging rights, then you will try, without getting caught, to steal one of the stones from a large (but slowly diminishing, for this very reason) pile of old stones, put there at least a century ago, probably longer, in a little park accross the street from the Parliament (Yugoslav, now Serbian) building in Belgrade. That stone will be perfect in every way – size, shape, density, everything, or so the legend says 😉
If you manage to pass it by customs and take it home, you are ready to begin the process of making the sour cabbage, and about a month later, the delicious sarma.
Once you have obtained a decent specimen of stone, the rest is easy. Next, buy (or have built for you) a barrel. An oak-barrel is the best. Other wood will be fine. And even plastic will do if everything else fails.
Now you have all the equipment and are ready to start.
Next: farmers market. You need to find good cabbage. The stuff in grocery stores is no good, either too pale, or purple, or frilly. You are looking for the old-style cabbage (you may have to ask your farmer friend to grow some for you, if neccessary, or grow it yourself if you have a small piece of land) – rich green, with the very tips of leaves turning slightly red or even brownish. That is the right kind. Get 20kg or so (40lbs+).
Each head of cabbage needs to be washed. If there are some leaves that are starting to rot at the tips or edges, remove them. You know how cabbage has a “core” in the middle? Use a very sharp, pointed knife to cut the core out. The cores are best eaten raw – they are delicious and taste just like kholrabi. The cabbage head will now have a square (actually, pyramid-shaped) hole in it where the core used to be. Put some salt in that hole – you may even want to rub salt into the cabbage from the inside this way.
Put the barrel in a shady place where you can keep the temperature reasonably constant – around room temperature. Thus, people usually use cellars in winter, as summer heat is bound to spoil the cabbage.
Fill the barrel with the cabbage heads. Start pouring in water, also at room temperature. While the water is pouring in, also add: about 1kg (2lbs) of salt – actually what is left after some of it was used to fill each individual head of cabbage. Also add several pieces of fresh, cleaned horseradish, and a whole cleaned and peeled red beet.
If you decided to go with a much smaller barrel for smaller quantity, or if you are using a plastic barrel, it is not a bad idea to also place a couple of large pieces of bread on top of it all. It is a matter of pride NOT to use any chemical preservatives, although the climate where you live, or the microcilmate of your cellar. may force your hand on it. You will gain experience if you do this several years in a row and will adjust all the parameters to fit yoru local conditions.
When the barrel is full of water, put the lid on. The important thing is that the lid has a diameter slightly smaller than the opening on the top of the barrel. Thus, the wooden lid actually floats on top of the water. This is why it needs to be clean.
This is also why you need The StoneTM. Wash the stone thoroughly and place it on top of the lid. The lid will, thus, push down on the cabbage and prevent any contact between cabbage and air – the most important factor in the entire process. This is also why it has to be a solid stone. Wood, plastic and rubber will not press it well enough. Brick, concrete and wood are too porous and thus full of gunk that is impossible to clean – gunk that will make your cabbage rot. Metal will react with the salt and acid or rust, and plastic may leach cancerogenic compounds – both are to be kept away from your primordial sauerkraut. The StoneTM rocks!
The process of souring lasts about a month. You have to, about once per week, replace the water in the barrel. Just open the valve on the bottom of the barrel and let it drain, then add fresh water and place the lid (and You-Know-What on top of the lid) back on. You may need to try the water and/or a little piece of cabbage to see when it is done.
Once it is done, and you keep replacing water regularly, you can just keep the cabagge in the barrel for a couple of more months, if I remember correctly, until it is all gone, or until the weather gets too hot.
Tip: if you have a small barrel and no valve on the bottom, you can probably get away with not replacing the water at all if instead you use a hose to blow bubbles in the water and thus mix the salt and the water thoroughly every week.
Part B – Fixing the Sarma
Now that you have sauerkraut in the barrel, you are ready to fix your sarma.
I. Cabbage: Take a nice, large head of cabbage, with big, healthy leaves. Take all the individual leaves off. Wash them thoroughly in hot water, several times if needed, i.e., if your sauerkraut is too salty or acidic. Drain the water and dry the leaves.
Each leaf has a thick central stem which needs to be carefully thinned (with a sharp knife) so that it can be folded and wrapped nicely. Using one leaf per wrap makes large wraps with a high meat:cabbage ratio (the way I like it). Alternatively, one can cut each leaf in half and use each half to make a small wrap. Just be consistent with your choice: all big or all small.
II. Meat filling: Use 1kg (2 pounds) of ground meat: beef, veal, pork, sausage or – the best – a mix of veal and pork.
Cut up an onion and put it in a skillet with some animal fat (oil will do, if you prefer). Cut up and add some smoked bacon or neck (or other smoked meat). Add salt, black pepper and ground red pepper. When the onion gets brown, add the ground meat, mix well, and fry it for about 10 minutes. At the end, add a cup of raw, white rice (in some places, for additional touch of authenticity, they add barley or oats instead of rice, but I don’t like this as rice remains somewhat firmer with prolonged cooking).
III. Wrapping: Take a large plate and put a single cabbage leaf on it. Put a tablespoon of the meat mix on the leaf, start folding/rolling the leaf at one end to cover the meat and start wrapping to the end. When you have a wrap that looks like a pillow, use thumb to tuck the loose end of the cabbage into the wrap. Repeat until all the meat is wrapped.
How do you know if you have wrapped it well? Wrap one, go outside to the top of a sloping downhill street. Throw the cabbage wrap down the hill. If, when it hits the bottom, it is still wrapped, you have done a good job. If it unravels while rolling downhill, you need to practice more.
IV. Cooking: Take a large pot and put some dry/smoked meat (e.g., ribs or neck) on the bottom. Start stacking the wraps in the pot. Stack them tightly against each other. Place the last remaining cabbage leaves on top. Put a little bit of water in – not too much as you do not want it to boil over and out of the pot.
Get it to boil on the stove. Then cover and place in the oven. Let it cook in the oven, set on Medium, around an hour at least.
Alternative, totally unauthentic method, which works miraculously if you do not have the space or time to make your own sauerkraut at home:
Make wrapped cabbage as above using fresh, sweet, raw cabbage instead of sauerkraut. Before wrapping, place the leaves in boiling water for just a minute until they are just soft enough to wrap, then drain and dry them and let cool off before wrapping.
Buy a bag of string or chopped sauerkraut at the store. Put it everywhere: inside, in-between, under and over the wraps. Cook a little longer than usual. The sweet cabbage becomes acidic in the process. One may also reduce the amount of dry/smoked meat by adding a little bit of vinegar and some tomato sauce instead.
V. Eating: Serve hot. Take the wraps out carefully so they remain intact. Sarma is probably already salty enough, but adding some fresh ground black pepper is usually nice. Serve with fresh, white peasant bread, mashed potatoes and the sauerkraut salad.
Sauerkraut salad? You already have sauerkraut in the barrel. Cut up some leaves, wash them throughly in cold water, add a little oil and ground red pepper/paprika. Add a little ‘raso’ (rah-sol), i.e., the slightly pink-ish, slightly acidic, salty water from the barrel.
A shot of slivovitz is the best thing to have just before the meal, while during the meal, a strong, home-brewed beer is probably the best match with sarma. If you prefer wine, then it should be red, earthy, non-sweet kind.
VI. The next day: Raso (the water from the barrel) is said to be good against hangover in the morning, in case you had a little bit too much slivovitz. Just drink a glass of it. Since it is a salty, somewhat acidic water, it can be used for fixing other dishes, e.g., soups.
The sarma itself gets noticeably better and tastier with each day’s re-heating (the effect I can attest to from just last week’s experience of having sarma for four nights in a row). If you expect important guests, fix sarma the day before, then re-heat it before your guests arrive.
*Sarma is a frequent dish all over the Balkans, with each region having its own variations of the recipe, each delicious in its own way. The recipe described here is largely based on my Mom’s way of doing things.
**There is, as far as I know, no scientific evidence for any of the empirical claims made in this post. Obviously, this field is wide open for future research.
***No stone was left unturned in preparation and writing of this post.

Cool it, Boy! – Last Dance of the Butterfly

Poslednja igra leptira – Decko hajde oladi
It is always difficult to watch this spot as Nesa, the male singer of the band, died of cancer just a couple of years (in 1990) after this was filmed. She, on the other hand, went on to join the much better established band Silver Wings (Srebrna Krila) with whom she went to the Eurovision contest and came in 6th out of 20 contestants. There were some rumors on the net that she has also died, but apparently, she is just fine, living in Germany.

You can see the same song in different setting here.

Korni Grupa – Generacion ’42

The first Eurovision contest that I remember, back in 1974:

Continue reading

Haustor – Ena

Continue reading

Zenica Blues – No Smoking Orchestra

Zabranjeno Pušenje – the beginning of the New Primitives:

Continue reading

Black Butterfly – YU Group

YU Grupa – Crni leptir:

Continue reading

I Am A Lyar – Dennis & Dennis

Another one from 1985…

Continue reading

Oliver Dragojevic – Skalinada

A friend of my Mom’s asked for it, so here it is, Oliver Dragojevic and Skalinada:

Continue reading

Idoli – Maljciki

Idoli, the best of the Yugoslav 1980s New Wave.

Continue reading

You are in my blood – Zdravko Colic

Zdravko Čolić was hugely popular in the late 1970s and 1980s. I was a kid when he filled the Red Star Stadium (which normally seats 90,000 people for the soccer games, when the field itself is not full of people). It is incredible to see him coming back after a 15-year break, visibly older (and not dancing on stage any more) and fill the stadium again! And all those thousands of kids who are singing along and know all the lyrics were not even born when this song, for instance, was a hit – 1985:

Continue reading

Suada – Blue Orchestra

Plavi orkestar (Blue Orchestra) is one of the most popular bands from the territory of former Yugoslavia. Founded in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Hezegovina in 1983. Plavi Orkestar / Blue Orchestra is described by music encyclopedias as one of the “cultural phenomenons of the 1980’s and 1990s” (5 million copies sold). The band has remained popular to date, with 8 albums and more then 2500 concerts worldwide. The band was formed by Sasa Losic aka Losa who was the lead singer and songwriter of the group.

Continue reading


Yup, I had sarma for dinner tonight. It’s been a while since the last time I had some, but Mrs.Coturnix fixed it today, inventing her own recipe along the way. It was delicious!

Were you sleeping? – Galija

Galija was a popular band from Southern Serbia.

Continue reading

Danny – COD

Continue reading

I loved your daughter – Ibrica Jusic

For old Yugo-nostalgics:

Continue reading


For the origin, see the comment thread on this post:

Selma – White Button

Bijelo Dugme (White Button) was the most popular rock band in Yugoslav history, and their most popular song (and they had dozens of mega-hits) was this early silly love song:

Winter is coming – Sunflower

Yugoslavs will start crying now:

Songs not to sing at weddings

Last night at the wedding, DJ went around asking for song suggestions and I thought back about Serbian weddings and how many songs there are that are inappropriate for weddings there – so many songs are sad, melancholic romances about lost loves, about lives lost in alcohol after the only loved one got married to someone else. Heck, just a brief look at songs by Djordje Balasevic (aka George Nationale) reveals several of those, so I found a couple on YouTube and posted them under the fold for my Balkan readers – the lyrics are very difficult to translate as he loves to use localisms, archaisms and words and imagery that make sense only in the local context.
The first one is a clip from a movie made by a friend of mine Zoran Amar, which aired on Belgrade TV in the early 1980s and consisted entirely of clips of Djordje’s songs. The others are from more recent concerts (wow – he’s gotten old since I last saw him!). Of all the ex-Yugoslav artists, Djordje (with whom I apparently share the birthday) was the only one who had concerts during the 1990s (during all the wars) in all the ex-Yugoslav states: Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Macedonia…and in each of those places had thousands come and sing along – everyone over there knows every word of every song of his. I used to play all of his songs at parties. I made people cry singing the song from the second clip…certainly not for weddings!

Continue reading

The Irish-Serbian connection

Watch the entire thing:


Otpisani (‘Written Off’) is probably the most popular Yugoslav TV series of all times. It is surprising to me that there were only thirteen episodes – this was a cult production. We played them as kids (instead of cowboys and Indians). Two major movies were made. The cast reads like “who is who” of Yugoslav acting. The music theme is a local universal ‘meme’.
The IMDB reviewer does an excellent job of describing the phenomenon:

Nowadays, over thirty years since “Otpisani” (aka “The Written-Off”, a Serbian TV production, 1974) hit the Yugoslav screens, it is difficult to grasp the magnitude and the impact the series had on generations of Yugoslav viewing public. It went on to become a smash hit at the time, spawning a full length feature film (basically a re-edit of the material filmed for the TV series) and a sequel, “Povratak otpisanih” (The Return Of The Written-Off), two years later – the whole package achieving genuine cult status. The reasons for such a comprehensive success were numerous – it was chronologically the first attempt to present a then-favourite Yugoslav film subject – World War II and the antifascist struggle across the country, in those days still reverently depicted with pathos and due “grandeur” – in a new, much more youthful, accessible and hipper style than was ordinarily the case. Moreover, it told a story of urban anti-German resistance in occupied Belgrade of the early forties, as opposed to bulky, dated and myth-ridden film productions about Tito’s partisan movement which domineered the Yugoslav cinema in the decades following the war. Most importantly, “Otpisani” rounded up a young, urban, good looking and charismatic cast which were able to convincingly carry off this new approach (most of the leading actors involved since achieved long running and successful careers in film, theatre and TV, some of them – most notably Miki Manojlovic – acquiring international recognition). Incidentally, four of the main leads (Manojlovic, Dragan Nikolic, Voja Brajovic and Aleksandar Bercek) can be seen together in Goran Paskaljevic’s award winning and Altmanesque “Bure baruta” (aka “The Powder Keg”, also known as “Cabaret Balkan”, 1998), each one of them asserting the longevity and endurance of their respective acting careers.
Viewed today, some aspects of the production on “Otpisani” reveal themselves in their weakness. In particular, the writing remains problematic, despite the dialogue being given a more-realistic-than-usual sheen. The characterisation is mostly rigidly monochrome, strictly goodies vs baddies (some would say very cowboys’n’ indians alike, an obvious American film influence), and most of the thirteen filmed episodes tend to sleepwalk through their individual plots before resolving themselves in spectacular, pyrotechnic-galore, sometimes tragic finales. However, the series makes great use of authentic Belgrade locations, both its numerous posh districts and grand interiors as well as seventies’ demolition sites serving as perfect film sets for the lovingly built city which was mercilessly pounced upon during WWII. The grainy black & white photography contributes to achieving the look and the feel of the times, helped greatly by Milivoj Markovic’s energetic and memorable music score (itself heavily influenced by Isaac Hayes’ “Shaft” soundtrack as well as Lalo Schiffrin’s tense atmospherics – another novelty in Yugoslav film and telly). In short, “Otpisani” was a breakthrough TV production which introduced many young acting talents and spoke in a visual language which resonated far better with the changing demands of the viewing public, younger generations in particular. Fun viewing, even today.

Apparently, the series was re-aired last year, so the new generations could see the McGyveresque adventures of Prle and Tihi. And of course, a couple of short clips appeared on YouTube – here is one (the others appear on the sidebar once you click on it):

Continue reading

114.8 Fahrenheit in the shade!

People have been cooking in Belgrade, Serbia, for weeks now. Last time I am aware of that the temperature was this high was when I was in pre-school. Today’s pictures:

Good News about the Bosnian “Pyramid”

It’s been a while since I last blogged about the Bosnian Pyramid (I did follow the story superficially, though, but was sick of trolls attracted to the topic), but I have to break the silence for this piece of good news:

The Culture Ministry found the “research” conducted by Osmanagic’s team to be questionable and the collaborators of Osmanagic to lack the credibility needed to allow for continued funding of their “project.” Also criticized by the Bosnian government, according to Javno, is the methods by which Osmanagic et al presented their findings, particularly the fact that they routinely kept their data from experts in relative fields.
The Bosnian Culture Ministry consulted experts including those in the fields of geology, mining, archaeology, and cultural preservation and arrived at the conclusion that Osmanagic’s foundation was not acting in the best interest of Bosnian cultural preservation and that the foundation is in violation of archaeological regulations. The Ministry even concluded that the nature of Osmanagic’s registration with the Bosnia-Herzegovina Justice Ministry may be suspect and should be “looked into.”

They are shutting Osmanagic down. Whew – that took a long time, but at least the story has (so far) a happy ending. In the end, Reason prevailed.

Do Serbian scientists need a blog of their own?

Not that it costs anything to have one…
Yet, the Konsortium of science libraries in Serbia is seriously contemplating shutting down their KOBSON blog, an invaluable tool in science communication in the region.
Danica, who the regular readers of this blog are quite familiar with as she is the Number One Champion for Open Science and Web 2.0 science in Serbia, has put a lot of effort into building the online infrastructure for Serbian scientific communication, including the KOBSON blog and the KOBSON wiki, as well as teaching and preaching to the local scientific community about the importance of catching up with the world after a decade of isolation and fully embracing the modern communication tools. She was also involved in setting up the Serbian Citation Index, from which I mined a paper that I used to demonstrate how important Open Access is to scientists in developing countries.
There is not much more that Danica alone can do in the present situation to save the KOBSON blog, but perhaps YOU all can help. How? Let’s demonstrate the power of Science 2.0 by direct example! Go to the KOBSON blog and explain the importance of such a tool in the comments of this post. Even better, if you are fluent in one or another variant of the Serbo-Croatian language, post a comment on the Serbian version of the post. Then, post a link and this plea to your own blog as well and ask your readers to do the same.

On the front page of the KOBSON home (not blog) there is “contact” information and an e-mail address:
Be polite and explain why hosting (and pointing to) a blog is essential for 21st century science.
The problem is not just saving the blog where it is on WordPress, but also moving it onto the Library server, or at least linking to it from the homepage so people see it and use it more. Right now, only people “in the know” use it which severely limits its usefulness.
You should also join the ‘Fight for Science Blogs‘ Cause on Facebook and invite all your friends to join it as well (the ’causes’ function is malfunctioning on Facebook right now, so try later if you cannot sign up right now).

An Intelligent Storkist Designs a Straw Man

Actually, the picture (author is Antun Zuljevic, a birder extraordinnaire) is from the village of Svilojevo in northern Serbia (Vojvodina, near the town of Apatin on the Danube) where the Locust Trees have been cut, and nobody is building large haystacks any more, so the storks are forced to build nests in crazy places. This pair of White Storks was not successful in nesting on this factory chimney last year, but they had better luck this time around. Yup, storks prefer nesting on chimneys only in fairy tales. In reality, that is the site of last resort.
Source: Google group of Ptica

Danica Needs a New Job!

Graduate of the University of Belgrade (Serbia), City University (UK) and UNC-Chapel Hill (USA), with a Masters from University of Belgrade, Danica Radovanovic is currently in Belgrade without a job and she is looking for one either in Serbia, in Western/Northern Europe or in the USA.
Danica is the tireless Serbian pioneer in all things online: blogging, open source, Linux, science blogging, open science, social networking software, online publishing, eZine editing, etc. She is the force behind putting Serbian science online and making it open. She has done research on Internet use in Serbia in comparison to the UK and the USA and has been a tireless advocate for the Internet, open source computing and Open Science, travelling around Serbia and the world talking about it. She is also a cybrarian and has experience working at the Library of Congress.
You can learn more about Danica here and check her LinkedIn CV/Resume (expanded). She will send you the real Resume on demand.
This is your opportunity to snag someone with boundless energy and enthusiasm, coupled with knowledge, skill and experience. Do you or your organization need someone like that?

Birds in Serbia

From John I learned that Serbia is becoming a birding hot-spot!
Two species of pelicans (Pelecanus crispus and Pelecanus onocrotalus), which used to nest in Serbia before but were driven out by draining of marshland for agriculture in the late 19th century, are back (not nesting yet, but some individuals are back) and you can see a picture of one of them here.
A journalist for ‘Birdwatch’ magazine went to the very first birding tour in Serbia back in 2004 and he wrote about his trip and his impressions.
This website provides a lot more information about birds and birding in Serbia. I wish that information was available to me when I was a kid living there. I went to several of the places mentioned there and I saw the birds, but I was never with anyone who knew how to identify them. There is still time to go back and do this….

Obligatory Readings of the Day – the Ken Hamm and Beyond edition

First, as I reported earlier, Archy persuaded PZ Myers to host a one-time carnival about the opening of the Creation Museum – and here is the carnival – a lot of good stuff to read.
I especially liked the only (so far) on-the-scene report by Martha Heil.
I also tend to prefer posts that try to take in a Big Picture and place stuff in broader historical and/or geographical context, thus, I really liked contributions by Laelaps and Greg Laden. They are optimistic, though. The view from outside, from Europe, can be much more pessimistic.
Also, some of the comments on this post remind me of my early internet days on various Balkans Usenet groups. Apparently, the tone and quality have not changed much since the early 1990s! I thought that brotherhood and unity were back in vogue again, as evidenced by the results of the Eurovision contest. I only made a quick remark in that direction, but several Euroblogs wrote deeper sociological analyses of the deeper meaning of the Eurovision results and what they portend for Europe’s future. See, for instance, this post and peruse a good linkfest collected by Eric.

Do Serbs really want to join the EU?

An interesting poll came out of Gallup yesterday:
Despite Kosovo Intervention, Serbians Favor EU Membership

On May 15, the Serbian parliament approved a new coalition government led by Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and President Boris Tadic, both moderates who would like to see their country join the European Union within the next decade. “Serbia’s aspiration to become a full member of the EU is a clearly declared commitment of every party in this coalition,” Kostunica told the parliament prior to confirmation.
However, Serbia’s refusal to compromise on any plan for the future of Kosovo that grants independence to the breakaway province is a stumbling block on the road to EU membership. Kosovo has been administered by the UN since 1999, when NATO ousted Serbian forces that had killed 10,000 ethnic Albanian civilians in the region.
What does the Serbian public think about the EU? Despite that the EU has brokered the Ahtisaari Plan that would grant Kosovo a form of “supervised independence,” 63% of Serbians living in Serbia say they have a “very positive” (24%) or “somewhat positive” (39%) opinion of the role the EU is playing in the Balkan region. A similar number, 62%, say they think Serbian membership in the EU would be a good thing. Just 9% feel it would be a bad thing.

Sure, the brunt of anger is directed at the USA, Warren Christopher, Madelaine Albright and Wes Clark (and at the domestic war criminals as well, including Milosevic, who should have offered his hospitality to the aforementioned trio in his cell in The Hague), not the Europeans which are natural neighbors, allies, friends and business partners. America is a far-away continent somewhere at the edge of the world map and can be safely ignored, but Europe is where the country is, so one better play nice with the EU.
Also, many see the 1990s as a temporary interruption in the road to EU membership. Back in the late 1980s, when Belgrade almost got to host the ’92 Olympics (lost to Barcelona in the last voting round), Yugoslavia was first in line to join the union. Many there see the renewed effort as a continuation of that process. After all, if they are now all lovey-dovey with the other ex-Yugoslav republics (of which Slovenia is already now an EU member) after they went to war against them, why treat EU as an enemy?

There is less consensus on whether the Serbian government is doing everything necessary to join the EU. Just under half (48%) of Serbians feel it is, while 37% say it isn’t. One possible factor in these perceptions is the ongoing failure of the Serbian government to locate and arrest war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic. In May 2006, the EU suspended talks on the first steps toward membership, declaring that negotiations would not resume until Mladic was in custody.

No surprise, after a strange and prolonged election earlier this year. Everyone is looking askance at the leadership.

Results are based on face-to-face interviews conducted during February 2007 with randomly selected samples of 1,566 Serbians aged 15 and older. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

This is troubling – face-to-face? This means that most of the people interviewed were in big cities: Belgrade and perhaps (hopefully!) a few other big cities like Nis, Novi Sad or Kragujevac. I doubt that the Gallup people trekked into the mountains to interview people in tiny villages.
The entire 1990s wars of the Balkans were wars between city and country, between an urban, modern, democratic, liberal, pro-European mindset held by people who are educated, speak foreign languages and travel abroad, and the rural, illiterate, backwards, conservative, patriarchal, nationalistic, religious-fundamentalist mindset held by people living in small places. Sorta like the Red/Blue divide in the USA. It was the local conservatives of various ethnicities who joined the paramilitary groups and faught each other, while the local liberals remained in the cities or fled the country. Bombings of Vukovar, Sarajevo and Dubrovnik were bombings of cultural and social elites (of many ethnicities living together) by the drunk peasants from one ethnic side or another. Bombing of Belgrade by NATO was exactly the same thing.
Kosovo is historically the cradle of Serbia. A millenium ago Serbia was Kosovo – it is only the later wars and realignments that gave Serbia additional territory to the north, including Belgrade. All the churches, monasteries and monuments that define Serbian statehood are located in Kosovo. The emotional atachment is completely understandable.
Imagine if Virginia decided to secede from the USA and the entire rest of the world threatened military – including nuclear – intervention (on top of cessation of all trade) in case the US government interfered with the secession? Can you imagine the emotions this would elicit?
A century ago, Kosovo was inhabited by Serbs and Albanians in about a 9:1 ratio. Differences in birthrates, slow emigration of Serbs over decades for economic reasons (Kosovo is the poorest region of the former Yugoslavia), and the ethnic cleansing of Serbs at the hands of KLA in the 1980s (that was the first use of the term in history – Milosevic rose to power by promising to stop it and protect the local Serbian population) completely reversed that ratio to 1:9. Finally, in 1999, almost all of the rest of the Serbs fled Clark’s bombs and depleted uranium, leaving only tiny scatterings of Serbs still living in the province.
So, what is one to do? The rural folks, who have nothing personal to be proud of, who suffered group-related humiliation for a decade (demonization of Serbs by the western media, loss of territory, getting cleansed out of Croatia and Bosnia, finally getting bombed, while Milosevic gave up on everything one thing at a time) have only one thing to cling to – Kosovo. Defending it to the bitter end. It is a matter of ego.
But the urban folks – those who were likely the majority of interviewees in this poll – are pragmatic. They can afford to, because they have individual, personal strengths to keep their self-esteem. They are educated, perhaps successful in business, politics or academia. They are capable of losing Kosovo without losing their identities (and without losing their minds). They see Kosovo as a thing of the past and EU as the future, and future is more important.
So, I’d like to see a poll that carefully differentiates between urban and rural folks (party affiliation may be a better indicator than actual physical address, as many of the rural folks are now refugees in big cities) before I agree that the Serbian population as a whole is so enthusiastic about joining the EU.