Archive for March, 2009|Monthly archive page

Djukic-Dejanovic: SRS You’ve Been Bad Boys and Girls

In Uncategorized on 03/31/2009 at 16:58

Now go to your rooms and think about what you’ve done.

Sometimes there’s nothing you can do in this country but laugh and understand that the ever-present charade is part of the charm.

In today’s session of parliament, members of the radical party showed up wearing t-shirts boasting the face of Vojislav Seselj, who has been accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity by The Hague Tribunal and is also the president of their party. When the radicals refused to take their “assigned” seats, president of parliament, Slavica Djukic-Dejanovic, “lead them away” from the session and called a 15-minute break. Afterwords, she decided that the session just could not go on in such a manner and called the whole thing off.

While MPs in other countries at least pretend to be doing something meaningful while in session, Serbia’s MPs have decided that it’s just plain passe to pretend and have moved on to entertaining us as a circus should. It’s becoming ever more evident that public discourse isn’t concerned with political matters but which politician said what about another, and when that is the case, the honorable gentle men and women don’t attack each other’s politics, but go straight for below-the-belt insults. Moreover, today’s event is not the first or last of it’s kind, but only the latest proof that Serbia is nowhere near it’s path to the EU, but it hasn’t even started to pack it’s bags for the trip.

After all of that, I ask you, so what?

Yes, it is entirely depressing that the youth of this country is being held back by radicals in parliament and others in power who refuse to pass the laws necessary to get the country on the “white Schengen list”, among other things. It’s ridiculous that they have to stand in line like livestock to get a visa because this country’s image in the world has been entirely ruined by the previous generation, and even if they get one, after hours and days of being degraded by pretentious embassy workers, they wouldn’t have the money to go anywhere anyway because the country’s economy is stagnating. So, the country’s young people are stuck with no prospects, finishing university on an average of ten years, not working and living with their parents until they’re well into their 30s and probably in the same room as their siblings.

But, I wonder, if or when Serbia finally decides to become “civilized” and organized, hands over accused war criminals to The Hague, will it become just like every other European country? Will it lose the charm that draws and infatuates those who’ve lived in the West and come here to live and leave it all behind? Will that be a good thing?

But, those things aside, we are being well entertained, wouldn’t you say?

Now for another gem:

Some of the highlights from the gem:

Ja zbog tebe, ja zbog tebe ostavicu sve
ja bih s tobom, ja bih s tobom
ali nemas gde

Nemam nocas ja za hotel
samo, samo neku sicu
necu, dobar si u dusi
al necu, necu u jugicu
nisam, brate, ja za tante mante
volim luksuz, skupe varijante

In translation: She would you know what with him, but he’s got no money for a hotel and wants to in his Yugo. Tough though because she likes luxury and “expensive” things. However, if he had a BMW, it’d be an entirely different story.


A Change. Of Plan(s)?

In Uncategorized on 03/26/2009 at 19:50

There’s something about this country. I can’t explain it. There’s something about it.

There’s a charm to this haphazard, chaotic place. It’s woven into and in between everything. From the 40-year-old trolley’s that run on tracks which haven’t been fixed for ages, to the out-of-style milfs with cellulite, to the childish and shy way grown people check eachother out at clubs. It’s somewhere in the way my butcher greets me when I go to buy chicken with, “dobar dan komsinice,” refering to me as his neighbour and asthough we’d grown up and played together. But, mostly it’s in the way this place seems to keep going, functioning, with so little to work with and no want for anything more because, as I said, it all just works.

Here, you feel alive, because you’re part of something that’s alive, something that hasn’t yet forgotten how to live.

I want to stay in Serbia. I want to stay in Belgrade. The problem is that I haven’t yet been able to find gainful employment. Though I believe that things work in favor of what’s supposed to happen, I also believe that it’s not shameful to admit it that things haven’t been working the way they’re supposed to.

I may have to leave Serbia, though I said I never will.

This blog is no longer objective. This blog is no longer about only the city. This blog is Belgrade and me.

The Tube

In Uncategorized on 03/26/2009 at 18:01

I may have found the Belgrade club where everything just falls into place, including the people, the music and the atmosphere.

The tube has no pretensions of being as, let’s say, “classy” as it actually is.

The outside of the club on Dobracina street, in the city’s centre, is fairly discreet, and though there’s usually a line outside, you won’t be looked up and down and price-tagged before being “allowed” in. Another plus – the bouncers don’t look like gangsters/drug dealers.

Though I am generally weary of places I have to wait to get into, I did wait, because you just have to try new things sometimes, and you get tired of going to basement clubs. Also, God knows I’ve been to Plastic, and was allowed to jump to the front of the line only because the club manager heard crowd I was with speaking English, so, I’m not exactly ashamed of being price-tagged.

As we descended the stairs, we were quickly overcome by how truly relaxing the atmosphere was. Although what who considers relaxing is rather relative, I think most would agree with me.

The club was filled with a patronage that seemed to have fought with honor and survived the war of puberty with no complexes intact, and therefore had nothing to prove. The crowd was not flashy, they smiled, and all seemed to be having down-to-earth conversations.

However, it soon became clear that there was one thing missing that is present in most Belgrade clubs, which has recently started driving me more and more towards wanting to become a hermit. This is the Balkan phenomenon of spending more time staring at others than talking to or dancing with the people you are with. The tube is price-tag/x-ray-free.

On the night I visited the Tube, the club’s regular DJ Peppe was spinning. Peppe plays a strange mix of funk and electronica and has been a staple on the Belgrade club scene for decades. He started on the scene over 20 years ago with the Belgrade Funk Brigade.

His fan base calls themselves “Peppists” and religiously follow the DJ from club to club every weekend. I met two Peppists at the place, who told me that if I didn’t end up in love with Peppe by the end of the night, they would embarrass themselves by singing Womanizer by Britney Spears with full-on choreography from the music video.

The other regular DJs are Pookie and Coba, who both have as solid of bios as Peppe.

Peppe added to the strangely relaxing mix of the club, which, surprisingly, was also put together in an interesting, minimalistic way. Most of the club is done in a sort of black fabric, with only the long, but low, table/bar in the middle.

As I write about the Tube, I am reminded of a conversation I had recently about how difficult it is to find a place to go to where the club looks nice, the people are great, and the music is at least bearable. It is difficult, though I don’t know whether you’ll sympathize with my sentiment.

For me, the Tube is that place. Everything fell into place and I, yes I, agreed with the look, people, and music of the place.

The only complaint I had about the Tube is that the drinks are a bit on the pricy side, with the average mixed drink going for 500 dinars.

That aside, I would recommend you check out the place, if for no other reason than to see whether out tastes coincide.

The Tube
Dobracina 12

Bitef Art Cafe

In Uncategorized on 03/26/2009 at 17:58

This Dorcol club is a aesthetically pleasing escape from the techno-charged and smoke-filled basement scene.

Located behind the Bajloni open market in the Mira Trailovic Square, this club has achieved a cult following among Belgrade intellectuals of all generations. However, it’s not pretentious or stuck up. Quite on the contrary, it’s very warm and welcoming.

Perhaps this is so because of the type of people that visit Bitef Art. I had a poetry professor once who said that there are two types of intellectuals. The first type are those that have become bitter because of an understanding that the world is one giant unjust mess and blah, blah, blah, and have now decided to sit around and judge everything around them and talk about it at length. The second type are those who have come to terms with this fact, realised that they can’t really change anything, and have decided to laugh about it.

The people of Bitef Art are the second type, and though I didn’t speak with each individual there, I will go out on a limb and say that they were out to have a good time judging by their enthusiastic dancing.

I visited Bitef Art on a Tuesday, when, unbeknownst to me at the time, they have their karaoke night. Had I known it was a karaoke night, I would not have gone because when I think of karaoke, I think of poorly lit basement bars, a horrible sound system, and Midi-type audio files playing in the background of a drunk 19-year-old who can’t sing.

But, at Bitef Art, t’was not so.

When we first walked in, we didn’t realise that what we were listening to was indeed karaoke. There was a live band, backup singers and two hosts, one of which was B92 radio-show Igor Brakus. In addition, the exceptional thing about this karaoke night is that the singers weren’t the only ones enjoying the music, the crowd was dancing and engaging them.

The club’s centre of focus is the stage, which has a number of variations and shapes depending on the event in question, and it’s almost as though the rest of the club evolved from the it.

At stage-left there is a balcony, which was constructed in such a way to give the club a sort of airy feel. In other words, the fact that there aren’t two floors, but rather a balcony means that the ceiling is higher and frees one of the claustrophobia/paranoia present in most basement clubs.

Now, since we’re on the topic of basement clubs like Francuska Sobarica, there is also another very specific point to delve into as far as Bitef Art is concerned. In the Sobarica, I have on a number of occasions been on the verge of tobacco poisoning because of the lack of ventilation. Though I am a smoker, I’ve become weary of too much cigarette smoke. In Bitef Art, most people don’t smoke, which is a relief.

It’s also not very dark in the place. This is because of the very thoughtful lighting system.

I would recommend you check out Bitef Art on a Tuesday, however, the club offers a number of other options like themed nights, and live jazz bands.

Bitef Art Cafe
Skver Mire Trailovic 1
063 594 294 Bitef Art Cafe

Francuska Sobarica

In Uncategorized on 03/26/2009 at 17:56

Everyone’s always been a bit suspicious of my obsession with gay clubs. I’m not talking about gay and lesbian clubs, I mean clubs for gay men. They don’t seem to understand the inherent charm of a place where no one in the place will even turn to look at you, much less check you out. Knowing this gives you endless freedom to act, well, like an absolute moron, which makes for an infinitely more beautiful night than a visit to a standard Belgrade meat market like Club BlayWatch by Hotel Yugoslavia.

Francuska Sobarica is not a gay club, but the ladies and gentlemen frequenting the place are so incredibly out of it, that there’s basically the same effect of a gay club.

“Whatever do you mean, Vanja?”, you may be asking yourself. So, as we say in journalism – show, don’t tell, so I’ll let facts do the talking.

The last time I visited the Sobarica, approximately 45 per cent of the population was over 45, according to an infallible head count I did. On the other hand, a completely infantile 17-year-old, wearing his grandma’s track sweater and work-out shoes from the early ’80s and white sunglasses, was doing something, which to me looked like an aerobic workout, in the middle of the crowd. A group of trashed metal-heads in the back of the dance floor were swaying and screaming. A group of five hipsters, wearing shawls, tight pants, infallibly perfect shoes were standing in another corner.

It was in this unimaginable mix of people that one realizes that they can do no wrong. The people I was with and I decided, since there was absolutely no prospect of meeting a sane human being that night, to act like the biggest morons there, and therefore had a good night.

The Sobarica is  a bit difficult to get to if you don’t know how to get there to begin with. It’s on Francuska street in the centre of town. There are no signs outside of what looks like an abandoned residential building. Once you walk through the door, and go through the courtyard of the building, you find yourself in the basement club.

The club is nothing special as far as the decor goes, and looks like any average club anywhere in the world. In addition, it’s fairly small.

It’s my recommendation that you completely avoid the place on the weekends and go there on Tuesdays, when the music is not the standard techno from the late ’90s, but rather a mix of indie and ’80s pop.

However strange it seems for me to say this, I do recommend the place, though I may be a bit biased. Why? Well, I was never a very nostalgic person, but, recently, I’ve been looking for a place that reminds me of those run-down, back alley places in somewhat dangerous parts of town you go to in America because, well, you’re that kid. The Sobarica reminds of these places, and has, over time, become close to my heart.

Francuska Sobarica
Francuska 12

Everything You Need to Know About Belgrade Taxi Norms

In Uncategorized on 03/26/2009 at 17:54

Annie Nieman was visiting a friend in Belgrade. She arrived on a train, and stopped a taxi to take to her friend’s apartment near Cvetkov open market on Bulevar Kralja Aleksandra. The ride should have cost no more than 600 dinars, but the driver charged Nieman €50 (roughly 4,600 dinars).

What Nieman didn’t know that it’s common knowledge that you’re not supposed to take a taxi right in front of the train station, bus station, or airport because these drivers are usually not with a trusted company, and often have rigged, too-fast metres.

Nieman says that her friend threw a fit when she found out how much she had paid for the ride.

“But, how was I supposed to know? No one told me how much a taxi is supposed to cost, and the driver said my friend’s apartment was far away,” Nieman told Balkan Insight.

There are many such horror stories, and many new comers to the city are often taken advantage of by shameless drivers. And, through Belgrade taxis are cheap when compared to those of other capital cities, if you’re not keeping an eye out, you may be short-changed like Nieman was.

In addition, many taxi drivers in the city are often reckless. They drive on tram rail lines, or in between lanes during rush hour, and are most often speeding. They also very much dislike taking passengers on short rides.

It is important that you only take taxi’s that are licensed with a company. The quick way to tell if a driver is licensed is to pay attention to their marker on the top of the car. If a car is licensed, they will have the company name and the driver’s identification number on them. Unlicensed drivers usually only have a white marker with the word “TAXI” on it.

Inside the taxi, a price list and the driver’s identification card, with the city’s blue coat of arms, must be clearly displayed. The fare should be displayed on the metre, which should also be in clear view.

Since July of 2008, the starting fee for a taxi is 119 dinars. The per-kilometre rate is 49 dinars at the low tariff (Mon to Sat 06:00 – 22:00) or 52 dinars at the high tariff (Mon to Sat 22:00 – 06:00, Sunday and public holidays).

It is often cheaper to call a taxi by phone, and some taxi companies offer a 20 per cent discount. The Beogradski taksi company uses normal daily rates for rides during the night, weekends and even on public holidays. They also offer fixed rates to the airport.

Generally speaking, there should be no extra charge for luggage, but if the driver wishes to charge you he is required to say so before the ride or you don’t have to pay. In addition, some drivers may agree to transport pet(s), though they are not required to do so.

As far as tipping is concerned, tipping is not expected, though it is appreciated if you round off the fare. The tip may be as little as 10 dinars.

Have you’ve been wondering where to sit in the cab, since many Belgraders sit in the passenger’s seat with the driver? There is no social norm about where to sit, and you will not be considered rude if you sit in the back.