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Serbia trip report

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Ms Chen of Ontario has send me questions on Serbia, to elicit a trip report. I was there from 28 December to about 6 January. I have on disc a full guide to Serbia, collated from the internet, which I can e-mail to you if you're interested.

Besides Novi Sad, any other town interesting?
Yes, Subotica, Sremska Mitrovica and Vrsac are all small Baroque gems, very central European. I didn't reach the south, but hear well of Nis.

any unusual museums/sites?
The Jewish Museum in Belgrade is unusual in that after refurbishment it has returned to much the condition of thirty years ago, with cover for all of former Yugoslavia, and of the Partisan era.

What type of exhibitions (interactive? preservation?)?
Exhibitions are almost none of them interactive. Indeed, I think there's no such museum in the Balkans, except perhaps the Experimentarium in Belgrade.

How do people celebrate New Year and Orthodox Christmas? Did you join them?
Serbians go to bed on New Year's Eve, as I recall, and celebrate New Year's Day with much walking the streets in parties, and with rock music in the central city square. I escaped to Szeged for that night. But I did go to the Mayor of Novi Sad's New Year concert, given free to an enthusiastic and full audience in the Synagogue, now restored, and used as concert hall.

Why did you say Belgrade is heavy?
Belgrade has buildings in great blocks, rather grey, rather plain, whereas the Baroque city centres are light and colourful. Belgrade looks a bit too much like central Berlin.

How do people cope with the instability?
I'm afraid I don't know. Many try for visas to work in Canada, the US, Australia, Austria, and so on. Some have monthly payments from siblings who have prospered in the New World.

What kind of progress in market economy?
I'm afraid I don't know. The shops have every luxury, but few sales

Any difficulty travelling in the winter by buses and trains (Once I was snowed in central Ontario for several days while visiting farms)?
The busses run like clockwork, and are faster than the trains. They seem to have found a way to heat the Bucharest Express within Serbia. In March last it was unheated till Timisoara, since the Serbian engine's heating pipes couldn't be attached to the Romanian train. Chilly.

Any interesting little story or highlight?
In Sremska Mitrovica but not in Belgrade nor Novi Sad they have power cuts, so the Hotel Sirmium had lights from midnight to noon, but not from noon to midnight. Arrived in the evening I walked into a murky lobby, and went to bed by candlelight.

Ben Haines

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