Tuesday, November 28, 2006


I am fascinated by weather. I think I inherited that from my dad- in every conversation he asks me about the weather in Sarajevo.
As a kid he taught me how to recognise an upcoming weather chance- behavior of birds and shape of clouds are good indicators. Those indicators seem quite useless here: I did not see the fog, Magla in Bosnian, that is covering Sarajevo for the last three days, coming.
In Holland there is fog, but not as dense as the Magla. Magla seems to absorb all light; the city is brownish-grey. It is as if life is slowing down because of the Magla (just life, not the traffic- taxi drivers keep on racing, no matter what...).

The part of the city that is affected most by the Magla is the area around the airport, called Butmir. On bad Magla days, mostly in November and December, the view from the airport is less than 50 meters. As a result the airport is closed for days.

A lot of people in Sarajevo wonder why the airport was built where it is. The area has always been know for its morning mist and Magla. It would have been better if it was positioned in the direction of Visoko, on the mountainplateau around town. According to Nenad the Neighbour it is located where it is because the owner of the plot of land was a well-connected guy who made an arrangement (i.e a bribe) with the city council to sell it to them for a profit.

All kind of rumors for the closure of the airport buzz around town. Some people say that the French peacekeepers took the radar for blind landing with them when they left the Sarajevo area a few years ago, others say that the right radars are there there, but that the combination of mountains and Magla make it impossible to take off.

Be it as it may, currently no planes land in Sarajevo. And god knows when this might change. In December 2004 the Magla stayed for 17 days on a row.....

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


JFK was killed by the CIA, Olaf Palme was killed because of his opposition against the Apartheidsregime, the landing on the moon was staged in order to win a battle in the Cold War. All of them are conspiracy theories, and aal are great scripts for movies.

Bosnians believe in conspiracies too, especially regarding the war. They know this, and once every know and then a conversation starts with "I know that this sounds like a conspiracy, but it is true that...", and my attention is grasped. I love those theories- they seem to made up by John Le Carre. Some of them are absurd, others are just funny, and most of them are urban legends, spoofed of actual happenings. Usually I do not take them very seriously, but I am more than willing to listen to them. They are often entertaining.
However, it might be time to do start taking the whole conspiracy thinking seriously.

A common conspiracy is that 'Srebrenica' was a trade off between the Bosniaks, the Serbs and the international community. It was a trade for Eastern Sarajevo, and also a needed excuse for the international community to interfere in the war. I used to dismiss those ideas as at best uncoof, at worst blatendly stupid. However, this article made me think differently. I do not know the credibility of the Green Left Weekly, but I do know the credibility of Paris-Match, and there seems to be no reason for them to misquote Mr. Holbrooke. Apparently the idea of a trade off was not conspiracy thinking, it was true.

I am a Realpolitiker. And I am a cynic. However, I am first and foremost naive. Because I wanted to believe that 'Srebrenica' was black-and-white. But I should and could have known better- I could have seen the signs on the wall- Urban legends come from somewhere. Well, you live, you learn....

Saturday, November 18, 2006

King Alcohol

In vino veritas. And maybe that is true.
Drinking is very acceptable within the expat community. And in this the expat community meets the local community. Because it is widely accepted within the local community too.
Hard liquor is cultural heritage in the former Yugoslavia. I knew this already, but the more books I read by authors from the former Yugoslavia, the better I realize it. In most books that I read there is mentioning of consuming of vast quantities of alcohol, just for the sake of consuming it. The book that I am currently reading is a great example of that- in almost every chapter of the book the main character gets drunk. And strangely enough it is the least disturbing about the book. Anyone who wants to understand the ludacrisy of a war should read this book. By reading it you will understand that you will never understand it, just because it is so ridiculous. An interesting Catch 22. Next to books like 'The death of Yugoslavia' by Laura Silber and Allan Little, it is a 'must-read' for anyone who wants to know something about the dissolution of Yugoslavia.

Anyway, back to the drinks. Hard liquor is cultural heritage, and cherished as such. Therefore it is made at home, and for sale on every market. I never realized that drinks can be made out of so many different products: you have Travarica, made of grass, you have Medenica, made of honey, there is Slivovica, made of plums, there is Loza, made of grapes, there is Kruska, made of pears, there is Orahavaca, made of walnuts, there are drinks made of apple, cherry and probably strawberry too. All of the drinks fall under the name Rakija. And all have the same effect. They warm you in winter, and they warm you up in the morning. every time I fly home, Nenad the Neighbor comes out of his house and gives me some Loza, because according to him it makes traveling easier.
In New York someone told me that alcoholism is the professional deformation of the expat. Probably true. Bosnia accomodates the expat in that matter, that is for sure.....


Monday, November 06, 2006

eco tourism

Someone told me to spice up my blog with more pictures.
That makes sense. However, my blog is not just entertainment- it is infotainment. So here are some reasons to come to BiH.


If you do not speak a language well, your view on local music is mainly based on the sound of it. C'est le ton qui fait la musique.

Although I can understand Bosnian quite well (and I might regret writing this, because it will be used against me by my Bosnian friends), my opinion of Bosnian, or better 'Balkan', music, has not changed. No matter how uplifting the words sometimes are, it still has something sad. But unlike to when I just arrived, I like it now...

Regardless of whether it is sad or not, Bosnian music is fascinating. Upon arrival it all sounded the same to me- horrible. Old-fashioned, sentimental and tearjerking. It was and is usually played full volume in cabs, with a cabbie who sings along. Or hums along, or whistels along, or whispers along, or taps along.
But the most fascinating thing about it, is that the music is very democratic. Not in the sense that it is about equal opportunities and stuf like that (it usually is about 'lost love', about 'remeniscing times', about 'commemorating old cities' etcetera); it is democratic in the sense that the songs are not just for old people, for hip people, for poor people, for men or for women. it is for all of that- the songs appeal to everybody.

The music I am referring to is called 'Sevdalinka',or
Sevdah .

The first time I really heard it was at a concert I went to on the 7th of december 2004. It was odd. The music sounded as described, old fashioned and cheezy, but I was in a basketball stadium with over 2,000 people, and most of them were youngsters. And all of them knew the lyrics of the songs, and sang them. Some of the songs were taught to them by their grandparents, so they told me. However, the strangest thing about it was, that going to the concert was not considered an anomaly or a gimmick- going there was cool!

It took me a while to appreciate that; Sevdah is music you have to learn to appreciate. I do now. Although a bit campy in my eyes, the music is nice. The way people dance to it is even nicer. One has to stand up straight, hips pointing forward, dancing slowely from one foot to the other, armes loosely streched and upwards (elbows bend) in an angle of about 45 degrees from the body, with your ands open and shaking towards the sky, with your head in your neck, your eyes closed while singing along on full volume. As a finishing touch to this, you balance a glas filled with rakija on your (fore)head.

I have been to a few concerts now. I do not master the dancing yet, but I am getting there.... The most popular Sevdah band is Mostar Sevdah Reunion. And I have to say, I am a big fan. Against all odds....