On 28th of June, Vidovdan in Serbia, a statue was unveiled for Gavrilo Princip in Belgrade, Serbia. It was a gift from Republika Srpska, which is the Serb entity in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Monument Gavrilo Princip in Finansijski park, Belgrade-Serbia
101 years ago he killed, on that day, the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand who visited Sarajevo. Many believe that this was the first shot of the First World War. Actually it is not true, because this was just an excuse for a war on Serbia which was already planned before.
The first shots were actually fired on the 28th of July when the Austrian-Hungarian army started shelling Kalemegdan , the fortress in Belgrade, without a declaration of war. Was Gavrilo a hero, a freedom fighter or a terrorist?
That same question is asked in a recently published book, written in Dutch, with the title “Wat kwam eruit het schot?” (==What came out of the shot) from Jelica Novakovic and Sven Peeters, ISBN 9789460013461. (more information on Balkanboeken). I got it from Jelica and read it and I have to admit it is a very nice book , easy to read and written in an entertaining style.
In the preface, the authors thanks us also, as team secanje.nl for our efforts to research the story about the Serbian WWI soldiers who died in the Netherlands.
Back to Gavrilo’s statue in Belgrade. I wonder why the statue was not placed on Kalemegdan, the beautiful fortress here in Belgrade. His statue is standing now in Finansijski park, between buildings and he is standing lonely there, just as lonely as he died on the 28th of April 1918 in Theresienstadt (nowadays in the Czech Republic).
A railway station is place to meet and a place to say farewell. Two years ago I met you at Belgrade railway station and now it is time to go for you and your family. You write many bites and also one for me, but this is my bite for you. Metaphorically seen you waited for me at the station and now I see you leaving while I am staying with now my wife. Keep on writing and I will keep on biting in Serbia, one day I hope we can have again “blejanje”* time.
Dutch people like to complain , Serbian people as well, but they complain less I have to admit. I try to do the best for Serbia as much as I can, because I love my (soon to be) wife who is a Serb and her country (where I live) and its people. So I love Serbia and I am really glad I am living here, a dream came true for me.
BUT, I am Dutch, so I complain still now and then, so here it goes….
For our research about Serbian WWI soldiers who died in the Netherlands (more info on www.secanje.nl) I want to know if there are WWI monuments in the places where those soldiers came from (see our Google maps here). Last weekend we went to Đerdap National Park, which is truly beautiful. I wanted to know if there is a WWI monument in Golubac (which is on the route to Đerdap) so I wrote the Tourist Organisation of Golubac (www.togolubac.rs) on 24/04/2015 with the question if they have such monument and where it is. My aim is to visit such monuments in the places where those soldiers came from so to honor those forgotten Serbian WWI heroes who died in my country far away.
I wrote the email in (my bad) Serbian and I am still waiting a reply… I sent a friendly reminder on 02/05/2015, but still no reply. Then I became impatient and sent a mail to the “Opština” (=Community) of Golubac on 05/05/2015 (www.golubac.org.rs) and again I am still waiting a reply…. When I sent a Twitter message to the National Tourist Organisation of Serbia a day later I became hopeful: they tweeted me back: for sure you will get a reply, but I am still waiting.
Serbia needs tourism (especially the beautiful area around Golubac), Serbia needs investments, but with this attitude not a lot of progress will be made. My advice to you: reply within 24 hours, because foreigners will loose quickly attention. If you do your work properly it will be much more appreciated and you will earn even money. A positive example was our host in Donji Milanovac who had everything perfectly arranged with all the papers and everything (chapeau!): so it is possible!
This is not a story about me or my stupid complaints, no in contrary.
This is about Bogdan Lazić (info here) and Velizar Vuković (info here) two Serbian WWI soldiers who died both on the 21st January 1919 in Apeldoorn -the Netherlands- and who both were from Golubac. Is anybody going to reply me so I can pay respect to them? If they will reply me and come with helpful answers I promise I will write a praising post about them all, let’s hope soon I can write that post….
Update 23h57 : got a Twitter message from @serbiatourism so that sounds promising My cheers to you already!
The National Park Đerdap, where I was this weekend is a beautiful area. It is situated on the bank of the Danube , which forms the border with Romania. The Iron Gate is situated here, it is the smallest point of the Danube river and the gorge formed by this mighty river is impressive.
The region is truly beautiful: it has historic and cultural monuments, the nature is outstanding. The Roman Limes were here for example, but before (+/- 6000 years before) a settlement was already here (Lepenski Vir). Now it is the border between (EU-) Romania and Serbia and in the middle the mighty Danube flows as always towards the Black Sea.
Golubac Fortress, 14th centuary
The Iron Gate, with left Romania and right Serbia. This is the smallest point of the Danube.
Serbian border pole: the border with Romania is in the middle of the Danube river.
Lepenski Vir (Лепенски Вир) is an important Mesolithic archaeological site : the latest data suggest 9500-7200 B.C. to be the start.
The first actual shots of the war were fired just after 1am on 29 July when Austro-Hungarian naval vessels on the river Sava opened fire on the Serbian sappers who had blown up the bridge and on Belgrade itself. Remarkably, the gunboat, the Bodrog, from which the first shots were fired still survives today, largely forgotten, moored at the side of the river Danube in Belgrade (Source: Independent.co.uk).
Today I saw this ship and indeed it is totally forgotten, you can see the picture below which I took. Serbia suffered a lot during the First World War and paid a very high price (see our website www.secanje.nl for example) , it is unbelievable that this ship is now in this state on the bank of the Danube near Ada Huja.
The ship hundred years ago:
The ship now, on the bank of the Danube on Ada Huja:
26/04/2015, Beograd (Serbia) : Bodrog, the Austrian-Hungarian ship which fired the first shot of WWI
Today is the book launch of a friend of us, Yvo Kühling, a Dutchmen who lives like me in Serbia. The book is called ” Serbia bites” and some pictures of me are in it and even a text about me. It is not about that, it is about the place where the book launch is: it is in Kafana ” Suri” at Belgrade’s main railway station.
As you know maybe I am a fan of railways, but it is not even about that: no I remember this place with nostalgia, because this is the place where I made my first steps in Belgrade on the 28th August 2008.
In the early evening I arrived ( I think even around 19h00) with the train on platform 1 from Zagreb. Naive as I was with my backpack I walked out of the station into the white city. What I then did not know is that 7 years later I would live in this city with my future wife. Belgrade is a great city and Serbia a great country with friendly people. Back then my ” Balkan” odyssey started not knowing where it would end….
This evening I will enjoy the book presentation of Yvo (good luck Yvo!) with my future wife, but I also think about that beautiful moment 7 years ago when I made my first steps into Belgrade here…
We, Dutch people like to complain about the weather, I thought they do not do that here in Serbia, but I was obviously wrong. The Serbs can complain about the weather and they do! Always nice to find something we have in common, it is also good for my integration in a Serbian society. The summer was a disaster (too cold, too much rain, but according to Dutch standards quite pretty good), the after summer was pretty ok (for the Dutch it would be summer), but it seems a cold front is now approaching as you can see the weather prediction for Belgrade below.
The Serbs told me about Košava and when I saw the weather prediction for this week I thought maybe I go to experience my first Košava? When I first heard about it I thought about a disastrous wind, a hurricane, a tornado or whatever (come on, in the Netherlands there is a lot of wind). Košava, a beautiful name, exotic for me, but my dear Serbs told me to be aware of it, because actually it is awful. I searched it up a bit and Wikipedia writes this about this:
Košava is a cold, very squally southeastern wind found in Serbia and some nearby countries. It starts in the Carpathian Mountains and follows the Danube northwest through the Iron Gate region where it gains a jet effect, then continues to Belgrade. It can spread as far north as Hungary and as far south as Niš.
Anyway, the weather is something we cannot control so we will just wait and meanwhile listen to a beautiful song , with or without Košava.
Yesterday a drone was flying in the sky carrying a flag (an extremist flag of Greater Albania, this was pure provocation) and landed in the middle of the football game Serbia-Albania. Tanks are driving in the street, fighter jets are flying over in the Indian summer sun as preparation for the military parade which will be held tomorrow because of the liberation of Belgrade in 1944 and the remembrance of the start of the First World War.
Just a ordinary day in Belgrade, nothing special.
I live now two and a half months in Serbia with my lovely fiancé and it seems I got a kind of rhythm in daily life now and I have to admit: Serbia surprises me every single day in a very positive way. It are the small things in live which makes life so beautiful here, extra advantage for me as a Dutch: they do not cost any dinar ( =the local currency here).
Anyway tomorrow Putin will come, the traffic will be a mess, it will be a rainy day so enough to joke and complain about it…. I will cross the Sava river (once the border between Austria-Hungary and Serbia until 1914) via the new bridge Ada (see below).
My friend wrote on my facebook wall: you are famous ! I was pretty surprised that 24 Sata (the Serbian Metro) and Blic, two major newspapers in Serbia, took over my previous blog post on their websites.
It was nice to read all the comments and now I feel even more welcome in Serbia!
Oh and if I may to use the freedom to just make little corrections :
Replace the “B” from ” busplus” by ” brak”: brak means marriage in Serbian, but in Dutch it means you have a hangover…
The “V” from “Vojovodina” caused too much discussions I saw and I do not feel that it is up to me to have an opinion about that so I would replace it by “Vojnik”.
Why ” vojnik” ?
Two and half years ago I started, with the help of two friends and many others (Serbian/Dutch community in NL), a research about Serbian soldiers from the First World War who died in the Netherlands, my home country. Our website www.secanje.nl (srpski) shows all the results we have found so far. There are many other words I can replace, like “Pivo” from “p” (yes a good one, I am from a beer drinking country) or “Kafana” from “K” (oh I love kafanas), but in honor of your Serbian heroes I find this the most important one.