Way back to Germany and France

We drived from Mostar to Croatian border. When entering Croatia, we saw a sign “European Union”, which is quite new for people living in the country. We see same flags as in Mostar and we are out of the region with high Minarets. We stayed in small town, that belongs to Dalmatia, not far away from Zadar. This region had very close relations with Italy, Venice, both political, economic and cultural. It once belonged to Italy, and one can definitely feel Italian influence with people, architecture, economy…

As we heard very interesting stories about Trieste, we randomly decided to visit the city, that was divided between Yugoslvia and Italy until 1975. The city still has two ports, two railway stations, and you can still see remains of two religions: catholic and orthodox churches. The one of railway stations, as well as one of the ports seem to be abandoned, still remaining the Socialist symbolic.  In Trieste, we have also visited a concentration camp, where thousands of Slovenians, Croats, Bosniacs and other supporters of communist party or intellectuals were tortured.

From Trieste we made long way to Austria through Alps. Our idea was to randomly knock at a farmer’s house and ask them to let us put our tent in their yard. We found small village on our way, and decided to stop there. After checking two houses, we found only a kid who was home alone and we asked him if we could stay in the village and sleep in the car. After getting used to Balkan hospitality, we could not imagine what would happen to us: in few minutes family came, blocked our car and did not let us leave the village, until police came and checked all our documents and our car. We had to answer all questions and open all our bags, till they realized we were no criminals. After telling a bit about our project, guys offered us to show camping place, camping administrator asked us to pay for sleeping in our car on his territory. Well, definitely we said no and found another place.

After this night full of adventures we have arrived to Bodensee: International lake divided by three countries: Switzerland, Austria and Germany. And here we go with preparations for our first presentation in Saarbrucken on the 3rd. On our way back to France, we stoped near Verdun in memorials of the world wars. The french people of Nantes will be able to see a projection on the 13th of september presented by the georgian and french teams.

 

 

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Divided city – Mostar

We heard lots of stories about divided city of Mostar, located not far from the Croatian border with Bosnia. The city is  perfect example of polarizations, that occur in the country. There is an old bridge in the town, which divides the small town in two different societies. One is Catholic, while another one is Muslim. When entering the city, you see a big Cross on the top of the hill, and then you know which part of the town is presenting which side. On the other side of the river, you see Mosques, and flags that are representing Muslim entity, while on the catholic side you see Croatian national symbolic. However, it seems that churches are copying the design of minarets, and it looks like a game: which is highest and more visible from outside? Well, this is our view, but the architecture definitely says a lot about the division between two societies. It I a paradox, there is no wall, but a bridge in this city, but during the war, this was a bridge that was destroyed and people could not communicate anymore, well they did not have a will to communicate and did not really identify themselves with each other. As mentioned in the post before, religion in this country is a label which creates walls and barriers between people.

Another interesting thing we have notices in the town is war tourism: instead of dramatizing the war, people make money out of it: you see lots of souvenirs symbolizing the war, conflict, such a bullet pans, and other souvenirs made from the parts of different weapons. The bridge, that was once destroyed, hosts lots of visitors, and city became just another touristic attraction, we wonder, how much tourists can se the story behind the souvenirs they buy and bring back home, or if they have real understanding of what those weapons meant for the city some time ago.

 

Sarajevo

After long trip from Montenegro, we reached Sarajevo in the evening, desperately searching for the hostel we got to know that We could be hosted by Amazing family of alumni of our partner organization, MitOst,, by Elma. We should admit to be very lucky, as we always have a chance to meet amazing people on amazing places.
After spending evening with our host, we planned our next days in Sarajevo.

walking through the city, you see big contrast of religion, culture, people, appearance… and you see that almost all houses still have scares of the war. You can still see which walls were hit by bullets. After going through old streets, we met friend of Elma, Edwin, who is a journalist and author of one of the books about the war in Bosnia. Edwin is human rights activist, as a witness of the war he tells us many stories. As we got to know, human cruelty was very much exposed in this city, in remembrance of the fact, that this should not happen again Edwin is organizing different activities with other activists from Montenegro, Croatia and Serbia.
Not everybody is open to talk about war crimes, however, there are many organizations in all countries, who are opening this discussions in their societies, openly demanding recognition of those crimes.

As we learn, Bosnia is still a country with divisions: 3 official presidents, 3 official languages, and different flags: this is now the reality of country. mainly people are labelled by religion, as all people speak same language, but different dialect.

There are recognized 3 main nations: Croats, Serbs and Bosnians, but there are many other minorities, they can never run for presidency, which is another problem. it means that jews, Roma or other nations are having less rights than others.

There is another problem, that usually unites those 3 nations, which have a lot to argue about in other cases: LGBT. They see this community as a common enemy, although sometimes they consider themselves as each others enemies, they can cooperate in struggling against the common enemy.

After realizing how interesting this city is, and how much we still have to hear, we stay one more day, and decide to drive on 28 of August to Mostar, divided city.

Montenegro

We have entered Montenegro from side of Kosovo. The way to border goes to mountain and probably is one of the highest border control points. On all borders in Balkan countries we saw the posters against trafficking: seems that all states try to unify for fighting trafficking, however, this is still a big problem. After checking all our luggage and assuring we are not transporting drugs, border control let us in the country. But journey turned out to be not that easy: while trying to find the way to our destination: Pljevlja, which is bordering town near Serbia, We came across another border control, instead of going through Montenegro we took a way going through Serbia. After getting our stamps from Serbian border controller, he learned, that Georgians are not allowed to Enter Serbia with Schengen Visa. Therefore, our stamps were annulated and we had to take another way to our destination.

We met our local hosts, who showed us the town and told us stories about the history of country and the place. Pjlevlja Is only 12 KM away from Serbia, most of the people consider themselves more Serbian, you can find writing both in Latin and Cyrillic. You can also find Serbian Monastery next to the churches, which remained after Ottoman Empire. Town is very special: mall but very diverse, where population keep living in peace despite all the differences. “Ottoman Empire influenced our culture very much, you can find those influences in cuisine, religion as well as understandings of gender quality” says one of our hosts.

Town seems to be very green, but behind the parks there is a power plant, which is sometimes a reason of pollution. Therefore young people unite under Green movements and NGO’s to reduce bad influence of the industry.

We have also heard very interesting story about Novi Pazar, which is Serbian town not far from the border: as most of the population is Muslim, leaders of town want to become autonomous, Serbia sees this fact as a danger for the sovereignty. Although things seem to be more stabilized in the Balkans, it seems that diversity brings more and more dynamics to the general situation in the region.

Kosovo

New state that is still searching for identity: as we mentioned in post about Albania, we hear from our local friends that they consider themselves as Albanian, Albanians think that they will reunite, but what will happen? nothing is known up to now precisely.

We joined camping site of Dokufest, big film festival organized in Prizren, one of the Most beautiful countries of Kosovo. However, we could not really enjoy festival, as we decided to revisit Albanian village.

Despite high rate of unemployment and illegal employment, people seem to be relaxed enjoying their lives in this city.

While driving through Kosovo in direction of Montenegro, we passed American military base. while reaching the border control, we realized that Kosovo’s border with Montenegro is on one of the highest border points, and definitely very impressive.

 

Gëzuar!

Our first destination in Albania was Durres, a seaside city full of tourists and people with diverse background. We have heard may languages, but mostly Italian. as we found it out, many Albanians move to Italy, therefore, many of them can speak good Italian. We were welcomed by our local contact, who also told us that sometimes it is really dangerous to stay out after 9-10 PM, and that local mafia is actually very powerful. however, we put our tents not far from Durres to spend night before driving to Northern Albania before entering Kosovo.

We almost reached the border control, but saw a village which we decided to visit, just to take couple of pictures, but our stay turned out to be much longer: Locals invited us to have a tea with them, which was followed by tasting homemade Rakya, prepared by oldest representative of the family. We met lots of children: Grandpa has 9 children, and many grandchildren. every summer they unite, although each of them is living in different towns and even countries: one of the daughters is livng in Greece, nevertheless they visit parents every summer, and then village becomes very noisy and relieved. As we had to live to go to Prizren, in Kosovo, where we have been invited to Dokufest, we were asked to come back next day.

Even though we had different plans, we could not resist not to take the invitation, we woke up very early to visit the family for few hours and come back o Prizren. Children took us to observe how Rakya is made, and afterwards we went hiking. Despite the fact we wanted to go back to Dokufest, we joined family for a dinner and in the end we felt so connected to this people, it was impossible for us to leave, so we spent another night in Albania, discussing local traditions, political situations, telling stores and enjoying gorgeous view.

“Albanians are hated everywhere”, this sentence we have heard from different members of family. most of children want to go abroad, as they see better future in other countries, especially in Europe. People of Albania like Kosovo, we have also hard from Kosovian friend, that people are the same, that they are Albanians. Grandpa tells us stories of political past of Albania, many of his friends are now politicians, but they are not in touch anymore. When we tak about Kosovo, we hear from him, that very soon Kosovo will be unified with Albania, which will be another political step of newly formed state.

The morning is rainy, and we have to come back to Kosovo, and go to Montenegro, however, we all hope we will come back to visit our new friends one day.

 

Makedonija

We are always trying to go to smaller cities, and instead of using hotels staying with friends or even strangers, listening to different personal stories and exploring local communities. Macedonian town Kavadarci was not an exception. We stayed at our friend’s place, family have told us the stories about the country and the surrounding of Kavadarci.

As it turned out, our host was very much concerned with the Roma people living nearby. They live a bit far from other inhabitants, having no access to water and all basic needs. Children are not going to school, they lack access to basic needs, they do not have jobs, but what is the most problematic, citizens of Kavadarci mostly do not do anything to make a change and improve living conditions of these people even for a bit, to make a step forward  in communication with them. Most of the people try to avoid this community, ignore their existence and problems they have, while having as an excuse that most of Roma people are violent and rude. However, they miss one point: this attitude has a reason, and usually people should try themselves in the shoes of others, especially try to imagine having life like this, living everyday with their children in the environment like this. As it turned out, usually it is easier to close your eyes and pretend there are no problems and you can continue your everyday life without caring about neighbors, who can not afford bread and water, not to talk about education, for their kids.

We visited Roma Community on the first day we arrived to Kavadarci. It is very rare to meet people so alive and joyful.Settlement is full of noisy children, who are bit resistant at the beginning and very open in couple ofminutes. We took pictures, as they ask for more, and they want to see all the time, how they look like on pictures. They do not want to let us go and hope we will come next day as well. Some people speak German, as some of them have lived in Germany, or some of their relatives are still there. Life is very difficult, however, still full of joy. “could you imagine anybody living in such conditions being still so joyful?” asks our host, definitely not. Most of the people earn their money by collecting some garbage and bottles. Only in exceptional cases you can find anybody working time to time, receiving private offers.

We could not leave Macedonia without being thankful to our Roma friends for hosting us for few hours. We bring them some pictures we printed for them, which makes them so happy and again they want to host us again and again everyday. Unfortunately, this is very small what we could do for them. We had to leave Macedonia after two beautiful days spent in Kavadarci.