Day 304 - Ballad of Belgrade

Trip Start Nov 07, 2010
Trip End Jan 01, 2012

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Flag of Serbia  ,
Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Belgrade is a storied city - a living history of cultures long gone and forgotten. Layers of civilizations are stacked deeply in the corners and crevices of each worn brick building, each stone and each statue.  From the Turks to the Austrians, to the Iron Curtain, to the Serbian party which burnt with blind passion in its darkest hour.  Some call this the place of retribution and denial, the bad boy of the Balkans from their previous war crimes.  Wrapped up in nationalist fever from an animated maniacal leader who sparked the people's minds to create hate and distrust amongst neighbors.  The separation and attempted unification of the Yugoslav nations brought bloodshed and horrors most haven’t even heard of.  While CNN was broadcasting peace and resolution, tanks were rolling through the streets and people were losing their lives by the thousands.  Serbia itself, the aggressor, wasn’t completely at fault.  The people revolted and rioted against Milosevic’s genocidal rage.  They marched in the streets and picketed town square.  They ran down the parliament and took stands where they dared.  Nothing could stop the minds of the free from rebelling against a monster which everyone could see.  The ethnic cleansing of Albanians from their countries and homes, the mass refugee migration away from atrocious war zones, finally led the UN to step in and take charge with the over scaled bombing of a city still marred.  We creep through the newly constructed sites and glass domes, perfectly paved streets and posh shops, mosques, cathedrals and homes.  It’s a long distant memory, even though it’s twenty years shy, of a time when this city stood at gunpoint from the global war cry.  He’s a mad man, he’s a killer, he acted without concern, amongst the people he led into siege and let burn.  The city that stood in the shadow of fear, touched by cultures and nations for the last thousand years.  But the people held on, and their victories remain, a city rebuilt and a nation reclaimed.  Most don’t think to consider Serbia as a piece of history, but the war torn old city and newly built bridges argue it is and always will be.  As we walked through the living dynasties that mark each corner, from one neighborhood to the next you can feel the distant touch of ancient cultures that left their indelible mark on the walls of a chapel or the blue fountains flourishing in parks.  It’s a place of beauty and knowledge, memories of what remained, the longest standing history in the Balkans from the Romans through the ages.  We relish every moment as we wander aimlessly through the streets, soaking up architecture and tales from a time long past.  Hollowed out structures stand next to grand parliament buildings, clean cobbled streets pave the way amidst thousand year old boroughs.  So much life and knowledge in one single place, such a tragic memory for the people to face.  But they move on in their lives, always pressing forward without regret, to show the world who they are and to never forget.  It’s a cold bleak existence to live in the past, war torn memories and past deeds that will always last.  No one knows better than the faded grey eyes of the man, aged in years and withered features in his face and his hands.  Who’s seen what war brings when it’s unleashed upon brothers - families, homes, sisters, fathers, cousins, siblings and mothers.  They know what it’s like to lose all that matters, and they will fight with their last breath until their very will is shattered.  To keep it from happening again and again, to cut short the cycle of murdering loved ones and friends.  The beauty of this city is a constant reminder of what may be if we live in peace - united and inspired.  I love all that it’s shown me, every worn corner and alley, each ambling skyscraper, walled fortress and towering gallery.  Its memory will remain, at least in my heart that’s for sure, of the people and culture that fought rather than demurred.  The sight of Belgrade, ten years after the bombing, in its prime and its glory for as long as there’s longing.

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