Stefan Fule Visits Serbia

EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule came to Serbia yesterday. At the press conference with the Serbian prime minister Ivica Dacic, Fule said ”I came to congratulate you on what you have achieved in recent times, on your European trip, to express support and encouragement to continue in the direction of courageous decisions, commitment and vision.”

”These are special moments not only for you but also for the EU and for me personally,” Fule said.

“The visit represents a new level of the EU engagement in Serbia,” said Fule, noting that further talks would focus on Serbia’s future steps on the European path, such as the implementation of the agreement reached in Brussels, but also reforms.

Royal Palace Belgrade

I remember my early explorations of Belgrade’s ‘sights’.

Kalemegdan was one of the first, and even now one of my favourites, given that the path one takes within its depths determines whether you pass beneath ancient boughs, or alongside players of chess, or upon battlements, through flowered gardens, across open grass or more.

I was first taken to another ‘sight to see’, Republic Square, on a snowy winter morning. As snowflakes drifted down around me, I saw a great bronze statue of a man, mounted upon a horse, pointing fiercely into the distance. This it transpired, was Duke Mihailo, who during the mid 19th Century completed the expulsion of the Turks from Serbia and liberated the remaining 7 cities that lay still under the spice and silk heel of Turkish rule.

From the Duke Milhailo statue we’d strolled along the street named after him, Knez Mihailova, Old Belgrade’s vehicle-free chic main shopping destination. We ambled in and out of the clothing stores and bookshops passing beside buildings whose pleasing architectural styles ranged from romanticism to renaissance, partaking of coffee halfway to warm our shivering bodies.

It was summer when I first went to Ada. Bronzed bodies shimmered under a punishing sun, and youths splashed at the water’s edge. We hopped from café parasol to café parasol drinking coke and seeking islands of shade. Melting into comfortable divans, we watched the world flip-flop by, before hiring bikes and free-wheeling along the lanes of the park at a speed that evaporated the sweat from our faces and cooled us down.

My first gaze from the heights of Avala came during an autumn day of bright sun but chill air, when hiking along the wooded paths was marked by faint clouds of mist from our breaths. I took the elevator ride to the top of the tower thinking I’d arrive in a large room – only to walk past the elevator doors and find myself standing beside a wall of glass and a very visible drop of many hundreds of meters to the ground below. Great view – but knee trembling for those uncomfortable with heights.

Given that the title of this article is the ‘Royal Palace Belgrade’, you may wonder why I have not mentioned the place as yet?

Well, this narrative follows chronologically my explorations of the ‘sights’ of Belgrade and the Royal Palace never interested me during my early days in the city..

Visits to the Royal Palace are often included in tours to the Royal Grounds, and labelled as tours of the ‘White Palace’ (the other palace on these grounds). Photos of the White Palace aren’t inspiring, and having seen many stately homes in the UK, those photos were enough to put me off taking the tour for a long time during my time in Belgrade.

Which is a shame, because its a must-see tourist destination which I did eventually make my way to.

Situated on the hills above Belgrade, I adored the wooded grounds upon my first glimpse of them. As our minibus approached the palace, shafts of light from a spring sun penetrated the boughs of the trees and marked our way.

We saw the White Palace that day, a severe neo-Palladian structure, built in the 1930’s and used by both Tito and Slobodan Milosevic when in power. Sporting a vast ‘chequered floor’ stateroom (known as the black and white salon), a royal dining room and a golden salon furnished with rococo furniture, this whilte columned building impressed me.

It was the Royal Palace that awed me, however.

Sporting a façade made of white marble mined from the Adriatic island of Brac (which was also used for the White House in Washington DC), the Royal Palace is small but gorgeous. My jaw dropped as I wandered around. Carpets, tapestries, Serbian folk motifs and frescoes competed to ensure every space pleased the eye.

Decorated in (what I learned was) the Renaissance and Baroque style, authentic furniture and paintings greeted me at every step and reinforced the message of splendour and wealth.

The billiard room and cinema in the basement, had me daydreaming just how I would spend my time if I lived (as does still the Serbian Royal Family) within these walls.

If you visit Belgrade, there are many places you should visit – but make sure the Royal palace is not be the last!

Serbia Takes Part In Earth Hour Action

Global action “Earth Hour”, organized by World Nature Fund will take place in Serbia as well, by symbolically turning off street and decorative lights for one hour, from 20:30 to 21:30 in more than 40 towns.

By joining in the most significant global event of that kind, public institutions and citizens will point out to the harmfulness of human influence on climate and consenquences of excessive consumption of limited natural resources. The action is organized for the seventh time globally, and for the fifth time in Serbia.

This year, it is excpected that 152 countries and 7.000 towns with 200 million participants will take part in the event, while last year 140 countries, more than 6.000 towns and municipalities, with around 1,8 billion were involved.

Twin Towns In Serbia

Town twinning of Serbian cities with cities abroad is a practice which exists since last century. Numerous details over the epochs affect the decision of a town to connect with some other town. Staring with mutual historical ties, over mutual war and financial aid, to people who represented their city, but lived in one of the Serbian towns. One example might be twinning of northern Serbian town Kikinda with Norwegian Narvik because of the great friendship which developed between prisoners of fascist Germany with Norwegians while they were imprisoned in that country. The biggest hotel in Kikinda is called “Narvik”.

In this article we will list the twin towns of Serbia with other towns in the world.

The capital Belgrade had started twin ties first with English Coventry, then Tel Aviv, Vienna, Chicago, Corfu and recently, Ljubljana.

Novi Sad, the largest city in north of Serbia, has twin town relations with Modena in Italy, Norwich in UK, German Dortmund, Budva in Montenegro, Timisoara in Romania, Pechiu in Hungary and municipality Ilioupoli in Athens, Greece.

Nis, the biggest town in south of Serbia is twin town with Kasandra, Glyfada, Marusia i Alimoso in Greece, Veliko Tarnovo in Bulgaria, Kosice in Slovakia, Kursk in Russia, Saltdal in Norway, Bad Homburg in Germany and Krakow in Poland.

Kragujevac, the biggest town in central Serbia is connected in this way with Sirene in France, Bydgoszcz in Poland, Pitesti in Romania, Ohrid in Macedonia, Bielsko Balja in Poland, Reggio Emilia in italy, Springfild in USA, Karlovac in Croatia, and Mogilev in Belarus.

Serbia Starts EU Accession Negotiation?

President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy gave a recognition to Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic on vision and determination to commit to the dialogue on normalization of relations with Pristina.

The latest round of dialogue ended early this morning after more than five hours of talks.

“EU will fulfill its obligation toward Serbia”, Van Rompuy said at the common press conference in Brussels, but added that, besides necessary reforms, new steps towards normalization of relations with Kosovo are needed.

“Time is of crucial importance”, said Van Rompuy, and added that “great challenges lie ahead”. He reminded that the European Council will assess the progress of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, and then make a decision on beginning of accession negotiations.

Film Festival ‘Magnificent 7’

Magnificent 7” film festival will take place in Belgrade from 30.01 to 03.02. The festival will present seven best works of modern European documentary cinema.

Traditionally, the selection contains films that are currently in European cinemas, winners of Felix, awarded at Cannes festival and Karlovy Vary festival.

Festival will be opened with the Oscar nominated film Searching for Sugar Man, and besides this film, theatre-goers will see Tea Or Electricity/ Le The Ou L’electricite, Palme, Winter Nomads/Hiver Nomade, Sofia’s Last Ambulance/Poslednata Lineika Na Sofija, Soundbreaker, and Private Universe/Soukromy Vesmir.

Festival Magnificent 7 was awarded by the Agency for European integrations with the award “Star of Belgrade” as one of the best projects in culture, financed by the City of Belgrade. Besides this award, the festival won the great European award for best festival and extraordinary contribution to European documentary culture, by the European documentary network during the prestigious international movie festival in Thessaloniki.

Girl Raped In Downtown Belgrade

29 year-old P. K. was raped during the night between Tuesday and Wednesday in a garage in Makedonska street in Belgrade.

Belgrade media report that the rapist first beat up the girl, and then threw her in the car, where he raped her, threatening her with a knife.

The girl was hospitalized with heavy injuries, report Belgrade media.

Rape in a public place, such as a garage, is rare in Serbia.

According to criminal law, punishment for rape is from 5 to 15 years, if the victim is heavily injured.

Police are searching for the attacker.

Armageddon Parties In Serbia

So called “end of the world parties” are being planned in clubs and bars all across Serbia.

Many cafes, night clubs and pubs have decided to use the Armageddon date to make some extra money.

Entrance to these parties is in most cases free, and some advertise to last until 3AM even though the general opinion is that, if the world really is to end, it will end at midnight.

It is obvious that citizens of Belgrade, Nis, Novi Sad and other towns in Serbia find the idea of armageddon fun, since a significant number of them said that they plan to attend these parties.

However, the most popular place to be during the end of the world will be Mount Rtanj in east of Serbia, where many foreign tourists with families have already arrived, believing that the mountain is visited by aliens and that they will be safe if they are near it.

Accommodation at Rtanj during these days goes from 200 euros to 500 euros, which is ten times more expensive than the usual price.

Swedish Belgradian – Belgrade’s Swede

Helene Larsson worked as a cultural attache in the Swedish embassy in Belgrade for 3,5 years. In that time she became a part of all major culture happenings in the capital, but also other places in Serbia. Some projects like “Museum development” and “Creative society” were started by her personally.

She recently came back to Stockholm and works in the Nobel museum now. However, she doesn’t forget her time in Belgrade…

In an interview for The Balkans Daily she says that, even though she doesn’t live currently in Serbia, she will never really leave the country.

TBD: After almost four years can you consider yourself a Belgrader?

Helene: Yes I do. As I say to my friends and colleagues in Belgrade – ”I don’t live in Belgrade any more, but I will never leave”. My heart will always stay here.

TBD: What was your first impression of Serbia?

Helene: I didn’t have any expectations when I first arrive to Belgrade in 2003, but very soon I met people that became my friends and still are. I found an openness and curiosity that inspired me. I also met a lot of people struggling very hard to create a good life for themselves and their families, as well as very innovative culture programs.

TBD: What was your last?

Helene: I still haven’t had my last impression as I am planning to come back soon. But I were in Belgrade last weekend for the opening of the project mentorship program in Serbia, developed by the ETC group with help from the Embassy and Swedish colleagues. It was just a great experience that made me so happy and inspired.

Mentorship is about sharing experiences and knowledge, to be generous and to support each other. It is a pretty new method in Serbia, but I have had a mentor in Sweden since I finished university. We human beings always need support, and I will never stop learning from more experienced people around me.

TBD: What is the most memorable project you were involved in in Serbia?

Helene: Except the Mentorship program that I mentioned, I was very happy to be part of the development of the platform for residence programs in Serbia, led by KC Grad with support from the Embassy and the Ministry for Culture in Serbia. Now some Artist Colonies in Serbia are developing their work to become residences and inviting international artists.

I am also very glad for our Monday Club last year when we invited Swedish and Serbian experts on entrepreneurship, creativity and passion, as well as the project Museum development in Serbia, that involved many museums in Sweden and Serbia. We have also many project for children and their rights, that have been very important for me. Some of these project are now taken over by my Serbian colleagues, which is just fantastic.

TBD: Are you planing to visit Serbia soon?

Helene: As I said – I will not leave, I just don’t live here any longer. I will be back as soon as I can – which will be in March.