Friday, August 22, 2008

A Short Trip To Montenegro

Earlier this week I spent a few days in Kotor, Montenegro. Kotor is really, really lovely and I would recommend it to anyone wishing to get away from the busy, intense and suffocating city for a few days. The Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, is just beautiful. The coast line and the mountains rising up from all sides are unreal. I'm a city child - born and raised surrounded by concrete - and I was slightly apprehensive about the very slow-pace of life in Kotor, but I very quickly adapted to drinking coffee, eating some delicious food, walking around the streets of the Old Town for the 40th time (which didn't become dull or repetitive), drinking some more coffee, having a beer or two, walking around again, and ending the day with another delicious meal (and another beer). Ice cream was also most welcome at every opportunity with temperatures reaching up to 35C or more.

There are a lot of individual and group tourists in Kotor (mainly Australian, Russian and French), but they are not too imposing and I mainly heard Serbian/Montenegrin during my short stay in the town. One thing you should certainly do when in Kotor is climb up the 1,
300 'steps' (sometimes steps, sometimes broken rocks, sometimes nothing) to the Kotor Fortress for some amazing views over the Kotor Bay. It is extremely hard work and tiring so bring water and food with you! Flip flops were not the ideal footwear for that adventure...

I also took a short trip to Bar, which is a bit further down the coast towards Albania. I wasn't impressed. The food I had was terrible (but that could be down to the particular 'restaurant' I chose) and the beach was not particularly nice and lacked amenities (apart from a rather unsafe looking fairground and an ice cream kiosk selling black market cigarettes). The new town does feature some rather astounding architecture with three dome-shaped buildings housing some shops - apparently the locals refer to them as the 'Three Albanians'.

Ideally, I would have loved to have spent a few more days relaxing in Kotor and perhaps visit some other towns along the coast. The people are friendly, the food is good (just follow the crowds and you're in luck if you're a seafood fan), and the prices are not extortionately high considering the large numbers of tourists descending on the town every summer. So, if you have the chance to visit Kotor, I would say go for it.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

No Limit?

During one of my far too regular trawls through YouTube, which can keep you amused for hours you don't have, I stumbled across 200 na sat (200 miles per hour) by Ivan Gravilović, which was released in 1994. I immediately noticed that the music was strangely familiar - in fact, almost entirely the same as eurodance band 2 Unlimited's 'No Limit' (released in 1993 during the rave culture of the 90s in the UK and Europe). Hopefully, most of you would remember this song - whether you despised its repetitive beats and limited vocabulary or fully embraced it as a huge hit.

At first I was mortified and repulsed by the mutilation inflicted upon this 'classic dance hit', but as usual, the more I listen to 1990's Serbian dance music/turbo-folk, the more it grows on me and I no longer wish to fall into a deep, dark hole. 200 na sat, is a pretty pointless song about cars and speed, and is generally accepted to be the song that began the Serbian 1990's phenomenon known as turbo-folk. Turbo-folk is a sub genre of music which emerged in Serbia during the crisis years of the 1990s and is a mixture of contemporary (at the time) dance beats and Serbian folk music.

It became immensely popular with urban youth, in particular the dizelaši (dieselites), a group of ultra-macho, sporty young males
who were fond of wearing Diesel brand clothing, and particularly fueled the 'macho culture' of Serbia during the 1990s. It produced a whole host of other famous turbo-folk singers such as the infamous Ceca and Jelena Karleuša. Turbo-folk today is regarded to epitomise ultra-nationalism and the Milošević regime.

Regardless of the dark connotations associated with turbo-folk music, it can be quite enjoyable and amusing to watch and listen to them. Here's Ivan Gravilović's version of 'No Limit'. Enjoy, but don't be too critical of their music video budget - hyper-inflation was in full swing!

Friday, August 1, 2008

When Did Belgrade Get a Metro?!

Do you notice anything wrong with the video below? It was available on the CNN website a few days ago and shows footage from the riots that took place on July 29 in Belgrade during the Serbian Radical Party meeting in support of Radovan Karadžic.

If you have ever visited Belgrade, you should be able to spot some rather unfamiliar things in that video. CNN has mixed in footage of riots that took place in Budapest, Hungary, with that of the riots in Belgrade. "Surely, this is a simple mistake by the editing team," I hear you cry. Well, someone must have been pretty incompetent to mix in footage from over one year ago!

If you look carefully, during the first 19 seconds you can see/hear:

- Hungarian police officers
- Hungarian flags
- Cars on fire (no cars were torched in the Belgrade riot)
- The Hungarian language
- Hungarian license plates
- Water cannons to disperse protesters (that didn't happen either in Belgrade)

Then we are shown real footage of what actually happened in Belgrade on Tuesday. That's all good then, but during the last 12 seconds you can see:

- that suddenly Belgrade has acquired a metro system (wouldn't that be lovely?)

Okay, so what on earth's going on here? It's not as if there was a lack of footage from the Belgrade riots that CNN felt they needed to pad out their report with some other footage (which is not exactly a credible practice for a worldwide news outlet, is it?), Some comments on the web seem to hint that perhaps CNN were deliberately trying to make the protests seem more violent than they actually were - I don't really believe that, but still, how does somebody accidentally edit in footage from an entirely different country and which was filmed over one year ago?

It does leave you thinking whether you can actually trust what you see on CNN or indeed any other news outlet. The fact that CNN has yet to give any official statement on the matter just adds further to the mystery. What do you think?

Here's some quite lengthy 'as it happened' footage of the riots on Tuesday - perhaps somebody could forward it on to the CNN news team?