Saturday, October 31, 2015

Serbian Google Doodle

Earlier this month, to honor what would be Nadežda Petrović’s 142nd Birthday, Google dedicated its doodle to her. When I first clicked on the image below and saw that Google chose to feature a highly acclaimed Serbian impressionist painter, I was thrilled until I learned that Google caters to its international market with country-specific doodles. Even so, I wouldn't have looked into her history or sought out the collection which contains most of her work if it weren't for this doodle, so I'm glad that Serbian Google shined its spotlight on her.

Here are some of her paintings I recently saw in a gallery in Novi Sad:

This gallery arranged its collection thematically based on the contents in the various pieces, whether they were paintings, sketches, or sculptures. The pieces ranged from the 18th to the mid-20th century. Perhaps this is a common practice, but I'm more familiar with a chronological sorting system, or one that organized its collection by artist. I enjoyed this set-up because it led me to draw connections across styles and time, and it provided the challenge of guessing the artist based on what I had previously seen. I only correctly placed a couple of paintings - one of which by Petrović - but it helped me to be less passive as I ambled through the gallery.

In addition to her art, Petrović was quite the humanitarian. She volunteered as a nurse during the Balkan Wars (of 1912-13, not to be confused with the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s) and WWI. As a nurse, she contracted both typhus and cholera and earned a Serbian Medal for Bravery, and Now her face grazes the 200 dinar (roughly $2) bill.

The doodles that didn't make the cut:

Note the patch on her shoulder -- she received an Order of the Red Cross!

I like that these three doodles illustrate her humanitarian work.

Google allows you to see where in the world each doodle is displayed. This one didn't get much coverage. Google knows better than to use the same doodle throughout the Balkans.

I was surprised to see that today's doodle, the interactive Global Candy Cup, showed up on (Republic of Serbia). This morning, when greeting a friend, I said, "Happy Halloween!" to which she replied, "No, that's an American thing." I saw a few people dressed up, mostly those in their twenties, but trick-or-treating, pumpkin-carving, and excessive sweets, those are American through and through.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Fall back

Hailing from DST-free Hawaii, I still find the concept of changing time elusive. Sure, it helped farmers capitalize on sunlight, but when artificial light surrounds us constantly, why keep it? Serbia fell back today for which I'm grateful since it gave me an extra hour to spend with my host family in Novi Sad before returning to Belgrade. But the US falls back next Sunday, November 1st. If we're going to decide that we control time and we can add and remove an hour biannually, can't we at least establish a worldwide day to honor this phenomenon? Alas.

I recently learned an uplifting fact in favor of DST which is that there are fewer accidents when the time changes in the fall because people get an extra hour of sleep the evening before. I surely hope there's not some inverted effect in the spring.

The following clip from The West Wing ridicules this folly and never fails to make me laugh:

I posted this video to honor my first ever DST, but I think it's worth a second look.

Friday, October 23, 2015

"Nothing is ever normal with Serbs"

Yesterday, a defense witness in a case against a Bosnian Serb (a Serb who lives in Bosnia) was found dead in his hotel room. The Bosnian Serb named Ratko Mladic was a general during the Bosnian War who now faces eleven charges at The Hague, most notably for the unspeakable massacre at Srebrenica in which he led the persecution of 7,000 Bosniaks and Croats to carry-out "ethnic cleansing." The deceased, a forensic expert named Dusan Dunjic, was supposed to testify in Mladic's defense. He testified as a defense expert in a Hague trial in 2013 during which he claimed there was good reason to believe that many killed at Srebrenica were victims of shootings. When this aired on the news, one of the Serbs with whom I'm living said, "Of course this happened. Nothing is ever normal with Serbs." Though a generalization, that statement sometimes rings true, especially as I try to wrap my mind around the past few decades in Balkan history and current politics. My hosts regarded the news report unhappily, but unsurprised; certain that the play was, as they have been conditioned to expect, very foul.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The sun crowns the day

My favorite part about the room I'm renting is the view. It's on the top (8th American/7th European) floor of this apartment complex, which is one of the taller buildings in this neighborhood called Dorćol, formerly the Jewish quarter. The room has eastward-facing windows that provide stunning views as the sun rises and sets. See for yourself:


Growing up in Hawaii definitely spoiled me with consistently stunning sunsets, but it also trained me to look up. The less common, but still breathtaking sunsets here are sweet and unsolicited. Like a cherry atop this Sunday.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Back to Novi Sad

Naturally our first stop in Novi Sad, my home for four months during Bridge Year, was my favorite palačinkarnica, or crêperie. Though I had forgotten the route, we eventually made it and I treated myself to a crêpe topped with a Milka chocolate bar.

Nom nom nom.

The next, much more highly anticipated, significant, and meaningful stop was my host family’s apartment. These people truly became my family during the four months I lived with them. While we’ve vaguely kept in touch, sending messages here and there and skyping on my host sister’s birthday, I hadn’t seen them since March 2011. Four and a half years! To my great delight and relief, our joking, loving dynamic has stayed the same. The main change was my host sister’s height. She’s a Laker! Taller than me, and I’m not exactly short. She remarked how different it was to look at me eye to eye after looking up to me four years ago.

My host mom, being the thoughtful woman she is, remembered how much I loved palačinke so she prepared pumpkin crêpes with ice cream and a homemade chocolate spread, which we all happily consumed. There can never be too many crepes, I say!

The next day, we actually toured the city of Novi Sad, the capital of Vojvodina, the autonomous province in Northern Serbia with Hapsburg roots. Vojvodina served as a sort of military buffer zone between the Austro-Hungarians and the Turkish Ottomans, and Novi Sad’s location along the Danube made it an important area to defend.

During the NATO attacks against Slobodan Milošević’s governance of Yugoslavia in 1999, all of the bridges in Novi Sad were bombed. On one side of the Danube lies the city center, business district, and most residences. On the other lies Petrovaradin fortress.

Sometimes referred to as the “Gibraltar on the Danube,” Petrovaradin first served as a Roman fortress with additions made through the medieval period. Today, the grounds are free and open to the public year-round.

Although you wouldn’t know it by this photo of the fortress’ clock tower, the shorter hand on this clock tells the minute and the longer hand tells the hour.

Some photos from the city center:

A car company supposedly sponsored this display. Whatever the cause, it delighted us and many other passerbys.

Albert Einstein’s house when he lived in Novi Sad for a few years with his first wife, Milena Marić, a Serbian scientist.

While walking around we encountered a Serbian wedding procession. Caught the maid of honor in the act of selfie-ing. In another post I’ll include a video that does a better job at capturing the lively affair that is a Serbian wedding.

Residential palace of the Serbian Orthodox bishop in Novi Sad

I forget which war left its mark on this wall, but there are many remnants from past wars throughout the Balkans, preserved so its citizens never forget the contentious crossroads between East in West that they inhabit.

Dunavska park

People's theatre

Catholic church 

While I may not be back to Subotica anytime soon, I’m hoping to revisit Novi Sad next weekend. Located but ninety minutes from Belgrade, I see many trips to Novi Sad in my future to visit my former home and host family, the loving Damjanovićs.