Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Something other than US politics

CNN International/BBC Keep us well informed!

While river cruising we are able to watch CNN and BBC.  We're very interested in today's vote (June 23) in Britain with respect to their stay/leave the European Union.  Analysis is all engaging and broadens our understanding. Holy Cow, the Brits voted to leave the EU! We cannot believe this....

We're watching our own House of Representatives behave (mis-behave?) while "discussing" gun control.

We see sports and so the football/soccer tournament is fascinating, especially the hair-do's!

How we get opinions about each country:

Each of our staff on board our ship is from a different region:  Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, Poland and other nearby countries. As we pass thru the Balkans the cruise folks offer us speakers who share history and politics of the area.  We've heard from the Serbian speaker who explained the Ottoman surge, the fall of Austria-Hungary, the rise of Yugoslavia, the Balkan wars, and finally today's relative peace.

Today, June 23, we will hear the Croatian side.

This was before!

For the history buffs (who will surely find reasons to correct the following) --
Yugoslavia was born at the end of WW2 as the merging of 6 nations.  

  • Each nation/region had a president, with Tito rising as the first above equals.  We've heard the Orwell quote quite often:  "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others."
  • Then came the break-up.  Lots of claiming and reclaiming territories.  "this really belonged to us and we're taking it back."
  • Ethnic relocation is a euphemism for genocide.
  • Each of our staff on board our ship is very polite and circumspect in their comments and speak generously and forgivingly about others.  

Bottom line:  this area is about ethnic racism and territorial ownership.  These attitudes have prevailed for centuries.  These attitudes have acted out in genocides beyond the realm of even Messers Hitler and Stalin.  These attitudes continue to be present today.

My personal opinion:  it's like the weather in Washington.  If it's not raining just wait.  If it's raining you know it.  Apply this maxim to the violence and chaos. So today this is The Balkans,i.e.. former Yugoslavia

Boiling Belgrade

 You Ain't Felt Nothing if YOU Haven't Felt the Boil in Belgrade, Serbia

On June 22, 2016 we suffer the heat.  So hot.  So humid.  We are grateful -- so grateful -- for buses with a/c and a ship that is cool and welcoming.AND we were told that the heat will get worse over the summer. Get us OUT!!

Great presentation by historian this morning on the glories of Serbia and t's leadership of the Slav countries, before departing by coach to Belgrade city and attractions. He told us that they had 20% unemployment. We visited the famous Kalemegdan fortress that is now a serene park with a viewpoint unparalleled:  from this vantage point we could see the confluence of three rivers. 

 The view also showed us visually the strategic importance of Belgrade as "the crossroads of Europe." The city is still struggling and though they have great plans, they don't have a strong enough economy to pull it off. And no such thing as traffic control!

a bombed out building waiting for repairs

bullet holes all along the wall

traffic nightmare

Back on the bus to see the Church of St. Sava.  Magnificent in Byzantine style, tho church is still under construction after more than 100 years.  Funds to build the church come from Serbs all over the globe.  The church's exterior is complete -- marble facade, bell towers, a dome. 

 Inside the columns are wrapped in heavy plastic, the center of the floor is incomplete, and looking up into the dome we could see the equivalent of construction scaffolding.  "Should be finished in another 20-25 years," said the guide.

One more bus ride to Tito memorial.  This is a grand park with many pieces of sculpture, most given as gifts to Josef Tito Broz, president of 6 countries brought together as Yugoslavia at the end of WWII.  THe memorial building is well-maintained but other areas are in sore need of some love and attention.

One of many statues of Tito

And finally a bus return to the ship, that cool haven that offers a cold beer, a fresh salad, and a nap.

For dinner we went to the Royal Palace for a marvelous tour and to have a surprise greeting with Prince Alexander and Princess Katherine. They spoke with us for over 10 minutes explaining that they live in the Palace but that the Palace is owned by the Serbian Government.   

And their modest home.
For those curious about the Royals click here.

Later we learned that ours was the first tour group they had personally greeted.  One of our group, a retired physician, had treated a first cousin of the Prince (while in Greece.)  The two men had an extended chat.

The pool house.

Palace dining room.  The Royals live on
floors 2 and 3 (to which we were not invited.)

Basement -- including large theater with 6 seats
(one for each regional president, Slovenia, Croatia, etc.)
and one extra large and separate seat for Tito

The Chapel -- alternately in use as a store room

or a chapel, depending on the occupiers
and/or visitors.

We dined at another palace in the compound:  The White Palace.

Built for someone's son and family -- lost track
of the family tree at this point in the heat.

The two most gorgeous "royals" at the dinner.