May 4th, 2006


Serbia Shuts Down...(1)

I'm writing to distract myself, as Wotan just had another fit. As vet instructed, I left him to it. It was only about half a 'minute', and he was in a cool dark place,anyway. When he came out of it a bit, he went under the bed, and evidently you're just supposed to leave 'em alone to rest. Oh, my brain...
On my two days in Belgrade, I wandered around feeling just *sick*. I can put these things out of my head,concentrating on gawping, getting lost, not falling over getting onto trams,sketching, etc. but my guts were constantly churning. There was no point calling the vet as there wouldn't be any test results until Thursday evening.
It was steaming hot and humid, and I discovered that May Day holiday lasts about a week in Serbia. A lot of the big shops in the pedestrian district were open, but even if I had money, I'm not much of a department store fan. I did, at last, get into the splendid National Museum (the ground floor, anyway...) It's pretty gorgeous;several fine,large statues by I-can't-remember-his-name,the major Serb sculptor, in a wonderful marblely environment. There was a little exhibit from the Louvre, of casts of famous pieces, arranged on plinths, so you could turn them around and touch them. It was prinmarily for people with no/restricted vision, but not uninteresting. What is astonishing, is that the main collection on the upper floors is doomed to remain in storage until 2010! 'maybe'. Their government, partially thanks to NATO, is just too poor to maintain this world-class museum, which, of course, could produce plenty of revenue. That ain't right...
In my ramblings, I stumbled upon a dusty little Jewish Museum, which looked like it might be one of those surprisingly fascinating places. It was shut for the holiday. For the zillionth time, I attempted to take a round trip ride on tram #2, which the guidebook says offers a nice sightseeing route. I have yet to see a #2 tram, despite lingering at the stop several times on my visits. I'm assured they do still run...Once again I failed to find 'Manak's Mansion',the Petar Dobrovik Gallery,and the Toma Rosandic Museum, not to mention Mika Alas' house, and various other little places dedicated to famous (but little-known here) Serbs. Signposting is pretty minimal, and if there is an indication of some point of interest, it's seldom in English, and quite possibly uses the Cyrillic alphabet.
Anyway, I wombled around old Zemun,the 'Bohemian Quarter' etc. and did a couple of churches.Lots of fierce and evidently very ancient, cobblestones in this area look like they must have been bruising the feet of old farts 300 years ago.
Due to the weather, I fled to the gardens at Kalemegdan, then explored the fortress a bit, ending up on the viewing platform.Already ennervated by walking over two splintery-looking wooden bridges through the gates, I just stood there reeling. It's this colossal chasm offering fine views of the city below, and the still very evident flood waters. I couldn't look at it for more than a few seconds, though. My phobia really took hold, and I thought I was going to do a collapse-of-stout party, *especially* when I noticed a walkway carrying on from the main fenced area, and behind a wall. It looked as though there was no fencing along there at all, just the ghastly, enormous void. A woman with a small child casually went that way, and I saw her pull the kid a bit closer to her as they went behind the wall. I really didn't want to see any more. BTW, I was standing at least 20 feet back from the railing of doom, but I honestly felt like puking. Ain't gonna go there no more, but it's certainly worth seeing, once.
Somewhere in Kalemagdan, apparently, there's St Petka's monastery, complete with miraculous spring, another one of those sights I want to see, but can't find, or have trudged past many times, not knowing I'd found them...
I suppose I should cut this for length, but can't be arsed...
Wotan update: He just strolled in with a 'What are YOU looking at?' attitude. I spoke to the vet, who says if the fits continue, he'll have to take anticonvulsants, but that's to be avoided, if possible, as they have bad side-effects,like liver damage... I know, I know, at his age, 'every day is a bonus'. I have to just attempt to be grown- up. As for the family situation of sister burdened with sick, mad mother, well, believe me, you don't want to hear about it.
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Back at the Tamis Again,,,(2)

After the steaming days and chilly nights, the weather turned my kind of good On the Friday; bright and breezy. I was collected by Milos the van man, who had just had to cool his heels waiting for yet another delayed flight (Mine was over an hour late, I think practically everyone had similar problems-) a pleasant young Italian/French couple on their first trip to Serbia.(Piero Macola)I can't remember her name, but they sometimes collaborate.After crossing from Belgrade and checking out the remaining flood waters again (like, nearly up to the tops of trees...) We were duly dumped at the Tamis, which is very close to that river and was particularly smelly. (I guess the drains have been affected.)It's still a classic of decaying Iron Curtain creepiness, but I must admit, things have improved somewhat. The mean guy on the desk who usually grumps at me was quite civil, and there was almost-hot water in the peculiar sarcophagus-like bath/shower.The reading light over the bed was working, too.I had taken the precaution of bringing insect repellent, as I figured the flood would have engendered more supergiant mosquitoes than usual... There were no insects at all in my room! Luxury. Also strange was the fact there was no duck noise, nor any evidence of their being on the river. I mentioned this to Sasa, and he said the flood may have caused them to spread out and take advantage of the extra watery environments.Kinda weird.
Ate at the Borneo pizzeria,as they were giving GRRR people a discount, and several people I recognised from previous visits were there, yakking away in Italian. I didn't like to intrude, so had to sit like a melon 'cos I'm too dopey to speak other languages. I really have a hangup about it. I can't remember what else happened on Friday.
Saturday was the opening ceremony, featuring young musician/cartoonist Rita Braga from Portugal singing a rather incomprehensible welcome from under a Daisy Duck mask.
I met Chuck Sperry, of Firehouse, who produces some pretty knockout retro rock posters, black light, the works. I would have loved to buy a couple, but they were understandably very expensive, and would have been difficult to get back unwrinkled. Mr Sperry is an engaging character, evidently not adverse to a bit of riotous living. Actually, there was an intriguing little scandal later in the festival, involving drunk toon boys pissing off people in the local radio station. The GRRR! guest DJ, who would probably prefer to remain nameless, was bladdered, and started swearing a lot and abusing his interviewer (in fun, but the guy took it seriously, and there was a bit of a hoo-hah.) All very rock & roll. Sounds like they had a rumbustious and very late night thereafter,too. Ah,youth...I'm certainly feeling my age these days. I'm at least 15 years older than everyone, and a lot of them are still in their 20's.
The actual work on show was all very interesting, but more about it later.