Friday, October 27, 2006

Views from Pristina

As some of you may know, I have been traveling for 6 days to Pristina, Kosovo's capital, in order to gather more data for my thesis (yes, the thesis is still in the making...).

I really liked the atmosphere of the place, and I was impressed with the huge amount of optimism the locals display, in spite of the relative poverty and uncertainty that surrounds them. There are lots of young people on the streets (more than half of Kosovo's population is under 25) and one of their most favorite activities is to sit at the table of one of the numerous cafés and drink coffee (everything goes by the name macchiato).

Here come some snapshots of Pristina, not sure if they can convey the real feel of the place...

This is the symbolic center of the city, a cummulation of markers: most obvious is the statue of Gjergj Kastrioti aka Skanderbeg, a 15th century prince who fought and was victorious against the Turks. He is the most famous of the Albanian rulers and the national hero par excellence. The original of this statues is the center of Tirana, the capital of Albania. Besides the statue is a small plaque marking the kilometer 0, the beginning of all roads in Kosovo. And behind Skanderbeg the new government building of the soon- to- be indepenendent Kosovo.

This is a more recent hero, the founder of the Kosovo Liberation Army, the guerilla group that opposed the Serbian forces on their way to remove the Albanian population from Kosovo in the late 1990s.

And another local contemporary hero, Adem Jashari (about whom my friend Zhiva told me so very much), whose larger-than-life poster dominates the Sports Complex. Adem was also a fighter against the Serbs, who ended up dead together with his entire extended family in a legendary battle in March 1998.

But Pristina is not just about men with guns. Those are the signs of the brutal recent past of this place. This is on the contrary a place of peace and spiritual meetings, one of the oldest mosques in town. Notice the three men wearing the typical Kosovo Albanian white (and egg-shaped, I should say) hat, called plis.

This is another example of an older architecture style, characteristic of the region, but rare to find in Pristina whose defining features (at least in the downtown area) date mostly from the communist period.

But there are some modern buildings, for example this high-rise which hosts the headquarters of the OSCE mission in Kosovo. In the distance you can see the residential neighborhoods located on the soft hills surrounding the city, where there are mostly smaller houses and villas.

Yes, what IS this building, you may ask? This strange construction hosts the university library and is build by a Croatian architect some time in the 1980s (if I get my years right). The coupoles are said to be an abstract representation inspired either by the human brain (!) or by the typical white Albanian hat (see mosque picture above).

Does this giant peace sign really mean the end of violence here? I would certainly say so.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Busy summer

If you are wondering why I don't seem to manage to write any personal messages, any accounts of adventures past and present, any impressions about the world of politics and literature, it is because I have a very busy summer.
I was course coordinator for this course targeted at students from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, which kept me busy during the last two weeks of July.
Now I am organizing and also teaching this other course, more directly reflecting the current interests of my research: the impact on the European Union of the new members and the new neighbors coming from what was known as Eastern Europe.
I hope this is enough justification for a silent month...

Friday, July 21, 2006

From music to the silence of the sea

Roskilde Festival

The festival had its own radio station and our job post was quite in the vicinity. They played the music of the bands invited to the festival and, of course, the classics of each genre.

Rock Romance - a bit tired though

There was no need for pushing people to consume beer, in each and every possible form: it came naturally!

Tuborg was festival's sponsor - quite obvious, wouldn't you say?

How many people can one festival fit? Quite a lot: 115 000 this year at Roskilde.

The Roger Waters concert was really the best one out of the 22 (!) I managed to see. The cherry on top of the cake!


And the stage on fire for the Guns'n Roses concert, somewhat of a disappointment, but not too bad after all.

The campsite looks like a disaster area: little could we, volunteers, do in terms of restoring a sense of order: we just help prepare the way for the bulldozers who picked up all the remains and trashed them away

One-day stop in Budapest

As cheap airlines have not made their way yet to Romania, the easiest way to travel (or easiest for the purse) is to fly to Budapest and then take the bus or train down to Bucharest. On our way back to Sweden we had a day to wander about in the Hungarian capital - these are just some of the glorious aspects of the town, so to speak...

The Dutceacs and their hometown

Well, usually I hesitate in putting up pictures of people, I think it is a sensitive issue (according to some traditions, taking one's picture is like stealing one's soul), but these are "my" people so I guess they should have a place on my page. And of course, there is Bucharest, the backdrop of my growing up - hard to leave aside, with all is concrete and lost splendour...


As the train was rushing us by the Transylvanian plain and over the Carpathian mountains, I could not resist taking some pics of the surrounding landscape. Just a sample below:

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Travel to Romania - Cluj

Between the German and the Romanian episodes there is nothing really particularly exciting or worthy of note that I can write about. A lot of preparation work for two summer courses and some writing, plus, of course, the everyday...
At the beginning of June however, excitement came in the shape of our trip to Romania (these days I travel there quite often, it feels like, at least once a year for 2-3 weeks!), motivated in particular by the special occasion of Irina and Dan's wedding.
But before we reached Bucharest, the location of the fete, we stopped a day in Cluj, the cultural capital of Transylvania, to visit both the city and our friends Cornel and Anca.
Here are some images from this culturally-mixed place, where half of the city is Hungarian and half Romanian, and where Habsburg influences are clear.

An old building with a face-lift

A panorama of the city with the Catholic cathedral at the center
Men at work - it almost looks like a set-up, but it isn't - they just are perfectly aligned!

The interiour courtyard of a monastery converted now into a music highschool - what an atmosphere these teenagers have!

Berlin Graffiti

A special note must be made to the Berlin graffiti - they are as much of a city landmark as the Brandenburg gate! Either political, along the remains of the Berlin wall, or just artistic, along ANY wall, or even on cars, trains and pretty much any surface that qualifies, the graffiti are a show in and of themselves.

Berlin stories

While I was in Germany, I took advantage not only of the great library of the Eckiert Institute, but also of the opportunity to visit some popular spots. I could not possibly skip Berlin, especially since Roman , our good friend there, was kind enough to extend his hospitality for a couple of days.
Berlin is a fascinating place, full of history but also full of life, not stuck in the past but growing into the future. And this shows not only in people's attitudes, but also in urban planning.
advantage not only of the great library of the Eckiert Institute, but also of the opportunity to visit some popular spots. I could not possibly skip Berlin, especially since Roman , our good friend there, was kind enough to extend his hospitality for a couple of days.
Berlin is a fascinating place, full of history but also full of life, not stuck in the past but growing into the future. And this shows not only in people's attitudes, but also in urban planning.

The emblems of Berlin: the East Berlin TV tower and a construction crane

Just outside the Berlin Dome there is a "Lustgarden" which sounds pretty funny for an English speaker :) Lust and the Germans...

Roman is so very tall that this is the only way both me and him can be in the same picture without cutting either our heads or our legs off.

The memorial for the victims of torture (if I remember correctly), stark and impressive. The whole in the ceiling lets in the elements to rain or shine on the statue.

Another typical Berlin melange between the old and the new, the History museum which hosted at the time a great photo exhibition.
A real Berliner, at least according to me (it would have been funny to ask him where he's from and his answer to be Poland or smth like that)

Inside the glass coupole that crowns the Bunderstag - a modern gracious construction on top of the classic power-architecture type of building

The Holocaust Memorial

The Prussian Berlin is illustrated well by the Charlottenburg Palace, built at the end of the 17th century for the wife of Frederick III

And in contrast with the above, see here a very striking happy-colors kind of building

Martin and Roman in the square where the book autodafe took place in 1933

The weather was cold in March-April, so we even got the chance to see the city under a layer of snow