For some reason I couldn’t sleep this morning, so at about 5am I got up, had a shower, and then went for a walk to explore the down town area of old Belgrade, minus most of the people. I walked down the deserted pedestrian walk way and into the park down at the end called Kalemegdan. This is a park built around the remains of several ancient fortresses, the first of which dates back to the Celts. You can see the different styles of wall building used over the years in the picture on the side. The fortress was used and expanded upon by several different empires over the years, including the Celts, Romans, Turks, Hungarians and Germans (among others). After wandering around the fort, and finding four beautiful basketball courts and two tennis courts among the ruins (it was odd to find the courts there, but it does make them much more accessible and usable to the public, especially younger people), I headed back to the hotel for a 7am breakfast, and then got ready to be picked up by Mija for our trip to the south of Serbia.
At about 9am Mija, Inas, Vlad and I left Belgrade by car and travelled for two hours to Kragugevac. We first went and visited the Law School there. The law building is somewhat newer than the other law school buildings we have visited, but is also looks a lot like a cement bunker (I’m pretty sure it was built in the 1960′s, or early 1970′s). We met with the head Law Librarian, and he indicated that they had a reading room and two storage rooms that they want to convert into computer labs for their students. They were just waiting to find out how many computers they would be receiving, and then they would hire and architect to draw up some plans and then begin the renovations necessary to have electrical and data ports at every desk. We also asked them if it would be helpful to receive a donated photocopier, and they said yes, but if they had a choice between a photocopier and additional computers, they would take the computers. When questioned about how they would restrict access to the computers so that their lab would not be over run with non-law students, the librarian indicated that the already require students to show the equivalent of their student card to gain entry into the library. They were also interested in gaining access to Westlaw, Lexus/Nexus and Hein-on-Line, but not if if would be a large expense. I was impressed with their Systems Administrator. They seemed willing to do their part to make electronic resources available to their students. One final thing the Law Librarian said was that they were changing their curriculum so that their students would be writing more essays, which he though would mean more on-line research and more need for word processing. After finishing the tour of the law library, we then drove across town to the Kragugevac Municipal Court Building.
The Municipal Court Building in Kragugevac is a beautiful, if somewhat run down heritage building in the down town area of the city. We met with the Secretary of the Court, as the President of the court was on a trip to Denmark with some other Serbian judges and our program director, learning about the Danish legal system. The good news at the Court house was that the European Union was donating 200 computers along with networking equipment to the court house (as opposed to the one computer that a report I was given indicated would be donated). All the judges will have computers after the EU donation, although they will not be able to directly access the internet from their offices. To access online resources they will have to go to the “internet cafe” that is being setup, which will consist of eight computers with internet access. The bad news is that the library was not slated to receive a computer, nor any of the administrative staff at the court house. The internet cafe will be on the other side of the building from the court library (you can see the library in the picture on the side. I stood in one corner of the room to take the picture, so you are looking at 75% of the library. It is very small and very hot in the summer time). It looks like we will probably help them out with a photocopier and a computer for the library.
After our visit to the court library, we drove out of the city toward Nis which is about an hour an a half drive south from Kragujevac. Once in Nis, we drove around the city for a while to find our hotel. Unfortunately the reservations at the hotel we intended to stay at were somehow cancelled, so we ended up driving to a hotel on the outskirts of town. There is a lot of construction going on around the hotel, which was interesting to see, because the methods of construction and construction materials are very similar to what I saw in Brazil almost 15 years ago. Lots of cement and brick, with ceramic tile roofs. Very different from the lumber construction used in Canada, but I suspect that cement and brick are much easier to source locally than lumber is in Canada.
After settling into the hotel we went out to find some dinner, and went to a very nice Italian style restraunt called momma’s pizza. The pizza was excellent. The servings were huge, and I barely ate half of the pizza that I ordered. Luckily Mija and Inas were able to help me out). Next we decided to explore around the old town and went to the city fortress (which is now a very nice park), to look at the ruins. I did a little shopping in one of the tourist shops in the fortress, and we enjoyed some icecream. This fortress, like the one in Belgrade, is ancient. It was constructed by the Romans, and was used and improved upon by various empires over the ages. Unfortunately our hotel does not have internet access, so I won’t be able to post this to my blog, or check my e-mail until we get back to Belgrade tomorrow afternoon.