Serbian Rule of Law Project – Day 7 & 8

Old buildings in Belgrade by the Sava river.On Saturday morning I woke up and decided I should get some exercise, so went for a jog. I first jogged up to the national assembly building, then looped around back towards the hotel, and crossed the Sava river to try to see if I could reach the arena where the volleyball match the night before. It was only about 3K from the hotel to the arena, so I jogged past it a bit to see some of the sites on the other side of the river. This brought the magnitude of my ripoff by the cab driver the night before clearly into focus. Many buildings outside the down town tourist section are run down, unless of course they are newer buildings. I’m not sure how different this is from the rest of Europe is; hopefully I’ll see more of Europe some day.

On my jog I saw a billboard with Srebrenitza (where I think some Bosnia Serb soldiers killed a eight thousand civilians) written on it and a picture of a dirty doll on the ground. There was more text in Serbian, but I couldn’t read it. I’m not sure if itSrebrenitza billboard was something put up by the government or a private group. I have asked a couple of people here about the civil wars in the 1990’s and get the impression that there are widely divergent views of who was viewed to be in the right and in the wrong during those conflicts. I’m sure that the issues surrounding the conflicts were not as black and white as they were portrayed in the western media, but the way some people here gloss over what happened in Srebrenitza is some what sad. It wasn’t until about a year ago that the Serbia public saw direct evidence on TV of the killing of some innocent civilians. The video showed 6 civilians killed execution style by some irregular Bosnian Serb soldiers. I think part of the problem is that people want to believe that nothing really bad happened, and with the Bush administration having a bit of a credibility problem after the weapons of mass distruction, people here say that the west in general cannot be trusted to report the news accurately
(look what they did in Iraq is their general response). In any case, bad things always happen in wars, and I’m glad that I was blessed to live in a relatively peaceful part of the world.

Bombed out Military HQ.On my jog I also saw a bus with, “Donated by the people of Japan” written on the side. Very nice of the Japanese to help out with public transport here. Related to that, on my second day here, I can remember on of the office staff mentioning to me that one of the electric street trams that was going by us had been donated from another European country. The tram was definatly a hand-me-down, where as the bus looked brand new.

In the afternoon I went out for a walk to find a church to attend the next day. The doorman helped me with directions to the address I found on the internet. As I walked down toward the church I went by the bombed out remains of the military head quarters building. They were a mess! This was in the down town area that the buildings were hit, and buy the looks of it, there was only superficial damage to the other buildings around them, probably from flying debree. Only 2 1/2 blocks from the bombed buildings is the US Embassy. It had the Canadian Embassy in Belgrade.five grim looking Serbian soldiers standing out front, complete with green fatigues, helmets donned, and M16 machine guns in hand. I thought they were US marines from a distance, but when I said hello to one of the soldiers as I walked by, he turned to me and I saw the Serbian patch on his shoulder. He didn’t even smile. One block up at the Canadian Embassy, their single rent-a-cop was in his shack leaning back in his chair, eating a cookie. The contrast couldn’t have been larger. The slogan on a poster at the Canadian embassy said “Canada: Cool – Connected”. I block back I found the chaple I was looking for. I think I’ve finally figured out the street signs; they are typically on a corner of the buildings some where at the intersection – unless it is a main road, and then they might have a small street sign like we have in Canada or the US. The church was right between the Canadian and US Embassies, about a half a block up a side road. There were some missionaries in the chaple, and they told me that the church service stared at 10am the following morning. I walked down to the church the next morning, and enjoyed a nice service in Serbian. One of the missionaries translated for me, so I was able to keep up with what was going on, and what was being said. I spent the rest of the day wandering around the down town area, and reading my Belgrade and Serbia tour guides. It was an enjoyable, laid back day.

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