Thursday, June 14, 2007

Again the roads are silent

Night has fallen. Distant American voices here at Metelkova; old army barracks turned graffiti playground, youth hostel and club scene.

I flip one of the last pages in my newly acquired collection of poems by Tomaž Šalamun and read out:

"again the roads are silent, dark peace
again there are bees, honey, silent green fields
willows by the rivers, stones at the bottom of the valleys
hills in the eyes, sleep in the animals"

Six hours of train ride to get here from Vienna durch die Steiermark. Stunning landscapes and enough time to sink into the reflective mood necessary to digest poetry. "mellan mål".

But also enough time to give me second thoughts about the whole enterprise. Tomorrow we will begin our journey through lands scarred by recent war. Under such circumstances, the "lonely planet enthusiasm" has to yield, by what right do we travel through these countries? What do we know of the people here and their experiences?

Do get me right. I truly believe that returning tourism, even trains fully loaded with backpackers like ourselves, is an important first step towards political normalization. But there is clearly no eurodisney-land lying ahead of us. As a European one has an enormous responsibility for what happened in the Balkans during the nineties. The way the EC first gave out big loans to finance industrial investments and then kept Yugoslavia outside its impenetrable custom wall. A policy which effectively created enough unemployement, inflation and hurt national pride to pave the way for leaders like Franjo Tuđman and Slobodan Milošević.

Wars do not break out by themselves. There is always a history and not necessarily one of irreconcilable "identities". One purpose of our trip is to seek out sentiments of Yugostalgia; people who, when the war broke out, did not want to be Serbs nor Croats but rather remain Yugoslavians or simply, humans.

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