Happy birthday, stric Matic!

Today celebrates my fun-loving uncle.

Once upon a time my uncle heard the Bosnian band Zabranjeno pušenje and was so pleased with its sarcasm and especially “Zenica blues” that it is now included in his standard repertoire.

I made him two tapes with their music. We went to hear them in concert in Tivoli hall in Ljubljana and there he was approached by a security man and asked to put out his cigarette, even though this was years before the restriction law. Funny that, considering that Zabranjeno pušenje means No smoking. When many years later uncle sold me his belladonna ford, the tapes were still in it.

The album of the band that includes “Zenica blues” is called Das ist Walter. The intro is taken from the partisan film “Walter Defends Sarajevo”. It’s a dialogue between two Germans overlooking the city.

Merkwürdig! Seit ich in Sarajevo bin, suche ich Walter und finde ihn nicht. Und jetzt, wo ich gehen muss, weiss ich wer er ist.

– Sie wissen wer Walter ist?! Sagen Sie mir sofort seinen Namen!

– Ich werde ihn Ihnen zeigen… Sehen Sie diese Stadt? Das ist Walter!

In short, the hero Walter, who the Germans are desperately trying to get hold of, is the entire city of Sarajevo.

For some years now, “Das ist Walter” is also a restaurant in Ljubljana (with branches in some other cities) serving Bosnian meat delicacies such as ćevapčići. Even though we had mighty fun the last time we were there with their Italian menu (“prava bosanska čorba”, real Bosnian stew, became “lawyer’s stew”, because “pravo” also means “law” and google translate was at work), but that’s all good because not only čevapčiči are great but also uncle is in love with their beer. And for an expert like him that says a lot.

And here is another Bosnian band, Dubioza kolektiv, that probably he doesn’t know yet. They say that Walter will be back. And when he comes, he’ll be pissed off. No matter how he might look. 😀

Ovaj grad, ova zemlja = This town, this country
ima zajeban karakter = has a messed up character
najviše kad treba = when we need him most
vratiće se Walter = Walter will return

Happy birthday, Matic, and I wish you many more Walters just when you need them!

Photo: MM

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: (Non)Sense of hearing

A little aurally-visual journey for Cee’s sense challenge.

It begins sombrely, in Prague, with a choir practicing.

It continues on the Spanish steps in Roma with another choir, Scandinavian. It was sudden. The beautiful notes startled us and made us smile. (Or join in – mom used to be a choir singer too.)

Two years ago I got my first record player for my birthday. All things come to those who wait.

With the player came a stack of old records and this bilingual collection of New Yugoslav Poetry. Nothing about Yugoslavia will ever be new again.

This is the wall in a restaurant in Piran, Slovenia by the name of Sarajevo 1984. There were winter Olympic Games in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, that year and I was 14 years old. More on that here. These are album covers of Yugoslav musicians of the time. The inscription below says: “If you are falling off a rock, you might as well try to fly. There is nothing to lose.”

Two images from my 40th birthday celebration 5 years ago. That grin is self-explanatory.

And to conclude: a proof that mom is indeed a rapper.

Photo: MM (and one by an anonymous friendly person)



What were you doing 30 years ago?

Written on February 14th during the Olympics

On February 14th 1984, quite out of a blue, I told my teacher in school that I had to go to the dentist, and flew out of school as fast as I could. (I was going to something called all-day primary school, its last year, which included lunch and a few classes of independent work per day, very good for doing nothing at all, and lasted from 8am to 3.30pm.)

Instead of going to the dentist I ran straight home. Winter Olympic Games were in process, you see. In Sarajevo, no less, in what was my country at the time, Yugoslavia. True, we had a TV turned on in school hall but we were only allowed to watch it during recess. After watching the promising first run of men’s giant slalom which ended with a couple of our guys close to the top, I began to doubt that the second run will fall on a recess. And even though I had a favourite classmate with whom I loved to discuss sports and my deep feelings for him (he was not so keen on hearing this last bit), for this I had to be alone.

My father was there, in Sarajevo, for a month, covering the pulse for the media. The summer before we spent in the little village on the Croatian coast, as we did every summer since I was a little child.

Those three weeks in August by the sea were my growing-up time, my real life, I felt that this was how it was supposed to be: the sea took care of my pimples, the active life took care of my body shape, the sun took care of my tan… I turned into a goddess. It was temporary – I knew I couldn’t fool my classmates, I couldn’t fool the pool life guard in my city, I couldn’t fool that scout with his cute blue kerchief and eyes of almond – but in those three weeks I could sniff the life as it WILL become.

Not only because of him, the guitar man from Sarajevo. He was tall and yummy and Older, and he could play and sing and was teaching me songs, and he lived conveniently right across the street from us. One time I woke up in the middle of the night, hearing him returning home from the beach with friends where He Played and I Couldn’t Listen because of the damn Curfew which a not so liberal ex-cop mom plopped on my best friend – during holidays! – and I climbed down the balcony and they laughed and called me a moonwalker.

Yeah. Sarajevo. It’s always the best of them who get fucked.


Poster by Trio

But this was a long time before any damage was done to the city, the country was still whole, we were still we, and Bosnia was our heart and soul. And in 1984 the whole world came to this heart for two weeks (just like right now the whole world is in Russia, making fun of the toilets). Most foreigners who were there could tell you that the most frequently used phrase by the locals was Nema problemakein Themani frke, no panic. Over there, nothing was ever a problem. Maybe that’s why they had to deal with so many of them, later.

But at that time everything was all right, the same venues that now stand in divided Sarajevo with bullets in their heads were catering nicely to sportsmen from all over the world. Not many remember a Yugoslav speed skater falling to her face, repeatedly, because it’s only proper that a host nation has a participant too and she was just not cut for it, or a little stutter during the Olympic oath which a Slovenian skier had to say in another, Serbo-Croate language (the languages had not separated yet either).

Who knows what we would remember from these games if there wasn’t for that giant slalom which I ran home to watch in peace – my parents were at work, my sister in kindergarten, I cherished peace then just as much as I do now. And so I was able to watch in peace how a man from Slovenia with smiling eyes took silver for Yugoslavia, its first winter Olympic medal ever. He reunited us again, after the death of Tito 4 years earlier. At the medal ceremony, Bosnians greeted him with a poster: Volimo Jureka više od bureka.They loved our Jure better than their burek – Bosnian favourite cheese pastry (or rather, as Klu points out in her comment, MEAT pastry).

In the next days, newspapers were full of heart-wrenching eye-moistening reports. It must be true that in the Balkans men only allow themselves get emotional over sports. Or maybe, hopefully, this sentence should be in the past tense. I remember an article describing him as he was talking to his parents over the phone on the day he won the medal. His hand was going to his eyes in an attempt to shut himself from the outside world, and the reporter noticed this hand and followed it for us.

I wonder if it was my father who wrote this article.

This is how the nation that didn’t exist but was composed of many nations, who got along fine for such a long time but then they stopped, got its favourite day. We were all happy then. And nobody even knew it was Valentine’s Day.

(And I just realised this was 30 years ago, hence the title. Damn!)

Top photo: serving of Bosnian-style coffee in Das ist Valter, Ljubljana, Slovenia. Photo: MM

≈ Manja Maksimovič ≈