November 2008: As part of a two weeklong backpacking trip across the Balkans, my friend Dan and I spent 3 days in Serbia. The main goal was to see Belgrade and to see how the country has rebounded from the NATO bombing Campagne in 1999 that led to the overthrow and capture of the then Serbian President, Slobodan Milosevic, who was seen as the mastermind of the ethnic cleansing of Muslim Albanians in Kosovo.

Belgrade

Belgrade

Dan and I flew into Belgrade from Sarajevo, Bosnia and stayed in a hotel in Belgrade, the capitol of Serbia and where most of the NATO bombing took place. Belgrade was a nice city and very easy to get around. it felt very westernized and reminded me of midwestern USA Chicago in some ways. We didn’t really have a plan to see anything specific. So, on the most part we just wandered with the wind, but I did find a few places on the map that still bore reminders from the war such as the military intelligence building that was half blown up by stealth bombers and a military museum that has parts of a stealth bomber shot down in the war on display.

 

 

Downtown Belgrade

Serbian Military Museum

The military museum was located inside an old fort overlooking the Danube River. Its main attraction was that it holds pieces of the only known stealth bomber to ever be shot down. The American pilot was able to eject and was eventually rescued but some of the pilot’s uniform and the plane were seized by Serbian forces and it is believed that Serbians shared the wreckage of the stealth bomber with the Chinese allowing them to develop technology for their own version of a stealth bomber. It was surreal to visit this exhibit in Belgrade as an American tourist and it also allowed us to see the perspective of the other side which showed several photos of civilians that were killed in the bombing Campagne.

 

 

Fort over the Danube River

Danube River

Parts of the US stealth bomber, weapons and pilot uniform seized by Serbian forces

Parts of the US stealth bomber, weapons and pilot uniform seized by Serbian forces

Parts of the US stealth bomber, weapons and pilot uniform seized by Serbian forces

Photos of Serbian civilians killed by the NATO bombing

Rave Across the Street from the Bombed Out Military HQ

Dan and I were exploring Belgrade and come across a huge rave inside an industrial building that was located directly across the street from the bombed out Serbian military intelligence building. Although half of the building is in ruins from being bombed by stealth bombers in the war, the other half that wasn’t bombed is still in use and lights of the offices in it were on as we walked past it. Dan and I casually entered the industrial building where the rave was happening, and we followed some partygoers inside.  We mingled with all of the teenage and 20 something Serbian kids partying in the building. It was a bit of a wild party scene, and we weren’t really able to communicate with anyone since few people spoke English and we mostly just wandered around the party from floor-to-floor drinking beer. The party with its electronic music had alcohol, drugs and sex in the stairwells. When some of the partygoers found out we were American they wanted to apologize for the old Serbia and they wanted us to know it isn’t like that and that they are ashamed and that the country is better now, and they only want peace.

 

 

Bombed military HQ

Bombed military HQ

Bombed military HQ-a banner on the street below it depicted a map of Kosovo which I figured was pro-nationalist propaganda to return Kosovo to Serbia. 

Train to Romania

After spending 3 days in Belgrade, Dan and I traveled via the old communist era train from Belgrade to Bucharest. We had our own sleeper room and ordered a few beers for the 8-hour overnight train ride, which stopped several times and was boarded by stern stoic police a few times who woke us to check our passports and then departed.

 

 

Communist era train to Romania

Communist era train to Romania

Dan in the Communist era train to Romania

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