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Srbija 2020

A plumb bit of Serbian brandy

I have always been fond of Serbian brandy . It suits my needs perfectly - each brandy is specific. That is what drinking is about, truly enjoying what you are consuming, not mindlessly ordering a faceless (and tasteless) beer produced by a Western conglomerate - and there is the added bonus of not having to go through the chore of visiting the toilet more than 3 times per night.

Quite often visitors to Serbia have found that expressing a love of the short stuff will impress the locals - even to the extent of their donating a bottle of their finest to the lucky visitor. One should also be aware of the more cyncial tradition of greeting a visitor with brandy 'for guests'. They keep the best stuff for themselves.
Although I've been living in Serbia ‘full time' since 2000, other than a few visits to the odd smaller town I have not spent any length of time in a village. When my cousin told me that he was going on a rakija making expedition it was time for that purgatory to end.

The village of Debrc is located roughly halfway between Obrenovac and Sabac, hardly a long trek from Belgrade, but due to very poor roads and spacey landscape (and perhaps the lack of a village shop) it very much has an otherworldly feel to it.

Like many villages on this planet Debrc is going through something of a crisis. One could say that the place is in intensive care and in a generation or two may cease to exist. Nearly half its population live there part time - they return in summer to harvest crops and to keep the houses of their forefathers from falling into a state of disrepair.

Most of the villagers are related to one another and those bonds remain largely strong.

Women are a rare commodity in Debrc. Much of the time its men are to be found telling tall stories. One story I heard (but barely understood) was if you go out into the night in certain parts of the village you may hear an almost inaudible tap-taping. This usually takes place at midnight. It is known, apparently, in these parts, that this is one form of the mating ritual. The tapping is the males signal that he is present (and available). The female response, from inside the house, is to cough - which is permission to proceed.

However, the plan doesn't always succeed as stray dogs often give the game away. There is plenty of time for stories like these. Ironic that time is in great supply and yet it is running out for Debrc and many thousands of villages like it in Serbia and beyond.

My friend Vlado, who also participated in the brandy making process, is himself, only an occasional visitor to the family home. He told me that his children don't express much desire to visit and he doesn't blame them. After a day or so of feasting on Serbian slatko, being pinched on the cheeks by various relatives and watching the 3 channels available on their black and white television set, they can barely wait to return to town.

Yes it was jolly, yes we drank, we ate and were truly merry. And no doubt this will happen many more times, but the fact is that village life all over the world is slowly being extinguished. I may be far more comfortable living in town, getting up-to-the-minute information on whatever pleases me but when will those that are marching us on in the direction of ‘progress' realise that the extinction of villages is no progress at all.

You may note that I began this with the intention of writing about the rakija making process. This topic seemed more important - another time perhaps.

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when will those that are marching us on in the direction of ‘progress' realise that the extinction of villages is no progress at all.

and i couldn't think of anything better to spend our tax money on than keepin' them alive...

Re: Conservation of villages

Yes it was jolly, yes we drank, we ate and were truly merry. And no doubt this will happen many more times, but the fact is that village life all over the world is slowly being extinguished. I may be far more comfortable living in town, getting up-to-the-minute information on whatever pleases me but when will those that are marching us on in the direction of ‘progress' realise that the extinction of villages is no progress at all.

That is all very well coming from you, as somebody who lives and enjoys all the benefits of modern city life, with the additional good fortune of having the opportunity to escape to a village every once in a while. But your purview gives rise to a number of hypocritical demands. You dislike the fact that villages are ceasing to exist rapidly, but do not yourself choose to live what you preach.
In what sense, then, are you different from the anonymous marchers that you wish to attack?
Is it not hypocritical to demand that village life be preserved just so that modern city dwellers such as yourself will be able to enjoy the city with the soothing knowledge that somewhere out there people live just like they did 100 years ago and that you may at any time go there on holiday?
Preserving villages would mean that we constrain future generations to village life and prevent them from really having the windows of opportunity that modern life brings us. That is tantamount to caste social engineering.
I say: let villagers have access to information, let them travel, experience modernity and technology, and also let all those disgruntled city dwellers give all that up and go and live in accordance with nature. Free choice is far more important than your feeling of nostalgia.

It is certainly possible to

It is certainly possible to live in the village and have a modern life if you want to. But in this regard i believe that the state does nothing to improve the quality of life in the villages (bad infrastructure, plumming, telephone, etc). So maybe the criticism should be directed to the state and not to the city dwellers.

Belgrade 2.0

But then...

But then is that really the village life that the author is romanticizing about, if it is modern?

"It is not how things are in the world that is mystical, but that it exists."

Sorry, i'll change the term

Sorry, i'll change the term from 'modern' to 'normal', maybe now it will be clearer what i tried to say.
In Norway, for example, it's difficult to see the difference when you enter in a city apartment and when you enter a village house. And the roads are the same quality in the city and in the countryside. And you have Internet access everywhere. But you can't enjoy nature in the city, right, and you can't really getaway from the noise everytime you want to in the city, right? And it is still possible to romanticize in the village - that's why they prefer to live in the countryside there.

But that couldn't be possible without the initiative from the state. That's why i meant that Doppelgänger chose the wrong target - not city dwellers, but the state should be to blame that village is in the ruins here. And i can't blame people for wanting to leave and come to cities to live and work.

Belgrade 2.0

Viktor you can see in the

Viktor you can see in the text that I didnt level the charge at city dwellers - I levelled the charge at those that march us ever onward in the name of what they consider progress.


Good grief we are not talking about Kosovo here.
Let’s use the right arguments in the right moment’s right?

I freely admit to being a confirmed city dweller but that’s just me. It would be extremely presumptuous for anybody to suppose that just because he likes to live in the city that means everybody else does. Correct me if I'm wrong but that appears to be what you are saying.

I am terribly sorry if villages appear to get in the way of the capitalist master plan of free choice and market principles.

Whilst we are on the subject of choice - that is exactly what we should be offering. A proper choice for those that want to remain in the countryside - above all this means jobs.

'Let them experience modernity' I think that comment sums up your view pretty well.

And no I don't have any nostalgia for village life - on the rare occasions that I have it was a pretty tedious affair.
Thats not village life, its just me.

No, you didn't understand my point

It is one thing when villagers have to move to the cities because they can't survive in the villages. I am certainly not claiming that that is a desirable situation.
On the other hand, any process of conserving villages would mean that you would have to take certain steps to constrain people and prevent them from leaving. People are naturally inclined towards knowledge and new experiences, albeit there are certainly people who are happy to live village lives.
When I read your blog entry it frightened me, because I imagined the state taking positive steps to ensure that people in the future live a conserved kind of lifestyle. Villagers have been manipulated for way too long in Serbia and brainwashed through the only medium they had access to, RTS. The last thing they need is somebody stopping them when they want to realize their potential elsewhere. Imagine gifted children never being able to realize their potential, and some might become good scientists, artists, etc. just because you want them to spend all their time cultivating land and raising animals.

"It is not how things are in the world that is mystical, but that it exists."

The priority should be to

The priority should be to ensure that those who want to remain in the villages have a choice. That is the same for those who want to remain in small towns. And yes, the same for those who want to remain in Serbia.

Actually I am very keen for Serbia to retain its talented people. Its one of the few resources, in an ageing country, that we still have.

As I tried to make clear this is not just about Serbia, this is about mankind. My idea was certainly not to frighten anybody. Why dont you try to put the global context on this and see if your opinion is the same?


I do not understand your anger or frustration?? Is there some history between the two of you? Is there something that is bothering you besides this wonderful post? Well, it's wonderful to me because of the memories it brought back but, it appears your attack has other motives.


Another drunken Brit...

So Mr. bganon, why is it you have not posted a biography? Are you embarrassed about your identity?

And why is it that, like so many Brits, you seem to always take the side of the nationalist forces of darkness from the 1990s? Are you a frustrated fascist? Many of us have spent the last 18 years fighting against Milosevic and the ideas he presented. The last thing we need is another parachutist from outside who takes the ideological side of retrograde nationalists.

Judging by your article you are simply one more drunken Brit who has come to Serbia to lose himself in an alcoholic haze. Did you come to Serbia so you can get drunk with peasants. We don't need more drunken peasants. We need sober, educated civic-minded citizens. If you want to be a drunken peasant, go back to England and drink all the Guiness you want.

Please enlighten me

People like you are a very good reason for not posting a biography. You think that ethnic identity is more important than what a person writes.

Nationalist forces of darkness? Sounds like you have been watching too much star wars.

I'm sure you did a lot in the last 18 years for Serbia. Why dont you tell us about it?

You didn't answer the question

So why is it that you haven't posted your biography? Are you hiding something? Everyone else writing an English blog has their biography posted. Are you perhaps a Serb masquerading as an Englishman?


I don't think bganon has ever claimed to be an Englishman or even a foreigner for that matter. Actually, I think he is probably an ethnic-Serb who was either born out of Serbia or raised out of Serbia.

When he first began writing his blog I was also a bit annoyed that he'd opted for anonymity: I even went so far as to vent my frustration with a couple of the B92 web folks. But now I've sort of got used to it and think he should remain an enigma - albeit as an exception to the norm and not an example to be followed.

Why? The odd mystery writer is a healthy addition to the team: he can reveal stuff that those of us who declare our identities are unable to divulge without fear of reprisals: he can make statements and proposals without fear of being prejudged and pigeonholed, and we can be damn sure that he’s not a glory-hunting blogger.

I think it shouldnt be an

I think it shouldnt be an issue. A person (writer, journalist etc) should be judged on what he / she writes not concerning where they are from.
This has been a consistent opinion of mine

The same is true for my opinion on art. Do they judge art on its own merit or do the so called experts always look to see who has produced the work first - then they say 'yes, a marvellous piece' (or the opposite 'oh its ... I dont like him') - as if they recognise the style, when they read the persons name first.

Wouldnt it be great to debunk a group of art experts with a clever idea and a video camera?

Anyway, my identity is not the topic of this blog!

yeah, but in reality

A person (writer, journalist etc) should be judged on what he / she writes not concerning where they are from.

look at JT LeRoy. made all the difference.

Yes it is

Your identity is the topic of this blog. Everyone else who blogs on B92 is a known quantity. Who are you? What is there that makes you distinguishable from anyone else? Why is it that you hide? Are you afraid of something?

No, it isnt.

Last time I checked I set the subject matter for the blog Marko and in this case it is about the Serbian (or any other) village.

I regret that your comments are not relevant. We have been advised to try to keep our blog on topic in the house rules so the next time you go off subject I will delete.

Its fine for you to behave like an outraged customer of course but surely you have better things to do with your time?

Drunken peasants!

It's these drunken peasants, and every other Serb villager that you have insulted, that are and will always be the backbone of every nation. You make me sick!


Memories!!!!! :(

Bganon, man, you brought back some memories with this photo and post!!!!!!!!

I've been at the scene of many a "cooking" expedition in some of the most remotest villages of the RS...even more remote than Fakovici!

I love the villages and country side of Serbia and the RS so much! So much more than the big city. I'm at home in the woods. The people are so nice and respectful and yes, you are so right about that gift of liquor. I've got a nice bottle I have yet to open with a wooden cross inside with my name on it. I tell ya, it's been hell at times as I stare at it wanting to open it's corked top to get to that liquid courage many times...I don't though! I'm saving it, for what I don't know yet but, I'm saving it.

I'm going to have to take you to meet a few friends of mine in a village I know one day. I'd love to sit on that homemade bench in my friend's back yard talking stories as he cooks his rakija - SERIOUSLY!


Drunken Brit?

I just wanted to make clear that my other comments were directed to another Drunken..well, another dumb ass Brit.

I'm posting this because the way the comments appear to me on my screen, it makes it hard to tell that I hit a "reply" button to another's comment rather than starting a new comment.

From another drunken, well, another dumb ass American! ;)


you guys

You guys ask for The Forces of Darkness to come along and clear the mess you made.