He, was a sturdy leader whose power once held the country together under the banner of brotherhood and unity. He, became one of the most prominent political figures that wielded his country’s influence beyond its size. He, was seen by some as a strongman who oversaw one of the most prosperous periods this region has ever had. Above all else, He was hailed as the creator of modern Yugoslavia, when hundreds of foreign delegates from both Communist and non-Communist states were bidding his last farewell in the House of Flowers, just inside the National Yugoslav Museum in Belgrade. He was Josip Broz Tito.
“What? You are going to Serbia? Why Serbia and what for?” That was the immediate response of my friends when they knew I was soon flying to Serbia. Serbia, to myriads of us, is merely just a middle-size country located in the Balkan Peninsula, nothing much special. When you asked about this uncommon destination beforehand, our knowledge was only limited to its past presence as part of Yugoslavia, the NATO bombardment in 1999, and also the birthplace of Novak Djokovic for some tennis frantic. Yet, the more the conversations with the locals, the more I discover the fascinating side of Serbia, and the more I would like to share my observation about this actually somewhat unique country.
Belgrade, literally translates as the “White City”, matches with its freezing weather during the day we came – around -2ºC with snow flakes. Yet the frosty atmosphere didn’t chill our passion to be immersed in the New Year exhilaration. Such gritty exuberance and the twinkles of evening lights make the city appear to be one of the impressive places in the Balkans. While it anticipates for a rosier future, the statues and varied styles of architecture speak of the past and the steady transformation of this “White City”: the Austro-Hungarian relics blench with the modern cafes and brand shops, and the bygone-era culture coexists with the city nightlife.