Saturday, August 15, 2009

Summer Shorts: Small World

Skadarlija, Belgrade’s old Bohemian quarter, photo from Wikipedia.
Tasmajan Park, Belgrade, photo from Tourist Organization of Belgrade online.
Typical street in the old walled city of Dubrovnik, on the Dalmatian Coast.

By Pat Browning

The e-mail made my day, my week, my month. A Serbian named Andrej Godjevac was surfing the net, came across my book, and recognized his artwork on the cover. I shot off a question to Krill Press, and, sure enough, Andrej’s name is in small print on the back cover.

He wrote: “I saw the book by chance, I must say. While googling I came upon the "Poe's Deadly Daughters" blog and there was a post about crime books covers of 2008. Since I am a big fan of crime/horror/mystery films and books I really liked the use of the image.”

A voice from the past. No, a voice from the future. In this weird, wired 21st century, Andrej uses the same e-mail server as mine, and Belgrade is just a click away. Small world.

The last time I was in Belgrade it was a strange and exotic part of a big and faraway world. Marshal Tito’s marble vault sat in a bower of flowers in a small memorial center on the wooded slopes of his suburban estate. The Moscow Circus was in town. Boys played soccer at the base of the Istanbul Gates. Old men strolled in the parks. I climbed a couple of flights of stairs to a small millinery shop and, with the help of sign language and smiles, bought a hat.

There was an energy crisis, with rolling blackouts in parts of the city. On a Saturday night, cafes in Skadarlija , the lamplit, cobblestoned Bohemian quarter, were packed. At nine o’clock the lights went out. Waiters brought candles, and the wining, dining and singing went on.

For a brief time in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Yugoslavia was golden. It was cheap, it was beautiful, it was historic, and its republics were like jewels on a necklace. The natives were friendly and feisty. Tourists were welcome.

Then it all fell apart. Far be it from me to try to explain the Balkans. I am just a tourist. For the curious, infoplease has a timeline at:
Old ethnic tensions led to the Yugoslav Wars in 1990. Even when the bombardments stopped, the wrangling continued, with NATO and the U.N. weighing in.

Today the former republics are independent countries. I have irreplaceable memories of all of them. I found excellent YouTube videos for Split, a wonderful old seaport on what is called the Dalmatian Coast, and for the beautiful walled city of Dubrovnik.

Dubrovnik is a World Heritage city and a longtime cultural destination for the rest of the world. The YouTube video makes me cringe. It includes actual footage of the bombardment of the city, with citizens taking refuge inside the old wall. When the war was over, a worldwide movement helped replace the picturesque tiles of shattered roofs. Today’s crusade is to save Dubrovnik from developers and the hordes of summer tourists.

The YouTube video for Split (by Rick Steves) is at

Saving Dubrovnik, the You Tube video for Dubrovnik, is at


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

It's amazing what a small world it really is. I love the way the internet has brought us all closer...I have writing friends in Denmark, India, Japan, and England.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Anonymous said...

These stupid Anonymous codes keep popping up. Isn't there some way to block this troll?

Helen Ginger said...

It is a small world, and getting smaller every day. Thanks for sharing with us.

Straight From Hel

Ben Small said...

Cool, Pat. Really cool. Very much enjoyed that. And I'm spending three weeks biking, touring and researching the Dalmatian Coast very soon. I plan to shoot a book cover there.

Chester Campbell said...

Enjoyed the trip through time, Pat. As for Anon and his Chinese, I usually kill him out as soon as I get a message that he's left one. I was out of pocket the last few days, though, and missed it.