Europe, Serbia

Novi Pazar, in Serbia’s south

No Comments 3 October 2010

Novi Pazar, in Serbia’s south

In May 2002, the Monkey enjoyed a marvelous journey across the Balkans from his then home in Bulgaria. Part of his trip took him to Novi Pazar, a small city with an interesting history in the south of Serbia. Have a look around town, why don’t you?


Novi Pazar, Serbia
Heading southward through Serbia toward Montenegro, the Monkey stopped off in Novi Pazar, the 12th to 14th Century capital of Serbia and later the center of the Ottoman administrative district of the Sandzak of Novi Pazar. The creation of the Sandzak, wedged between the newly independent state of Serbia and the never-conquered Montenegro, was a ploy by the waning Ottoman Empire to prevent Serbia and Montenegro from unifying as a single state. When Ottoman authority receded further, the Great Powers thought it wise to cede de facto control of the Sandzak to the Austro-Hungarians, who occupied the zone from 1879 to 1908, although technically the area remained Ottoman territory. After World War I, the Sandzak was incorporated into Serbia under the proto-Yugoslav Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.

The Islamic culture of Novi Pazar remains palpable. Try as he might, after a long Friday of driving the Monkey was unable to rustle up a beer at any of the local cafés and restaurants. He settled for Turkish coffee and ice cream and went to sleep with a smile on his face just the same.

Novi Pazar, Serbia
The Monkey looks out from his hotel window over the hills that surround Novi Pazar.

Yugoslav concrete architecture in Novi Pazar, Serbia
In Novi Pazar, the Monkey came across this ship of a building in the downtown area. It showcases the advanced abilities of Yugoslav architects and engineers in modern design and concrete construction. Yugoslavia’s authorities pushed this brutalist, inventive architecture and their affordable, ingenious engineering expertise throughout the country (see the reconstructed downtown of Skopje, Macedonia after the 1963 earthquake), and there are abundant examples abroad as well. Over a few decades, Yugoslav designers completed projects ranging from irrigation systems to bridges, housing estates to convention centers, and telecom towers to factories in countries from Iraq to Russia and Malaysia to Zimbabwe.

Hotel Vrbak, Novi Pazar, Serbia
Another concrete Yugoslav whimsy, the Hotel Vrbak complex in Novi Pazar has an Ottomanesque interior featuring a three-storey hexagonal atrium built around a fountain. The segment that extends over the the Raska River is a ballroom where the Monkey witnessed a wedding reception. Leaving Novi Pazar, the Monkey skirted along the edges of the Kosovo region on his way toward Montenegro.



This Monkey adventure has been viewed 1657 times since the 2010 website relaunch.

Serbia

   FAST FACTS


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Population:

7,306,677 (2010, excluding disputed administration region of Kosovo). 9,111,515 (2007, including Kosovo)

Land area:

88,360 sq. km.

Capital:

Belgrade

Economy:

Serbia ranked 67th in the UNDP Human Development Index (2007) and 76th in total GDP (2009), with a per capita GDP of $10,897 (2010, excluding Kosovo). Public debt accounts for 31.3 percent of total GDP, while 7.9 percent of Serbians are beneath the poverty line.

Main language(s):

Serbo-Croat

Monkey's name:

Majmun (my-moon)

Fun fact:

One of Serbia’s most macabre structures is the Cele Kula, or Skull Tower, located in Nis. It dates from a time when Ottoman soldiers were growing increasingly tired of Serb rebellions against their rule. After quelling one such uprising in 1809, Ottoman troops decapitated 952 fallen Serbs and built the short, square tower out of the Serbs’ heads. While the Ottomans intended it to serve as a warning to the local population, within a few years the Serbs had managed to rid their lands of the Ottoman occupiers, and they preserved the Skull Tower as a memorial to the sacrifice of the early Serb nationalists.



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Recommended reading

A Concise Historical Atlas of Eastern Europe
Dennis P. Hupchick and Harold E. Cox (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996)
Any traveler knows the importance of a good map. This handy book provides a slew of historical maps that help illuminate the complicated contours of the various Balkan empires and states, providing a foundation for deeper understanding of Eastern European history.

Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History
Robert D. Kaplan (New York: Vintage, 1993)
Covering his travels in 1980s Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, and Yugoslavia, Kaplan wrote this politically tinged book on the cusp of the changes that would envelop the post-Cold War Balkans.

The Balkans: A Short History
Mark Mazower (New York: Modern Library Paperback, 2002)
As the title says, a short history of the Balkan region. A helpful intro to this corner of Europe.

The Balkans: Nationalism, War, and the Great Powers, 1804-1999
Misha Glenny (New York: Penguin, 2001)
A rather epic undertaking by a former BBC correspondent for Central Europe, this book traces the tumultuous two centuries of the Balkan states’ struggles for independence from the Ottoman Empire, the emergence of pan-Slavic tendencies and their tribulations, and the reign of various regimes of the right and left during the 20th Century. A worthwhile read—don’t let its dimensions frighten you…

Café Europa: Life After Communism
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An interesting read that captures a Balkan perspective on the early days after the Fall of the Wall, and in the midst of the break-up of Yugoslavia. Drakulic is a witty writer and tackles issues including memory, guilt, national identity, and the influx of the West’s crass commercialism.

The Diary of a Political Idiot: Normal Life in Belgrade
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As NATO bombs begin to fall on Yugoslavia in 1999, provoking an escalated refugee crisis and thousands of civilian deaths, Tesanovic documents the experience in Belgrade, the national capital. A brief, fascinating portrait of life under siege.

The Impossible Country: A Journey Through the Last Days of of Yugoslavia
Brian Hall (New York: Penguin, 1994)
Hall’s travelogue traces his visits to key places in 1991 Yugoslavia, just as the country begins to disintegrate along ethno-national lines. The foreboding sense of imminent violence drips from every page.

To Kill a Nation: The Attack on Yugoslavia
Michael Parenti (London: Verso, 2000)
In a fiery tome, Parenti makes the case that Yugoslavia’s disintegration was a deliberate result of Western policy, carried out by NATO guns and the privatizing forces of Western economic interests. A book that challenges many of the preconceptions about Yugoslavia and NATO’s interventions there.

The New Military Humanism: Lessons from Kosovo
Noam Chomsky (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 1999)
With his encyclopedic knowledge, Chomsky confronts the claims of Western powers that their military interventions are rooted in humanitarian aims. He does so by exploring their own statements, the facts on the ground versus the facts it “wouldn’t do the mention”, and the alarming number of humanitarian crises where no military response is mounted. With NATO’s war against Yugoslavia as a backdrop, he makes the case that talk of humanitarian military intervention serves as useful cover for less savory strategic aims.

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