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