Archive for the ‘Bosnia (BiH)’ Category


Ok, it has been kind of a slow week and I do not have anything profound to post right now as I was a few days visiting in Austria (that is not a Zone nation) so I will not write about that trip here.

I did find this trivia clip of Kevin Federline (ex Mr. Britney Spears) doing DJ for an M-TV station and he puts on what he thinks is a good “Brazilian ass shaker” but is in-actuality a “turbo-folk” song by the legendary Bosnian singer Halid Bešlić. It is funny to see and that he has this song in an M-TV studio but sad that he does not know where it comes from and shows that XYZone and others writing about this area have a long way to go still in informing the world public on this area.

Not everybody’s kind of music but neather is his, maybe he should try a carieer in Turbo-folk since Rap is not working out so well.


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As a follow up on the article #44… where I talked about Croatians playing world level sports I thought it would be interesting to see where they currently stand in the sport of basket ball.

A few years ago I was told that Croatia had the most “imports” in the game then any other country but that is no longer the case, this was the stats I found from the 2005-2006 season. (in alphabetical order)

Bosnia and Herzegovina 0 (1 inactive player)
Croatia 4 (plus 2 inactive)
Serbia and Montenegro 8, the most of one nation in the league for that season (plus 4 inactive)
Slovenia 5 (plus 3 inactive)

Collectively as former Yugoslavian nations they total 17 active players out of 82 foreign players making up nearly 20% of all active foreign players playing in the NBA that season. Of approximately 450 players registered in the whole league that year 16.6 % of them (27 players) came from this little area of Europe .

To break it down for you, Slovenia with five players (and only 2 million people back home) had as many as Russia (population of approx: 145 million), Croatia (pop approx: 4.5 million) with 4 active players tied with large nations like France, Brazil and Argentina. Serbia and Montenegro with 8 had two more players then the second place Lithuania which had 6 players.

With the recent event of Montenegro becoming the worlds newest country this summer (2006) it farther fractures this area’s break down and perticularly what was last year Serbia and Montenegro is now two independant countries and the 8 players that they had colectivly are now from one of the two sides.

It’s not just basketball or sports for that matter but I just thought the NBA was a good ‘micro cosmos’ example, as it is often been nicknamed the “united nations” as (at least as U.S sport are concerned) it has a lot of foreign players from all over the world. The same study could be done for football players playing in international clubs, skiers, water polo or any number of sports or skills but I do not have the time now to research it.

Little is much, when it is talent from here.

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Today the veteran and outspoken American politician Dennis Kucinich (most probably originally spelt Kučinič) formally declared his intent to run for USA President in 2008, his second attempt at the highest office and being the 44th President of the United States of America.

Kucinich has roots in the XYZone, the son of a Croatian father (truck driver) and Irish/American mother(housewife) came from a poor childhood to became the mayor of the ethnically mixed U.S. city of Cincinnati in 1976 (at age 31) and currently is a five-term U.S House of Representatives for Ohio State’s 10th district.

Not that it really matters, as he is a political long-shot and he did not get more then just a few percentage points (between 0-2) in polls last election in 2004 but it is interesting to me how diversified people end up that are originally (or have roots) from this part of the world. If there was a U.S. President (or world leader) with roots to this part of the world it would be an interesting (yet symbolic) note that one of theirs is so high profile on the world stage.

I remember watching Toni Kukoč playing alongside Micheal Jordan for the Chicago Bulls in the 1990’s, I had no idea where Croatia was on a globe but I knew he was the “Croatian Sensation” and “the spider from Split”, everyone who followed basketball knew he was Croat.

Then when no one expected it in 1998 an unknown football (soccer) team on their first trip as a nation in a FIFA World Cup with unusual looking checkered shirts and amazing skill took the pitch and world stage by storm taking on and beating some of the best teams in the world to help Croatia get 3rd place in the tournament, behind only football superstars Brazil and event winners and host nation France. If that were not good enough the Golden boot (for most goals scored by a player in the World Cup) also went to Davor Šuker of the Croatian team.

I would have to wait three years till I watched Goran Ivaniševič play Pat Rafter in the 2001 Wimbledon finals to see XYZone in the sports limelight again. I’d already found Croatia by then and saw the game in on local Croatian TV. It was a historic event and seemed like it was one man against the world, and in a way it was. Was Goran (and his Eastern European roots) going to just be second best yet again or be the victor of one of the biggest individual sport events in the world. He won and put Croatia on the world map, not so much as a nation, (the 1998 World Cup team had already done that) but a showcase of the resilience of one of their own people. Before playing this event he was not considered at his peak performance (ranked 125 in the world) and only scraped into the event with a wild-card and after many ups and downs of his colorful career here he was on center court of that final game once again.

Many times in the game he was down, but he kept going and would not give up till the last point of the last set was played out, with perseverance and a little luck he won the grueling match and will be forever remembered in sports history as the only man ever to win Wimbledon (to date) on a wild-card, as well as the first Croat ever to win that event.

Be it a prominent President, sportsman, inventor or maybe even one day a Pope, look out because there is a good chance that they will be from the XYZone, they have a lot to give and the motivation to see it through.

I always tell others not familiar with the region when they ask me “what is there in former Yugoslavia to offer the world?”, without hesitation I say, it’s people! That is the single greatest resource I have found here. It is not the tourism, industry, or nature, those are all good, but the people is what makes this area what it is and will be even more in the near future.

Inventions, science, arts, architecture and sport have all thrived here before and I am sure will again once they dust off the socialist conformity mindset and gain back their self confidence, they have no lack of talent when they put their mind to it, I’ve seen it in small and large ways these few years and it will only snowball.

You might wonder where all this ‘talent’ is then? Well look around you. Half of Bosnia is keeping most of Western European and Scandinavian cities, offices and parks, clean, safe and cared for.

They may not be running the show, but in a way they are.

They are using the best equipment, chauffeuring the best cars, teaching the most elite kids, and cooking the finest meals. They are learning, watching and saving up money and knowledge that will eventually be brought back to their country in one form or another. Their kids are in the worlds best collages and getting the best educations and will become some of the future leaders and industrialists of our time.

The same is the case with other XYZone nations but on a little smaller scale then the example of Bosnia and on different social levels but the knock-on effect will be just the same. One country’s cook is another nations land owner, I know that to be a fact.

The meek shall inherit the earth.

Right now what we are seeing is what I’d call the “sacrifice generation” those that fought for freedom, work in foreign lands and do humble jobs to build their dreams and a future for their children. America went through a similar time after the great depression of 1929, as did Germany and Japan after World War two, they made the sacrifices that the “baby-boom” generation and now “X” generation enjoy today, Dennis Kucinich and his father Frank are just one example of that.

I am fortunate to be young enough to hopefully witness and document this same ‘fruition’ come about here in the XYZone in the next few decades as this new “benefactor generation” enjoy the results of the sacrifices currently being made by the older generation. Sure there are already some who have their cake and are eating it too, but the best is yet to come.

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The last few days I went for a trip to the northern Croatian city of Čakovec and while there a friend put me up for the night in his flat.It was situated smack in the heart of the city and very conveniently located to everything, especially the church.

This is a special church in the heart of the old town and a very beautiful atmosphere. I once attended a local wedding ceremony there in that church for a friend of mine and it is very old and historical. Being built in the old traditional Catholic Church style it has a big bell tower fitted with a clock and bell.

I found out this personally as when staying with my friend Matija on the fourth floor of the flat as we were about on the same height level as the bell tower and only a small town square distance (50-60 meters) below from the ground zero ‘DONG-DONG’. As disciplined a time piece as it was it could not just ring on the hour but the half as well.

In my pursuit to fall asleep I lost track of how many times it rang and why but ring it did, and with gusto. I’m sure it is like anything that you eventually get used to. Matija came out of his room in the morning rested and said he had not heard anything, but then again he has been living there 24 years.

In my brief visits to Bosnia and an Arab country I was never staying too near a mosque and the morning prayers but that didn’t seem to matter. The Imam had already thought of that and mounted bullhorn speakers to the prayer tower so that everyone could hear. Even the Imam in the next district in another prayer tower might have heard him except he also had bullhorn speakers blaring Koranic verse.

In my brief respite from sleep by this brass chime my thoughts drifted into thankfulness for my family, my friend’s hospitality, and a special thanks to God that this church didn’t have bullhorns.


The actual location photographed the next morning with the flat and church proximity.

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Čakovec, Croatia

I’ve been working on fixing a house up in Čakovec the last few weeks and finally got tired of cooking and short for time we have left, so I settled on some local fastfood. Burek is an interesting eat, made differently across the region from lasagna-like stacks cut into quarter-pie wedges or rolled up in long strips as it authentically is done in Bosnia. One thing guarantied is that it will be greasy, a little dry (locals eat it with yougurt) and lacking spice, but good eating. On the caution side though, despite its ready-made appearance it is not really an on-the-go food, as if you are eating it out of the waxed paper it comes in and you suddenly have to dash for the bus or take a fast turn while driving your car the results might be disastrous. You’ll find you have enough oil on your hands after eating a burek to grease up a whole artic swimming team, twice.

Not only does it come in different sizes but flavors as well (I know Bosnians have different names for each one but most people lump them together so I will too for simplicity). First, and for me really the only one is meat (Meso) that is ground beef, pork or something (no wonder they just call it meat and don’t get into specifics). Then there is Cheese (Sir), filled with a soft white fresh cheese that is incorporated into many pastries and cooking regionally. Then sometimes and not too common unless you are on the coast or during summer you might chance upon a place selling an apple (Jabuka) burek which is like apple sauce in burek clothing; thinly rolled flour layers filled with the desired filling and baked, often crispy on the bottom and a bit flaky on top.

I once tried the apple burek while in Split back in 1998 when I was new to the area and a Slovenian guy I was with said it was his personal favorite so we grabbed the first jabuka burek dealer we could find and man I had to split! It must have been made with over-ripe apples or something, but after that snack I bet I got personally acquainted with just about every WC (bathroom) within a two block radius of that burek stand. Whoever said “it never hurts to try something new” must have been full of…or at least not been very adventurous eating new foods from roadside food kiosks, but no pain no gain and I’m willing to take some risks to experience new foods, though I generally stick to getting my burek now from climate controlled bakeries where there is less chance of getting spoiled food. I’ve had it again since without the side effects and despite it not being my favorite one is one of the burek family none the less.

pizzab1.JPGI thought I’d seen it all till I walked into a local Pekarna (bakery) and asked for Burek meso; they were fresh out, but the sales person asked if she could interest me in a pizza burek instead. I was stunned, had someone finally found a way to hybrid the pizza and burek in one? Well not quite, but it was an interesting combination, having tomato paste in what might otherwise have been a dry cheese burek, they maybe could add some ham next time, but otherwise a welcome change. I know most burek enthusiasts might cry foul that a non-Bosnian, non-Albanian run bakery has tampered with this historic food tradition, but I think it will grow in popularity and I commend them for thinking outside the box on this one–something not many Croatians are known for, saddly.

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I’ve been blogging for some time on other sites and decided to start this all new blog to write and share my experiences traveling around the region of Europe commonly referred to as former Yugoslavia. They are now the independent republics of Slovenia, Hrvatska (Croatia), Bosnia i Hertsagovina, Serbia i Montenegro (for now), Macedonia and UN administered Kosovo, I’ve settled for calling it the XYZone for this blog for simplicity’s sake. I know that despite sharing a part of history together there are many differences and I do not want to generalize or it would be the same as saying all countries in Western Europe are alike, they’re not and neither are you. I aim to put politics aside and use this blog to celebrate each country’s unique history, heritage, culture and people and my personal on-the-ground experiences. My purpose is to give a unique outsiders’ look into this region both for those of you amazing people who call this region home and those of you who have little or no knowledge of this land and my hope is it will inspire you also to visit and explore the wonders of this area for yourself living in the XYZone, but until then there is always my blog.

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