My holiday in the Balkans: Strippers, military keep-sakes, and dog raping
Having recently become unemployed, I’ve found myself watching a lot of TV recently, in particular Top Gear, so I quite fancied the idea of going on a driving holiday, maybe to California. However, having recently become unemployed it seemed more realistic to go driving around Eastern Europe instead; in particular, the Balkans. I took a camera with me so you can feel as if you came too. Hold on to your seats and let’s ride.
First stop, Ljubjlana
First thing to learn is that Eastern Europeans are total whores for brands. As if Audi wasn’t enough of a global brand, this guy customized his £30,000 car to make it look like a fake Reebok X Burton collaboration from Chinese eBay. I hope he doesn’t regret it.
Any thoughts we had that Eastern Europe was going to be cheap were quickly dashed when we saw the window display at Cyberdog. Whilst Cyberdog may now just be the preserve of hard house losers and "nutters" in Britain, in Slovenia it’s big news with people (presumably) willing to piss away €420 on natty disco ball / shorts combos like this one. Hopefully they won’t regret it…
Eschewing the numerous restaurants designed for middle-aged couples we decided to go to a party that was described to us as "underground." The helpful girl even circled it’s location on our map - a car park. Amped at the idea of going to a rave so soon into our trip we were pretty worried when we couldn’t hear any music when we got to the car park. Realising she must have meant underground as in underground car park, we explored its lower levels for quite a while, but to no avail, eventually giving up and heading home only to find the real party was just around the corner.
When this guy came into the party it was like the Fonz had just walked in. Literally every single girl was totally on his jock and started dancing with him. The DJs played nu-jazz all night, so the girls must have really liked him to be dancing to it.
Ljubljana’s residents obviously enjoy a good joke as much as London’s Real Gold Crew, these pictures of Fritzl as a "Family Man" were sprayed all over the city.
Due to the high number of young men who died fighting in the Balkans, the women started to forget what penises looked like, so decided to erect metallic penises all over the region and use them as doorstops.
Eastern Europeans have completely gotten over hating the whole commercial hip-hop thing and embraced it for what it is. It’s so commercial out in Slovenia that hip-hop even operates its own petrol stations. I couldn’t see Russell Simmons in there, but I imagine he’s a right arsehole and won’t let anyone have cashback.
This is James posing in front of some real "old skool" graffiti, sticking it to those commercial-ass fools in hip-hop who sold out.
The main difference between the ethnic groups that we could pick up on is that Bosnian’s and Serbs loved to set fire to plastic by the side of roads. Croats on the other hand preferred to set fire to cars.
Zagreb didn’t have much in the way of nightlife that we could see and anyone we spoke to only recommended shit bars full of Australians so when we heard that all the local youngsters were off to "turbo-folk" parties we thought that might spice things up a bit. When anyone we asked about the scene told us how dangerous these nights were and pleaded with us not to go we got even more excited and decided to cut our loses in Zagreb and go to a night in the home of turbo-folk, Belgrade.
Next Stop Belgrade!!
Our Lonely Planet’s description began, "Belgrade is not a beautiful City," and they really weren’t joking.
Not since crunk-czar has there been a genre with such an amazing name as turbo-folk. But despite the promise of weekly shootings, gang violence and slutty girls, we found turbo-folk to actually be surprisingly like a night out in a posh nightclub in Essex. Getting in was the normal story of velvet ropes, guest lists, and guys in suits taking your coat. The bar was table service only, and the clientele was strictly middle-aged men and ropey looking women pretending to be in their teens. The music was far from anything as exciting as I had imagined. It seems when they prefixed "folk" with "turbo", they didn’t mean "recklessly fast gabba techno beats played on a small guitar" like I had imagined, but what they really meant was "cheesy European pop music." After half an hour a band came on stage so we thought it might pick up. Instead the lead singer was wearing a suit with a skinny tie and started singing Robbie Williams’ “Feel”. We left.
The next club we went to, Stefan Braun, was at the top of a skyscraper and had metal detectors on the door so looked a bit more serious. In actuality, it was home to exactly the kind of club you imagine Russian hookers go to on their night off and almost everyone was wearing white trousers. When the bar girls weren’t selling bottles of beer for £4, they would get on the bar and dance while guys took photos of them and compared cameras. A massive guy got on the bar too and sprayed canisters of gas all over the room. I have no idea what it was, but it felt like we were in the gay steel mill from The Simpsons, except it full of lecherous straight men. In fact, the last Gay Pride march in Belgrade had to be abandoned because so many people turned up to beat up those on the march, so I don’t think the people of Belgrade would be keen on that comparison.
The military museums were what really cheered us up. They had some very gnarly stuff on show from the 1999 conflict with NATO including a machete with (rather a lot of) traces of human blood. It was all pretty grim.
A razor wire string to torture people with.
The uniform of a captured US soldier.
A bit of a shot-down fighter jet, and the full cockpit of the stealth-bomber that was shot down.
The next day was the Belgrade derby which, along with lots of threatening swastikas sprayed all over the toilets and many heavy duty riot police, we witnessed some of the best choreographed football hooligans ever seen. From sneaking around the pitch to steal each other's banners, to having a man on scaffolding directing the crowd over loudspeakers throughout the whole game and setting off dozens of flares at exactly the same time, the almost camp guys in Oakleys and tight stonewashed denim really put on a good show.
Hey – Ho – Sarajevo!!
Heading to Sarajevo was a little difficult, as the Serbs and Bosnians still have a little bad blood between one another. The most frustrating aspect of this is that no one has erected road signs of any sort to direct you around Bosnia since the war ended. This meant that we drove fairly blindly around mountains and rubbish dumps until we eventually got near Sarajevo where a few signs started popping up.
After just 10 minutes of driving through the city centre and seeing that every building was either a mosque or a church we knew we weren’t in for a storming night. Everyone seemed quite serious and we didn’t get any smiles as we sat and drank in the park.
Anyone we’d spoken to recommended we go to Cheers, a theme bar based on the TV series. It was awful so we decided to disregard the advice of anyone who could speak English from here on in. Thinking that students knew how to party we went to the student club, Sloga. It was heaving with what looked like every young person in Sarajevo. But I don’t think people in Sarajevo are very used to having fun and therefore they have pretty low expectations of what "enjoyable" might feel like. They’d all turned out to see what must be one of the worst bands in the whole Balkan region. They had three guitarists and played bangers like: "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," and "Sweet Child o' Mine." People were losing their shit to these awful renditions of what are rubbish songs to begin with. The people were quite friendly, but were also trying to sell us crack-cocaine' even if I had have taken it, I'm not sure the evening would have got any better.
The next day we went for a walk about. It seems JME has set up a travel agents over there.
People will worship anything in Sarajevo. This was the Holy Temple of the Regular Bloke.
We realised that we were getting some disagreeable looks from people in Serbia and Bosnia because our car had Croatian plates, so we drew a smiley face on the bonnet to let them know we were friendly guys.
There was nothing to buy in the whole city – all the clothes and DVDs were bad fakes and the selection of food was dire. We had a donner kebab for breakfast (which was actually gorgeous,) then for lunch, this dish of bread, raw onions, and little dog-poo shaped pieces of meat that tasted like Captain Birds Eye Frozen Beefburgers. They looked so much like dog-poo we took them out in the street to put them back in their natural environment.
Waiting in an airport for five hours is never easy, and after 14 whole days in the company of just one other person, we’d exhausted most traditional avenues of conversation. We decided to spice things up by having a drawing competition. Things started off tame with simple drawings of pandas but soon escalated into drawings of each other raping dogs.