Yesterday I finished sightseeing in Ljubljana. I walked to Tivoli Park and visited the National Museum of Contemporary History first. The museum itself has gone in a few phases, first as the ‘National Liberation Museum’, then as the ‘Museum of the People’s Revolution’, so it has a few exhibits about the resistance during the second war, the post-war Slovenian society. There was one really interesting exhibit on the moment Yugoslavia cut its friendly ties with the Soviet Union, and it hinted at the potential of Yugoslav style socialism, without properly explaining it.
This to me is frustrating because the socialist system established in Yugoslavia is sometimes invoked as an attractive alternative to the ‘distortions’ found in the Soviet Union. The co-operative economy, decentralisation, worker self-management, the conscious effort to withdraw the state where possible, all accompanied by vibrant academic debates around Marxism. You get a feeling there was true experimentation, it pokes your curiosity, but the museum didn’t present any explanation of it.
Here’s a ‘Self Management’ banner from the Museum of Yugoslavia.
I’m going to have to pick up one or two of those books from the Institute for Workers Control when I get to Leicester.
This one reads ‘Slovene woman! Elections will strenghten us in the struggle to obtain our rights!’
I also visited the International Centre of Graphic Arts, which was a bit disappointing, even if I only really went in to escape the rain.
I almost visited the Union Brewery, in the sense that I walked around the industrial area. There was a fair bit of nationalist graffiti in the surrounding streets, other than that, it looks like any other brewery. Okay, moving on.
I walked round an anarchist squat in the north of the city. I think it’s a former barracks. The police were there when I arrived, and it had a sort of hostile vibe, I didn’t stay long. I think these sorts of spaces are useful, but also in simple terms it could just be another bunch of graffiti-covered buildings. The situation there has a certain dissonance given the genuine attempts by communists to advocate the retreat of state authority in Slovenia during the 20th Century. How do the people squatting in the barracks relate to that history?
By the end of the day I was pretty worn down by the rain and the walking. I tramped slowly to the train station and awaited my train.
I was on my own in the cabin to begin with, after a while the whole carriage went dark and I couldn’t see a thing. The train stopped off at different stations periodically throughout the night, and my cabin slowly filled up, to the point where I couldn’t sleep across the seats anymore.
See how my feet are wrapped in a plastic bag - that’s partly because I wanted to take my socks off. The combination of the rain and the walking has given me trench foot. I’ve had it before, I know what it looks like, and what it smells like.
I’ve got a problem with my shoes, the fabric insole cover has come off both feet, and on the left shoe the actual insole is starting to wear down. Basically they’re cheap black shoes I got for work, I decided to take them instead of my ratty trainers because… they’re new? My old trainers had a thin breathable mesh, and compared to that these shoes are practically wellington boots. They’re not doing my feet any good.
I’ll keep an eye out for cheap sandals.
The train passed through different borders, I passed in and out of half-sleep. A procession of different customs and border officials periodically woke us up to check our documents. The interruptions combined with the upright sitting position meant I didn’t get a great deal of sleep.
For reference here’s a map of the Yugoslav train network, I guess the track from Ljubljana to Belgrade hasn’t changed much to the present today.
This morning I got to see the sunrise from the train window.
And a few hours later we arrived in Belgrade.
I decided to get off at New Belgrade station, as it’s closer to the hotel than the central station. Not too impressed with the station, it’s basically a stop with a few benches, and the exit leads out onto… an underpass.
Spotted another monster housing block on the way to the hotel. Plus, the road which crosses the station is named after ‘anti-fascist struggle’. Cool.
Made it to the hotel, dropped off my backpack, and caught a bus into the centre.
I headed for Tito’s mausoleum, on a hill south of the centre. I walked all the way through the city.
Here he is, standing on his own in the garden.
And here’s the actual mausoleum itself.
Adjacent to the mausoleum there was a little museum with Tito’s personal effects - uniforms, paintings, and a huge number of relay batons. To explain these: it became normal for various organisations to set up whole-country races, passing relay batons all around Yugoslavia.
Here’s a collection of batons from the Antifascist Women’s Front.
Various other ephemera, such as this flyer for the 7th Congress of… something.
And plenty of partisan art, mainly woodcuts, and this sketch from Đorđe Andrejević-Kun.
Here’s a poster for International Women’s Day, where woman is represented as both farmer and soldier.
I like how the limited use of use bright red on the headscarf makes the motif really stand out.
There was another statue of Tito outside.
If only someone could tell him today how things turned out for his country.
After seeing the museum I went to the central railway station to get my ticket to Novi Sad tomorrow. Pleased to see the central railway station is a little more organised, even if from above it’s basically a concrete plateau and inside it’s very… minimalist. There’s a series of tracks, a ticket desk, some toilets; don’t expect an elegant 19th Century terminal building, or a luggage store, or any little shops, or anything else. Am I missing something? Why are all the rail stations in Belgrade this awful?
Near the station there’s another series of tower blocks.
At the ground floor of these blocks there’s a convenience shop, a children’s playground, small basketball court, and a comfy sofa.
Going back into the city there are more boxy buildings. These are around the corner from the Russian Embassy.
I decided to pay a visit to the ruins of the Radio Television Serbia building. It was targeted by a NATO airstrike in 1999, and hasn’t been rebuilt.
I think it was justfied in that the building housed communications equipment, which was used for military purposes. It also broadcast pro-Serb propaganda, to the point of inciting ethnic hatred. On the other hand, bombing a civilian building could be reasonably interpreted as a war crime.
There’s a little memorial below the building.
On my way back I went past the National Assembly. There was this banner across the pavement in front of it.
Here’s a closeup of the faces on the banner.
If anything I think it’s instructive to understand the other side of ‘humanitarian intervention’.
Tired and with aching legs, I took a bus back across the river to New Belgrade.
Here’s the night-time view from my room.