Monday, May 28, 2007

Fortress Dining

Rubble sits defeated between two towers of the Ministry of Defense building in one of the busiest sections of Belgrade, Serbia, a constant reminder that NATO put Milosevich in his place in the late nineties. They can’t afford to repair the buildings even now, nearly 8 years later. Taxi drivers blame the US and American passengers are quick to remind them that NATO drove the attack, not the US. And the response is that NATO is the US. Pretty heady stuff and all I’m looking for is the local red at the tower restaurant overlooking the Danube.

Montenegro voted to become its own independent state last year when I was here but at the time, Belgrade appeared more like an impatient sister waving her hand at the departing younger sibling finally on his way. But this year will also see the vote over Kosovo once again dominating the headlines. Kosovo? An independent state. Not likely. This is the issue wars have been fought over. If the Serbs have anything to say about it, the Kosovars will stay in the play room and share their toys with the other kids forever.

But I’m still looking for the old fortress that now houses the best view in the city. Iron lattice decorates the interior winding its way around tables and snaking across walls creating the illusion of privacy pockets. A three-tiered patio sits enough for a small army and the wind blows the sheer, white curtains through the windows making even the most cynical bow to its beckon.

That wind will blow over Belgrade again when Kosovo finally hails its independence. And one generation may demand unity while another shrugs. The fragility of the democracy needs attention, soothing, TLC. Ego may deny the struggling state what it needs. Maybe it’s best to let our little sisters find their own path. And ‘salud’ with grapes of land that belongs to all Yugoslavia.

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