Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Letter From CroatiaI II: Balkan Ghosts

“Fortress,” watercolor by Hallie Cohen

Croatia is geographically the heart of Europe. Historically, at different periods, it was the buffer between the Habsburgs on the Northwest and the Ottoman empire on the Northeast. Robert D. Kaplan wrote a famous book called Balkan Ghosts which dealt with centuries old conflicts in the region, a festering cancer that metastasized during the wars that erupted in the former Yugoslavia during the l990’s. The Serbian controlled JNA or Yugoslav People’s Army tried to take over Croatia, but Croatia eventually prevailed. However, how do the legacies of the past continue today? Though based on ancient conflicts (like the Battle of Kosovo of 1389 which is still a hallmark for many Serbs) the 90’s wars created a whole new slew of unforgettable atrocities. Still when one is faced with the red roof tiles, white limestone and clear blue azure sea, the prospect of strife dissolves from the pristine world that characterizes the Dalmatian Coast. Enter the harbor of Hvar (whose name comes from the Greek for lighthouse, Pharos) one is confronted by the carnival like atmosphere created by the yachts of the super rich for which this has become a Balkan Juan Les Pins. Yet on a hill overlooking the harbor a brooding ancient fortress shadows the festivity as a reminder that the past is never far away.

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