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Sunday, 16 June 2013


I used to visit the former Yugoslavia frequently before the country was plunged into a series of civil wars in about 1991. The purposes of my visits was to visit my Yugoslav friends as well as to explore their beautiful country.

In October 1989, I stayed in Belgrade where most of my friends lived. As was often the case, I made an excursion from the city with my good friend, the late Rasa Raicevic. One of the places that we explored was the town of Sremski Karlovci, which is not far from the city of Novi Sad. Both places are in the region of Serbia known as the Vojvodina. This region had been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire before its demise at the end of the First World War.

While we were walking through the attractive streets of Sremski Karlovci, Rasa pointed out some special ground-floor windows. They differed from the majority of the windows in the buildings that lined the streets in that instead of being flush with the walls in which they were embedded, they projected over the pavement.

My friend told me that these windows were known as coquette Fenster. Their purpose was to allow the young ladies of the house to survey the street without having to open the window and lean out. No doubt, they also allowed young men in the street to view the young ladies positioned in the coquette Fenster.

Currently, I am writing a book about my experiences in Yugoslavia, while it still existed. I wanted to check whether I had remembered the naming of these windows correctly. I looked up 'coquette Fenster' on the Internet. However, despite using a number of variants on the spelling of 'coquette', I found nothing relevant to my quest.

Originally, I believed that I had seen these windows in Varazdin (Croatia), but then recently I discovered my photographs of these windows. They were labelled 'Sremski Karlovci' rather than 'Varazdin'. Having discovered this, I resumed my research, but looked-up information about windows in Sremski Karlovci, and discovered that people had posted information about these special windows, but had described them as 'Kibitz' windows.

Leo Rosten in his invaluable encyclopaedia, The Joys of Yiddish, explains that the word kibitzer, that is someone who kibitzes, is derived from Kiebitz the German word for the lapwing or peewit, an especially noisy and inquisitive bird. Further, he defines a kibitzer as someone who gives unasked for advice, and also someone who flatters. Additionally, he writes that a kibitzer can be used to describe someone who 'joshes or teases'. So, I wonder which of these definitions is particularly pertinent to the naming of these windows.

A coquette Fenster on the left with its 'normal' neighbour

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Adam Yamey's
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Once upon a Time in Yugoslavia"
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