Between the years of 1967 and 1991, Adam Yamey visited Yugoslavia frequently, making many friends and enjoying a variety of interesting experiences. Recently, he wrote a book called SCRABBLE WITH SLIVOVITZ in which he relives and shares a diverse selection of his adventures.
In the first excerpt, he relates an episode that demonstrates the warmth and friendship of the peoples of a country that has sadly been torn apart by a tragic series of civil wars.
In the second excerpt, he describes how he attended one of the first ever punk rock concerts in the Yugoslav capital, Belgrade.
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On this particular occasion in the bus station at
Dubrovnik, I found
a young French tourist was sitting next to his girlfriend in my seat. I
started explaining, in my poor French, that he was occupying my reserved seat.
As I was doing so, a middle-aged woman, sitting near the rear of the bus,
explained the situation in fluent French. The French couple vacated the
incorrect seats and settled into their assigned places. These happened to be
close to the woman and her friend. I could hear them conversing in French as we
wound our way up along the valley of the
and away from the Adriatic coast. I felt a little miffed that they had found
someone to converse with, but I had not. Neretva River
After a few hours we stopped in a village perched high on a hillside. The young French couple said goodbye to their new friends, and left the coach. Our bus, which should have arrived in
well before nightfall, remained parked on a steep slope in the small mountain
village for hours. The few passengers who were continuing on to Sarajevo sat on a bench under
a tree in the sultry afternoon sun. Eventually, I asked the lady, who could
speak French, what was happening. She explained that one of the tires of our
bus had been punctured, and that it was taking a long while to repair it. She revealed
that she was an inhabitant of Sarajevo and that her
travelling companion, an old friend of hers, was a school teacher from France.
Finally, our bus was ready to depart. As it was now almost empty, I sat near to
the two women and chatted to them. The sun was setting, and we were still only
half way to our destination.
Soon after we began moving, the heavens opened. The mountainous region through which we were slowly making our way was filled with crashes of thunder and flashes of lightning. Torrents of rain made driving slow and difficult. I began despairing of ever reaching the city where the Hapsburg Archduke was shot in 1914. And, I was becoming concerned. I was heading for a city, which I did not know and where I had no accommodation arranged, and it was beginning to look as if would be almost midnight by the time we reached it. I asked Marija, the French-speaking lady from
whether she could recommend a hotel for me. She shrugged her shoulders and said
that as she lived there, she did not know about hotels. At this point, her
companion said to her in French,
“Whenever I meet foreign students in my home town in
I invite them to stay in my home.”
Marija said nothing. It was my impression that she had not needed to hear this particular bit of information.
It was late at night when we eventually arrived in
Sarajevo’s bus station. It
was located far from the town centre on the main road that led to the spa at Ilidža.
Miodrag was waiting for Marija, his mother-in-law, and her French friend. I was
told to get into his car with them, and we drove along ill-lit rain soaked
streets through the darkness of the night until we reached the end of a short, steeply
inclined cul-de-sac in central Sarajevo.
We entered Marija’s second floor flat, and Liljana, Marija’s daughter, served
us a huge, tasty supper. At the end of the meal, I still had no idea where I
would be spending the night. Before I
could ask where I would be staying, Liljana showed me her mother’s spare
bedroom, and told me (in good English) that I should sleep there.
After breakfast the next morning, I set off to find a hotel in which I could stay for the rest of my visit. It did not take long to find one and to reserve a room. Next, I bought a bunch of flowers - they were stems of gladioli - for my kind hostess, and returned to her flat. I entered, gave my bouquet to Marija, thanked her for looking after me, and told her that I had found accommodation. She told me not to be ridiculous; I was to cancel the hotel and to stay with her and her family."
"Every summer, there was a folk-music festival in
Dubrovnik. We attended a few concerts, but these
were never free of hassle. Most of my Yugoslav friends seemed to believe that
it was beneath their dignity to buy tickets. Somehow, we used to smuggle
ourselves into the concert without tickets, and then occupied seats which had a
good view of the stage. Without exception, we managed to sit in seats that had
been reserved by paid-up ticket holders. An argument would begin. There would
be much swearing and even threats of violence. Eventually, a compromise was reached
and everyone enjoyed the concert.
Whilst on the subject of concerts, let me whisk you away from the coast for a few moments in order to describe the occasion in
Belgrade when Dijana invited me to join her
and some of her friends to attend the first punk-rock concert ever to be held
in the city. It was to be performed in the Students’ Cultural Centre (‘CKC’),
an elegant late nineteenth century building in the heart of the town, which had
once housed the Officers’ Club of Belgrade. We did not approach the main
entrance, where a group of oddly dressed young people were queuing, but instead
we went to a point on the pavement next to an open window. To reach the window
it was necessary to cross a high cast iron fence topped with spikes. Dijana’s girlfriends
scaled this easily, but I was unable to follow them; they had to return to carry
me over it. We entered the building by climbing through the window, and stepped
into the darkened concert hall, which was almost full.
The young audience, dressed in outlandish punk clothing, sat as quietly as if they had been awaiting a classical chamber concert at a place as sedate as