Last month I was traipsing around Skopje admiring the beautiful ligatures of Macedonian Cyrillic and sampling the local burek when I stumbled upon a handful of plaques with quotations from Mother Teresa — she was born in Skopje, after all. One plaque in particular had a quote so preposterous that I just had to take a picture of it:
Vakali Rocks a Packed NDK Auditorium
How do you write a review of a performance dance group that wears Viking costumes, uses bones to play their drums, and has pyrotechnics so badass that I could feel them twenty rows back in the audience? I was clapping so hard during Vakali’s performance at the National Palace of Culture (NDK) in Sofia last week that my hands still hurt?
Girl at War by Sara Nović
A child’s shocking memoir of growing up in Croatia during the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. I’m not sure if it’s the author’s personal story or if it’s fiction, but it doesn’t really matter — the stories in this book must have happened a thousand times over the course of the conflict. This is just one account of the “them versus us” nationalism that seized the Balkans and thrust its people into a decade of bloody wars, and many more of suffering.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Some of the stories are downright hilarious, while others are innocent, touching, and even informative. For example, I appreciated the young protagonist’s role in giving the reader a gentle introduction to the Balkans.