Category Archives: olle bergman

Farewell to Belgrade

Three times I kiss you farewell, Belgrade.

Once for your brimming streets and crumbling houses, your defiant greenery and sooty walls, your buses, trams, monuments, slopes and stairs.

Once for for your busy, beautiful crowds, walkers, drivers, talkers, smokers, drinkers, shouters.

Once for your larger-than-lifeness, your tucked-away brutality, your childish, glorious friendliness and all the promises that circle your skies like a everlastlingly turbulent flock of jackdaws.

Three times I kiss you farewell, Belgrade, wondering ”Will there be a revelation when the final moments are taken from my hands?”



War museum, get-together & tripice

The war museum in Kalemegdan is–not surpringsingly–a labyrinth of corridors and display cases where Ex-Jugoslav and Serbian history is exhibited in all its spectacular complexity and brutality. Our head spun after trying to follow this confusing and often disturbing story, told by artifacts like an Illyrian spear, a Byzantine helmet, a janissary uniform, a German incendiary bomb, a chetnik hat, a partisan machine gun, a Croatian AK-47, an Albanian mortar, a NATO graphite bomb.

It was somewhat peculiar to see the story of the chetniks and the partisans told parallelly.
Somewhat peculiar to see the story of the chetniks (left) and the partisans (right) told in parallell.

It was a relief to leave the stale air of the museum and stand on the sunflooded ramparts of Kalemegdan and feast our eyes on a hawk hovering over us.

The muddy waters of Sava meeting the clear waters of Danube.
The muddy waters of Sava meeting the clear waters of Danube.

In the evening, I threw a goodbye party to old and new friends. I offered ärtsoppa med varm punsch (pea soup with hot punch), some weird Swedish drinks and salty licorice.

We look somewhat caught in the act of doing some mischief.
We look somewhat caught in the act of doing some mischief.

After this Vorspiel, we went to the best restaurant experience of my stay: Stara Hercegovina, where my friend Petter had some—yuk!–tripice.

The smell of tripe is far from indescribable. It's like a whiff from an old-fashioned crapper.
The smell of tripe is far from indescribable. It’s like a whiff from an old-fashioned crapper.

I went home to my flat, feeling like Fritiof in the song Fritiof Anderssons paradmarsch (without the snow).

Här kommer Fritiof Andersson, det snöar på hans hatt,
han går med sång, han går med spel!
Hej, mina lustiga bröder!
Det knarrar under klackarna, det är vinternatt.
Hej, om du vill, säg bara till,
så går vi hem till Söder!

Here Fritiofsberg Andersson,
it snows on his hat, he goes with singing,
he goes with the game!
Hello, my cheerful brothers!
It crunches under your heels,
it’s winter.
Hey, if you want, just let me know, so we go back to Söder!

Hej mina lustiga bröder!
Hej mina lustiga bröder!
Whoops, guess there is some cleaning up to do.

Giving lecture about science communication

It may seem peculiar that my assignment this morning was to give a lecture at the Faculty of Biology: three hours about science communication in the library where portraits of stern professors from times past looked down at me and the students.

The logo of the Faculty of Biology – ”Б” for Биолошки and ”ф” for факултет.

Actually, this was the seed from which my entire visit grew and was planned before I even heard of the Kuća Za Pisce program. (More about this stuff here.)  The individuals involved know how grateful I am for the efforts they made to create this opportunity for me.

Outside the Faculty of Biology at Studentski park.
Outside the Faculty of Biology at Studentski park (where the Faculty of Pilology also is situated).

Here am I on my way to the lecture. This photo is a great representation of how Belgrade has made me feel: curious, vitalized, young and prepared to be vulnerable.

Leaving my flat—a square door in a square Instagram photo (taken by Petter Lönegård).
Leaving my flat—a square door in a square Instagram photo (taken by Petter Lönegård).


Tesla, Nova Iskra & Karađorđeva šnicla

Sometimes you bite off a little more than you can chew. The lecture with my personal reflections about Swedish inventors and design needed more preparations than I had planned for, but when you ”Keep calm & carry on”, most things work out in the end.

Great working environment for focused authors and lecturers alike.
Great working environment for focused authors and lecturers alike.

Finally, there was time for some tourist stuff.

My friend Petter was a deerhunter during our stay, stalking the local famous beer Jelen (’deer’). Here in Tašmajdan park.
My friend Petter, the deerhunter—stalking the local famous beer Jelen (’deer’) in Tašmajdan park.
From Petter’s sketch book.
From Petter’s sketch book.
Visiting the Tesla Museum outside the guided tour turned out to be a very static experience. Here a sleeping Egg of Columbus.
Visiting the Tesla Museum between the guided tour turned out to be a very static experience. Here a sleeping Egg of Columbus.

The reception at the designers’ meeting point Nova Iskra was – like most Serbian receptions – warm, engaged and chatty.

Ana from Krokodil and Alfred Nobel in a pre-lecture conversation.




Not surprisingly, our jolly company ended at a restaurant, where we had some great—tada!—conversation.

This night I had my second Karađorđeva šnicla. A small one, this time.

The hejduk case

When my Serbian contacts wondered what kind of author I am (or have been so far, as I prefer to see it), I usually told them about my books in the series Historiska ord.


As, unfortunately, no one of them reads Swedish, I went on to explain the hejduk case.

In Swedish, a hejduk is a person who loyally obeys an evil minded person’s order – a thug, a gorilla or perhaps a soldato, to use a mafia term.

The image below shows an original hajduk, a sort of outlaw and guerilla fighter who in the folklore of Balkan became a Robin Hood-like character—always in opposition against the Ottoman turks and in defense of the poor people of the mountains and valleys.


The Serbians claim it is a Serbian word, and the Hungarians claim it is a Hungarian word and some say it’s Turkish … I politely leave this discussion and say: the haiduk is a Balkan thing which we can find in a lot of places; most known to ”westerners” today is probably the football club Hajduk from Split, Croatia.

The free and wild hajduk eventually turned into a Hungarian type of mercenary, which in the 16th century also became a kind of Polish uniformed footsoldier, armed with arquebus (a primitive rifle) and a saber. This kind of soldier was found not only in the armies of Poland’s wars, but also in the personal bodyguard of Polish noblemen.

In this way, the concept reached Sweden. In the late 16th century, king Sigismund–son of a Polish-Lithuanian princess and hence king in Poland-Lithuania–and his uncle—duke Karl—fought about the power. Karl IX eventually won the throne through his triumph at the battle of Stångebro in 1598. In the aftermath, Sigismund was described with contempt in the propaganda (not least for he was a despicable Catholic). Hence, hejduks was seen as something that gangsters and evil kings surrounded themselves with. (If I am not mis-informed, a hajduk means ‘servant’ in modern Polish.)

PS It is probably an amusing fact for most Serbians that the word krabat in Swedish, which is normally used today to describe something cute and cuddly, originally means ‘a Croatian’. In the Swedish propaganda from the Thirty Years’ War, the Croatian cavalry—fighting on the Catholic side—was famous for being extraordinarily ruthless and merciless. Hence, the original Swedish meaning of the word krabat was ‘reckless person’.



The spittle-covered streets of Belgrade

One of the most gripping scenes in my host Vladimir’s novel In the Hold (U potpalublju, 1994) is a scene from Bulevar Revolucije (a Tito era name of  Bulevar kralja Aleksandra) where

… the ground beneath our feet was breaking up [—] and out of this depths came the unbearable stench of the centuries, which, in our inertia, we had failed to use in a dignified way …

After this vision, the narrator

.. endeavored to move along the spittle-covered streets.

These are my two reflections:

1. I have also experienced Bulevar kralja Aleksandra as a place where you feel exposed and alienated.

The cruel April rain.
The cruel April rain. (”April is the cruelest month [—] mixing
Memory and desire, stirring / Dull roots with spring rain.”)
2. The streets of Belgrade are indeed spittle-covered, or at least gum-covered.

Skärmavbild 2014-05-04 kl. 11.14.35
My sneaker todding on the sidewalk of Bulevar despota Stefana.

Click here to se an star-filled pavement sky: IMG_4912





Serbian language—a strong citadel

I have learned so much about Serbian lifestyle, society, culture, politics and culture. But its strange how little Serbian I have managed to learn.

These are my conclusions and observations:

  • The cyrillic alphabet is not very hard to crack. The problem is getting up to speed while reading it.
  • I just love the phonetic spelling system which reminds me of Norwegian. Very logical, and most often very elegantly implemented. I love solving these little riddles that are everywhere: Чиз кејк – čiz kejk – cheese cake!
  • The pronunciation is—at least initially—the toughest part. When you for example can’t hear the difference between ć and č, how should you then be able to pronounce it? Normally, I am a person that keeps experimenting with other languages without feeling embarrassed, but for once in my life, I feel inhibited.
  • The shelves in my memory are designed to remember germanic and latin words and expressions. Slavic stuff just seem to fall of the shelves.

But I am sure that as long my Serbian friends keep motivating me to storm the strong citadell on the hill, I will attack—again and again!

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more!
(Shakespeare: Henry V)