Destination: Kosovo

Memo to Travelers: Kosovo is Like a ‘Joyful Construction Site’

This is a good thing, at least according to Balkan Travellers, an e-zine focused on travel in the volatile region. The world’s newest declared nation is tiny, landlocked, impoverished and a cauldron of tension, but it’s apparently also got lots of building projects (hence the “joyful noise”), good cafes and restaurants, a youthful population and even a tourism Web site.

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Tags: Europe, Kosovo

2007: The Year of Mapping Dangerously

Photo of China’s Yangtze River by Praziquantel via Flickr, (Creative Commons).

As an editor of the Oxford Atlas of the World, I spend a good chunk of my time following geographic changes around the globe. And the last year saw more than a few worth noting, from borders shifting—or even disappearing—to names changing and islands suddenly appearing. Herewith, my favorites from ‘07, starting with some good news.

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Alex Kapranos: ‘Sound Bites’ and Savory Food

Franz Ferdinand's singer has eaten mole in Mexico, mussels in Brussels and fishbrain bread in Finland. He talks to Frank Bures about his new book and his culinary adventures on the road.

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‘The Soccer People’: Heartbreak and Triumph in Clarkston, Georgia

Photo by Arne Müseler, via flickr (Creative Commons).

We write often about how soccer explains the world. Here’s another post, one that tells the story of an amazing soccer team based in a small town near Atlanta. Team name: The Fugees. “The Fugees are indeed all refugees, from the most troubled corners—Afghanistan, Bosnia, Burundi, Congo, Gambia, Iraq, Kosovo, Liberia, Somalia and Sudan,” writes Warren St. John in a front-page story in Sunday’s New York Times. “Some have endured unimaginable hardship to get here: squalor in refugee camps, separation from siblings and parents. One saw his father killed in their home.”

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“The World According to Sesame Street”

Nobody brings the world together like muppets. The new season of the PBS series Independent Lens debuts this week with the documentary The World According to Sesame Street, a look at how the TV show for kids has become a global phenomenon. Los Angeles Times critic Robert Lloyd writes in a stellar review: “It runs in more than 120 countries, mostly in dubbed versions of the original, but in more and more places—beginning as far back as 1972, after an inquiry from Germany—it is being produced locally, retooled for the native audience, with new characters and settings reflecting native culture and concerns.” The documentary focuses on productions of “Sesame Street” in three countries places: Bangladesh, Kosovo and South Africa.

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Riding the Freedom of Movement Train (aka the World’s Most Dangerous Passenger Train)

Two years ago, the United Nations Mission in Kosovo established a railway from Macedonia to Serbia. “The train,” writes Daniel Sekulich in an excellent story in Outpost magazine, “is regularly pelted with stones and cinder blocks or shot at with rifles.” Nevertheless, Sekulich boarded the train, and his story about his trip covers fascinating geographical and political terrain. “Several European nations offered aging diesel locomotives and coaches to the cause, with security provided by international forces stationed in Kosovo,” Sekulich writes. “Not surprisingly, few Serb or Albanian railroaders wanted to drive a train carrying ‘the enemy,’ so the call went out for international volunteers to take up the task.” Among them is Donald Crawford, a Canadian locomotive engineer. “For many people - mostly Serbs and Roma - this is the only way to get groceries, visit the hospital and see relatives,” Crawford tells Sekulich. “It’s called the Freedom of Movement Train because that’s what we provide.”

Blowing For Joy at a Balkans Trumpet Festival

Boston Globe Staff Writer Tom Haines filed a thoughtful story this summer about his visit to the Guca trumpet festival in Serbia and Montenegro, where locals were setting aside war memories to have a good time. “I think many years have taken of my generation,” one young man told Haines during the festival. “War was beside me since I have seven. We don’t hate anybody. Bosnia, Kosovo, there is a part our guilt. But we shouldn’t punish all because of one man. We lived in Bosnia, and we had to leave, and my parents, and blah, blah, blah. But who cares?” Wrote Haines: “Who did care, on that night last August, in the cool hill air of the Balkans? Wars had ended. Slobodan Milosevic had long since fallen from power, and the Guca trumpet festival had hit full swing, as it has every year since 1961…”

Tags: Europe, Kosovo

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