I have this talent to find traces of war wherever I go, but in Belgrade this task is made really easy.
First of all, the city’s fortress in Kalemegdan Park houses a military museum.
In addition to the permanent display of military hardware, on my last visit to Belgrade in October 2014 there was an exhibition commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation at the end of World War II.
Sadly, almost nobody stopped to read the texts and look at the historic photos. I did, and suddenly realized that my German grandfather had spent a few years in a prisoner-of-war camp in Yugoslavia. I don’t know if he was fighting in Yugoslavia or captured somewhere else and taken there after his capture. (I really need to investigate this one day. If you know something about POW camps in Yugoslavia or know of relevant archives, please contact me!) Like everywhere else in Europe, it was wonderful to be able to stand there, only two generations later, with war between our two countries unthinkable, and Serbia on the path to EU membership.
More visible are the reminders of the NATO bombing in 1999. The bombed-out buildings of the Serbian (former Yugoslav) Ministry of Defense were left like this, in the middle of Belgrade.
Either there is no money to repair the ministry or someone thought that this would make a great memorial. In my mind, it’s rather a great testimony to the precision of cruise missiles. And because the rest of the building is still large enough to continue to house the Ministry of Defense, it also shows that countries can do quite well with a much reduced military.