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August 25, 2002

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A quirk about Eastern European borders: The Serbs don't recognize Montenegro's border with Croatia or any of Kosovo's borders as legal points of entry. This means visitors can't legally enter Serbia from Montenegro or Kosovo, even though all of these places are supposed to be in one country. Therefore we left Kosovo into Macedonia before returning to Serbia across its border with Macedonia. After all of that travel, the Serbs refused to stamp our American passports. They stamped a blue tourist card, handed it to us, and told us not to lose it or be jailed. At least they only charged 6 Euros each for the privilege of crossing the border. We shared a seat on the bus with a Serbian woman who gave us an earful about politics. She thinks the US has wrongfully bombed Serbians for the last decade. She said that the Western press lied about Serbian acts of genocide against Albanians. According to her, Albanians caused most of the bloodshed amongst themselves or provoked retribution by commiting acts of terrorism (This agrees with the NATO personnel in Kosovo who say the same thing). She went on to say that the Western powers shouldn't force democracy on Serbia because Serbia isn't ready for democracy. "Democracy isn't good here. We have only tried democracy for two years." These political discussions became uncomfortable when the entire bus eavesdropped. As bad as that sounds, we never felt threatened. The Serbs wanted to be heard. The Serbians feel as though the world is against them and they're insecure about their international image; they believe the international community thinks of Serbs as murderers. Later, the Serbian woman and her daughter acted as our guides when we arrived in Nis. They showed us around town, careful to point out bombed out buildings and the numbers of civilian casualties in an effort to educate us about the war. "Yes, you bombed us but we're over it now."
From Kosovo, running through Macedonia, entering Serbia, we follow a ridiculous itinerary to cross legal borders.
Nis (pronounced 'Nish') is the major city of southern Serbia. The Serbs claim Roman Emperor Constantine was born here.
In the town center stands a monument to innocent victims of NATO's bombing campaign of 1999.