11/10 Wels to ZagrebKika Jewlia

Trains, planes and automobiles--and then in Zagreb, our hub for the Balkoslavia tour. OK, so, what are we doing here? Charming Hostess got a grant from the Trust for Mutual Understanding to collaborate with the cultural journal Fantom Slobode. With poets in Podgorica, Sarajevo, Split, and Zagreb, we would explore the intersection of music and poetry, translation challenges, and the connections between the Balkan, African and Jewish diasporas. Each event in the four-part series is hosted by a local independent bookstore. At the close of the series, Fantom Slobode publishes both the new work and interviews about the process of collaboration and creation, in print and CD form.

Now, for all you non-BCS readers (like us) here's a bit more info about Fantom Slobode (Spirit of Freedom), founded by Semezdin Mehmedinovic in 1990. Published before, during, and after the recent wars, the mission of Fantom is to help create and support a pluralist art scene, speaking against nationalism and genocide. Fantom contains work in various media from all over the Balkans and beyond, and is one of the very few magazines committed to doing so. From its inception, Fantom has celebrated difference and made cultural bridges between people based on art and critical thinking. Fantom is a magazine, but it is also a loose collective of identification, with hundreds of artists who are like-minded. These artists are working to move people past fragmentation and division without nostalgia for the Yugoslav state. They are pretty cool! And don't just take our word for it--Susan Sontag thought so too. And in my opinion, you can't really top that for arty-smarty street cred.

The first night in Zagreb we walked around and observed that we were still in Mitteleuropa. Marika: It was beautiful; but I didn't know what Balkan beauty really was.¯ As for me, I found it rather Austrian. And not in a Wels kind of way ”rather, formal, churchy, and cold. We later discovered that Zagreb is hip and happening, but that first night we were just too tired to see it. I sat down for a moment at the base of a monument and fell asleep in the rain, with my suck-ass Lonely Planet clutched in my damp little fist¯must find internet cafe, must find.¯

Charming Hostess | San Francisco, CA