From Croatia to North Macedonia and Greece,
then back to the Croatian-Hungarian-Slovenian border.
1. - 17. 8. 2017.
The first year of our exploration in the field involved a lot of guesswork, the ambition to cover as much fenced ground as possible, and let‘s not be shy about it, some naivety about the difficulties we would encounter. That resulted in a wild road trip of about 3500 km in 18 days, with a lot of rough sleeping, few showers and crazy contrasts of temperature, landscape and culture.
We travelled through Montenegro and Albania to the Macedonian - Greek border, where we encountered language barriers, unwillingness to be interviewed and were handicapped by our lack of official authorization to access refugee camps.
Still, we visited the border fences of the area, gathered images, field recordings and memories of conversations we were not allowed to record.
To escape an average temperature of 40° C and get back to familiar languages, we drove as straight as we could through Macedonia and Serbia to the triple border of Croatia-Slovenia-Hungary, where the rivers Drava and Mura often define the borders. From there, we explored both the Slovenian-Croatian border to the South and the Hungarian-Croatian border to the East. We located the fenced areas, captured soundscapes, took pictures and recorded interviews in Croatian and Slovenian (most of which still need to be processed).
“The border is always made and remade according to a host of shifting variables. In this sense, the border should not be analyzed according to motion simply because people and objects move across it, or because it is “permeable.” The border is not simply a static membrane or space through which flows of people move. In contrast to the vast literature on the movement of people and things across borders, there is relatively little analysis of the motion of the border itself.“
In Thomas Nail, Theory of the border, 2016
1. 8. 2017.
Across the border into MONTENEGRO, border crossing KARASOVIĆI (HR) - DEBELI BRIJEG (ME). KOTOR, over the hill through the national park LOVĆEN, CETINJE, RIJEKA CRNOJEVIĆA on the tributary of SKADAR LAKE, sleep in accommodation.
2. 8. 2017.
Canoe on the backwater, blocked due to the visit and boat excursion of US Vice President. Further to PODGORICA, ALBANIA, crossing BOZDAJ (ME) - HANI AND HOTIT (AL) near Lake SHKODER. Drinks in TIRANA. Albanian roads, crazy drivers, forced to bribe Albanian border guards at the border post QAFÉ THANÉ (AL) - KAFASJAN (MK). MACEDONIA around LAKE OHRID, PRESPA LAKE, sleep at dawn in the village of NAKOLETS.
“After a long night’s drive, we arrive at the border crossing between Albania and Macedonia before dawn. A grumpy old border guard questions our presence there, and probably as part of a well rehearsed scam, sends us to his colleagues for a car search. We are led to a hangar full of sleepy policemen who gesture that they can’t understand us but will happily take our car apart anyway. After a well-timed suspense, a younger policeman emerges from an office, and establishes communication in English with us. While his colleagues search my car, and after beating around the bush, he beckons me to have private talk behind the lifted hood of my car. There, with a big grin and in very proper English, he explains to me that everything would go a lot smoother if I had a little something for him.”
3. 8. 2017.
In NAKOLETS we are told there is no fence, but there is. Near the beach MARKOVA NOGA to the border that is closed. To BITOLA for a drink in the restaurant Grne, there is no fence there either. We are sick, they say there is a fence near GEVGELIJA. Drinks in GEVGELIJA and then on to KONSKO. We find accommodation in the village of SMRDLIVA VODA (STINKY WATER).
4. 8. 2017.
We wake up in SMRDLIVA VODA, on to the ski center Kozuf. In the village HUMA we have a drink, no fence here. They say MOINA has it.
5. 8. 2017.
We start from SMRDLIVA VODA, heading to MOIN. Coffee in the village center, there is a fence! Conversation with a man in a shop / cafe - he says he doesn’t want to be filmed, but that there were refugees. We go to the fence and follow it. Another attempt to go to the fence next to the railway in GEVGELIJA, where the refugee camp is. We are intercepted by a police officer and we cannot pass without an official permit. In GEVGELIJA center, Creme restaurant, we meet an interesting waiter who transported refugees as a taxi driver for 6 months until they introduced the ban. He is not up for an interview. Border crossing BOGORODICA (MK) - EVZONI (GR). Going across the border into GREECE, to the first village IDOMENI, we come to the fence following the remains of clothes and toys of refugee children. Going to LAKE DOJRAN, back to Macedonia crossing DOIRANI (GR) - DOJRAN (MK) and sleeping in a field.
“... This map shows how much the refugee crisis is dividing Europe ...”
6. 8. 2017.
We drive through the night. We wake up at dawn just outside NOVI DOJRAN, eat breakfast from our own assortment in STARI DOJRAN and then head towards the village of SELEMLI, near the border. We sleep under a tree, come to the village, there is no one, it's noon. We drive to SELEMLI LAKE with a dam and decide to go to the border of Croatia - Slovenia. Too hot, language problem, fatigue. Road to SKOPJE, we eat lunch at a restaurant on the road by the river Vardar. In SKOPJE, a walk around “Disneyland” (SKOPJE has changed so much!) for 2 and a half hours. Boarder crossing TABANOVCE (MK) - PREŠEVO (RS) on the road around BELGRADE towards NOVI SAD. Break near N for sleeping, 128km from BELGRADE.
7. 8. 2017.
Drive to BELGRADE, take a break towards NOVI SAD, then on to BAČKI PETROVAC, RATKOVO. ODŽACI, to the border and the entrance to CROATIA, BOGOJEVO (RS) - ERDUT (HR). Harassed by the customs officers because allegedly Šime (the dog) does not have any certificate, even if he was vaccinated according to the regulations. OSIJEK, walk, cafe and boat restaurant Galija on the Drava. Tired, we stop and sleep for 2 hours in the woods near PETRIJEVAC. We are going to VIRJE. At 9pm we meet Lav Turski and go to his klet for dinner and then back to Virje to sleep.
8. 8. 2017.
At Lav's. We finally get some sleep, wash ourselves and our clothes. After a nice breakfast with Lav we go to meet the director of the tourist board of the Central Podravina area (Drnje, Gola, Hlebine, Legrad, Molve, Novigrad Podravski, Virje) Elizabeta Milanović Glavica. Together, we visit the galleries of naive art, the private gallery of Ivan and Josip Generalić, and the department of the Koprivnica Museum dedicated to naive art in HLEBINE. Back for lunch at Turković's and then to KOPRIVNICA to record our first real interview with Elizabeta! (Gola has a fence). Drive to the border of Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia on the Mura to sleep on the grounds of the DEKANOVEC fishing society.
Elizabeta: “I really don’t understand the reasons for what happened there at all, and why they built the fence there, because it doesn’t make any sense. If you build it, build it completely or don’t build it at all. In fact I have more the feeling that there was some money-thing involved, something other than the migrants situation. Because it didn’t stop anyone from crossing because whoever wanted to cross has found a way.”
9. 8. 2017.
DEKANOVEC on the river Mura have breakfast there and along the border. There is no fence along the Mura. We follow the path on foot, record sound and move on. Gemišt and pizza in MURSKO SREDIŠĆE then on to Slovenia. Border crossing MURSKO SREDIŠĆE (HR) - PETISOVČI (SI). We are looking for a fence, but there isn’t one. We come to roads marked State Border, still nothing. GIBINA, RAZKRIŽJE also have no fence. But, A GOMILA PRI KOGU, KOG has a fence! We find small roads closed with portal-like doors, unlocked. We follow the razor wire for a while. The fallen trees have made a bridge over the razor wire.
We rest by the fence in a field and then move on to SREDIŠČE OB DRAVI. Along the vineyards there is no fence. We arrange with the waitress at the local bar to help us ask people for an interview the following morning. We sleep a little outside Središče ob Dravi by the river.
“The kinopolitical definition of the fence has two basic features. The fence is first and foremost a strike or cut into the earth (digging, puncturing, carving out): the pit. Second, the fence adds something to the cut or hole to create a verticality rising above the earth: the pile. The fence cuts or tears into the flows of the earth in order to redirect them vertically.“
In Thomas Nail, Theory of the border, 2016
10. 8. 2017.
We wake up near the Drava at 7am, and by 8am we are at the Confectionery and snack bar Pri Rupertu. The waitress finds a young girl for us to interview. We stay and talk to her for a long time. She invites another friend, we make another interview. At 11:30am we leave Pri Rupertu because the older ladies there are not happy to be interviewed. We crossover to Croatia at border post SREDIŠČE OB DRAVI (SI) - TRNOVEC (HR), which has a fancy fence. In ČAKOVEC, we have beers with our friend, Robert Tirardi. Towards the border near VARAŽDIN, we get stuck in a storm on the dam of LAKE ORMOŽ. Mr. Zvonko who works on the dam, takes us in for the night.
Središče ob Dravi, woman: “I am really afraid of flooding because this fence is also in areas where the river floods regularly. Animals will have problems escaping it when the water level rises. Also the fence can be damaged. It can be swept away with the river, and who knows where this razor fence will end up.”
Središče ob Dravi, man: “Now that the fence is there, I'm going over [to the other side] even more. Man has ideas. I had an idea to play badminton with them over there. Or some nonsense... to make a photo shoot. Doing such a stunt is not a very good idea, cause you live in a village and everyone says "you are a fool, you are for Islam "... It is very strange in smaller cities like Središče. When the migrants came, we were just collecting clothes with a colleague from the village and there were various comments. Some people responded and gave help while others said: "look, they support Islamists and such nonsense." And I'm not sorry. Like Slovenia is European Union. That's bullshit. We are Balkans.”
11. 8. 2017.
Wake up on the Varaždin dam after the storm, and cross the border post VARAŽDIN (HR) - ORMOŽ (SI). There is no fence until ZAVRČ. We come across a portal-like door in the village of GORIČAK which is half in Croatia, half in Slovenia, and sit down for coffee in the Zeko bar. We drive on small roads along the border through vineyards, there are no fences! Arriving at the border crossing DRENOVEC (SI) - GORNJA VOĆA (HR), the Croatian customs officer warns us that he could punish us because we need to have special permits to move along the border. We are back in Croatia. VINDIJA CAVE and lunch by the stream, the rest of the ravioli with sauce from yesterday. After HROMEC (HR) - TRLIČNO (SI) the village has no border or fence, though it is a village through which the border passes. We find the fence next to the river SUTLA. In LUPINJAK we make an interview with a young saleswoman in the store - Mali dučan Strahinjčica (https://www.strahinjcica.hr/o-nama/). At a cafe near the portal before HUMA NA SUTLI, the waiter does not want to give an interview because he works with “both of them, but Slovenians are faggots because they did it [put up the fence]”. The village of MILJANA, in the eponymous tavern, our waiter Branimir gives an interview, and arranges another one with local characters Mišo and Ivek. We get drunk with them, move on to the Improcon festival in nearby VELIKI TABOR and end up sleeping in Branimir's house.
Young saleswoman: “That fence, how can I say, is stupid to me. It didn’t need to be done. Because people and animals die there. I don't like it at all.”
Branimir: “I live 100m from the fence. We used to go swimming, us on this side, them on the other. There is no more of that now. We still can, but they can't anymore. Neither fishermen nor swimmers can go to the Sutla River. At the beginning, the border guards, who have known us all their lives, were fucking with us, searching everything completely, just to go over to the neighbor’s.”
Nina: “How long do you think the fence will stay?”
Mišo: “I remain a friend, with or without a fence. When I hit the jackpot I will take down all the fences. I hate fences. The Berlin wall stood for 50 years as this one will too. It will overgrow so much that no one will be able to approach it. But it will not rust or rot. A Galvanized one... never. It will heat up so much that no one will be able to approach it. But it will not rust or rot. It's American shit.”
12. 8. 2017.
Hungover, we wake up late, eat a little, walk to the fence, and at 4pm go to Branimir’s for coffee and to return the key. We refuel in KUMROVEC and lunch in VELIKI TABOR. There, the Improcon program is currently organized by an association from Slovenia that was active in the protest aiming to cut the fence. We arrange interviews with association Club Meltulj members Vid and Mitja for the next day. We meet Mijo Gladović, Henry, Mile from Pancevo, Vid Jeraj, Zoran Kelava from Stari Grad, Nenad from Zabok. We sleep in a tent under the castle.
13. 8. 2017.
Morning, easy, Mitja and Vid are not ready for an interview yet. Hanging out with the team in Tabor. We walk to DESINIĆ for breakfast and back to Tabor for the interviews with Vid and Mitja. We stay there a little longer. Improvised with the musicians, meet Zala Pezdir a dancer (SLO / SWE), talk to Nenad (an organizer from Zabok), and then set off. We sleep at home in Zagreb.
Mitja: “We did a performance at the fence. We connected it to a microphone and an amplifier. We hadn’t tried it before and were waiting to see what would happen. The sound was shocking. The wire seemed to feel just like us.”
Vid: “Politicians did not ask us anything. They just said it was for our safety. Personally, if it was on my land I would cut it. And we thought that people would do that.”
14. 8. 2017.
We should contact the tourist boards of the border areas of all the fenced states, the hunting societies, the local administration, the mayors, nature parks - e.g. Žumberak - Samoborsko gorje - and national parks, police stations, border crossings... Breakfast in ZAGREB and off to SAMOBOR. Kremšnita and a cafe Kod Miškeca. The owner doesn’t go fishing anymore so he isn’t willing to do an interview. To BREGANA and along the border and the fence. It has been reinforced, but only up to the sawmill in GRDANJCI. No further, as we’re told in the family farm Kršlinov Mlin, which has half of the property and terrace of a restaurant in Slovenia and half in Croatia. We return to GRDANJCI and go to the Vilinske Jame restaurant to eat. There, they are willing to do an interview. We eat too many fine portions of food and then set off on the roads of the Žumberak Samoborsko gorje Nature Park. STOJDRAGA, KRAVLJAK (village with traditional wooden houses), POKLEK, NOVO SELO ŽUMBERAČKO, CEROVICA, border is only a meadow with a view, no fence. We sleep in a tent in a meadow in BUDINJAK.
“... The study found that residents on both sides of the border were much more oriented towards each other than connected to their regional centers. The border has greatly disrupted relations between Croats and Slovenes on both sides... ”
In scientific magazine Sociology and Space, 58 (2020)
F. Škiljan, B. Riman: Croatian-Slovenian relations in eastern Žumberak,
Copyright © 2020 Institute for Social Research Zagreb
15. 8. 2017.
TOMAŠEVCI, then STARI GRAD ŽUMBERAČKI, we go to the fort and look for water, then on to SOPOTSKI SLAP, where we eat breakfast. On through SOŠICE and towards SLOVENIA. There is a crazy border agglomeration around BREZOVICA PRI METLIKA (https://en.wikipedi-a.org/wiki/Brezovica_pri_Metliki - Enclave border dispute). Friendly customs officers at the crossing, which has a barn with pigs directly on the border. Customs officers on one side, pigs on the other. After entering Slovenia, and driving a few km, the road wanders back into Croatian territory without any sign or fence, then back and forth between Slovenia and Croatia for another couple km. We can’t find anyone in BREZOVICA, so we go to METLIKA. METLIKA is a beautiful town with a fortress from the Middle Ages. In METLIKA, nothing is open because of Assumption (a Christian holiday), except for the Pizzeria Pri starem Pildu, outside of town. We eat there. On to PRIMOSTEK where the beach has a fence with a door. On the way to OTOK there is a DC3 plane from World War II. OTOK also has a fence. Camp Podzemelj ob Kolpi is a huge camp in Bela krajina municipality. There, the fence is interrupted by the campground then continues.
We interview a young girl who rents mountaineering belts for an adrenaline park. A bunch of people, Kupa River is low... Sometimes there is a fence and sometimes there isn't. We reach a private land, all clean, and we drive on. In DRAGOŠI, the private homes are fenced off from the road that leads through. The only door in the village leads to the beach. In FUČKOVCI, there is no fence. Great hosts who invited us for drinks, and we end up sleeping in a tent there. They say “those who are honest don't need a fence”, and they tell us that recently there were military police coming around and that one policeman asked for their address, and that of their neighbors. That's weird. In drunkeness, the boss asks “why did the migrants not stay to defend their country?”
Camp employee: "I work at the campsite on the river where the border fence is. It has no influence on me."
“... The second season in a row, a wire fence erected at the end of 2015 discouraged multi-day tourists who visited the area ...”
“... In search of water, several bears from the Kočevje forests had descended all the way to the Kolpa in the last drought, where they could not reach the river due to a wire fence ...”http://www.primorske.si/novice/slovenija/na-kostelskem-si-kopalci-kolpo-delijo-z-medvedi
16. 8. 2017.
In the morning, we get coffee and tea from our hosts and we buy their homemade sausage. A neighbor picking potatoes says, says, “The other day bears, not finding access to water because of the fence, came through the door onto the beach. The swimmers fled in an instant.”
We move on. POBREŽJE is a beautiful little preserved village with no fence. STARI POD, Camp Jankovič is surrounded by the Schengen fence. After the camp, there are sticks in the ground and a stretched cable to place the razor wire, in anticipation of continuing the fence. Tončka, the owner gives us an interview.
We stay there, pitch a tent, set up the canoe for an evening Kupa River ride. We see deer, ducks...
“... Veronika Bajt from the Peace Institute confirmed that the wire did not actually affect the course of the migration flow, but it had a frightening effect on people who wanted to enter Slovenia and aroused fear of refugees ...“
17. 8. 2017.
At 7am canoeing. The Kupa is low. It can be paddled poorly. We carry the canoe over rocks. We see deer again. Breakfast on the Croatian side and swimming also on the Croatian side a little later. One can walk over the border between countries, no problem. We leave for ZAGREB. We cross the border at VINICA (SI) - PRIBANJCI (HR). In SEVERIN NA KUPI we look at the old castle and stop for lunch at restaurant Mirni kut in the village KLANAC.