The other city

My notebook’s screen went wrong. In the beginning, when opened to a gap, I still could see on it what the notebook was doing, and when inserting my hand in the gap, like in the mouth of the crocodile, I even could manipulate it. But then the gap was darkened as well, and from then on the machine lived its own inaccessible life. I muffled it and started to go around in Sarajevo to find a place whether it would be plugged to an external screen, so I could save the horribly important data of the past few weeks. The first place was recommended by the hotel, he was an old TV technician, but extremely intelligent, like most Bosnians, and very well versed in the business. He plugged the HDMI output of the notebook to a HDMI screen, but it did not show anything. In fact, this notebook only displays the image on the external screen when instructed to do so; and to instruct it, you should see the screen of the laptop. A vicious circle. The old man offered me to take out the HD and copy my data, but with the opening of the machine I would have also lost the warranty. So I check on the Google map the notebook services in Sarajevo, and begin to roam about the city.

Strange nooks, never-seen neighborhoods, back corridors of department stores open before me. I will arrange the next adventure tour not on horseback and speedy rivers, but I will compile it from such tasks: you will have to take a car radio to repair in St. Petersburg, or buy an external CD drive in Addis Ababa. Labyrinthic shops, unknown machines and spare parts in stalls, strange, coll figures. Elsewhere, on the door of a closed shop, a nicely printed paper: “We are on vacation, look back from time to time.” But the mouth of the notebook remains closed.

I give it up, and start back to the old man to open the notebook. And as it usually happens, only after the last place I discover the great billboard at the corner: Win Com, notebook sale and repair. Hrasno quarter, this is the place of the advertisement: I thought: what could I lose? A well-furnished shop at the bottom of a socialist-style ten-floor building. A cheerful young man is talking on the phone at the table, he nods when I ask him whether he speaks English. I take out the patient, I explain the problem. You can clearly see how his brain is rolling. He also tries some cables, he also arrives where the others had arrived. Then he continues thinking, and the wheel in his mind suddenly goes beyond the deadlock. He does something that no one thought of: links the HDMI outlet of the modern notebook to an old VGA screen. This screen does not offer any option, it does not expect any instruction, it automatically sucks the signal from the machine. The content appears on the screen. I can start the long process of data transfer.

The man orders coffee from the neighboring bar, we talk. I notice the accidental German conjunction words, I ask him. He happily turns the speech to German. During the war of 1992-1995, he lived with his family in Berlin. Where? In Alt-Tegel. And I live in Charlottenburg, I tell him, just six stops from there. We are neighbors. He went to high school in Berlin, then he graduated in Belgrade. Was it not awkward to study in Serbia? Yes, it was, but he had no other choice. Since then, Sarajevo has also recovered, it was worth to come back. This shop is completely his own, he proudly shows around. A new man arrives, a good friend. Sead introduces me, we shake hands. We order another coffee. The newcomer speaks only Bosnian, I reply in Czech, we mutually praise the beauty of the girls in Budapest and Sarajevo.

The data transfer ends in the meantime. I ask for some used cardboard to pack my machine for DHL. Then I go to the next point. I want to buy a cheap second-hand notebook for a month, until Amazon sends me the replacement machine to Berlin. On the shelves there are some types which had been veterans already years ago, but Sead’s eyes brighten up. “There is one, I have not yet put it out. It is the best one, they would have taken it in one day.” An Asus M70S, which recalls to me the flat-sized computers once carried around with a truck. It is a robust device completely filling a standard-size hand luggage, it looks like a German tank. I only measure it in the hotel, it weights four and a half kilos. For a month from now, my companion in the valley of the Neretva and on the ridges of the Caucasus, in bus, in boat and on horseback. It comes with Windows 7 and every necessary program, in Bosnian. A hundred and thirty euros. A deal. In the meantime, another man comes in, with excellent German. He lived in Reinickendorf, halfway between two of us. Sead also invites his brother, and calls on Skype his Bosnian friend in New York, who had lived in Hönow, endlessly far from us, in the far side of Berlin. The closing time is long gone, the five Berlin expats are happily sipping coffee in the small notebook shop in Sarajevo’s outskirts, and recalling the magnificent city.

Danubian clouds

The plane takes off, for one minute it seems to move toward the downtown, but then turns sharply south, it follows the line of the Danube. On both sides of the river’s strip, the colorful chessboards of arable lands, mining lakes and salty backwaters shine in the vaporous afternoon sunshine.

After crossing the Serbian border, the plane soon reaches Vukovar where the Danube, obeying the orders of the old kings, turned to the east, and still outlines the boundaries of a missing country. The plane, before saying goodbye to that country, and continuing its journey south through the long Serbian corridor in front of the crowded rooms of the small Western Balkan peoples, describes an elegant circle above the last river bend, which, along with its three tributaries, draws a complex circuit on the Bačka plain.

The Erdőd (in Croatian, Erdut) Bend, as the Danubian Islands blog writes, was forced to turn to east by the Erdőd loess range, which rises up to sixty meters above the river. The loess range, extending from Almás to Erdőd, is well visible on the map of the First Military Survey (1763-1787). To the east, at Almás the Drava flows into the Danube, from the south the stream, which the map still calls Weis Graben, and from the north the tiny river of Mostunka. If, on the map of, you click on Options, and then you set the layer of “First Military Survey” to 0%, you will see that the lake under the former Rácz Millidits and today’s Srpski Miletić, which, in the foreground of the photo, repeats the bend in the shape of a half moon, gathered up from the water of the river.

The afternoon vapors have become thicker, and a multitude of tiny clouds rise up from the hot plain, forming a threatening cloud cup. Sometime, when kayaking on the Danube, we used to look up worried, whether it would be poured upon us before we camped. Below, the Danube is the reality, the paddle strikes, the country borders. From below, the clouds floating above the large water belong to it: they are the Danubian clouds. Seen from above, the three-dimensional world of the clouds is realistic and self-contained: they do not belong to anything, least to the tiny strip meandering on the worn cloth of the earth. Nevertheless, they are the same Danubian clouds. This is why I could send this photo to the Danubian clouds photo contest of the Danubian Islands blog, where it won the first prize. The river has been stretched to the sky, “the foundations flew upon high.”

Tamás Sajó: The cloud looks back