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20 May 16

Belgrade Through the Eyes of a Gen Y: Yugo-nostalgia Lives On

Emma Krstic

Yugoslavia’s longtime leader Josip Broz Tito died 36 years ago this month. Today, guesthouses, kafanas and tourist attractions around Belgrade give visitors a glimpse of what life was like during his period as ruler.

Inside Yugodom guesthouse | Photo: Mario Milakovic

Stepping inside Yugodom, located in the central Belgrade neighbourhood of Dorcol, is like walking onto a film set.

This eclectic guesthouse offers visitors the chance to sleep in what is effectively a museum of design from the former Yugoslavia, which Tito led from its formation in 1945 until his death on May 4, 1980 – after which it took just a decade for the country to collapse.

Yugodom’s owner, Mario Milakovic, is a designer and collector who has clearly considered every detail in this immaculate subdivided apartment; each of the three main rooms has been decorated with Yugoslav-era furniture and memorabilia from the 60s, 70s or 80s, including posters of films that were once banned, retro television sets and alarm clocks, and other items that transport guests to yesteryear.

While Yugodom is strictly a guesthouse at the moment, Milakovic is considering opening it up in the future as a place to come and enjoy a tipple while getting a glimpse of classic Yugoslav fashion. Check it out at https://www.facebook.com/ yugodom.

Memorabilia from Yugoslavia on display in Yugodom | Photo: Mario Milakovic

Yugodom isn’t the only venue in Belgrade with a penchant for former Yugoslavia. Sprinkled around the city are a number of nightspots that encapsulate Yugo-nostalgia, a term coined to describe the sentiment of longing people feel for Tito’s Federation, and which is still common among many who lived in the former country. The phenomenon was on show at the commemoration of Tito’s death earlier this month, for which thousands of his supporters gathered at his grave in Belgrade.

Down an alleyway next to Marshall Pub (Cirila i Metodija 2), a cosy watering hole that also expresses a fondness for Tito with his portraits hung on every wall, is one of the most marvellously kitschy and atmospheric kafanas in Belgrade. From the outside, Pavle Korcagin (Cirila i Metodija 2a) looks like just another dingy Belgrade drinking den, but inside, the décor wholeheartedly celebrates the Tito-era Yugoslavia. Portraits of the man himself cover the walls alongside classic propaganda posters from the era and Yugoslav flags. People are often crammed around tables while a live band plays traditional Serbian folk songs.

Tito's grave at the Yugoslav History Museum | Photo: Flickr/Jorge Lascar

For those keen to explore the history of Yugoslavia and the life of its former leader, a trip to Tito’s grave is a must. Tito’s mausoleum – the House of Flowers - is attached to the Yugoslav History Museum (Boticeva 6), but while there are plenty of photos and documents to see here, context and background are somewhat missing.

To get an all-encompassing look at his life and history, it is worth taking a guided tour that stops by many other key sites around the city. Belgrade Walking Tours (www. belgradewalkingtours.com) runs a communist tour that covers the rise and fall of the Yugoslav Federation. It is led by extremely knowledgeable guides.

Alternatively, Yugotour (www.yugotour.com) offers a similar tour, but transports visitors from stop to stop in a classic Yugo car.

Tito’s Yugoslavia may be long gone, but reminders of his era are still very much alive in the Serbian capital, not least in the memories of the people.

This article was published in BIRN's bi-weekly newspaper Belgrade Insight. Here is where to find a copy.

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