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Winter Olympics host.

During two short weeks this February, Americans will have their first real introduction to a country that few of them know anything about--Yugoslavia. The XIVth Winter Olympic Games will be held at that time in Sarajevo, and ABC Sports Television will bring more than 60 hours of coverage into our living rooms. We will see not only the games, but also a good eal of background on the country and the people who live there--a portrait that most Americans will find surprising.

The current president is a woman. Many women are selected for the parliament and other positions of power in the government--especially surprising because both men and women seem to believe it proper that women do the hard, dirty work while men sit by drinking beer, "supervising." In fact, Yugoslavia is so surprising in so many ways it is difficult to generalize about the country or its inhabitants. From town to town, or province to province, one observes an enormous variety of costumes, dielects, behavior and architecural styles. A Serb will tell you, "Notice how lazy the Macedonians are when you're there." Later in your trip, a Macedonian will ask you, "Did you notice how lazy the Serbs are?" Both of them laugh at their good-natured gibes at their neighbors.

As far as their present socialist economy is concerned, it does not seem to entail, as many of us would imagine, five-year plans--or any planning at all, for that matter. The economy basically works like this: Any industry with more than ten employees is owned by the workers, who make all decisions, large or small. As a consequence exists, the quality of manufactured goods is low and Yugoslavia therefore does not have a healthy export business.

The country's economic system is generally chaotic. Its unit of currency, the dinar, is weak. Prices--for example, for rooms--are frequently given in U.S. dollars (they know that the dinar, worth little today, may be worth less tomorrow). Inflation is high, as is unemployment. Little or no real planning for community development, industrial growth or upgrading the economy seems to be done. On the positive side, the people have good health care, educational programs are basically free and individuals are at liberty to choose their own line of work, religion or way of life. They are happy and proud--sometimes even to the point of boastfulness.

over the past centuries, the country has had many rulers: Romans, Turks, Austro-Hungarians and Nazis. But in November 1943, Yugoslavia as we (dimly) know it today was reconstituted under Marshal Tito and began to undergo extensive economic and social development, as well as rapid population growth. Today its inhabitants feel free to travel, criticize their government, vote, talk politics and drink copious amounts of their excellent beers and wines.

So the people are pleasant, the prices are right and the country is fascinating: Therefore, the real mystery about today's Yugoslavia is, why don't Americans flock there the way western Europeans do? Each year only a few percent of the tourists visiting the country are Americans, and many of them stay only a night or two (usually in Dubrovnik) before flying on to someplace else. It doesn't make sense. The country is so diversified it is a mini-Europe; something different is found around every mountain. Prices for Americans are extremely low; a room costs 25 to 50 percent of what it would run in such "must" countries as Switzerland or France. In '83, double rooms with private baths in hotels ranged from $20 to about $50 a night, with super-hostelries going up to about $80 for two. Food and drinks are good and not expensive, and the sights are incomparable. A real haven for the sportsman, the country offers good fishing, hunting, swimming, hiking and skiing. And the "Riviera," the Adriatic coastline, rivals its namesake expect for the show of wealth and the levying of outlandish prices.

Dubrovnik, of course, is Yugoslavia's great drawing card. It is one of the world's most beautiful and picturesque cities. Surrounded by high walls and ramparts protruding into the Adriatic Sea, it is a wonderful relic of another age. No visitor seems to get enough of this old city, or indeed of the more-than-1,000-mile-long Adriatic coast.

Although Dubrovnik has many fine hotels, smaller inns and even rooms available in private homes at about $5 a day per person, the world's most unusual hotel lies just a short way down the coastline from Dubrovnik. Named Sveti Stefan, it is an entire 15th-century village and island connected to the mainland by a narrow, artificial isthmus. Room rates range from $37 to $80 a day--not bad booty for staying in an old pirates' lair!

Many day tours originate in Dubrovnik. one takes you to Budva and Kotor, old cities badly damaged in a 1979 earthquake, and another to the island of Lokrum, one of the truly great, Edenlike, tropical nature preserves on the planet. From Dubrovnik harbor, regular, small ferries (cheap), tour boats (more expensive) and boat taxis (very dear in price) go out there.

A few hours by road directly north of Dubrovnik is Sarajevo, the Olympic site and a meeting point of East and West. If you are like most people, including many of the inhabitants, you will not be thrilled by the slab-sided, unattractive high rises in the newer parts of the city. But you will be enchanted by the many Turkish mosques and minarets and the narrow, cobble-stoned streets and tiny shops of the old town's marketplace. Its strange sounds and smells make you feel as if you are in Istanbul. One of its surprises is its 17th-century clock tower. It keeps time Turkish-style, which means that noon comes at sundown--and that its time will never match your watch. And from now on, thanks to the Olympics, the city will also be an international winter-sports center.

Sarajevo's place in history, of course, would be quite secure if the Olympic committee had bypassed it entirely. Forit was here in 1914 that GAvrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serv, shot the Austrian archduke Francis Ferdiannd and set into motion the events that led to World War I.

The war, while not fondly remembered by most Yugoslavians, did produce one happy event as far as most of them are concerned--the birth of their nation. The area now called Yugoslavia had been a crazy quilt of Turkish and uastro-Hungarian possession and a number of small states until Princip fired hsi fatal bullet. It was Woodrow Wilson's principle of self-determination that gave rise to the Yugoslavia of today--one more reason Americans can expect a warm welcome when they visit.

One other outstanding sight in Yugoslavia, located in the northern part of the coutnry near Zagreb, is the Plitvice Lakes National PArk. Many world travelers have seen altogether too many juseums, galleries and parks and might react, (Oh, no, not another nature preserve." But Plitvice is not just another park. It is worth traveling any distance to see. The large, hilly, forested area contains 16 lakes of clean, blue-green water falling into one another via thousands of waterfalls ranging from shall to sizable to spectacular, with water falling thorugh, under and over greenery every where. Except for a bus-train taking you to a starting point and an electric boat crossing one lake, this haeaven-on-earth must be explored on foot.

The Clever Slavs have built a narrow, golden path of wood and gravel, which occasionally takes you right over the tops of water-falls--a vantage point both lovely and a little frightening. A visit here is exhilarating, exciting and absolutely unforgettable.

Much of the ground travel in Yugoslavia is like Plitvice' golden path--slow and incredibly scenic. Covering nearly the same area as Wyoming, Yugoslavia is the ninth-largest country in Europe. Because its twisting roads and rail beds wind through the many mountains, visting these spots can be time-consuming. For those wishing to travel on their own, ground travel by bus or train si inexpensive, often crowded and frequently late. For buying tickets, booking seats and making arrangements, communications are often a problem. All the big car-rental companies, as wella s some that are not so big, are present--but the associated costs are high, partly because gasoline prices are so painfully expensive. As a tourist you can get 10-percent-discount coupons, but 10 percent off a lot isn't very helpful. Although independent travel is possible, visiting Americans would be wise either to go on a prearranged guided tour or to go directly to Dubrovnik, see it for at least a week and make day tours (or multi-day tours) from there.

Being almost tropical in character, the southernmost coastline of Yugoslavia is a wonderful place to winter. It is a considerably less wonderful place to be in the summer--especially in July and August, when it is hot and crowded with tourists (and prices are at their highest). Natives agree that spring or fall is the best time for tourists to viit, except for the winter-sports buffs willing to endure the cold to indulge in their favorite entertainments in the mountainous provinces.

Getting to Yugoslavia has become extremely easy. Both Pan Am and JAT-Yugoslav airlines fly directly between Yugoslavia and the United Staes. You can fly into Ljubljana, Zagreb, Belgrade, Dubrovnik, Split and, at least during the Olympics next February, directly into Sarajevo. A visa is required, but it is easy to obtain, either from a Yugoslav consulate or embassy in the United States or at a border crossing or airport in Yugoslavia itself. No photos are requird and there is no charge.

We Americans have been missing a real opportunity for a long time. Yugoslavia is beautiful, divese, inexpensive, safe and friendly. And as television will make clear to us this FEbruary, it gives us the chance to experience three worlds: the East, the West and and that area the network has so properly called the wide world of sports.
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Title Annotation:Yugoslavia
Author:Kingery, Phyllis; Kingery, Alan
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Jan 1, 1984
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