A friend invites Robert Rigney, a US reporter and writer living in Berlin, to the Sandžak, one of the more mysterious regions on the Balkans. For Robert, who has travelled Ex-YU and Turkey extensively, it is a trip to a place full of contradictions and exotic appeal.
In many ways Novi Pazar has a more oriental feel than even Sarajevo. The city of one hundred thousand has been called the Damascus of the West. It has a very distinctive old Turkish bazaar quarter, a very fine Turkish mosque built in the sixteenth century, and some of the most curious modern architecture in the Balkans, a hybrid style, wrought out of a bizarre attempt to blend Socialist Realism with Oriental forms. The result is a strange kind of Thousand And One Nights Oriental Futurism. The Novi Pazar bus station and the Hotel Vrbak (“think UFO meets magic mushrooms, dolled up in nouveau-cement” – Lonely Planet), the biggest hotel in town, are fine examples. Novi Pazar is a marvelous place; an unreal place; and I still can’t quite make it out – the city, though part of Serbia, is more Baghdad than Belgrade.