Fare Well, Illyria

Fare Well, Illyria

Fare Well, Illyria

Fare Well, Illyria


A comprehensive yet concise account of the cultural and political situation in the Balkans during the last three decades of the Cold War (1960-1990). Fare Well, Illyria sums up the author's thorough knowledge of the political and cultural history of the Balkans as well as his personal experience gained over four decades covering the region. The reader comes across people from all walks of life: politicians, poets, literary and art critics, journalists, handymen, car mechanics, fishermen, farmers From Milovan Djilas and Nicolae Ceausescu to Sali Berisha or the Serbian "majstor" Misha and the un-named Bosnian bar singer, Binder's book features a remarkable gallery of people whose presence contributes to the sense of authenticity and human warmth of the narrative.


In the Serbian language the common expression for “goodbye” is srećan put, literally, “have a good road.” the parallel in Croatian is Sretan put; in Slovenian, srecno pot; in Bulgarian, na dobar pat; in Romanian, drum bun; in Albanian, rrugem bar.

The English equivalent is the original fare well.

For anyone traveling in the Balkan hinterlands, a send-off wish of “fare well” or a “good road” makes very good sense. Until recently even the thoroughfares were mostly back roads in the sense of having been constructed far back in time. You might travel far to find deeper ruts, more boulders strewn, bridges washed out, mud glazes, almost impassable herds of sheep, stalled tractors, occasional highwaymen. Was it always like that?

The 267 miles of the Via Egnatia completed about 130 bc under Gaius Egnatius, the proconsul of Macedonia, to link the ports of Thessaloniki on the Aegean with Durres on the Adriatic was “easily traversed by chariot” according to Strabo. After having driven across the many potholes and washout gashes of the Egnatia route up the Shkumbin River valley in central Albania in 1991 in a four-cylinder chariot, I surmised that it was probably in better shape in its Roman days. I wished myself rrugem bar! It was not the first time in the region that I made that wish in one language or another. Hence the “fare well” of the title.

Surely the most powerful curse placed on Southeastern Europe was branding it with the name “the Balkans.” in a short time it became

I wish to express gratitude to Milo Yelesiyevich for editing this manuscript.

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