In Belgrade, a man proudly shows his rare and valuable collection of butterflies to a representative from a major European museum when air raid sirens begin their ominous wail and everyone is forced out of their homes and into a cramped, crowded underground discothèque where they dance the night away to a new Yugoslavian techno-pop band called Croats Feet. Such is the contradiction that is the Balkans.
In Pristina, at a trendy café by the river, late afternoon tea is served to a small group of chic young professional women when machine gun-toting Serb soldiers burst in and proceed to coldly and deliberately execute everyone in a hail of bullets. Moments later, tea is again served, followed by a poetry reading. Such is the contradiction that is the Balkans.
At a family gathering in Kosovo, a young man plays folk tunes on a homemade ocarina when, out of the blue, a "rogue" 2000-pound bomb lands on the roof and levels the entire neighborhood, followed by a shower of air-dropped pamphlets announcing a sale on ladies' shoes at the local department store. Such is the contradiction that is the Balkans.
The night air of Belgrade is fragrant with flower blossoms as young couples romantically weave their way down the trendy boutique-lined streets while snipers cooly pick them off, one by one. Such is the contradiction that is the Balkans.
In a small village less than a mile from some of the heaviest bombing, farmers friendly with both the KLA and the Serb military play an ancient game of checkers while their wives wash Halloween costumes and hum tunes from the musical "The Pajama Game." Such is the contradiction that is the Balkans.
All over Yugoslavia there are contradictions. Like the billboard for a brand of Swiss cheese that has been shot full of holes that have been filled with—Swiss cheese! Or, amidst the ruins of a destroyed bridge, a toll taker continuing to collect tolls from non-existent motorists. Or the sign above a small haberdashery in Belgrade that dares NATO to, "Hit this sign and win a suit!" Such are the contradictions that are the Balkans.
Even as NATO bombs fall on Serb soldiers, the annual NATO-Serbian Army dinner dance goes off without a hitch. Such is the contradiction that is the Balkans.
In essence, everything about the Balkans is a contradiction, even the contradictions. Such is the contradiction that is the Balkans.