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The subject of tourist spending came up during a dinner of kraca ("pig's thigh"), cheese and horseradish, which Cooke and I shared with two bright young men from the tourist bureau of Slovenia—Franja, a former ski instructor at Pohorje who had become a travel marketing expert, and Vlado, a tall, blond fellow from Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. Franja outlined the problem of tourism in Yugoslavia: "Tourists spend an average of $60 to $80 a day in Italy or France. Here, the figure is more like $35 a day. This is good for the tourist, perhaps, but it's not good for the economy."
Vlado chimed in: "There isn't enough to do to spend money on. There's nothing to do at Pohorje but ski and drink, and you can't drink more than a liter of wine if you want to ski all day."
Franja continued: "Our businesses are run by workers' councils. We call it self-management. There are professional managers, of course, but it's the workers who make the final decisions on all policies. There's no government source that dictates how the good of the state—or the economy—can be best served."
Vlado went on: "Too many workers' councils tend to vote policies to serve their own special interests. Some shop workers won't open shops during hours when they could sell many more items. Why? Because they want their own convenience served. It's a perfect democracy, in which each worker votes for his own best interests, and the general good is very often ignored."
The next day we drove west on a wide road, which led Cooke to reminisce about the conditions in Yugoslavia during his first trip in 1954. He had bought a blue 1949 Plymouth convertible in New York, shipped it to Europe aboard the He de France and then used it throughout Yugoslavia. "People gathered around like it was a circus car full of clowns," he said. "We kept breaking the oil pan. The rocks were murder. There was one wide autobahn built then, but no one used it. I drove on it for miles and miles and never saw another car. Then far ahead I made out a tiny figure standing on the highway. As I came close I saw it was a policeman, who was signaling me to stop. I stopped. Then he waved me on again. There was nothing in sight. I asked him, 'Why did you stop me?' He answered, 'Because it is my job.' I said, 'But there isn't any traffic.' And he said, 'But there will be.' "
Our destination that morning was Lake Bled in the Julian Alps. In summer, Bled is one of Europe's celebrated health resorts. In winter, however, it's nearly dead—which, it turned out, is a fine way to find the place. It was dreamlike, the still waters surrounded by peaks and guarded from 325 feet above by a medieval castle, walled and moated. The promenade around the lakeshore lay beneath arched black branches pillowed with snow. Swans glided on the gray waters. The lake was not frozen, an unusual condition so deep into winter, so skating, a celebrated local custom, was out of the question.
But the Grand Hotel Toplice was open. It's an elegant five-story anachronism from the days before socialist taste dictated that only streamlined buildings are to be considered the epitome in architecture. The Toplice was built in 1931 with an Old World attention to detail—parquet floors, silk wall covering, thick floor-to-ceiling drapes. A smiling, dapper man introduced himself as Mr. Jarc (pronounced Yotz) and said he was the sales director of the Toplice. In the course of conversation, he said that he possessed two university degrees, that he spoke seven languages and that he had been at the hotel for 25 years. He said that King Alexander of Yugoslavia had visited the Toplice in the 1930s and may have witnessed the first hockey game ever played in Yugoslavia, a match between Hungary and Czechoslovakia on Lake Bled in 1932. Jarc spoke of Dr. Arnold Rikli, who had spurred tourism at Lake Bled in 1855 when he started an open-air camp to treat people with tuberculosis. Jarc mentioned that the Toplice was filled with Nazi generals—"generals only"—during World War II. This region, he said, was a hotbed of Yugoslav guerrilla activity, and his own father had been a heroic leader of the partisans. Jarc also recalled that Bobby Fischer had won an important match at the Toplice in 1961 when he beat Mikhail Tal of the U.S.S.R., and he said that there had been many guests of international significance at the hotel—U Nu when he was prime minister of Burma, President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, King Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, to name a few. Jarc brought out a guest book and fondly displayed the inscriptions therein of a variety of celebrities, including Carlo Ponti, Simon Wiesenthal, Walter Slezak, Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier. Jarc was proudest of the page signed by Josip Broz Tito and his wife, but then he made a sour face and said, "Some bad-mannered British couple has chosen this same page to write their foolish names."
That night a man from the Lake Bled Tourist Association met Cooke and me for a drink in the congenial hotel bar. His name was Bogdan Sanca, and we asked him if he thought the Olympics in Sarajevo would be well run. He frowned and said, "Tourism is not traditional in Bosnia [where Sarajevo is located]. There will be problems."
Before I recount the rest of his answer, let me explain some facts behind it: The Land of South Slavs is a patchwork nation of six republics (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia and Serbia), plus two autonomous provinces in Serbia (Vojvodina and Kosova). There are large numbers of six different ethnic groups within the country (Montenegrins, Croats, Macedonians, Muslims, Slovenes and Serbs), as well as 18 nationalities of which Albanians, Hungarians, Turks and Slovaks are the most numerous. There are three major languages spoken (Serbo-Croatian, Slovene and Macedonian), each different from the other. In the north Yugoslavs tend to show more the characteristics of central Europe, while those in the south reflect the influence of Turkey, Greece and Albania. This makes for deep ethnic differences—and dislikes—within the country, and as often as not there will be provincial prejudice in any opinion expressed by people in one part of Yugoslavia about people in another part.
With that perspective, here's the rest of Sanca's opinion concerning the possibility of a well-run Olympics: "The problem is the small things. Nobody changes light bulbs. The running water stops and no one fixes it. These are small things. But, of course, it only takes small stones to make a full mosaic. The difference between Slovenia and Bosnia is plain. They have looked to Allah to produce for them, and they patiently wait until tomorrow if Allah does not do it today. For hundreds of years they have lived in fear of Turks coming on horses, so they do little until tomorrow—just in case the Turk comes today. Do you know this word 'phlegmatically'? This is what may prevail in Sarajevo. The big things, the competitions, will be very good. But the small things, the small things might make the big mosaic everyone remembers after the Olympics have long left Sarajevo."