NIS, SERBIA (June 2012) – My interest in Jewish heritage dates back to when I lived and worked as a journalist in Belgrade many years ago. At that time Belgrade was the capital of Serbia and also of what was then Yugoslavia, and my principal focus, as the chief correspondent for UPI, was following mainstream developments.
The first time I visited Dzialoszyce, a dusty village about 50 kilometers northeast of Krakow, an elderly woman approached as I stood with several companions, gazing at the gaping roofless ruin that had once been the town's grand synagogue.
She mumbled a few words of Yiddish in our direction, then apologized that it had been such a long time since she had spoken that language.
(Gustav Mahler, 7 July 1860 – 18 May 1911)
The years 2010 and 2011 mark a memorable double anniversary for the great conductor and composer Gustav Mahler -- 150 years since his birth in an out-of-the-way Czech village and 100 years since his untimely death in Vienna at the age of 50.
Mahler conducted in great cities all over Europe -- among them Hamburg, Budapest, Prague, Leipzig, London, Moscow and, most notably, Vienna, where he directed the Court Opera for 10 years.
It's more than ten years since the end of the bloody series of wars that broke apart the former Yugoslavia and made much of the Balkan peninsula a strictly no-go area for tourists.
Happily by now, most parts of the region are once again wide open to visitors. The stunningly beautiful Dalmatian coast of Croatia in particular has again become a summer playground for hundreds of thousands of foreign holiday-makers, many of them from Israel, and even Bosnia-Hercegovina has upgraded its tourism infrastructure in a bid to welcome guests.