Tito’s mausoleum in Belgrade is known as the House of Flowers -Kuća cvijeća/Kuća cveća. The taxi driver tells me it is also known as the 25th May, the Yugoslav leader’s birthday.
‘ As a child, I took part in these displays’ he tells me, ‘ you see them now in China and North Korea, like gymnastics.’
‘Were you proud?’ I ask. Screwing up his face he can’t remember, ‘Just that we had to practise for months, three or four.’
The tomb itself is white marble with Tito’s name and dates in gold, Roman letters. It’s in an upmarket suburb of the city, in a secluded, wooded spot which is dripping wet like everything else in the heavy rain. There are pictures of boys and girls in ironed white sports uniforms raising their arms and legs in unison to honour the head of state.
Around two-hundred-and-fifty batons are also on display. Thousands were handed to Tito as part of an annual Yugoslavian relay race for his birthday. They’re from cities, sports clubs, the Cycling Union of Macedonia, the Builders of the Fraternity-Unity Highway, the People of Croatia among others.
There are carved wooden batons, painted batons, one made from shells, one with scissors and a needle, one a miniature silver tank.
The final one in 1987 – after Tito’s death – was made from plexiglass with eight red blood-like drops. “It could augur the beginning of blood shed in the region” is the curator’s comment.
Central Belgrade – themechanicalturk