Whenever I recite my laundry list of cities to people I’m telling about Remote Year, no one gets excited about Belgrade. Cities like Prague, Valencia and Buenos Aires get all the “ooh’s,” “ahh’s” “I’m totally going to visit you there’s”.

Belgrade, Serbia is the red headed stepchild of European destinations. I was frequently asked questions like “is it safe?” and “what is there to do in Belgrade?” or “where even IS Serbia, anyway?” We departed Prague with collective trepidation about this weird country we were being bussed into (somewhat against our will) after finally getting comfortable with Prague’s picturesque scenery and the honeymoon phase of Remote Year. We had JUST gotten accustomed to the newness of it all when the rug was ripped out from under us. Instead of stepping off a plane into something shiny and new we were greeted at the end of our travel day by this…

Belgrade Blows

Dirty, dingy, ugly Belgrade.

The streets smell like garbage because the streets were literally filled with garbage. The concrete buildings are eye sores that look like great places to cook up some meth. Everything is covered in graffiti and the whole damn city just looks like it’s inches away from crumbling to the ground.

Long story short, Belgrade blows.

 

The overall “ew” nature of Belgrade, while initially unappealing, eventually grew to be the reason I fell in love with this weird, spunky city. If Prague was the prettiest girl in the bar, Belgrade is the funny, smart girl you’d actually want to take home to Mom. In Prague’s friend group, Belgrade is the “funny” one that tags along to play wing woman. Prague is Regina George and Belgrade is Lindsay Lohan.

 

Belgrade may blow, but amongst the dirt and the grime and graffiti is a beautifully humble city full of kind and patient people. Belgrade doesn’t have tourists, so it never felt crowded and I felt like a local from day one. The overall aesthetic of the city is far behind the taste level of the young and artistic-minded entrepreneurs who live there, which means that hidden between crumbling walls and abandoned houses are weird cafes full of color and beautiful cobblestone streets where rose sellers meander at night and accordion players serenade your walks home. For every shitty “alcatraz” tag on a building there are five pieces of interesting street art. The city’s castle, small and humble compared to the oppressive spires in Prague, had a park full of dinosaurs. Just for funzies.

Jurassic Belgrade

Jurassic Belgrade

 

Belgrade’s beauty wasn’t an easy find. You had to work for it.

 

Ultimately, I found Belgrade’s appeal not in its poetic scenery or jubilant bustle, but in its optimistic people and embrace of the “bohemian”. My landlord (whose grey, concrete building was a far cry from the pastel pops of Prague) took great pride in the plants he was growing on our porch. He called them, in broken English, his “pride and joy.” The people of Belgrade were eager to share their culture and traditions with us, kept us out partying until 5am (seriously, they go HAM here) and were so proud of their city, even though they knew it wasn’t the prettiest belle at the ball.

It isn’t easy to find the poetry in a place that isn’t conventionally beautiful. It wasn’t an obvious choice to visit or an easy city in which to find inspiration. Despite the fact that Belgrade blows I found myself not wanting to leave, clinging to the sense of home I found there. I’m proud to have lived there, if only for a brief month.

Comments (2)

  • Rose Higdon .September 12, 2016.Reply

    So glad you have appreciated what is “inside” instead of “outside”. Same way with people!! Love, Grandma Rose

  • Hal Higdon .September 12, 2016.Reply

    Interesting perspective, Dollink. I visited Sarajevo in the old Yugoslavia in 1983, the year before the Olympic Winter Games in that city. I had an assignment to write several articles, including Travel & Leisure. Then things went bad between several of the states in the old Yugoslavia and a lot of buildings got destroyed and a lot of people got killed. But that was three decades ago, and I hope things are pleasanter now. From your report, it sounds like this is true.

    But wait….

    London got overlooked! It remains unblogged. And who knows when we will hear about Portugal. Your loyal fans await your next reports.

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