During my first trip to Serbia, two years ago, I left the country with a singular sensation of meaninglessness. Thus I was glad to come again, and I came well-intentioned, prepared to buy and read books, and to understand. And yet the singular sensation of meaninglessness persisted, as I struggled to decipher the Cyrillic across a tiny exposition dedicated to Vuk Karadžić (not a single world in English) and all-too-humble ceramic and carpet patterns in the ethnographic museum. Perhaps I needed to come to Belgrade to discover things about Europe, and what sort of European I am. Not a minor, peripheral one, but a massive, unforgiving representative of that major Europe, the hard-working, the efficient, the all-too-wise, all-too-well-informed; the bearer of distinction of Europe against the Orientals.
With those habitable boats distributed between Danube and Sava, Belgrade makes anyone think about Amsterdam. But I've been granted the occasion of experiencing an afternoon in one of those boats at New Belgrade's shore. The analogy makes the difference even more striking, since I can't imagine the Dutch spending their entire Saturday staring onto Amstel, smoking and fantasising vaguely about catapulting pigs into mosques...
Serbian people revolt against the idea of a new waterfront that supposedly is to be built by unnamed Emirati investors. For sure they have their reasons, unfathomable to me, as I've only seen the shining surface of the elegant advertisements haunting me since the airport. They wouldn't be keen, I presume, to jeopardize the absolute peace of their smoking and staring.
There were insects in the hostel where I stayed, rated 8.3 on the Booking.com. In the botanical garden, right on the opposite side of the street, one of the employees noticed me taking photos of plants with such a professional interest that she asked if I was a botanist. Serbian people revolt, she complained, perhaps in guise of excuse for the poverty of the collection, against them buying expensive plants for the garden. And for sure, among the botanical gardens of the world, this one was among the most modest, although not as shabby as I expected: their unique glass-house had been freshly renovated with a generous EU support, as the starry sky at the entrance announced.
In the hostel where I stayed the cockroaches were in blossom, as did numerous linden trees, pervading all the city with an enchanted fragrance.
A dismal city, still at the time of my first visit to Serbia in 2013, yet testifying of an exquisite, melancholic beauty.
A peculiar rock formation, part of the Radan Mountain. Similar to the famous Cappadocian landscape, but on much smaller scale.
Palić lake & resort
Palić is a dreamy and silent 19th century resort, with its specific atmosphere very well preserved. Kind of sanctuary of the Balkans of other times, miraculously preserved on a hidden margin of history.