I. Reading Momo Kapor’s A Guide to the Serbian Mentality late at night reminds me of everything I’m not doing in Belgrade but could be. The most wonderfully uncomplicated things like syncing my heartbeat with the city’s at Terazije and wandering aimlessly around Vračar are so far away right now that soaking up the book too often only makes me feel anxious. A collection of vignettes about Belgrade and its character, it’s so sincere that reading it in English has almost the same effect as reading Kapor in his original Serbian.
Nothing describes Belgrade like the three words “Belgrade is Belgrade” that we utter at the airport after coming home from abroad. Belgrade abounds in love, warmth and wonderment; we feel safe here and we’re happy to live in this city. If we haven’t made much of our lives, it is enough to say that we have managed to live in such a fine place as Belgrade – the unfulfilled dream of many provincials. Belgrade does not like having its picture taken. It hates to pose. It will not keep still. It does not do well in photographs – it always looks like some place else[1. The first photo isn’t mine, but it’s the most accurate visual representation of the Belgrade I know.]. […] There are few things in Belgrade that I have not seen elsewhere. Perhaps only three: its rivers, its sky and its people. Of these three ancient elements the unique spirit of Belgrade is born.
II. I’m going to Belgrade this summer and I cannot help feeling almost provoked by how unscrupulously easy it all seems to be. One of my favorite things to do in life is walk around cities at night; it makes me feel as if I don’t need anything else in the entire world and in that state of invincibility and complete merging with the city it’s truer than anything.
Walking around Belgrade at night is different because a part of me firmly believes this is precisely what I’m supposed to have been doing all along – Belgrade and not some other city. The problem is that the mere notion of it is escapist. It’s never this easy, real life contains thousands of other factors and I don’t like that I get so much out of an illusion. Most of all I’m afraid I’ve made it all up and that everything will be different when I move there.
III. Although I’m aware of this now, I probably won’t remember it the next time I. asks me if I’m sure I prefer walking from Zvezdara to wherever we’re headed that night in high heels instead of taking the tram.