Homage to cities that make you feel infinite

Sea in the Fall


When I'm at the seaside in fall or winter, the thought that I'm looking at the very same sea that I swim in in summer never ceases to puzzle me. It looks so alive and then, with all people gone, it begins to speak of vast emptiness, as if everything underwater is hibernating too. Colder temperatures, wind and vacant streets on Friday evenings don't quite match the image of Crikvenica in summer either. The curse of small coastal towns that only seem to exist during high season.

5 things I never told you about Belgrade

Keep calm, it's complicated with Srbija1. Belgrade emanates a constant feeling of conflict. I think it's one of the main reasons why this city is never boring, although I'm unable to pinpoint what the conflict actually is, nor do I have any idea if Belgraders feel the same; I also don't know whether the source of the conflict is the fact that somehow it's (always) "complicated with Serbia" or it's exclusive to Belgrade.

2. Most of the more expensive cars in Belgrade have tinted windows. Every time I see a car with tinted windows somewhere else, I automatically assume it has Belgrade license plates.

3. All Belgrade streets smell of the same perfume, but I have yet to catch it on a particular person. This way it's everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Who knows what it would smell like on me?

4. Although I've been to Belgrade quite a few times, I know there are large parts of it that are still completely unknown to me. "Parts" meant not (only) as locations but experiences. I also think it's impossible to live through all of them in one lifetime. Belgrade is vast (metaphorically).

5. My favorite thing to do in Belgrade is to go to the Kalemegdan Fortress at night and watch the lights of New Belgrade across the river. I never stay long, just a couple of minutes, but this view is probably why I'll be returning to Belgrade all my life.

Belgrade and city identity

photo by lumachroma

Belgrade, the most interesting city that never turns out photogenic in my photos so I have to use other people's. Belgrade, the only city I was sure I'd end up living in at some point, but I now realize it'll probably never happen and I don't know what to think of it. Belgrade, the city that has played with my head more than any other (ever will). Belgrade, the city that was and wasn't, is and isn't, will and won't be home. It's inarguably the best city to be young and I can't help but feel a little envious of those who grew up on its streets, especially in the 1960s - 80s when Belgrade was reportedly a whole different story that I can unfortunately only observe via books and films. Not that I would exchange it for the Belgrade I know, though.

I was in Belgrade for 5 days, my second longest visit so far. I saw everything on my agenda in the first 3 days, so the remaining two were completely dedicated to wandering around aimlessly without getting lost because someone will always show you the way, which is why Belgrade is also the only city where I don't have to rely on a map. I think most foreigners experience the same "phenomenon" - hearing different languages always means a lot of tourists are in town, but I didn't see anyone perusing a map/GPS or looking even remotely lost the entire week I was there.

Belgrade reminded me that I must not lose the ability to connect to places and people; no small talk, only relationships that matter. It's probably because everyone I encounter there is always frank; not that I would dare to make a generalization that all Belgraders are this stellar, it's just that my experience has always been such. Also, I suppose that now I'm fine with the fact I'll never be a (true) Belgrader, an irrationally heavy burden that has perplexed me for many years. It all comes down to the fact that my "city identity" has always been fluid (and nationality: Undefined), thus omitting that sense of "belonging". I think in 2007 Belgrade was the first place I consciously wanted to belong to, and it'll probably never wear off completely.

It didn't help that I had and still have no idea what "belonging" means in practice when it comes to cities. Is it enough to like and understand a city in order to belong to it? Or do you have to spend extended periods of time there to be able to claim that special bond? Although these questions have provided much thought material over the years, it seems that I've let them go with this visit to Belgrade. It's better this way because I've never got any fruitful answers from them. Could it be because they don't exist?

Resting on the laurels of the past

For a city in danger of disappearing underwater relatively soon (what do a couple hundred years mean in the large scheme of things?), Venice is so calm and constant that it makes you think it's not aware of the impending disaster at all. The truth might be that it consciously chooses not to stress over it; Venice is the only city where everything is always the same and  people enamored with it will come back to it despite it rarely offering anything that isn't centuries or at least decades old (Venice is small, I believe it's possible to see all the main tourist attractions in 1-2 days). For example, every other Venetian masks store displays a sign claiming they were the official masks supplier for Eyes Wide Shut in their window. Even if they really did make masks for Kubrick, that was more than 10 years ago, meaning they continue to rest on laurels of the past, not thinking about how they could improve their business with a more recent achievement or idea.

Speaking of Kubrick, we unexpectedly found ourselves at an exhibition of his photos (shown for the first time) at the Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti. He shot them between 1945 and 1950 when he wasn't a filmmaker yet and the negatives were lost for a long time; looking at the photos I was surprised that someone who not only had "the eye" but also vast knowledge about the technical side of photography would change his profession and become a film director. He did make prominent use of his photography skills in his films, but still. There isn't a single photo in this exhibition that doesn't create a world of its own. The exhibition runs until November 14; if you're in Venice, right now it's the one thing you cannot miss.