I’m still in Belgrade, waiting for my second shot.
I have two more weeks here, which seemed like a daunting amount of time to spend in Belgrade at some point, and now doesn’t seem so bad since I’m embroiled in a rigorous copyediting project anyway. If I have to work all the time, I might as well do it here.
The thing I can’t figure out about this city is why everyone seems so obsessed with it. People love Belgrade, like, an inordinate amount, and for the life of me I can’t figure out why.
Granted, being here now during corona is not ideal. It’s clear just from walking around that so much of what makes this place great is this sort of Balkans-style flaneur culture: this combination of a stroll and a meander where you find yourself perched on a stool at some cafe or some bar unexpectedly. Though they’re mostly closed right now, it’s clear that the culture here surrounds watching the sunset from your favorite park and convening in the evening at your local.
But for those who got here during the pandemic, what in the fuck are they seeing that I’m not?
There are a couple of possibilities, here.
Maybe I’m just fucking jaded from doing this for years. Even I’ll admit: the smokestacks in the skyline and vista over the Danube were intoxicating when I first got here. But then there were one-too-many sleepless nights and toxic dudes punching walls and that before mentioned selfish bitch that was apparently sent to me to test my sanity. And then I gave up, and I just let it be the shit hole that it is without the rose-colored glasses of gazing upon something new.
Maybe I’m just too poor. Maybe all the best shit to do here in Belgrade is too expensive, and I’m just not privy too it. But dude: I was poor in Oslo and I don’t hate it. I love Oslo! So this would have to be just a contributor at best.
Maybe, and I think this is what’s actually going on, this city is actually somewhere in between. Maybe it’s not exactly the wonderland that all these Italians and Russians think it is, and maybe it’s not quite the devilish hellscape I think it is, but rather it’s just a normal European city in which I’ve managed to have a terrible string of insanely bad luck.
If everything goes as planned, I’ll be flying to Tbilisi on May 10th, exactly 421 days since the last time I tried to go. But the last time, the country closed completely two days before my flight. Georgia has been my goal for so long – and for so many travelers – that it’s become a running joke at this point.
Where you headed next? Not Georgia, hahaha. That kind of thing. You get it.
My vaccination card will finally get me into the one country I’ve been trying to get to for the whole pandemic, a card I’ll get on the 9th. So why am I, in my mind, fantasizing about going to Croatia and Kosovo and Turkey?
Have I…dare I say it…loved my time in the Balkans?
And will I be adding Belgrade to that list before I leave here?