Hello. I am Astrid Vlasman, 57 years old and I come from Leiden, which is located in the Netherlands. I am a visual artist and have been staying in Belgrade for 2 months now and will stay another month to work and live in this city. I came at the beginning of July 2020.
EoB: Did you know something about Belgrade before you came here?
Astrid: I have always been interested in Central and Eastern Europe, but it never happened to go to Belgrade.
EoB: What did you expect to find here?
Astrid: I didn't expect anything from it. It was completely unknown to me and I went into it openly and without expectations. I am interested in ordinary people and life in the city.
EoB: What is the first thing you noticed in Belgrade?
Astrid: The first thing I noticed was the special language. Loud and with many sound differences, that made me feel right at home! (they think at home that I always speak loudly). I also heard music everywhere. Everything could be found outside on the street. Awesome!
EoB: Describe Belgrade in one emotion. (describe the emotion, if Belgrade was a feeling, what it would be?)
Astrid: If Belgrade was a feeling, it was lively and mobile, never boring.
EoB: What you dislike about Belgrade?
Astrid: I'll take Belgrade as it is. With all the irregularities that go with it. You have to be careful where you walk here. Surprises are in the street. One more thing I don't like about Belgrade, namely the African Museum. I found the museum from the 1970's very gloomy and completely outdated. Strange collection and it has no link whatsoever with the present tense. I don't think anything has changed in all those years. A very strange experience.
EoB: Compare Belgrade with your native city, what are the advantages and what are the defects?
Astrid: If I compare Belgrade with my own city of Leiden in the Netherlands, the biggest difference is that the center in Leiden has been finished for years. There is a beautiful historic city center that attracts many people. What I like about Belgrade is that city is being worked on from all sides. Streets, builtings, trees, everything is taken care of, so that the city always look different. I think that when I come back in 5 years, so much will have visibly changed. I love this unfinished thing so much. People make the city every day.
EoB: What do you think about people in Belgrade?
Astrid: I love the people here. They work very hard, thay are sporty, they are very present and very social and curious. They have a strong character, are proud and do not give up easily, but see opportunities. Very religious and they really are themselves, I guess. Because life takes place on the street and in the parks, you see a lot of people. I also like to watch the children play. Very energetic and fanatic. Always on bicycles, scooters, skateboards, roller skates, etc. It is so nice to sit in park and look at it and see them in their game.
EoB: Could you live here?
Astrid: I could live very well here but the only problem is that I don't speak the language. That is very unfortunate but I will not be able to do that anymore. As a result, I remain that outsider and I don't really know what is really going on in their lives. I don't hear their worries and frustrations.
Eob: Give us the name of one city anywhere in the world you think is similar to Belgrade (no matter if you visited it or not, give us your impression).
Astrid: It is difficult to name a city that I can compare with Belgrade. Maybe Athens. I don't know that very well. Yet the people there are really different.
EoB: What was your most memorable moment in Belgrade?
Astrid: I walked around the city a lot. Seen a lot. The rivers remain beautiful and every time I visit they surprise me again. But a special moment was my meeting with an elderly woman on a street corner who started a whole story against me. She went on for minutes and I couldn't interrupt to tell her I didn't understand. When I finally announced that I didn't speak Serbian, that didn't change anything about her. She kept talking to me but now with a few words of German and English in between. When her husband came by car she waved me goodbye. That was a great moment.
EoB: Would you return to Belgrade?
Astrid: You will hear. I am very enthusiastic about the city and of course I will come back! Probably again in summer when life is outside. I love Belgrade!
Follow Astrid at www.vlaswerk.nl
Follow Astrid on Instagram >>> @vlaswerk