Belgrade, Republic of Serbia eob@eyesonbelgrade.com

Eyes on Belgrade, Winter Edition

We hardly get to see snow in Belgrade in recent years. My friend Luci, from Argentina, told me that in her native city of Buenos Aires they never see it, or maybe once every fifty to hundred years. And it made me think. What are childhood memories without snow? And it made me remember.

 

When I was young, some thirty years ago, we regulary went snowballing and sledding in the park during the winter. And it was pretty strange not to have snow on New Year's Eve. My mother always tells me that I've seen nothing, because when she was little girl the snow in Belgrade was up to your knees from November all the way through March. And they used to sled even on the streets. Of course, at the time there was not too much traffic, but that's not the point. Nowadays, it is strange to see the snow. A couple of years ago, we even had snowless winter. But, it usually snows only two-three times a year. Even though the vast majority of people who drive to work are happy because of it, I am willing to endure all kinds of problems that it creates in the city just for a little more snowy days. Maybe that's the child in me.

But, let's admit it. The winter without snow is completely senseless. Or maybe joyless, I don't know what's the right word. At least for the parts of the world where the winters are cold and harsh, like here in Belgrade. Those who wouldn't agree with me, I know for sure, are municipal governing bodies who pray for clear skies and sunny days, since the snow always surprises them, as the people often joke. "Snow in January, so strange around here", they are saying ironically as the city collapses every time snowflake drops from the sky. But they may as well be the smartest of all of us, because actually nowadays it is strange to see snow in Belgrade at any time. And the odds are getting more in their favor with each year that passes.

So, one morning I woke up and saw through the window that everything was painted in white. And despite television appeals and adverts that it would be better to stay at home if possible, I put on my warm clothes and rushed out. And I am a person that doesn't like to go out that much. So, this feeling was pretty overwhelming, I can tell you that.

The kids were actually in the park, sledding exactly like I used to do when I was young. Or maybe I was just having flashbacks. So I took the photo to prove it to myself later. Maybe we haven't changed so much around here, as someone who recently visited Belgrade shrewdly noticed. We stayed somewhere in between, I guess. And as much as this is affecting our lives on a daily basis, primarily from the economical and political point of view, it is positive in an overall sense of the good old times, whatever it means for each and every one of us, still being here, residing in Belgrade. So it is like walking down memory lane. For those who have memories, of course. For the younger generations every place covered with Wi-Fi is ok. Or so I thought before I witnessed the scenes from the park. Still, there is hope.

Nikola Pašić square

I like to walk in deep snow, even though my feet always get wet. That's the price I may have to pay later, but the moment is what defines us, someone once wrote wisely. And I had a couple of those moments during my walk. I saw more kids at Nikola Pašić square skating at the big winding ice-rink. Going further, I realized that main zones in the narrow center, like Terazije or Knez Mihailova street, were full of people, and the streets on the side completely deserted. So, one moment I was walking through the town of ghosts, and the other among real people passing by me. The coffee shops and bars in the neighbourhood were packed, because as much as you like being out there it was really cold and after about half an hour your fingers would start freezing. 

But before I went to have a cup of coffee, I diverted from Knez Mihailova street and came down Kralja Petra (King Peter's) street to Kosančićev Venac. No one there to see the marvelous building of the Patriarchate, the Princess Ljubica Residence, or St.Michael's Cathedral Church. No one on the tiny cobblestoned streets in the back that are fully covered with snow. No one to overlook Sava river and see numerous riverboats freezing on the river. No one but me. It was all mine, my personal Belgrade. And it started snowing again. And I felt like I was breathing again. I was inhaling cold air and getting warm inside of me. Imagine that.

King Peter street

And it suddenly hit me. This is Belgrade! Cold from the outside and red hot inside. You cannot see Belgrade, you have to be Belgrade. Or maybe I started thinking too much. These places tend to provoke romanticism in you. And I was enough of Belgrade for a day. It was time to go back, for a nice hot drink. And don't get fooled, Belgrade has so many nice bars. And there is always some place that is in your way, you don't need to go halfway through the city for a decent drink in a decent surroundings. Enter wherever you see people smiling. And that could be a general advice.

That day I drank coffee with a friend in a bookstore in Knez Mihailova street. Believe or not. It was a regular coffee shop inside of a proper bookstore, among various examples of good and bad literature on the shelves. Personally, I think that there is no bad litterature when the book is closed. But that's not suitable for this article. The coffee was good, my feet were defrosting, as well as my hands. We talked about whatever crossed our minds. I felt content that day, not only because of the snow, but because of the snow in Belgrade. Snow in other places is strange, this one is familiar. This one is bringing out to the surface all those forgotten feelings. And for you... it may bring the feelings you never knew existed.

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