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My Travel Writing Scholarship 2011 entry - Journey in an Unknown Culture

WORLDWIDE | Monday, 28 March 2011 | Views [542] | Comments [1] | Scholarship Entry

City of Flowers, City of Death
Every great city of the world has been fought over but in Belgrade the evidence of conflict is ubiquitous. It seems to be manifested in her terrain, course and hilly and in her buildings ranging from the occasional small thatched 13th century Turkish house to the blocks of socialist iron monsters hogging the skyline.
I've come to Belgrade from Zagreb on a whim during the middle of a cold December and have arranged a last minute meeting with an old friend, Ivan in a bar at Belgrade's core. Armed with a newly purchased map I make my way up the hill of the old city and its immediately clear that the chill I'd hoped to escape is vastly accentuated here in the winds, whipping off of the Sava and the Danube river, which grasp the whole city in a humid December choke hold. I make my way to the center of old town.
People fill up Republic square. Bright lipped Teenage girls sit in groups gossiping beneath the bronze statue of prince Michael, who liberated Serbia from Ottoman rule in 1867. They must contain a part his warrior spirit clothed in thin jackets miniskirts and high heels, as if to announce to me that this cold I have been cursing under my breath since the train station must be only a figment of my imagination. Office workers, slightly more bundled up than the girls, line up at a small food stand and then push past me with fists full of steaming cevapi- sausages bundled into gooey flat bread. An old women sells CDs of ethno folk music and calendars with January featuring a picture of Tito embracing president Nixon. She flicks a half finished cigarette at my feet and looks incredulously past me when she sees that I will buy nothing.
As I walk along Knez Mihajilova in search of the bar, I realize that the people of the city seem as diverse and ornate as the grand empires who have conquered her.
Belgrade means the white city but in tune with her its character it has been given many and often contradictory names over the years - the white city, the black city, the city of death, and the city of flowers; perhaps for the wildflowers that grow deep into the hillsides of the 3rd century Kalemegdan fortress off in the distance.
The cafe, when I find it is cozy and warm inside.
"And what do you think of my city?" asks the middle aged bar keeper after the usual small talk and travelers introductions. I give him the standard generic answer "Very beautiful, very nice."
He flicks his cigarette into the final dredges of my beer bottle "Maybe in American cities the widows shine from money," he said slowly and pained as if instructing a school child "and maybe in Paris they have the romance and in Roma the art, but in Beograd we have the soul."

Tags: #2011Writing, Travel Writing Scholarship 2011

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1

"Maybe in American cities the widows shine from money," he said slowly and pained as if instructing a school child "and maybe in Paris they have the romance and in Roma the art, but in Beograd we have the soul." ( WOW) :)

  lekshminair Mar 29, 2011 6:23 PM

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