Belgrade

My images of Belgrade are chaotic and positive. The city claims to have the best nightlife around and it proved its point. The bars we graced were indeed very cool from street cafes open to whatever hour, to metal bars full of live, sing-a-long Serbian rock to French drinking songs in Tijuana bar. You really don’t need a club when you have this. Serbs also have a reputation for beautiful women and I can confirm this too. The conversation with shiny pants and my horse comment still makes me laugh.

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I was there with Mirella for the first few days seeing the fortress, Zemun old town and various images of its glorious old past and others of the nearer past. Serbia has kept the destroyed TV building as intact as the NATO bombers left it as a symbol of what they perceive to be murder. 43 TV staff died in the blasts. However what was truly memorable were the people. English was widely spoken, food was provided with faultless service and deference and the portions were enormous. We ate well.

The staff at the hostel showed us round, going well beyond advice and actually taking us to events and places. Nikola and Mira were especially helpful and jolly sharing many beers. It was an immediate home from home. Sat on the balcony just down the road from the fortress drinking a few beers in the heat or passing slectrical storm was a simple pleasure.

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Its always great seeing and being with Mirella. We’re just friends but silly our husband and wife routine never wears off. She plays the gentle, passive aggressive role to a T while I buffoon like a man who nevers gets lost. Mirella of course never gives me any credit when we find our way around but never fails to query me along the way!!

I wrote previously on the football and the elections in Belgrade. Other highlights included drinking to late hours in Tijuana bar, laughing with my new mate Jan, eating lunch on a boat with Mirella in Zemun, Mirella buying 8 cans of non-alcoholic beer (which Nik got exchanged the next day), sitting up till morning with Nikola talking music and Japan and wandering through the streets watching the people go by.

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Times are tough in Belgrade. Salaries are low, there is a sense of anger at the Western bombings and the loss of Kosovo. But the future is optimistic too. Serbia will join the EU in the near future. From a distance and through the lense of modern history, this is easy to question. But having being there, met and talked to the people, I’ve been impressed by their intelligence, culture, knowledge and easy sense of humour. A reading of their long history clearly puts them in Europe. Its a matter of the rest of the world taking the time to look.

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