I have this layer in my soul that connects with cities as if they are humans.
Their layout comes across to me as a net of brain cells spread in different patterns. Cities with cosy, old style centres and messy narrow streets are to me like good natured approachable people that you want to hug after exchanging only a few sentences with. They are always good fun, they can keep a secret and no matter how many times you come back, there is always a ‘’new’’ street to walk through, a hidden café & a bookstore or a charming nook to discover. Rome, Prague, Madrid, Bosa, Belgrade…Belgrade is my easy going friend, always new and always changing.
The facades and architecture of a city show beauty of the flesh, but also that subtle character that imprints with age in every face you meet. Rome, Budapest, Belgrade…The beauty I see in Belgrade’s shabby facades feels as if I am watching the dear old face of my granddad of my favourite aunt. It shows history, rough life, wrinkles made of smiles and worries. No expensive facelifts for sure.
Then, there are huge cities that make you feel small. Cities not made for living but for winning or losing. Like some people that are too intense to be around for too long. Good for a visit but not for a lifetime. New York, Moscow…Belgrade is not one of them. It is comparatively small. If you live in it for around 5 years you are very likely to meet familiar people in the streets who recognize you, even if you walk far from your neighbourhood. Belgrade makes you feel at home.
Modest cities are like those people that are not claiming to be particularly attractive of outstanding in any way, but they have this vibe that always makes you feel relaxed and full of life. They are kind to you, they treat you with respect and always show you good time in their restaurants, river banks or cobbled stone streets. Their warm and welcoming citizens are their heart of gold – Sofia, Skoplje, Sarajevo…. Belgrade is a lot like that. You can argue its beauty and grace but you cannot argue the joie de vivre you feel on Ada, Obilicev Venac, ‘’Silicon Valley’’, splavovi, Savamala, Kosutnjak…
City’s celebrities are those very famous, mainstream tourist destinations that are there for show. These cities are beautiful but you can rarely peak in through the windows and see real life. Life of these cities revolve only around spotlights of the sights that everyone wants to see before they die e.g. Venice. Belgrade is definitely not a celebrity. Recent history and slander of press have made a bad guy out of Belgrade that only deep, strange, adventurous or avant-garde travellers want to see. There are still many people in this world that would not even know where Belgrade is. Belgrade is like a regular person that was born, that lives, has family, laughs and cries, exists and will die but secretly hopes not to.
There are all-over-the-place cities like Bucharest and Warsaw that for example have no real city centre. Their substance is spread around as if a giant toddler, playing with lego bricks, made a mess long time ago and left it like that. They are like people that do not give away easily who they are. They look a bit messy or reserved or unattractive at first, but if you give them a chance they knock you off your feet by scattered charm and beauty hidden in the most unexpected places of their souls. These are a little unloved cities by their citizens, like a little insecure people who lack self-love. Belgrade belongs to this category as well, there is lots of mess that history and negligence left behind.
Perfect cities- Luxembourg and Vienna….Like people privileged by birth, saved from challenges of life. Always dressed up in the best clothes they smell nice, their faces are the perfect shade of rouge, they always say what others want to hear and show no emotion…only you are bored to death after a glance and do not even feel like talking to them. Belgrade is definitely not one of those. Belgrade is like a warrior, full of scars and rough stories that make you feel, that make you want to know and experience more.
Historical seacoast cities are like those gorgeous arty people that you feel lucky to have a fling with but are not likely to be sustainable solution for you in the long run e.g. Malaga, Rethymno. I wish Belgrade had a seacoast…then this category would have to be seriously redefined, since Belgrade is an arty gorgeous person who is my stayer.
Sanja Agatonović, Budapest