Days 19 and 20: Belgrade

Kalemegdan at NightShabbat was relaxing exactly as it should have been. In fact, it was so relaxing that we did not get up until 11:30. Really the entire day went like this, lazing around until supper time. For dinner, we went to another excellent seafood restaurant, Fish and Bar. Here we got a few glasses of local wine, neatly prepared red snapper, and teriyaki salmon. Yum. Even the side dishes were tasty. This place is a real must for seafood lovers traveling to Belgrade.

That evening, we were determined to check out Belgrade’s lively nightlife. Our first stop was Aunderground, a club seemingly carved into the bedrock under Kalemegdan. On the main dance floor, far too talented couples did salsa while we watched in awe. After a few drinks, we went into an adjoining room where the dj was playing more modern music. After dancing for a bit, we realized we were surrounded by teenagers. Feeling a bit too old, we thought it would be good to look for a more mature venue.

Taking hints from the locals, we searched out another bar down the street… but we must have missed it. Walking along the Sava River, we passed a number of lively restaurants, but no dance clubs. Looking up the hill, we heard great music and saw club lights flashing at the top of Kalemegdan. Determined to join the party, we climbed up the hill following what stairs and paths we could find in the dark. The fortress itself is actually quite striking at night. The picture above is not mine, but it captures fairly well the mystique of the place. Unfortunately the “club”, an outdoor venue on the ramparts, was sadly empty of party-goers. On our way out of the fortress, we spoke with a few locals who said that the venue is usually pretty busy on weekends, but it seemed that most of the city’s nightlife left to go to Exit. By the time we returned to our hotel, it was 2:30 am. While we did not quite find what we were looking for, it was still a very fun evening.

Of course, our late arrival ensured that we would have another late morning. Packing our things up by noon, we walked down to a nearby market to get some fresh fruit and nuts. Then we ate at the nicest restaurant I have been to so far in Belgrade: Dorian Gray. While most places in the city feel very homey, this place had a real elegance about it. Even the restrooms emanated class. After lunch, we picked up my bags from the hotel and marched them over to Manga Hostel for my evening’s accommodations. Then we walked back to the hotel and took a taxi to the airport in plenty of time for Lina’s flight. It was a great week, thanks for visiting Linochka! Now that she is headed home, I have to get back to work. :-/

I took the bus back to the city, getting off at Slavija, the city’s central traffic circle. From here I walked back to the hostel stopping on the way at a bakery I went to my first night in Belgrade. The same woman who was working there that first night was also there again. We immediately recognized each other and got to talking a bit about my trip. When the conversation turned to Kosovo, she was quite adamant. “It’s our country, you know.” Consistent with many of my other impromptu conversations with Serbs, she reiterated the importance of Serbian history in Kosovo and the unfairness of Serbia’s treatment by the international community over the last decade. What is particularly amazing to me is the extent to which common Serbs are able to repeat the basic history of Kosovo from the 12th and 13th centuries. Clearly this is no mere history lesson to most Serbs but a set of myths central to the Serbian national imagination.

Once back at Manga, I tried to catch up on my posting, but inevitably was drawn into even more political conversations. One of the staff insisted to me that she could not care less about Kosovo… but following what is becoming a predictable pattern, she qualified her initial statement by saying that Kosovo is clearly historically Serbian but that she has more important priorities to pursue in her life than the reintegration of Kosovo. She, like most Serbs, has no interest in getting into another war to reclaim the territory, but she does not believe that the outcome has been fair. Nor does she believe that there is any a priori reason why Kosovo should be independent; Albanians being the majority is simply not enough.  It didn’t take me long to get back to work, did it?

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