Tuesday, November 1, 2011

So what is Belgrade like? A reflection based on 15 days

I think Belgrade is very European, but with many of what Phil and I call "second world traits", such as incessant smoking in open spaces and the constant presence of stray dogs.  The streets and avenues are not grand or wide like in Paris, DC or other European capitals.  There is a ton of commerce everywhere; people walk around at all hours of the day and night.  Pastry shops, restaurants and cafes are plentiful and stay open till 2 AM daily.  There are many stores (shops?), but even if they are American brands, they are not American in their size or selection.  Some stores are so small that you have to first step inside in order to close the door behind you.  That's another thing, doors open to the inside, which is very fire unsafe and kind of awkward if you are carrying things.

On any given street, you will see the following stores in order: shoe shop, underwear shop, "trafika", cafe, bakery.   Repeat on the next block.  There are zillions of underwear shops; my favorite is called Triumph, since that is the feeling I would have if I were able to get into any of their garbs.  They also have one called "Women's Secret", which I think it's pretty funny.

The Trafikas sell cigarettes, soda, lottery tickets, bus passes and magazines.  They are not proper stores, but more of a kiosk.  Serbia is chock full or random kiosks.  Here are two of my favorites:

In case you can't tell by the picture, these are shoelaces.  Yes, shoelaces in every color of the rainbow. Just in case you happen to tear one up while you are walking.  I really wish I could ask how many they sell daily, given that 1.  Most people I've seen dress in head to toe black and 2. Most of them do not wear lace-up shoes.

Along with the underwear stores, there are many of these- stocking kiosks.  The women of Belgrade are very fashionable and in general very attractive, so this one I am sure is a hit.  I do get a kick out of the leg mannequins.

Besides the shops and cafes, the other very particular thing about Belgrade is how people park on the sidewalk. This is SOOOO Puerto Rican!  Half the time I have to walk on the street because the sidewalk is full of cars.  Many times, the sidewalk is MARKED with parking spaces.

This is the street right by the Embassy, one of the main roads in Belgrade. The best is when they decide to come in or out of the parking spot and they are literally driving next to you as you walk along the sidewalk. 


joanna said...

Hi V-Rah. I am a DC native (living in DC) and I just found your blog through http://www.ambassador-serbia.com/2011/11/02/belgrade-is-not-washington/

I am really enjoying reading about your transition! I am coming to Serbia in December for a few weeks with a night or two in Belgrade. I think it would be great to email with you and maybe meet for coffee while I am there. I can totally bring you Oreo's or some other comfort American food. :) or something very DCish like a container of Old Bay! (is that weird? pretty sure it is... offering someone Old Bay? Who does that? I just know when I lived overseas it was just one of those things I missed the most.)

Looking fwd to hearing from you!

Maryland Momma said...

love it!!! my husband is super jealous of the shoe lace kiosk...he can never find shoelaces and feels it's unfair that apparently the entire shoe lace population is in Belgrade, so if we ever make it over there, we know to stock up on laces!

V-Rah said...

Hey Joanna! Thanks for reading and for the heads up on the link. I had no idea! Definitely let me know when you'll be here and I would be happy to meet up. I do miss DC and Old Bay, but what I really miss the most is Chipotle Burritos. LOL.

joanna said...

I wish I could smuggle you some Chipotle! Instead what I will do is connect you with a friend, Danielle, who is from DC and lived in Serbia for a year. She knows where you can find good Mexican food. :) Oh and I will be in Belgade on 12/17. Let's link up! (saltycracker0@gmail.com)