Welcome to Belgrade

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Belgrade is an unusual city. It is neither more spectacular nor more beautiful than some other cities, but the most unusual one just because, although it has the word city in its name, it is least of all some kind of settlement with apartment buildings, streets and parks. Everyone living in it knows there is much more to it. Belgrade is a story. Belgrade is a person. Belgrade is a state of mind, a way of thinking and living.

Perfidiously, it gets under your skin. A bit of sand from Lido beach between your toes, a bit of a slippery walk down the rain-soaked cobblestones of Skadarska Street (better known as Skadarlija) on your way to a restaurant, a bit of the smell of dust from the theatre, a bit of a shudder that overcomes you after drinking brandy from a flask, a bit of roasted chestnuts smell from Knez Mihailova Street are more than enough to leave an indelible mark on you.

On the other hand, even when it is gloomy, when you are sick of it, when it is grey, whether you want it or not, you have to call it white, White City. With its contradictory nature, calmed by Vojvodina in the north, ruffled by Šumadija from the south, wrinkled by the Old Town and starched by New Belgrade, demolished through history and promised for the future, torn by religious rifts and reconciled by human goodness, it captivates you at first sight. Infamous and yet desirable, avoided and yet unavoidable, abandoned but unforgettable.

Belgrade is so unique that no one has been able to own it. Because it belongs to no one but itself. It could be mine, it could be yours, it could be anyone’s. This is what makes it great. Elusive, unique and restless because of all the people who left a part of their own universe in it by living there. It has outgrown, outlived and got over many a generation, and will do so to this generation as well. It does not need guards, defenders, do-gooders because we are all just passers-by to it. It only keeps the memory of those who knew how to love. Each other, and thereby the city itself.

To be a Belgrader is not a title, although it is so coveted. It is a matter of circumstances. To be a Belgrader (or a citizen of any other place for that matter),  and a good person, that means something, because it is more important how you love than where you come from after all.

Coming to Belgrade, you do not need to bring anything with you, because you will find everything in it. When leaving it, feel free to take all your belongings with you. It does not worry, because what you gave it while you were there you could not, even if you wanted to, carry with you in your suitcases, in your pockets or on your shoe soles. Either wittingly or unwittingly, you gave it your most valuable possession. Yourself.

Translated from the Serbian by Svetlana Milivojević-Petrović