калемегданoцорвид

May 14th, 2019

bg-6

There he was, plucking himself through the overgrown grass and dandelion tuffets crowning the fortress like the fuzz on an old man's head. "He looks like a duck!" I hear now, gathered around the display, something I thought myself behind the lens. He eventually caught something in the haze, strange gait apparently paying off.

What can be said about his home? It's the same place, nominally anyway, I first saw twelve years ago, towering over the confluence of the Sava and Danube, a brick boot towering over a soft and cowering pair of worms. The chestnut trees and mulberries still make the place feel like any other municipal park in this part of the world (though they're maybe a mote too neat and perfect, if one takes the time). The same sodium lamps, illuminating for all below what, up top, becomes a piercing orange eyesore still shine on at night. Memorable warning signs ("bricks fall from this vault!", etc) retain all their officious unheedability.

bg-5

And the town wrapped around it, the town that owes everything to it, as many yet do, still knows the art of overcast better than any other place I've seen. Belgrade is gray, and knows no other color until it's been put to the question a little. The same frivolous beauty and monumental brutalism comingle. The old broad streets are just as inviting for a walk against the wind. The nato-bombed building not far from downtown still looms, torn and sooty, over its resident block.

bg-1

I used to hop the train to Belgrade a few times a year by special order, often alone. I typically felt lost, amidst the language and the cold, desaturated landscape. It was a place that venerated things and ideas I didn't know, or didn't know much about, and frankly I wasn't all that interested, being overwhelmed by local points of interest back "home" to the east.

bg-4

The line, tempting, offers itself: nothing external really changes, only you do. But like all trite and obvious prosaicisms it's a half-truth, or possibly more like a quarter-truth. Yes, the passage of time has allowed me to spend more interest, to recognize more signs amidst the static. I feel less lonely in Belgrade, because I'm more lonely the rest of the time, because I'm more accutely aware of how alone I actually am.

But in the city itself there are real differences; the war machines were not laid out on the inner fortress lawns so long ago --were they stored, like decorations for a combative christmas tree, in some old cobwebbed basement? Neither was the "dinosaur park" in place back then; not that it's anything but out of place now, what's changed is it's there, a platoon of fiberglass models to some scale varying inside the modeler's head. The tyrannosaurus roars unconvincingly every fifteen seconds through a tuna can speaker hidden somewhere in the wood chips.

bg-2

Somehow the recipe for bread has been forgotten meanwhile. That happy memory of waking up in Belgrade to brave the chill for kefir and croissants will stay a memory, now; every пекара is a Fornetti front, a case full of margarine-laminant and naught else. The postered kiosks call out dates for bands I wouldn't see, much less lament having missed1.

bg-7

My time in Belgrade still seems, this tenth or eleventh instance, a trip through numerous hallways. Some lined in the old brass handrails and ancient smoke of hotels, some with the tall facades of department-stores-cum-science-academies, others with impermeable walls of people, not hostile but not friendly either, the occasional immigrant breaking through. All the city is a series of hallways leading to the kalemegdan, where the windows are thrown open and one can finally see, but only the kind of seeing achieved from a distant throne: vast summaries of life, detached and impersonal.

  1. Sometime in 2012 or thereabouts I spent a sad, eventless Friday night in Belgrade by myself, only to find a VNV Nation flyer posted in town the next morning, for the night previous. I just stood there for about fifteen minutes looking at it. Yes, it was gray. []

2 Responses to “калемегданoцорвид”

  1. Unless "bricks fall" is off camera, the sign in 2nd pic is rather "danger, high voltage, risk of death".

  2. hanbot says:

    Yeah, bricks fall is off camera (and in latin alphabet). There's risk of death of a certain kind for everyone up there!

Leave a Reply