Experiencing Belgrade for what it truly is doesn’t have to mean a crazy ride and high voltage, just accepting to be surprised and prepared to have your plans change.
Recently, a traveller wrote that Belgrade was at its prettiest at dawn. At the moment when the city on two rivers wakes up, its beauty is revealed in all of its glory as you can see, hear and touch it without the distractions that everyday life, in its full incarnation, brings – from the crowded streets to traffic noise. A prelude to a day in Belgrade is a moment of peace that slowly dissipates, and that is its special charm. A full experience of Belgrade is usually associated with its night life, with a feeling of unconditional freedom and fun. But to experience Belgrade to the fullest is actually an indulgence from dusk to dawn, which is a privilege of specific cities with the ability to amaze, surprise, disappoint – but never bore.
A morning walk as the bakeries are slowly filling up, a coffee at your favourite place with a sprinkle of conversation with the staff or other guests, as this goes without saying in Belgrade – are parts of a favourite ritual one should not miss. In the narrow streets of Vračar or Dorćol, in restaurants by the rivers, intimate coffee-shops of Zemun, the quality of coffee will not let you down – and you are certain to find someone to exchange a few words with. Or to just enjoy the silence, if you are not a fan of morning chats.
A day in Belgrade leaves many confused. The frequently asked question is – here are all these people coming from and where are they going to? Is it possible that no one is at work? But, at the same time, this mass of young, old, middle-aged, hurrying, lethargic, those going somewhere and those just having a stroll – is not a bother to anyone. The beauty of a large city lies in its crowdedness, dynamic, differences created by people. Therefore, in Belgrade, you don’t have to wait for some “rush hour” to experience the heartbeat of a metropolis. On the contrary, a Sunday evening, as can be confirmed by all those who live in the city centre, is the only period of a relative calm before another noisy, hurried Monday.
To experience Belgrade to the fullest in the daytime is to feel a sort of a traffic adventurism, stop by some place you never intended to go, stay longer than planned and talk about things you never thought about five minutes before.
Why? Because something is always happening here. Street performances, open galleries, daily menu posted at the entrance to a restaurant that caught your eye even though you had no intention to go there, gardens open even in December thanks to outdoors space heaters and woollen, cashmere or felted blankets. The gastronomic offerings of the city, thanks to increasing interest from tourists, are so rich and diverse that they won’t disappoint even the most discerning of palates. Same goes for wine. An easy conversation in Belgrade often transforms into a panel discussion that cares not for time. Almost as a rule, especially when you are not planning to, you will run into someone and most of the times that will mean an invitation for a drink. And then another to chase it.
And so on… A city is built by its people, they create the energy and the vibe of a place, its sensibility. This is why the spirit of Belgrade is informal, casual and untameable. Despite all the rules. To experience it to the fullest means not to resist it and be ready for surprises. As much as possible. This is why no two days are the same in this city. And the nights, well, they are in a league of their own.