As most adventures are, it was a chain of events that led me to this moment, me playing the bongo type drums to a techno mix on stage underground in Eastern Europe.
“Now you feel the real Belgrade”, my new Serbian friend Aleksandar shouted, as we were all dancing to the techno electronica music that boomed through the catacomb like club that we had been brought to….20 minutes later, I was up on the DJ stage, playing the drums, yes, thats right, I was playing the drums on the DJ stage with another friend, Pablo. We took an opportunity to become guest stars at The Tube, and underground club in the heart of the city.
That morning, I linked up with some travelers at my hostel, 3 from Quebec, Canada, 1 guy from Slovenia, and 1 from Germany. They had all be studying in Barcelona together and were here for the weekend. After exploring Kalamegdan park again, we made a snowman together in front of the fortress, and named him Tito. Our battleground with snowballs was fought on the battleground of the Belgrade fortress, where many bloody battles had ensued, mostly with the Turks.
Later we got Burek at a street vendor, roasted chestnuts in a paper cone along the main pedestrian zone, and I got 6 postcards for 100 dinars from a seller in the park.
For dinner, the 6 of us were joined by my new Aussie friend who is staying at another hostel. We found a place called “the domestic food of the house”, and ordered 7 plates to share. Sausage, Cevapcici, Potato Baklava, Smoked Turkey, Sarma, and Been soup. And of course, it wouldn’t be a real Serbian meal without lots of bread and lots of Shivovice. Sorry for the mis-spellings here…
All of us sat in a corner of the dark wooden restaurant, in front of a giant, larger than life size poster of President Tito, the infamous communist dictator of the former Yugoslavia.
After dinner we were to meet a girl we had met who told us to join her at some club at the outskirts of old town. After we finally found our way, we were turned away, they were too full. At this point, this was the 3rd time in 2 days I had been turned away because the place was too full. Once at a cafe, once at a bar, and once at a restaurant. This would never happen in the US. They would make a place for you, or put you on a list, or have you sit at the bar until a table opened up, but in Belgrade, when there’s no room, there’s no room for business as well. So we left. We found a few random guys in the street who seemed interesting, and they immediately offered there opinions on the best places to experience the night life. So, we followed them, now a group of 9, and soon we would meet up with 2 more friends of friends, 2 Bosnians. So to sum. 2 Bosnians, 1 Slovenian, 3 Serbs, 1 American, 3 Canadians, 1 German, and 1 Australian. A very interesting crowd, no doubt.
They led us to the Red Room, along the way discussing the media and the impression of Serbs around the world. Aleksandar wanted Belgrade to be seen as welcoming, open, friendly to foreigners, and wanted us very much to like Belgrade. He wanted us to have a good time that night, it was very obvious. It was sweet how he was trying so hard to show us a good time. He talked about being a global citizen of the world, and that even though Muslims had killed 2 of his family members, he still didn’t hate Muslims, because after all, a person is just a person, and not defined by the extremists who also belong to the same group. He talked about the NATO bombing, and how he still like Americans…he was a very interesting guy indeed, couldn’t have been more than 28 years old or so, and he was studying fashion design. He wanted to go to Milan or Paris, to show them that Belgraders are as sophisticated as the rest of Europe.
So after the Red Room, which was a grunge-punk club, we ended up at the Tube, which was really like a big underground maze of hallways and rooms, very cave like and dark in all the corners, with lightbulbs randomly around…barely making it visible. The Techno was crazy loud, and when we left around 0430, the party was going stronger than when we had arrived. And it was packed nearly shoulder to shoulder throughout.
So now the mystery is solved about why Belgraders always talk so loudly amongst themselves…they’ve gone deaf from spending age 18-38 at the techno clubs every night. I’m beginning to yell a little myself.
So All in All… a very interesting evening. Good company, good music, good food, and good entertainment on many levels….More to come later….
Best, from Belgrade.