Belgrade, You Can Do Better

After months of anticipation, we were finally on our big vacation. We were enroute to Belgrade, and after a day or so there, we would go down to the Adriatic coast for a road trip and some island hopping before returning to the white city for our last week. I remembered nearly every detail about my last Belgrade adventure, and I couldn’t wait to get to know the city a little better. Within minutes of touching down at the Nikola Tesla Airport, I had my first reality check. I visited the ladies room and realized realized the toilet wouldn’t flush. I was not surprised, but I was disappointed. I remembered all the bad experiences I had had with hygiene he last time I was here. This time around, I was equally annoyed. We had just paid thousands of dollars to get to this city from Los Angeles. We had carefully saved up vacation time and planned the trip and bought tickets, and when we arrived, what were we greeted with what? Facilities that were dingy, dirty, bleak, and non-functioning. Attention Belgrade: If you want to win the admiration, no, not even admiration, but the respect of other citizens of this world, you need to roll up your sleeves, and put a little elbow grease into its appearance, because unfortunately, most people Do judge a book by its cover.  Take some pride in this great city. It has so much potential. It has art and history and music and culture. It has beautiful rivers, and lovely green parks, and creative cafes and unique bars, and welcoming restaurants and good schools and buzzing pedestrian zones and even decent public transportation. It has so much to offer, but many visitors can’t see past the grime. They can’t see past the dirty bathrooms, the trash in the parks, the graffiti on ancient fortress walls.  Clean up the senseless graffiti (not all of it, not the art, or the political messages, but the scribbles), make sure your bathrooms are clean and well stocked, and get rid of the piles of cigarette butts drowning in the puddles in Kalemegdan fortress. Please, do yourself a favor. Everyone will love you for it. Or at least, they will begin to see you.

The airport toilet incident was a stark reminder of the problems that Belgrade faces. It, like many in Belgrade was dingy and barely functional. This is much like Belgrade itself. It has almost everything you need, but it’s a little worse for the wear. I knew that the beauty and charm of Belgrade would still be there waiting for me, just outside the airport doors, but this time, I’m a few years older, maybe a little less forgiving, a little more critical, a little less patient. This time I wanted to just say, “Come on Belgrade, get it together. You can do better than this.”

Nevertheless, I was determined not to let this less than welcoming first impression color my attitude for the trip. I am back to Belgrade and I can’t believe I am finally here. I had such a wonderful time last time, and I am hoping that this time, it will be as good.


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