Crouching tigers

Karađorđe Petrović monument in Belgrade, Serbia

Karađorđe Petrović monument (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How bad one can feel when one refuses the insistent offers of a man at a railway station to change one’s plans and come to his town to watch movies until 4am.

Today sat in a park before taking the trolley bus to the Tito museum, which was closed due to the funeral of Tito’s wife. There was a big crown still dissipating when I left, and they’d obviously set up portaloos for the occasion; some enterprising folks were selling badges of black and white photos of the wife, and Tito with the wife (I presume).

Coming back, I ran into an Australian girl again, who kindly offered grapes. Went to a market which was tables of fruit and vegetables, cleaning products, and secondhand clothes. Walked along in an unknown direction, which is a pleasure found only in an unknown place. Sat at a sidewalk cafe and had a cappuccino, and worked on my lyrical poem about the line on the ocean. Continued to city centre and saw guards changing at the president’s house. Had burek at favourite shop.

Last night I had a plate of grilled mushrooms, heads up, on a thin bed of soft rice wreathed in finely shredded lettuce and tiny triangles of carrot, and a side salad, ‘Serbian’, of tomato, pepper, cucumber. It seemed like the only seasoning on both dishes was salt, and they couldn’t have been more satisfying.

The city yesterday was foggy, or smoggy, the weather balmy. Perhaps it’s humidity.

The tour guide said that during the months when NATO was bombing the city, people congregated on the main bridge over the river, wearing t-shirts printed with targets, and holding dance parties. Big name musicians performed on the bridge while the planes flew overhead. It wasn’t at all safe, but this is how the bridge survived the war. Téa Obreht describes it in The Tiger’s Wife, something like a heady, exuberant dance on gravestones. The best parties, ever. There are still bombed buildings in the city. The insides look gutted, warped to the outsides, holes, but still standing, still destroyed.

On the night train, an excited trio asked me to take their photograph in the corridor. And although I’d just lay down with War and Peace and it was almost midnight, I joined them in the corridor for a while and had some beers. Later, I wanted to ask for an email address so they could send me photos, specifically, though I wouldn’t have said this, a photo taken leaning out the window with the boyfriend and me, winningly dangling my passport out the window,


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