Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Springtime in Belgrade

Today is May Day (or Labor Day) in Serbia, a national holiday in which everyone (except our school) was off from work. And what a beautiful spring day it was. After supper I went out for a lovely stroll through part of Senjak, the residential section of Belgrade in which I live.

The temperature was perfect – 66°F (19°C) with the gentlest of breezes and low humidity. The sun provided warmth in a cozy but not overbearing way. As I walked along, the strong scent of some white blossoms commanded my attention. Their perfume reminded me of the wonderful scent of jasmines that proliferated along the Croatian seacoast and in Tunisia. Roses of all types have suddenly burst forth, with the reds and pinks contrasting beautifully against the white ones. Lilacs have nearly finished their blooming season, but you can still find a few. Tall chestnut trees have fully sprouted leaves, accentuated by their conical blossom formation. Potted flowers line the balconies, exhibiting a myriad of colors. Fuzz from trees lazily floated in the air, outnumbering the insects. Birds sang their mating songs, rising above the sound of traffic.

The neighborhood park was active, but in a relaxed sort of way. Men sat and read magazines at the many benches or worked on word puzzles. Parents and grandparents alike pushed young children in strollers, walking at a leisurely pace. Elderly couples strolled along the many paths of the park. Children happily played on the see-saws, slides, and other playground equipment.

Back in my apartment, I looked out from my balcony. From here, I could easily see the horses galloping on the track of the hippodrome, located down the hill from me. In the distance I could see Ada park and lake, with its trademark fountain spewing water high into the sky. No doubt many boats were deployed on the Sava and Danube Rivers.

In the riverboat restaurants and cafés, people would be sipping Turkish coffee and smoking cigarettes. Others would be enjoying fish soup or other fish dishes. This time of year, Belgrade’s Kalemegdan fortress and park would also be full of people, strolling along, admiring the view of the two rivers, or enjoying an ice cream treat purchased at one of the many ice cream vendors. Along the main walking street Knez Mihajlova, the sound of accordions and other instruments would be heard, along with the occasional street performer. Like any other day, this long pedestrian street would be full of people walking at a leisurely pace, reminding you that this is not a sleepy city – day or night. Cafés and restaurants sprawl out onto the walkway and streets, making it a great place to enjoy a drink or people watch. Young children happily clutch a shaped mylar balloon, just purchased from a vendor across from Kalemegdan. Others toss popcorn or bread crumbs to the pigeons who eagerly gobble up the treat. Young women would pop in and out of whatever stores would be open for the day, admiring the brand-name clothing and shoes. Perhaps the green markets would also be open today. Here one could purchase locally grown produce, some imported fruit, household goods, and tables full of annual flowers.

Indeed, Belgrade is great place to be in during the spring. Come and check it out some time!

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