Surviving Slavija Square: Driving in Belgrade
I am a proud product of aggressive urban driving environments. Thanks to years of driving in NY, NJ, and DC, I think nothing of tailgating, navigating traffic circles, and pulling U-turns on major roads during rush hour. Who cares if I’m among the least knowledgeable drivers in the United States? Urban drivers know all the rules they need.
This knowledge (or lack thereof, according to Business Week) has served me pretty well in Belgrade. I’d heard that Belgrade drivers were crazy, but I don’t think that’s true. They’re just determined to get to their destination by any means necessary. The U-turns, driving in the wrong direction, and tight turns don’t faze me. After a few weeks of driving here, I thought that I could handle it all. Until I drove into Slavija Square. At rush hour.
Slavija Square is a huge traffic circle connecting downtown areas to suburbs. I know, I said I could handle traffic circles, but this one is special. It connects to eight major roads. Busses, trams and trolleys share the road with cars. And to make things even more special, there are no traffic lights and few road markers to guide drivers through the circle.
The result of all this depends on your perspective. If you’re a pedestrian, Slavija Square is a transportation ballet. Vehicles dance in slow circles, curving around each other and miraculously arriving at the proper street. If you’re driving, Slavija Square is a military exercise. You cannot show fear, and you pray that no one will hit you.
I can’t avoid Slavija Square, but I’m not sure I’d want to anyway. After learning about New Jersey jughandles, New York tailgating, and D.C. U-turns, Belgrade traffic circles seem like a natural progression. Next challenge? Maybe a Vespa in Rome…