Read, Write, Run, Roam

Back to School with Belgrade Book(im)mobiles


It’s officially “back to school” time in Belgrade. Ada is thinning out, the heat wave has broken, and the bookstores are filled with annoyed parents and listless students. It’s pretty similar to September in the States, with the exception of bookmobiles lining the streets.

Unlike U.S. bookmobiles, these vans sell rather than lend. I’m not sure if they offer used books or simply cheaper ones. I only know that they are sprouting up like weeds. Weeds that never move from their parking spaces. Some of these vans, like the orange one in the background of the photo above, have been parked there since November. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t even run.

It’s been a long time since I had to buy schoolbooks, but I’ve never been able to shake the feeling of the first week of school: the sadness that summer is over, the dread of going back to a boring routine, the panic of using a graphing calculator. I always liked buying the supplies, though. I would convince myself that the perfect binder and pens would make me an organized, straight-A student. And it would work, too…for about three weeks. I still don’t know how to use that graphing calculator.

Good luck to all the Beogradjani students this year, and congratulations to all the parents who might have a little more freedom…

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7 responses

  1. Agnieszka

    Dear RHOB,

    Just came back from my small shopping and had exactly the same weird impression that these vans are sprouting up like weeds. Never seen something like this. I stopped by for sneak-a-peak and found only books for kids and to school so didnt pay much attention on others. I wanted to ask my Serb to explain me this but here we go you are my great source of local customs.
    In Eastern Europe it used to be a practice of borrowing books from older years. This was organised by schools and it was great opportunity to save money. Also there was a problem to find all books in book stores. Oh I’m missing big book stores in Belgrade like these in London (Waterstones)or NYC (Barneys and Nobles) where you can sit and read and read… and spend the whole afternoon waiting for your half to finish his work and take you to dinner 🙂
    Thanks for your post!

    September 6, 2011 at 3:51 pm

  2. VP

    They resell used books, you can sell your old stuff to them too (for a pittance, but hey!). Why not go and haggle for some elementary school level books for Serbian (and literature)? Level-up your haggling and Serbian at the same time!

    September 6, 2011 at 4:26 pm

  3. Oh, this is a great idea! I am looking for books with english on one side, Serbian on another. Perfect solution.

    September 6, 2011 at 8:09 pm

  4. Anytime! Life here is usually a mystery to me, but fortunately my readers usually help me out. 🙂

    As for big bookstores, the only one I’ve seen that is kind of like a Waterstones/B&N is the large one by the French Cultural Center on Knez Mihailova and a huge, 2-story bookstore on Kneza Milosa, West Side, about 2-3 blocks from the American Embassy. If you can understand these crazy directions you might have luck there. The only rub is that they don’t have many books in English. The English Book on Kralja Petra 51 has a ton of, you guessed it, English books, but I wasn’t crazy about the selection and found the people there to be a bit snobby.

    I’m going to London for the first time in a few weeks! Any suggestions?

    September 6, 2011 at 8:14 pm

  5. Agnieszka

    Oh great! I’ve been to this book store near US Embassy already. My husband took me there next week we arrived to Belgrade just to show me that people here read in English too :).
    London is a amazing place! Definitely something posh like Mayfair and Covent Garden with nice cafes and restaurants around. For lazy Sunday only Chelsea and South Kensington and for rainy strolls Hyde Park. If you somehow end up on South Bank Friday or Saturday morning go and visit Borough Market – fantastic place for food from all over the world. The whole South Bank is worth visiting anytime. Renovated Shakespear’s Globe Theatre and of course Tate Gallery.
    Notting hill on Saturday morning with its market is great to buy some antiques and antiques-to-be stuff but you need to do at least tiny shopping at Harrods because is a part of English culture. As you like visiting churches you’ll find on your way many of these and cant wait to see which one you actually sneaked into!!!

    September 6, 2011 at 11:00 pm

  6. LOVE these suggestions! Harrod’s is definitely on my list, though I suspect I will only buy a pencil or something while I’m there. I’m not in London during the weekend but maybe I’ll wander around Notting Hill anyway. I definitely have to see the Globe and the Tate. I’m trying to figure out a Banksy tour too, but I hear that his works are destroyed within weeks.

    September 6, 2011 at 11:40 pm

  7. Agnieszka

    Yes, that’s true – Banksy pops out in many places around London and disappears very quickly too 😦 Shame! I remember days when someone came to college saying that the new Banksy just appeared under this location in London so it was a perfect excuse to get out of the school earlier then we should that day. Check Arrested Motion(dot)com you may find some interesting info about his art.
    You would be surprise by Harrod’s food department (not that expensive but very convenient) and I am sure you’ll be able to buy much more then pencil. I have my Harrod’s cup for morning tea in Belgrade but my MUZ loves having his morning coffee in it!

    September 7, 2011 at 11:47 am

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