Read, Write, Run, Roam

Fall for Belgrade

Belgrade fall comes in with a bang. Last Friday I wore a skirt and t-shirt; the next day I grumpily wore a wool coat. I’ve always resented fall weather. Spring is a time of hope. Summer is a time of ease. After long days of outdoor dining and tiny sandals, autumn arrives as an unwelcome guest. It shows up at the front door with a garbage bag of shorter, colder days. It brings the ghosts of back-to-school dismay and laughs when last year’s favorite sweater reveals a moth hole. It sleeps on the couch for a couple of weeks and leaves behind slushy streets and sore throats. It’s almost as bad as my freshman year roommate.

I truly resent fall now, since it also signifies the end of my time in Belgrade. Yet even a curmudgeon like me can’t deny that it’s a special time here. The leaves are changing in Kalemegdan, but everything still looks green and leafy. Cafes keep their outdoor tables but now offer blankets. Gangly school children show off their new sneakers. Mothers ignore the midday warmth and insist on down coats and thick scarves. There’s also a most unexpected delight: the smell of fall in Belgrade.

Some days I wake up to the smell of burning wood from a chimney or rakija still. I walk through the sweet, charcoal aroma of roga peppers roasting for ajvar. I savor Knez Mihailova’s bouquet of grilled corn, charred chestnuts, and fresh popcorn. When the rain stops, I catch a whiff of clean grass and barely rotting leaves. Fall may be an unwanted visitor, but at least he doesn’t stink.

Fall is better than the next guest, Old Man Winter. His bouquet will be sour. Before the municipal heat turns on, some people will burn refuse for warmth. The odor of melted wood varnish and tires will trudge into the city, float on air particulates, and tickle noses in the middle of the night. Fall might be a nuisance, but winter is simply rude. So I’ll enjoy the fall smells—and sights, and sounds—of Belgrade for as long as I can. I’ll miss this city more than all my strappy sandals combined.

Photo credit: Marcus Agar (aka W!ldRooster) instagram via twitter.  Check out his website at


7 responses

  1. Agnieszka

    Dear RHOB,

    You wrote so beautifully about autumn that I feel no longer depressed! Yes, all these smells and colours! Having a crush on that city? Me? Yes!!
    My first for months lazy weekend in Belgrade without any travels and hassle, no guests and parties!! I will enjoy my autumn strolls around BG! And warm spiced tea after all! Have a good one too!
    I think Winter – Зима in Serbian is a woman, quite old tho!

    October 14, 2011 at 11:45 am

  2. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who doesn’t like fall! It’s funny, in the US we talk about winter being a man but you’re right, in Serbian it should be a woman. Another sign that I need to live here longer…

    October 14, 2011 at 12:37 pm

  3. erasfa

    Fall and winter are both women in Serbian 🙂 while spring and summer are of neutral gender. This probably doesn’t right in English but you’ll catch my drift 😉

    October 14, 2011 at 3:06 pm

  4. @erasfa I catch it! We don’t have genders in English but I personally think of winter as a man and the other seasons as neutral. And we have an “old man winter” saying, but I don’t even remember where it’s from.

    October 14, 2011 at 5:24 pm

  5. I love fall! However, fall in BG gives me appreciate for summer and spring here, too. I didn’t have all four seasons when living back home in the US. So I love having them here… it’s taken some adjusting but I love them all here – even the tons of snow I’m not used to. 🙂 I love it because all seasons bring about a different Belgrade. Summer I have to deal with tourists and some of their ill-mannered behaviors I care not for. But fall, winter, and spring are natural BG life… It’s the real life here. Summer is just completely different.

    The smells are delightful, though!! I love the peppers and chestnuts are lovely!!!

    October 24, 2011 at 11:48 am

  6. Carolyn

    Beautifully written…the ability to paint pictures of the past, that with which we can all identify from younger years, and the present where one almost feels a bit transported to the surroundings you describe with affection and sentimental awe. Nicely done!


    November 8, 2011 at 11:40 pm

  7. Thanks, Carolyn! It’s an inspiring city, for sure.

    November 10, 2011 at 12:08 am

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