Read, Write, Run, Roam

When you can’t come home again: RHOB’s return to Belgrade

I’ve been keeping a secret: my September trip to Paris also included a trip back to Belgrade. The return of RHOB! Or so I thought. I soon realized it’s not so easy to go home again, as a tourist to a former hometown.

We were so excited to return. Even in Paris, city of culinary delights, we kept telling ourselves, “only three more days until we’re eating in Belgrade!” We arrived at Tesla Airport and promptly checked into a Stari Grad hotel.

And that’s when it started to felt weird. I’d never to been to Belgrade as a tourist. The hotel was nice, but without a kitchen and refrigerator, my plans to shop at the markets, visit the Zlatiborski shop, or fix my favorite snack of ajvar, bread and feta didn’t make sense.

Muz and I decided to take a walk, but we disagreed about the route. I wanted to go to “my Belgrade,” all my favorite coffee shops and the cobblestone streets of Dorcol I used to wander around in search of blog material. Muz wanted to see “his Belgrade,” restaurants he visited with colleagues, parks where we walked our dog, and bars. With only three days in town, we had to compromise how to spend our time. (Long story short: we went to Coffee Dream and Parliament bar.)

We also discovered that our language skills had declined–considerably. Before we left, we felt comfortable using Serbian in most of our transactions. So imagine my surprise when I got into a taxi, tried to explain where I was going, and realized I was forgetting basic words. I had to phone my Serbian friend and give my phone to the driver to clarify things. After all the hours I spent learning the language, it was a sad moment.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to buy this.

After our second day, things improved. We went to our favorite restaurants and bakery, thrilled to be back in Serbian hospitality.  We saw old friends and danced in new places. I realized I had to stop trying to cram a year into three days, and enjoy the difference between visiting Belgrade and living there. While I can’t return to our Stari Grad apartment, and I doubt I’ll live in Belgrade again, it was nice to return and see the city in a new light.

But next time? I’m renting an apartment for a week and bringing a suitcase of clothes and shoes for repair. I may not live in Belgrade anymore, but I can still benefit from its perks.


One response

  1. I think it’s so disorienting to visit a place that was once home. Not only in ‘foreign’ cities, but even driving by the different houses I grew up in as a child is hard for me! So many different memories that are nice but also make me feel emotionally frazzled after moving around so much. Kind of reminds me of the turmoil involved with repatriation!

    I completely agree with your sentence about enjoying the difference between visiting and actually living there. I had to come to the same realization after visiting Qatar a few months back and forced myself to slow down the pace of dinner parties, gatherings, and meet-ups with old friends. And you’re right, next time I’ll have to plan it better as well.

    Lovely post and very well written!

    November 25, 2012 at 9:24 pm

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