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Thank You Belgrade

Dear Belgrade,

 

I met you first on a business trip. It was the first time I was travelling solo, without anyone from my team back at home. I was nervous, scared in fact. I knew so little about you. All Google said about you made me feel like I was going to some hippie town where everyone parties during the night and sleeps during the day. When I arrived, I was also intimidated by the people. I felt so tiny among the giants. But then they proved to be such gentle giants. Everyone smiled at my hesitant approach and my requests for help were met with enthusiasm! I still remember I had gone grocery shopping, didn't know a word of Serbian, and couldn't find salt. I asked for help from a gentleman shopping nearby. He not only helped me out with my entire shopping list but also through checkout.

I still remember my first morning with you. Jetlagged, I woke up very early and went out to see the sun rise. You looked so beautiful! That's when I fell in love with you. I love the way you wake up. Slowly the sun spreads its rays, and the bustle starts. And at sundown, it's time to have some fun. And contrary to popular belief, you are not just about nightlife and clubs and parties. You are about the hard-working people who love to live and know how to do it with a hearty laugh! I love the Serbian spirit: No matter what, do not give up. Today was bad but there is always tomorrow.

You are not about the places to visit — though your history is extensive and interesting. You are all about the super friendly, welcoming, lovely people.

Serbian is a tough language to master but once done, it is easy to understand most Slavic languages. I believe anyone who comes to Serbia, should learn some of it. The joy that I see on people's faces every time I speak successfully in Serbian, makes my day!

I am grateful to you for accepting me with open arms. I cannot possibly count the number of “Welcome to Belgrade” gifts I got. Every new person I met welcomed me without hesitation. It just felt as if I have always belonged here. In no other city I could have had such a vast group of friends in such short time. A large part of the credit goes to the InterNations Community and the Ambassadors here. Everyone helped me out as best as they could, even in dire COVID-19 situations.

You are perfect for me. I can go out any time of day or night on my own and do not have to worry about my safety. Even if I don't speak the language, people try their best to help. Anyone passing by would stop and offer to be my translator. Life is fast but relaxed. I love the café culture. It's nice to go for long walks that end with some coffee or rakija, the national drink, at some café. 

And then there is history. Living in Belgrade is like living through history. Every street has some story to tell. You just need to know the right storyteller. Stories of different times, different era, different wars, different struggles but the same indomitable Serbian spirit. I am amazed how beautiful you are even after being destroyed 44 times throughout history.

Let's not forget about the food and wine. Your food has many international influences. I like the clever use of available resources to bring out the best flavor. I love the fact that almost every country house brews rakija. There’s nothing like kuvana rakija — it is similar to mulled wine, to warm me up on a super cold Serbian evening. Closely linked to food and wine is the music. Almost all cafés and kafanas (local traditional old cafés) have live music, especially on weekends. One can pick one's favorite spot based on food, drink, or music.

You, Belgrade, are my home now. You are a serene old lady full of vibrant life! Nothing amazes me more than the mix of values I find in you — modern with a touch of conservativeness. Within you, progressive new buildings are standing shoulder to shoulder with communist era housing blocks and even beautiful older buildings. You have your feet deeply rooted in history, but your head is looking forward towards a bright future. And, of course, no one can compete with the big brave Serbian heart.

You have completely won me over.

Yours truly,

Piyalee

 

Piyalee Das is originally from Kolkata, India. There, she mastered the art of cooking using elaborate aromatic spices while gathering proficiency as a software engineer. Being the global citizen she is, Piyalee recently relocated to Belgrade, Serbia. She now blends her Eastern philosophical attitude in life with pragmatism from the West, tempering with software project management principles for balance. You can always find her at InterNations Events in Belgrade — online or in person.

 


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