It was bound to happen. Our love affair with the open road and tiny unexplored corners of Europe came to an end.
We had been doing so well. We really embraced the nomadic lifestyle, landing in a place, scoping out how to satisfy our basic needs: food, internet, laundry (in that order). It was fun, and it was tiring. There’s only so much food shopping that one person can be expected to do in a week.
Belgrade, Serbia came into our lives at the perfect moment.
As we crossed the threshold from country into full blown city, our city selves relaxed into traffic. We navigated our car to our first AirBnB of this road trip located in a brand new multi-story apartment building. We parked in an underground parking garage, and took an elevator for the first time in months. We logged onto the fastest internet we’ve had for our entire trip (before or since), and we made ourselves comfortable.
Our flat even came equipped with remote-controlled adjustable mood lighting. I’ll let that sink in for a minute. We could have a blue living room in the morning and shift it to magenta for dinner. Or just twirl the remote around and around until we were dizzy and probably scaring the neighbors.
Over five days in Belgrade, we blissed out on city life. I actually didn’t realize that was a thing until it happened to me.
We did our food shopping at the corner bodega – just like New York, only cheaper. We stumbled out of bed on Saturday morning to the nearest bakery, already overflowing, and bought donuts. We researched the best artisanal coffee shops, because those exist in big cities, and sampled blends and brews from a variety of global coffee hotspots. We went to a juice bar. We did a frantic Google search for ‘anything but Balkan food’ and found ourselves chowing down on Spanish tapas, guacamole and all things that can be eaten with chopsticks. We walked an extra mile to get our hands on sushi.
It was a lovefest of creature comforts.
When we go to New York, or have been away from London for too long, we spend at least a few days tearing around town in a frantic, indulgent, way. We get swept up in that specific city energy, and we’re like kids in a candy store, head on a swivel, pointing and grabbing at everything that passes.
Belgrade was like that for us. Tiny overpriced wine bar? Yes! Drinks served in mason jars? Yes! A special detour to try what one person said was ‘Serbia’s best ice cream‘? Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes!
When we weren’t tearing it up, city style, we were luxuriating in our high rise apartment. I remember a time when taking out the trash meant dropping it in a room where it was dealt with by the building’s management. In Belgrade, we had one of those rooms. We also had a central courtyard where designer dogs played. And don’t forget the mood lighting.
I Skyped my entire family just to show them the mood lighting.
It wouldn’t be a tale of city living without mentioning something about early morning construction. In Belgrade, we had that, too. Our apartment rental building was so new, in fact, that a companion building next door is still being built.
Oh city, you had me at 7am jackhammers.
I often wonder if I’m really a city person. I’ve been living in big cities for years, but I also love the idea of country living, or beach living, or treehouse living. On this trip around the Balkans, we’ve been able to sample so many shades of life, so many ways of living. I’ve loved our country hideaways.
But Belgrade, Serbia came at a perfect time. When we had to itch our big city scratch, Belgrade was there, and for that we are grateful. It is a bustling place, full of young people and busy squares and that very specific city color, the one of buildings and cars and pavement. We would happily come back for another dose of city life.