Monday, November 29, 2010

Things you need and don’t need on a vacation in Belgrade

She moves like a thought in a dream, my Draga. I carry her luggage from the elevator, grab her and carry her across the threshold. Her arms on me I feel at home like I’ve never felt before. I put her down, let her walk around the apartment. She utters muffled appreciations, stands in front of the window and names the sites. She points at Kalemegdan and promises to take me there. The house of parliament in scaffolds. The national museum.
     “This will be the vacation of your life,” she whispers.
She quickly inspects my books, wonders why I brought so many. She says what my contacts in Ljubljana said, that I don’t need that many books for a vacation in Belgrade. I tell her that half my library was forcibly left in Ljubljana. Then she halts in front of the walk-in closet and exclaims, “Arie, where are your clothes?”
     “I’m wearing my clothes…”
     “Aw my Gad,” she cries, hand slapping on her forehead. “You didn’t bring any clothes?”
     “I don’t have any clothes…”
     “Aw my Gad!”
A study of Belgrade’s cathedrals, a survey of the local cuisine, even meeting the locals will have to be put on hold. First order of business is to don me in brand new duds. And Draga knows just the place to achieve this: the brand new Usce Shopping Center, in New Belgrade, just across Branko’s Bridge.
     “We can walk there,” she says with a hint of consolation. “Welcome to Belgrade.”

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