Highgate & Barnet & Paris & Welwyn Garden City & Istanbul & Mornington Crescent & Lewisham Way & Chefchaouen & Southend & Braithwaite House & Enfield & Edmonton & Sri Lanka & South Kilburn & Rye & Philippines & Barcelona & Grimsby & Montenegro & Belgrade & Redchurch Street & Paris again & Edinburgh & Austria & 71a Gallery & Amsterdam – and a couple other places in between, cheers to the New Year and whatever it brings.
We recently did a pop-up event with Patty&Bun in their Redchurch Street branch where we gave out free burger and rum punch, but also to promote the collaborative t-shirt we designed which can be seen in the photos below.
Over the years we’ve taken you across the world as we attempt to look under every rock and peer into every nook and cranny we come across, all the while it’s fair to say our main focus of attention has undoubtedly remained in Eastern Europe. In the last year or two, when sitting down to engage in these eastern euro write up’s, there’s always a hazy eyed sense of nostalgia present as if we’re rounding up our general mission in this part of the world, but it seems that in Eastern Europe, you are never quite finished and in reality it is a world in itself that you could spend a lifetime exploring.
Since 2013 we have covered Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania, Montenegro, Turkey and probably some places I’ve overlooked and while we’ve always promised to re-visit some of these countries in order to do the things we missed out on while either dealing with crippling hangovers or being distracted by some kind of weird treasure hunt with a promised crumbling structure at the end of it, it’s safe to say we rarely have returned – It’s always a case of on the next one – which brought us to arguably one of the most important locations on the tick list when touring the Balkans or more specifically, the former Yugoslavia. The city of Belgrade.
Our fascination with this part of the world will by now come as no to surprise to you, but if we were ever to start looking elsewhere on the planet for intrigue and inspiration you can’t skip the capital of Serbia before you do so. Belgrade, the former municipal centre of the socialist state of Yugoslavia is a big, grey, interesting place where it’s varied and divided history is all too apparent everywhere you look. From the old town to the new town, there are bold, symbolic, signs of previous era’s and ideologies within the architecture alone. Socialist era utopian projects are a common feature in the New Town with collective living, brutalist architecture dominating the skyline often with a massive drop of capitalist culture, quite literally, thrown on top in the form of 20ft adverts – Imagine Trellick Tower in London with huge steel Coca-Cola lettering on top and you start to get the picture – Nothing really highlights the regions recent history more than this particular juxtaposed feature.
Youth culture seems to be alive and well in Belgrade with a general emphasis on the arts visible across the city and within the night clubs, while the cold image that’s generally portrayed of Serbians through western media sources, was more or less invisible during our trip. I know that there will be lots big intimidating football hooligans with side bags lurking somewhere in the city, due to the huge football firm graffiti pieces guarding the bottom of estates and the fact that Serbians are some of the biggest humans on the planet, but this was a less than prominent feature amongst the natives we came across (well the hooligan bit anyway – They are massive humans). Even as we dug deep into the city, landing ourselves in underground drinking holes, at the bottom of housing blocks on the outskirts of town, we were met with welcoming open-minded people who were un-phased by a group of young Londoners with camera equipment marching in and demanding beers. In fact they not only all shook our hands individually but they fed us an actual bucket load of local cheese and then refused to let us pay for the beers at the end. A scene that was observed throughout by Vladimir Putin, who’s image glared down at us from the room’s smoke stained back wall.
We tend to always lean towards positive reviews of places we visit, particularly when deep in the sometimes misunderstood, parts of Eastern Europe but also because there is real truth in the phrase that if you don’t have anything nice to say then keep your stupid little mouth shut. We could go on to talk about Serbian peoples feelings with regards to what happened during the conflict or their thoughts on the EU or whether they prefer life under capitalism post 90’s etc etc…. but in a way none of this stuff is really relevant enough for us to get into or for you to know about if you haven’t been before. Belgrade is a city that is looking forward. A city that seems to have many layers to its make up and while not particularly multi-cultural there appears to be an open minded and accepting air to the place despite popular perception back home – although worth noting that as a white male I’m definitely not best positioned to comment on this particular subject on the whole.
If you like partying then Belgrade plays host to good raves (loads of speed) and cheap beer. If you like painting on things – well you’re in luck – people in Belgrade paint on everything, and it doesn’t seem to get cleaned that often or policed that thoroughly. If you like food, which I assume you do if you’re a living breathing human, then you can treat yourself to a serious Serbian Gulash at one of the many lovely traditional restaurants in Belgrade’s old town. Lastly if you’re into soviet era architecture and the subtle beauty within brutalism well then go to Belgrade and cream your little panties.
There will of course be lots of other reasons to visit Belgrade outside of their rave and Gulash scene but as we only had 3 days there we of course couldn’t absorb it all. Belgrade is a city that could easily end up being the popular, creative city of tomorrow so if you’re thinking of visiting then maybe do it now so you can tell everyone you went there while it was still edgy and Soho house group had yet to open up a Belgrade branch.
As always thanks for having us and………until next time!