Thursday, August 10, 2006

Belgrade is beautiful, but...

The overnight train from Vienna arrives at 6:27. I got up at five as I had to pick someone up at the train station. I decided to walk. I don’t even know how public transport works at this time of day.

I like being out very early in the morning. Everything is so peaceful and you’re the only one disturbing the peace. I like how I can hear the echo of my footsteps. I like how you can hear rumbling long before you even see a car. I like to look at the city without people and traffic, fresh and clean. It’s so unreal and out of context.

This was the first time that I walked from Slavija to the train station since Nemanjina street got a facelift. Think it looks great.

I got to the station on time. The train was naturally late. The station is filthy and stinks, so I decided to wait outside. The plato in front of the station actually looks great. Disregard the parked cars, the filth, pollution and construction work and it will make a nice square some day. It’s a pity that Korunovic’s post office building didn’t survive.

The train arrives and hundreds of young backpackers pour out of the train. I started thinking about first impressions. It’s a disgrace that people arriving to a European capital of nearly 2 million people by bus or train have to see what they see and smell what they smell. I know construction of the new train station is restarting and the bus station will be moved to New Belgrade, but this will take years and something needs to be done urgently. Maybe that’s why so many visitors like Belgrade, because after the first impression it can only get better.

1 comment:

Bg anon said...

You are right about Nemanjina it does look great. And the park too - which I hope you noticed, it almost doesnt look like a Belgrade park :)

You know I think that the criticism of the reconstruction of the road kind of shows the cynicism we've become used to in Serbia. First the workers were criticised for not doing the job on time. After that there were complaints that they had used the wrong type of tram rails - which were then reconstructed. OK, so there is usually some kind of fiasco or problems that we have a habit of looking closely at.

But come on, perspective! None of the newspapers reported on how the end result looks.

I completely agree with you about the train station particularly. Its a disgrace that visitors are greeted with this. They expect and like for Serbia to be a little rough around the edges but what we have are serious problems. How can we talk about branding Serbia unless the image has a basis in reality?

These things need to be settled before visitors arrive.