Serbia — The Low Down Adventure

Belgrade be weird. Not crazy weird. Or even funny ha-ha weird. Like some Twilight Zone shit kind of weird.

It all started with my Airbnb apartment. Super-cute, ideal location, lots of natural light, glowing reviews. Everything was rad except one thing — a bonafide crazy neighbor. The apartment description mentioned a neighbor who struggles with mental illness and warned that she yells a lot. Did I think twice about booking? Of course. Yet I went ahead and booked it. Why? Because I don’t mind a bit of crazy. In fact, I embrace crazy.

And crazy it was. When the host and I walked up to the apartment, she was standing at her door, yelling at us. It was intense — like the shared stoop was the entrance to another world. We turned and entered the apartment and just like that — we were back in real time. M’THR F’IN TWILIGHT ZONE SHIT.

I was a bit scared every time I left or returned to the apartment. But you know what’s crazy? The neighbor isn’t the reason why I almost booked another apartment. It was smoke. The first two days, the non-smoking apartment smelled of intense smoke. My throat hurt. My lungs hurt. I couldn’t sleep. No matter how many times I shampooed my hair or scrubbed my skin — it stuck to me like glue. I hit a whole new level of ghetto — I sprayed air freshener in my hair, on my clothes.

When I woke on the third morning — nothing. Not even a lingering scent of smoke. Thankful? Yes. But WEIRD.

The STMT X Serbia sourcing trip is the first trip where every day, nonstop I was runnin’ around meeting with people that I had met the day before. Lunches, dinners, walks around the city, coffee and dessert — one date to the next. And know what I discovered? Belgrade felt tired. A city that’s huffin’ and puffin’, struggling with the unbearable weight of a heavy past. OMFG the history of former Yugoslavia / the Balkan countries is so vast, so complex. I feel like history just overlooked this region. Why is my only introduction to Serbia and the Kosovo War a TV show, The Last Panthers? I visited the ruins of the Belgrade bombings by NATO during the Kosovo War. 19 years later and looking at burnt shreds of carpet draping the bomb-crushed walls of the Yugoslav Ministry of Defence building… chilling.

Belgrade’s spirit is aching — but not stopping. The people I met didn’t have much hope for better days, for a stronger economy, for a better life. They resolved to accept that shit is crazy — like they accept the struggle because it’s the only option. At the same time, the people I met want to work. They want to create. They want to M’THR F’IN make shit happen.

I don’t miss the constant fog of smoke or my scratchy throat, the neighbor-lady screamin’ through the walls. But I do miss the people, and can’t wait for a repeat of our late-night, Vinjak-fueled dance party (cabbage dance!!). Weird, ya feel me?

oxxo, Hen


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