Живот || постојање

Have you ever heard the breath of a city? The way it inhales, and its heavy sight of exhalation. The air condensing in clouds, smog and fog. Its warmth in the middle of a cold day. Its heaviness, sticking to your clothes and to your hair and to your face. The persistent sensation of having been touched by something slightly unhealthy, but alive and kicking. Have you ever felt the life of a city? The constant movements. The light switching on and off and on and off; the people running up the streets down the streets across the squares – hugging fighting kissing and ops, accidentally bumping into each other. The screams, the laughs, the chats. Some internal part that
never goes to sleep.

A hidden mechanism that keeps everything going. To me, Belgrade is alive. It is like an old lady with a tough past, who is still trying to find her balance in the present. She looks at the river from the window of a decadent building, smoking too many cigarettes and remembering the past with a bitter nostalgia. She is still beautiful. You can see that the years, the pain, the war, made her age quickly. But behind the wrinkled concrete facades, the “white city” is still there. It does not hide its history, its questionable choices or its wrong loves. Belgrade lets it all out: it is not ashamed to show what it went through. The bombed buildings are still there, never restored and never to be, showing the bones and the weaknesses of what was thought to be an invincible city. What is left of the Socialist architecture styled buildings, all trying to tell this story of the invincibility of a nation, is just the weight of the concrete that makes memory heavy, and the heart swollen with a feeling of loss that is both inevitable and irrational. 

Walking in the streets of Belgrade, I have been caught in its breath. It is sticky and grey, and at the end of the day I still rub it away under the shower – but I started to get used to it. I am getting familiar with the stink of cigarettes mixed up with the smell of coffee and food, and I am growing accustomed to loving to hate the habit of smoking everywhere. Some afternoons I look at the unreal colors of the sunset, finding the beauty in the pollution and almost wishing, for a fraction of a second, that every sunset would look like this. The breath of Belgrade is not healthy, but it is addictive. It is coming out of the mouth of a lover you cannot get enough of: every night you are there again, wishing for more adventures, more music, more talks – even if you know it is not good for you. The smell of smoke is getting so interrelated with my experience of the city that I am afraid that from now on, every time somebody would light up a cigarette around me, I will remember that exhibition, that party, that concert, that dinner that “would have been so much better without this smell”. The rhythm of life in Belgrade is starting to be the rhythm of my own life, too. I feel its pulse aligning with the one of my heart; its vibrant electricity awakening my spirit.

When I walk through the markets, or go to a festival, or simply wandering on the streets, I feel I am part of something bigger – an entity that is alive in me, and also because of me. Belgrade is a city you have to listen to. It communicates with people through the sound of traffic, through the street art, through the hundreds of voices overlapping outside the window of an office in the city center. Every corner wants to tell you something – every building has the urge of sharing its message. Please do not forget. Please do not remember too much. I am here. From the palaces of the Old City to the inexplicable skyscrapers of the Waterfront; from the blocks of New Belgrade to the beautiful tranquility of Zemun; from the areas I still do not know to the places I will never visit: everything has a voice. Everything has a message. Everything has its hidden beauties and its dirty secrets.

I just started to understand the message of Belgrade. I opened my ears, my eyes and my heart to let the city in – and the city slowly entered, and began building a den in some warm place inside me. I feel it growing, as every day I feel Belgrade taking up more space in me. In the same way, I am adjusting to this new presence; I started feeling comfortable with it. I feel our mutual connection. 
I am here. And I want to breath, listen, live Belgrade.

Lucrezzia Giordano