Experiences of an American woman who was married to a Serb.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Everybody's Pushing Novi Beograd

Everyone I talk to about real estate here - relatives, friends, friends-of-friends, even the landlord of our current rental in Vracar - says "Oh yes, central Belgrade and Stari Grad are so lovely." And then they proceed to list all the reasons we really should be moving to Novi Beograd instead:

- Novi Beograd is far cheaper per square meter;
- construction, especially of buildings from the 1970s and 1980s when Yugoslavian building was in its prime, is higher quality;
- you can always find free parking;
- a new green market is opening in Blok 44 that will be the best in Belgrade;
- You can go for long walks and bike rides along the Sava River greenbelt;
- You can eat and drink at houseboat cafes tethered to the Novi Beograd side of the Sava River;

and, then the pièce de résistance: everyone they know lives in Novi Beograd! Then they start naming people... which can take all day.

To an American's eyes Novi Beograd looks like the projects. Ugly, concrete skyscraper-style housing units that we shove poor people into on the outskirts of cities. Unloved places with crime, hopelessness, drug addiction, grey skies. Clearly that's not what Novi Beograd really is, only what it strongly reminds us of. (Even my father emailed me from home to say, 'Don't look in that area - it's too depressing.')

To a city-lover's eyes, Novi Beograd looks like an urban suburb (which is not a compliment.) All the neighborhoods are circled by highways and four-lane boulevards with traffic driving through at high speeds day and night.

Strolling through city streets is one of my absolute favorite activities in the world. I can't imagine enjoying walking around the concrete Bloks of Novi Beograd, and no, the Sava WILL NOT DO. The point, for a city-lover, is the city! Not nature. I have enough green in family-owned weekend places in the countryside (where to my mind we spend entirely too much time at as it is.) When I come to the city, I'm trying to Get Away From Nature. That's the whole point.

A central city garden, designed and cared for by humans, with sculptures, benches and clipped hedges, surrounded by a wide variety of historic and modern architecture... now that is the kind of nature I like! The banks of the Sava? Dull as dishwater.

That said, I have just made my first viewing appointment with a realtor (who I picked out because he was recommended by not one but two readers of this blog - thank you!) We will go look at stans on Saturday... in Novi Beograd. Because everybody lives there. And you know, you easily can go across the bridge to Stari Grad at any time - it's just two bus stops or ten minutes by foot.

Sigh. I feel the inevitable coming toward me.


tinica said...

People who live in Brooklyn and Queens make the same arguments about "just being across the bridge", but if I wanted to live in New York City, no thanks! NB is hideous, and the distance to Stari Grad, however small, is still too far. Good luck with your hunt, though!

Daniela said...

Don't give up! Try and find something in Stari Beograd. That would be my choice, and remember, I grew up in Novi Beograd.

Lafemmet said...

I just found you, and I am looking forward to reading lots more. I am married to a Serb too. and I am an American. I write the Chronicles of Serbia blog. Unfortunately I don't live close to BG.
Not sure what to tell you. NB is ugly. but if you are closer to friends....
Best of luck finding somewhere you are comfortable, and happy.

rhobelgrade said...

Any thoughts about Zemun? There's more space in NB but it's also less walkable, more about driving places. The stans in SG are smaller but I think the location makes it worth it. In any event, good luck with your search!

Anonymous said...

I love hearing all the stories about "Serbian mentality"

Rosemary just call it a day and buy an 'apartman' or 'stan' in TRG Republike and you'll be in the city all right.

gassalascajape said...

I spent my whole life living in New Belgrade, and I agree with you. It's ugly, and Belgrade being so centralized, it's half an hour bus ride waya from aything important. I'd take living in a smaller apartment in center any day.

The only upside I can think of is I have lots of open space for running. Narrow, crowded streets in SG would make evening runs a nightmare.