BELGRADE IS THE NIGHT

THE SERBIAN GIANT OFFERS LITTLE to THE EYE, BUT MUCH to THE HEART. kept alive by a pulsating serbian youth, the city has yet to find its place in the 21st century.

Its bright limestone buildings once brought the name Belgrade: "White City". At the sight of the metropolis in the heart of the Balkans, however, not much white is left. Gray prefabricated buildings rise rigidly in Novi Belgrade; residential silos with seemingly thousands of balconies and mute faces that look out on a city that does not advertise for itself. Clouds cast shadowy caricatures on the Genex Tower, which – as the western gateway to the city – forms a remnant of Soviet architectural cannibalism. Such buildings seem to swallow without biting.

Taxi driver Jovan steers through the streets of the 1.3-million-city, pointing to bridges and buildings, some still scarred by the wartime bombing. Just a recent chapter of a turbulent history: Siege by the Ottomans, Soviet Union, Balkan War. Jovan says: "Belgrade is not beautiful" and does not understand the tourist who comes here. He missed the point somewhat. Many tourists come here for the scars, and the nightlife.

NO YOUTH, NO FUTURE

Belgrade has a peculiar pulse that can be felt strolling through the city - along the Bulevar Kralja Alexandra or the Knez Mihailova. Broad streets lined with popcorn sales boxes, ever busy Kafanas, the bistros. Roma children are lurking in the streets, with eyes and small hands ready to receive. During daytime, people are in a frenzy, keeping the Dinar in the Nike and Adidas stores flowing – the prices are western, the monthly wages not so much: 300 to 400 Euro. Tourists, many of which belong to the Serbian Diaspora, bring in the cash, earned all over Europe.

Belgrade grows charming and lively at night: The dust gets washed off the streets by huge water hoses and men in orange, and the roar of the vehicles penetrates the windows, the heavy breath of the metropolis can be heard. In these hours, she lies in a restless sleep. What is young then flows from bar to bar. An everlasting youth secretly rules the city. Until the early hours of the morning, the numerous party boats on the Sava burst under dancing, more dancing, with a firm rhythm, for the continuation of the city. In the old town, jaunty jazz flows from dimly lit bars - and far into the agglomeration, the sky reflects the sleeplessness of the casino nights.

It lasts for years, the night in Belgrade. At the bright end of it, the streets again fill with workers and professionals, who welcome the returning youth and greet them with laughter. If this city had no youth, she wouldn’t exist anymore. And if she had no night, she wouldn’t have any youth either.