Costa Coffee

Belgrade’s car horns sound full-blast amidst interminable cheering. Outside: the vast cityscape of black and grey and gleaming white and inside: a hostel with a loose interpretation of en suite. I lie in bed and let an unknown bug buzz in my ear. Lights flicker as I surf the TV channels. Kylie curves her way to me on VH1 and the Discovery Channel is looking at where meat comes from. I’m grateful for the scraps of globalization in this city of Cyrillic. Here Costa Coffee sells giant cups of hot chocolate orange at small amounts of dinar and a Happy Meal comes at a happy price.

The Lonely Planet Guidebook declares it the newest party hub and the group of French and American backpackers on the playstation that I pass and hop over by day, I do not see at night. I buy Ian McEwan’s For You in a bookshop that’s open at midnight and use my last dinar to purchase the hand-crafted, recycled jewelry of a street vendor, who scolds me for wearing flip flops on a cold night. I wander around the main square and can’t identify the mounted statue in its centre nor the colorful graffiti-ed messages that decorate the sides of its buildings. All around are young people hanging out of honking cars.

The buzzing creature retreats, and I change the channel. I am startled when an image of Belgrade flashes behind the newsreader.

We’re back in the main square with the horse and the graffiti nearby. The subject of the report is the Gay Pride Parade scheduled to take place the following Sunday. The Government has cancelled it, following widespread threats of violence.

Translated into the Latin alphabet, the graffiti reads “Death to Homosexuals” and “We are waiting for you.”  The ultra nationalist Serb Popular Movement “1389” declared the cancellation “a great victory for normal Serbia.” There are reports that claim that organizers of the parade were asked by Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic to relocate the rally from the centre of Belgrade to a field but that organizers rejected this as a symbolic marginalization that defeated the purpose of the march.

It is three in the morning and still, the car horns scream with raucous energy. Google reveals that Serbia has beaten Russia in the semi-final of the Basketball World Championships.

This is a country where topless teenage boys cry for balls shot through hoops and not through nets. It’s a place where if you’re young and gay, you get your hot chocolate orange from Costa Coffee ‘to go.’

Kate Ferguson

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