When in Belgrade don’t be confused if you see ‘Hotel Vuk’. It’s a common guys-name and means ‘wolf’. Also, due to Serbian grammar someone can talk about a guy when he’s talking about Alexandra.
Walking through downtown Belgrade, you see many shoe-stores, bakeries, pharmacies, fashion-shops and banks. In that respect, Belgrade does not differ a lot from any other big (Eastern) European city. But through the many years of development and change, a few strange shops from times long gone have somehow managed to survive, and are still offering their specialist services.
I found shops in Belgrade that I never saw somewhere else, let alone I knew shops like that existed. Some of them are odd, but it still very clear what they sell. For instance the brush-shop close to my bicycle-repairman’s garage. Obviously, they make and sell all kinds of brushes. From dusters to clean the floor to delicate brushes for painting your next masterpiece. Unfortunately, I’m neither a painter nor a cleaner, and therefore have no need for a brush in any way. Else I would for sure choose to have my own hand-made brushes instead of one of these despicable whole-sale factory-fakes.
The same goes for umbrellas. How many of your umbrellas have lost the battle against the wind? Ending up upside down in a garbage-bin to be taken away to the umbrella-graveyard. Or how many umbrellas have you left behind in offices, trains, schools or homes because the rain stopped when you left? You never miss them until it starts raining again. And then you just buy a new cheap one to protect you from the rain. In Belgrade there is no need to throw your umbrella away. And you can buy a nice custom-made umbrella so comfortable that you will be praying for rain to come, so you can parade with it down the streets. You just go to the umbrella-repair shop for all of these things!
Besides the shops that are pretty clear about their product, there are some that raise some questions when I encounter them. For instance the one in my neighbourhood that is named Elektra. Clearly, something related to electronic stuff is happening inside. But looking into the window I keep on wondering when I would ever have a reason to go there. Can they replace a part in my electric toothbrush, so it will even brush better? Or should I drag my stove their when it doesn’t heat the water for my Turkish coffee as good as it used to?
Although I might never need to go to any of these shops, I just enjoy the fact that I walk down the streets and stumble upon yet another little specialist in Belgrade. So far I came across the shop that only sales enamel pans, the telephone-battery shop across from it, the cheese and kajmak store and the custom-made mattress-store (take that, Tempur!). It’s all these mysterious shops that makes strolling through Belgrade a mini-adventure. I promise that I will try and document each of these places and share them with you, before they are all gone and you can never have another broken umbrella fixed…