Every year, World Nomads, a travel insurance company, runs a travel writing contest. It’s fairly prestigious and competitive, and offers budding travel writers the opportunity to be mentored by professional writers and go somewhere fabulous on a writing assignment.
Yesterday was the final day for submissions. and on a whim I submitted a story. Winning would definitely be a long shot, but I’m happy I entered. It was a good opportunity for me to practice writing to a theme, as well as sticking to a deadline and word count.
My piece takes place in Belgrade a few years ago (those who have been reading this blog for that long may even remember it). Have a read and let me know what you think!
Austrians, Artists, and Circus Performers
Dazed, I looked around the warehouse room where a shirtless man was attempting to ride a unicycle and a tiny girl with multi-colored dreadlocks was practicing juggling. My travel companion, an overweight, socially-awkward Austrian man named Martin, looked as tipsy as I felt. It was 5 in the afternoon, and circus school at Inex Film in Belgrade.
I had met Martin the previous evening at the Green Studio Hostel. Martin had come to Belgrade 3 weeks ago with a friend, and liked Belgrade so much that he hadn’t left. At the hostel lounge, we’d been chatting with the Serbian hostel worker, an artist who went by the name of Re. Re invited us to come see his studio, and we made a plan to visit him there.
The next day, I met Martin at the hostel around 2. Although Belgrade is not a big city, the location of the studio looked a little far, and I didn’t know which bus we should take. This was not a problem, as Martin had a car.
Martin’s car was small, blue and square. The outside was not much to look at, but the interior was something else entirely. The dashboard, steering wheel, and floors were covered in neon-blue, vinyl covers, and most of the backseat was occupied by a subwoofer for the stereo system. Martin plugged in the GPS, lit a cigarette, turned on some techno, and we were off to Inex Film.
Even with GPS, Inex Film was hard to find, but one look at the graffiti-covered building and we knew we were in the right place. We parked and entered. Inside was dark, dirty, and covered in more graffiti and murals.. We didn’t have to search too long before finding Re in his studio on the second floor. He invited us in, gave us a few beers, showed us his art, and gave us a tour of the place, a former cinematography studio that was enjoying new life as an artist squat and collective.
Another artist poked his head in the door and said he and some others had some rakija and invited us to join them. Soon after I found myself in a smoky room, surrounded by four sullen, Serbian artists swilling rakija and listening to the strange beats of some obscure electronic music. They weren’t much for conversation, and didn’t speak much English, so I sipped my rakija and enjoyed the scene.
By the time it was 5 and time for the circus class, my head was spinning, not only from the drink but also from the wonderful strangeness of the day. Visiting an artist squat and hanging out with artists and circus performers had not been my original plan, but was an unforgettable experience.