Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Belgrade is changing for the better if you ask me

The character of the city is a reflection of exactly what is going on in it. Each process is multi-faced and is usually seen through an economic perspective. Most ways of regenerating the city from urban redevelopment to gentrification have in their core the goal to improve a city and to have it make money.

Closing down of locally owned shops and bakeries can be part of the process of gentrification, this also happens despite gentrification.

In the case of Belgrade small, locally-owned (but chains) of bakeries are reopening. The old, unsightly bakeries are getting a new dress. They are very popular among the old residents of an area as well as inviting and injecting new life into it. Although with side-effects like “Otentik Hleb” (Authentic transcribes into Serbian as Otentik). The need to preserve the language of a nation is giving gentrification more credit than it deserves. The same goes for the springing up of monstrous shopping malls. Belgrade’s main streets within the town centre are getting their share of uniformism (the Man’s and Women’s of various world chain stores), but neighbourhoods are being spruced up, they have lighting, people moving about, crime rates within such a neighbourhood drop.

Fears have been raised about replacing the spirit and the actual ‘Kafana’ (old, traditional restaurants that serve Serbian dishes (Turkish, Hungarian, Austrian…:))). The Kafana spaces are sold and sometimes turned into something altogether different from the main purpose. But a person’s got to eat and any buyer with a savvy business sense knows he ought to keep it a Kafana. And this is what is happening more often than not - Kafanas are being redesigned in such a manner that they keep the old clientele but invite the new. No fast food here.

The sunny weekend fashion catwalk syndrome - where you have cafés you have people watching. Cafés are very popular in this part of the world and due to a large proportion of people being and wanting to stay 9-5 jobless are filling their spaces. These streets and quarts resemble catwalks any time the weather is fair.

Gentrification has a clear definition, so does globalism, so does any other term coined in the past century. Their uses alter through time and depending on the region of the world in which they are applied. The citizen should be aware of the changes going on around him and his voice should be heard. Let me know of a city that banned shopping malls.

What does all this open up for us? What are our opportunities? My latte is trying really hard to taste exactly the same as yours but I still have a choice whether I’m going to have that or a good old ‘Turska’.

Article by Tijana Krstić
Belgrade, Serbia

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