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Margie Orford

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Finding Peace in the Throb of Belgrade

‘Madam, would you like a savage?’ A long week in Belgrade – I have been here for the annual congress of PEN, the international association of writers – has left me a left me slower than usual. Nevertheless I cast about valiantly for an answer. The Serbian air steward is glaring at me.

‘Ham savage or cheese savage?’ he barks.

I go for the cheese, some strong coffee. Awake now, I watch the plain that the Danube snakes through roll beneath us. Europe, with its frenzy of little squabbling countries is so tiny. It took the same time to fly from London to Belgrade as it does to fly from Cape Town to Johannesburg.

Serbia is a country where everyone seems to drink as much as possible. Everyone smokes too, everywhere, all the time. The taxi drivers don’t wear seatbelts. This cavalier approach to what the British call ‘health and safety’ is a relief after the fussiness of London. A week of apricot brandy, surprisingly good Balkan wine and no sleep has left me feeling fragile. Some nanny-state care is appealing.

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