Saturday, 27 September 2008

Life in Belgrade in 1907

I came across this thanks to Pedro :)
This is a page of a book from 1907 about the Balkans, called "The Near East: the present situation in Montenegro, Bosnia, Servia, Bulgaria, Roumania, Turkey and Macedonia", written by a british correspondent/dandy called William Le Queux. The complete digitalized version can be read here (highly reccomended!!)

"The city of Belgrade is in a transition state. Already in many of the principal streets fine buildings have been completed, and many are now in the course of construction. The roads, it must be said, are execrably paved, so uneven that driving is a torture. But the reason they have not been repaved during the presente regime is because a new drainage system is about to be carried out, and when this is done they will be asphalted and converted into boulevards. The natural situation of "Beograd" - or the White Fortress - is magnificent, high up on a hill at the junction of the Save and the Danube. Behind rises the extinct volcano of Avala, where, according to one tradition, a great treasure is hidden, and to another that the mountain is rich in gold and silver deposits.

The centre of life in Belgrade is the gay cafe of the Grand Hotel. From five to seven in the afternoon everyone is there, card-playing, smoking, sipping Slivovitza (plum gin) or drinking boch, and listening to the excellent band, while the inner hall is filled with smart ladies and their cavaliers. Save the peasantry one sees about the street, the oxen drawing primitive carts, and now and then a man wearing a fez, there is little there is eastern in Belgrade, save the slightly dark complexion and cast of features of the Servians. For the most part, women are very handsome, but they seem, like most Eastern races, to lose their beauty at an early age.

Though I made it my duty to hear and study both sides of political questions in Belgrade, and though I spent many hours with those in fierce opposition to the present regime, I must say that I received on every hand the greatest kindness, while everybody seemed ever ready to render me a service.

The Servians are a highly intelligent and thoughtful race. The young officers in the streets are not of the ogling, giggling genius one knows so well in Germany, France and Italy, but though smarter in appearance than either nation, they are serious, polite, and gentlemanly to a degree. The King, when speaking to me of military matters, pointed out a curious fact, namely, that so intelligent was the average Servian recruit that in six months he usually learnt what in France took him eighteen months.

Belgrade in the 1900's (taken from here)

In feminine circles it struck me that there was a great extravagance in dress. I saw the very latest Paris hats and smart, well-cut gowns, which bore evidence of the expensive couturiere worn by the wives of struggling officials, and I learnt that about then pounds was no uncommon price for a hat. All classes seem to vie with each other to dress well, and in the brilliant salons at night one sees some of the smartest gowns in Europe."

Wish I would've experienced Belgrade in the 1900's :)


Adam said...

That's a cool find, Maria. Thanks to Pedro too. I'll definitly have a read through of that book - it's really interesting to read about Belgrade in the 1900s!


Luisa Hingá said...

Vim agradecer o comentário no Voando em Moçambique. Claro que tinha que mencionar o seu avô. Lamento a morte dele.

Anonymous said...

quite interesting article. I would love to follow you on twitter. By the way, did any one learn that some chinese hacker had busted twitter yesterday again.