The world's best food markets: Where will you find your favourite?
A tribute to AA Gill – local markets in Serbia and Belgrade
AA Gill was superhuman. My favourite writer by a considerable margin, he could get away with metaphors and repetitions that no other author can get away with. And he occasionally abused using 'and' instead of commas for long lists and descriptions, which is part of a writing style I absolutely adore, even though school teachers say you shouldn't do it.
I mentioned AA Gill because yesterday I walked 3 miles to Zemun, a ‘municipality’ (as Wiki calls it) here in Belgrade, and I found the local market. And my cheap beer-infused mind told me I should immediately convert thoughts into prose and talk about it here on FT. But then I had some more cheap beer, which is why I'm only doing it today.
Gill once said once said that he loved markets because, “you can’t fake markets. You can’t make it what it’s not."
"I want to see the fish, the butchers, the quarter of cobblers and tailors,” he said. “It is as true a reflection of the people it serves as anything; what they have, don't have, what they make and import.”
I've been to Belgrade a few times before and I've now been here for three weeks, and one of the things I like the most about it is that this has been the capital city of four different countries over the last 30 years alone* and it shows. One of these four countries was Yugoslavia, which means that Belgrade spent 50 odd years picking up influences from both the East and the West, Muslim and Christian Catholic and Orthodox cultures, creating a potpourri of eras and styles, managing to throw Greek and Turkish elements in a pot that's already brimming with Austro-Hungarian and Soviet ingredients.
Serbia is eager to thrive and the country is trying to get rid of some of the ugly brutalist buildings that look exactly the same in Bucharest, Romania as they do in Belgrade, Serbia or Kiev, Ukraine. The result is an interesting architectural chaos that fills the view with Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, Soviet and Mediterranean buildings. And you even get the occasional US or Dubai-style skyscrapers made from glass.
I'd urge you to travel to Belgrade as soon as you can, partly because it's well worth a visit and also because food is great and cheap. And so is beer. Which is why my (still) cheap beer-infused mind can't really find a better way to end this piece. Sorry.
*SFR Yugoslavia, FR Yugoslavia, State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, Republic of Serbia