This city is not unfamiliar to me, and I have never felt a stranger here. From the outsider’s perspective, I know it well, meaning I orient myself well around it, I have dear and favourite locales, and a few tricks. But you would never accidentally confuse me with a local.
This autumn, I am in on a mission to familiarize, explore, and integrate.
Initiation: a sort of public awareness project about cultural and historical heritage of the city.
At first they seem like simple historical postcards. I suspect that this might be the tourist route. On the contrary, it’s a concept that encourages the residents to understand the renowned sightseeing spots and, ultimately, regard them in a different, fresh light. As for the tourist, it’s a more in-depth view, just short of a tourist guide.
The collection, “A stroll through history”, so far contains 3 series, 12 postcards each, representing different historical themes. The postcards depict landmarks, and each is linked on a route map that comes with.
The first tour, “Belgrade through the Ages” delineates the repeated invasions, occupations, and conquests that the city overcame. The second tour, “On history’s ramparts” reveals Belgrade’s rebellious side – its heroes, defenders, and liberators, who fought for its dignity and its reinstatement. And the third tour, “In Europe’s footsteps”, maps out the social and urban transition from an Oriental heritage towards a new spirit of a modern, European Belgrade.
That all sounds a bit strict, educational and not that funky, until you see that the project is called Red Card. The aim is to, in a bit of a provocative way, not only capture attention but also signify a warning, a criticism – a penalty – for an offence of society’s negligence toward the most significant symbols and ideas of the city.
One card, “Kod Konja”, is a way for the outsiders to familiarize themselves with the local slang, while for the locals, it’s a provocation to learn to appreciate the historical heritage. At the Theatre Square in the very heart of Belgrade, there is a statue of Prince Mihailo Obrenovic on a horse, popularly known simply as ‘the horse’, it’s a famous communal meeting place. When asked or told where to meet, the residents will always say “at the horse”.
The RedCard alert reads: Just how did we reduce the significance and the fate of this location, which has been the place where generations and generations have gathered, celebrated, and dated, the base of the historical gates of Stambol from where the road to Constantinople (Istanbul) extended 924km, the source of defence of Belgrade and all of Serbia for centuries – just how did we come to call it plainly ‘the horse’?
You would think that the instantaneous communication and social media tools have all but obliterated regular postal needs, and people wouldn’t regard the postcards as anything but a dated medium. But it isn’t so – I always receive thank-yous (by email) from postcard recipients.