I'm super excited to share one of my most precious memories from our two weeks in Europe! Each of our days abroad were undoubtedly special and full of those laugh-till-you-almost-almost!-pee-your-pants tales, but this. This was particularly unforgettable.
Our first full day as a traveling
circus foursome, we walked and we talked and we shared a moijto for breakfast and we walked some more and then at some point, we all got really hangry at each other and it was like, oh EFF. Are we really going to survive the next two weeks.
In an act of friendship salvation that evening, we beelined it to the grocery store across from our apartment. Leah poked a few loaves of bread, tossing the softest one into our basket. Hanna surveyed the salami and cheese aisle, and grabbed those with the prettiest label. Cassandra and I hemmed and hawed over cheap wines, and then we all reconvened by the chocolate bars. An elderly grocer-gentleman took one look at our goods, shook his head, and then guided us back through the market, pointing out the superior (and cheaper!) Serbian brands. Success!!
With our new bounty, we trudged across the street to Kalemegdan Fortress.
The fortress walls were already quite crowded with other sunset enthusiasts, and so we claimed one of the only open spaces available and got to work spreading out our goodies and documenting the sun's descent.
True to his word, our grocer-gentleman's picks were delicious. We cheers'ed (or "zivjeli!" as they say in Serbo-Croatian) with two dollar Serbian wine that tasted wonderfully like strawberry juice, and assembled mini cheese-and-salami sandwiches for each other.
It was a messy affair, plastic wrap strewn everywhere, breadcrumbs in the wrinkles of our clothing, our hands gooey with spreadable cheese. When Cassandra helpfully pointed out to Hanna that she had a little something on her forehead, Hanna replied,
"oh, is it cheese?!"
The sun, so forceful and commanding earlier in the day, now hung low in the sky. It resembled an eggyolk rather than fire, though it radiated so brightly and in a hue so neon that it pricked at my eyes if I stared at it for more than a second at a time. But like a Siren's call, it was also impossible not to want to look at it, to trace the land it shone over, and to memorize all the vibrant colors by which it was formed.
I've said time and time again: one of the most beautiful sunsets I'd ever witnessed was when Cassandra and I were stuck in the Belgrade airport for ten hours last summer. I'm sure you're tired of hearing about it, but it was spellbinding. I had left Cassandra at a random gate with our luggage and was roaming around a duty-free shop when I saw from the corner of my eyes and through the glass doors separating us from the customs kiosks, the most electric, bloodred orb lowering into the trees. I ran back to Cassandra, gasping "you have to come see this!!" and we dashed back to the customs doors, craning our necks for one last glimpse. It put the Oia sunset we saw two days later, to shame.
I was awestruck then, and I was similarly awestruck last month. All Belgrade sunsets are stunners, I guess! Stunsets, amirite?!
But you know, as striking as my first Belgrade sunset experience was, I don't think it could beat this one. Because this one we were lucky enough to see in all its glory: hugging the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, the Great War Island, and New Belgrade.
I had my very best friends at my side, hanger be forgotten. And of course, $2 strawberry wine.
As the sun at long last dipped below the horizon and other groups began to leave, we lingered. We talked as the night darkened, of the "what ifs" and the "what nows." Of how we all became close, which was under sadder circumstances than you'd think. Of our lives five years ago (when we were first thrust into each other's worlds, as our Stanford chapters began) and how we were babies and how we had no. idea. what was ahead of us. Of our lives four years ago, when three of us lived together. Of our lives two years ago, which was a tumultuous and foundational time for us all, but what ultimately began to bond us.
We laughed and laughed and laughed about our senior year and how much fun we had together. And about this past year too, and all of the trials, tribulations, and little victories that come with navigating through your first year out of college. There was more. So much more. Experiences and memories from before we were all in each other's lives, and hopes and musings about what could possibly be in our future. We confided and we whispered, against wandering cigarette smoke and to the soundtrack of songs being blasted by a group not too far away from us, who had thought to bring some speakers.
Then, as if we were in a movie, the moon appeared so very luminously and then fireworks began to burst–a few would go off raucously on one end of the river, and then a few minutes later, more would pop up on the other end. It went on like this, in spurts. All sparks and loud bangs, and then nothing. Spark! Bang! Quiet. On and on.
Finally, we decided we'd overstayed our welcome on the fortress walls (and also we had a bar reservation to attend to!) and headed back through the winding pathways of Kalemegdan, lighting the way with our iPhone flashlights. Except, there was one last surprise waiting for us. A live comedy/theater show in a grassy park! Because the show was in Serbian and we couldn't understand a word, we giggled when the crowd did and soon realized that the show was making fun of adult films! Can you guess how we found out?
On our way out, we were handed cans of hard cider and so with a clink and one last 'Zivjeli!' we continued with the night outside of Kalemegdan.