The Scent of Spring time in Belgrade

Scent holds powerful memories.    It’s well understood that our sense of smell can take us back in time and evoke memories of that place or person we associate with the scent.   Stepping outside today in my yard in Australia, where it is now spring time, I immediately notice the heady scent of the Wisteria vines flowering over our pergola – yes, it’s one of those scents I have associated with spring at home, even though Wisteria isn’t a native plant.    It is the scent for me that characterises warm days ahead, including lazy weekend afternoons spent outside with evening barbeques all under the very same pergola.  Minus the mosquitoes who try to barge in on our beautiful scenario,  and which we effortlessly try to keep away with all kinds of natural and not so natural methods.

The scent of linden flowers is unforgettable in Belgrade

When we visit Belgrade, we stay at my mother in law’s apartment near the Sava river in Novi Beograd (New Belgrade).  In spring, the scent I notice the most is that of the Linden trees  which are pretty much everywhere you go here.

Linden (Lipa) flowers in Belgrade, with their heady intoxicating scent

Linden (Lipa) flowers in Belgrade, with their heady intoxicating scent

That beautiful heady scent intoxicated my senses and promises serene walks along the Sava river’s Corso after a late lunch.   It also reminds me of extended coffee sipping chats (or rakija) with family/friends along one of the many splavs (floating café/restaurants) which dot the river bank.    This scent is also coupled with the joyful sound of children playing in the apartment block playgrounds after the long green grass has been mown.   My mother in law warned our children not to go in the long grass because of krpulje or ticks.  You should see them sidestep, or should I say jump, the longer grassed areas! Growing up in Australia, they know too well of the dangers of small, unseen insects and arachnids!

Serbs make tea from dried linden flowers, and it is readily available at grocery stores and pharmacies.  The reported health benefits of drinking linden tea include relief from high blood pressure, colds/phlegm, insomnia and nervousness, headaches, fever, incontinence and muscle spasms.  It can be also used to increase sweating and urine production (source:  Web MD)

Linden (Lipa) tea is believed to have medicinal benefits

Linden (Lipa) tea is believed to have medicinal benefits

Actually, in Serbia, it isn’t unusual for doctors to prescribe the use of herbal medicines alongside with pharmaceutical medicines.   Tea time, as is done in the West, is not part of Serbian custom.  In fact, Serbs usually drink herbal teas – and there are 100’s of them – when they wish to enhance wellness.   It isn’t drunk as an alternative to coffee.  And to drink tea with milk?  Obscene!

Belgrade is a green city

Belgrade is one of the most green cities in Europe and you will find a park area within walking distance wherever you go.  I remember how green Belgrade looked from up in the air as we approached landing at Nikola Tesla Airport.   There are quite a few green spaces in Belgrade.   But the one that I will put into focus today, is the oldest public park and my favourites – the Topčider Park.

Topčider Park

The oldest, and one of the most beautiful park areas in my opinion, is the Topčider Park.  When I first saw this park, I just couldn’t describe in any other word but “divine shades of green”!   This park is located about 5 km away from the city centre.  Surrounded by the hills of Košutnjak forest making it a beautiful place to visit during the spring. This area once had the wealthy families in Serbia build their weekend homes and vineyards in the area.   A beautiful place to bring a packed lunch or picnic, sit under the many trees and laze away the afternoon.

The kids have plenty of room to run around and the Serbs don’t mind kids letting of a bit of steam.  My kids are quite playfully noisy and drew lots of smiles from the locals.   Serbs consider spirited children to be ‘healthy’ so don’t stress if your kids are loud, as you might in say Australia or other Western countries.  At first, I was worried,  but when I stopped to listen, other kids were being just as noisy.  Here  I was running after them, “shushing them”,  when my mother in law asked me “why do you keep doing that?  They are kids! “.  Seriously, why DO I keep doing that?  The kids only get louder when I do, as some form of protest.  When I let go, so did they.   It felt liberating!

Topčider Park in Belgrade - a scene to rival Monet's

Topčider Park in Belgrade – a scene to rival Monet’s

Topčider Park’s history goes back to 1831 when Prince Miloš Obrenović built his property here, Milošev Konak (or Miloš’s Mansion), which is open to the public and also features a restaurant if you want to stop and have a bite to eat or a cafe break.

Milošev Konak restaurant, in Topčider, Belgrade

Milošev Konak restaurant, in Topčider, Belgrade.  Photo credit: kongresniturizam.com 

I love spending time in Belgrade during spring only to return back to Australia, as we did this year, and to have a spring start all over again.  I feel blessed to be able to do this because I get to watch nature waking up so soon again after her slumber during winter.  But mostly during this time, I reflect back on my memories in Belgrade and feel the pang of longing to return back in time for the next flowering of the beautiful linden trees.

Want to know more about the green spaces in Belgrade?   Visit Belgrade.net.com for more information.

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