I'm back in Belgrade for a couple of weeks. Short-term work.
I took the opportunity to look up our old house on Golsfortiyeva street. (That's the Serbianized version of "Galsworthy", by the way. The street was named back in Communist days, after the English author of social novels.) The street has changed so much -- new shops, repainted facades, a completely new shopping center on the corner -- that I couldn't find our house at first. I had to ask Claudia for the house number, then go back a second time.
As it happened, the front door to the apartment had been left a little ajar. Our house was built in the apartment's internal courtyard. (There was some sort of obscure, long-lasting property dispute about this. We never really got the details.) It was a small thing, more like a bungalow -- two bedrooms, a kitchen, a dining room and a living room. It seemed big enough for us, back when we had just a single small child. I remember it as being painted bright cheerful colors, yellow and blue. There was a large glass skylight which let in a lot of sunshine (very pleasant in winter) and that made rainfall so loud that conversation was almost impossible.
Walking in through the apartment building, one goes up a few steps, then down a few more to reach the courtyard. (I had a sudden physical memory of lifting the stroller with Alan in it up and down those steps.) The courtyard was empty except for a Siamese cat, probably belonging to the artist who lived in the other house in the courtyard. (Still there, as far as I can tell -- there was a sign saying "Galerija", or gallery.) The front steps that Alan fell down nine years ago were exactly the same.
The house looked a little faded and run-down -- I had the impression of some years of deferred maintenance. I considered knocking on the door but, honestly, I've lost almost all my Serbian -- and what would I say, really? "I lived in this house nine, ten years ago. We had some good times here." And anyway, I remembered pretty well what it was like inside -- kitchen over there (with the tiny balcony behind it), living room with two overstuffed chairs and a couch over there, the bathroom with the swirly bath upstairs. No point in bothering the current tenants.
Life goes on.