It took me a week to learn how to sleep in Belgrade.
The first night in a new place is always a little strange, but this surpassed that feeling by miles; it was my first night back in Belgrade, my first night in my very own apartment, and the start of an adventure I had no idea what to expect from.
I arrived on a Saturday afternoon as a very tired (and mildly terrified), airplane scented American. Luckily I arrived with one of my roommates who was in a similar state. As we sorted out our apartment and managed to pull together some semblance of a meal (I feel it important to note that the first meal cooked in our kitchen was penne with marinara sauce) I was able to relax. However, our third roommate wasn’t set to arrive for several hours which meant that we had to stay awake in order to let her in.
The time went by quickly, but soon after she arrived I recognized that I had reached a point beyond exhaustion- the one where you can function just fine but you are exceedingly aware that you haven’t slept- and called it a night after we had all gotten settled in.
For context: our apartment is much too big and much too fancy for a group of college kids. We were supremely lucky in finding it and are so grateful to be staying in such a beautiful space.
That night, as I took in what had officially become my bedroom for the foreseeable future, I had a few thoughts.
First and foremost was, ‘what the hell am I doing?’
This was followed very quickly by, ‘why is it so cold in here?’ (it wasn’t actually. Our apartment is almost too well heated, but my sleep deprived body begged to differ). This is where the process began.
That evening I slept in sweatpants, socks, a sweater, and a hat (though the last addition, ‘borrowed’ from a friend in Boston, was more of a measure of comfort than warmth).
Satisfied, I bundled myself in my duvet and put on a film for background noise (picture your most well loved, tattered book. This is about equivalent) as I tried to fall asleep. It took a short while but eventually the effects of a full 24 hours of traveling took their toll. I awoke the next morning feeling much the same as I did upon arrival; groggy, nervous, and slightly chilled.
Over the next few days I shed various layers of my cocoon as I went to sleep each night, adjusting to the temperature of my new city and new home. Each day I discovered something new; how to get a bus ticket or buy produce- even how to order a few dishes in Serbian. Eventually it began to feel less like I was visiting and more like I actually lived here.
Finally, last week, after several adventures around the city, a few successful trips to the grocery store (it’s harder than you think, I promise), and booking a round trip flight out of the Belgrade airport it actually began to feel like I live here.
While I miss New York and Boston immensely, I am officially adding Belgrade to the list of places I call home.