‘Please give me your finger madam. Don’t worry, I will not hurt your finger, you will get it back.’
‘Please don’t worry,’ I get a very friendly nod of encouragement.
I decide to give my finger, she pushes it on the fingerprint reader of my hotel door. I hear a first beep, than another one. I get my finger back. She was right, it didn’t hurt me.
‘All you need to do is push this code and then put your finger on the reader, than your door will open. No need for a key, and more importantly you cannot lose your key, unless you lose your finger of course.’ I get another friendly nod.
With such a fancy lock, you may have expected a hypermodern hotel room as well, but behind the door there was a regular room. Comfortable, but general hotel room (including the everlasting problem of a shower head coming off the bathroom wall and curtains not fully closing).
I have been to Belgrade several times, and there is a lot I would like to tell about this wonderful city, but the room and the lock seem to be a good symbol for the state of this city. Modern, yet incredibly old (since Roman times), crumbling at certain places, yet being reinvented and rebuild at other, and you’ll never know what you’ll find behind a door, in a next street or an ally. There are so many nice hidden places you’ll find something new every time you come here. You can get easily get lost and it is a challenge to understand where you are.
Next to the state of the city is also the state of the people. My taxi driver on the way in already said, that there were protests going on against the prosecution of suspected war criminals for the International Criminal Court. ‘But every country has to pay for bad decisions in the past,’ was his conclusion. Then again, he loved the fact that people lived by the day, ‘we don’t save for a pension, we spend our money the day we receive it.’ It may sound a bit too general and reinforcing the stereotypes about Serbians already out there, but it is exactly this spirit that gives this country an incredibly charm. I have the pleasure of exploring other sides of this spirit (again) over the next coming days for a training on human rights, trafficking & the rights of sex workers with my colleague from Rights for Change. It will be most certainly an honour and very interesting, but undoubtedly also a confusing experience to figure out what is possible in a reality that one day can appear as progressively modern and the next is being warped back in time by old power blocks that wish to preserve the old status quo.
With this great challenge ahead, it is good to know one thing for sure, I won’t be able to lose my key, only my head.