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The Man In The Bowler Hat (Belgrade)

Posted by Peter Heywood 14th August 2017
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Peter Heywood arrived in Belgrade a day before the start of our Into The Balkans group trip. Below he recounts his time exploring Serbia's capital Belgrade.

Yugoslav Film Archive Poster

I found it in an alleyway five minutes walk from my hotel. It was Saturday morning, it was closed and the ‘opening hours’ sign showed that it wouldn’t be open until Monday. In the museum section of the Yugoslav Film Archive I’d been hoping to see a whole range of cinematic paraphernalia including one of the Lumière brothers’ cameras and a bowler hat and walking stick used by Charlie Chaplin in his character of The Little Tramp. By gluing my nose to the window I could see part of a temporary exhibition on the American film actor Karl Malden, born Mladen Sekulović to a Bosnian Serb father. But I wasn’t going to see any Chaplin memorabilia today.

So, I decided to head to another museum. I’d driven past it the previous day with Dimitar who’d been asked by his friend Vlado to pick me up at the railway station. I’d remarked that it was very hot.

“It’s like Africa!” said Dimitar, without specifying which part. “It’s unbearable!”

St Mark's Church

He’d narrowly avoided several pedestrians crossing the road before heading in an easterly direction. En route he’d pointed out various public buildings, three bars and a museum before attempting to drop me at the wrong hotel. Executing an illegal U-turn he’d then driven me to the right hotel pointing out a church, the parliament building and the ruins of the former defence ministry building.

“NATO", he’d muttered, darkly.

I was vaguely following the latter section of Dimitar’s route, as I remembered it, omitting the wrong hotel. I stopped at the parliament building, looked in St. Mark’s Church (above), got lost and visited a café before reaching my final destination.

Electrical discharge demonstration

In the lobby of the Nikola Tesla museum a group of visitors were in the process of having half a million volts passed through their bodies courtesy of an enthusiastic curator. An arc of electricity sprang between the electrodes of a generator causing the cathode ray tubes the visitors were holding to light up and generate an enthusiastic response.

Another Serb, Tesla, only visited Belgrade for one day. He was a physicist and inventor best known for designing systems for supplying alternating current (AC) electricity. He emigrated to America in search of investment to develop his ideas, where he worked with, and later fell out with, direct current (DC) advocate Thomas Edison. The rest is history with Tesla’s achievements recognised throughout the world, his name even appearing in Belgrade’s airport.

Nikola Tesla's clothes

After the demonstration I walked through the museum looking at the exhibits. One in particular caught my attention. Tesla was renowned for his natty dress sense and, in a glass case, were displayed some of his finest clothes including: a three-piece suit, a shirt and tie, shoes and white kid gloves.

And a bowler hat.

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