A secret hideout on Danube coast

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There is a secret place where Chips often went in his first months in Belgrade.

That place deserves to have a book written about it, or to be listed as one of the must-see places in Zemun.
But then, it wouldn’t be as secret, would it…?

For now let’s start this story like this – modestly.
In the same manner we started our whole story on four wheels and 20-ish horsepower…

About 30 kilometers from Avala , on the other side of Sava river and on the very coast of Danube, a little yellow devil was often hidden in a small garage.

He used to listen to rock n roll radio, was warm in the coldest of days thanks to a wood stove and he used to have a cat sleeping on his backseat.
The garage smells of coffee and gasoline.

In it there are enough things to make it look like a proper little museum of mechanics, Yugoslavia and rock n roll. It’s decorated with drawings and models of cars, a carboard Fića, a guitar…
And somehow, the only thing that’s missing is a sofa – and then you could easily live in there.

The garage is hidden behind a very old stone house covered with liana, from which little branches hang tiny red berries in winter time.
When it’s snowing, it all looks like a picture from a Christmas card – the ones that you could buy in any Post office and that had a little mechanism in the middle so when you’d open it it would play some Christmas song.
I always liked taking off that little mechanism.
It would very often die after a while from constant opening and closing of the card and then it would make some very disturbing sounds….

The thing that used to remind me that I’m in no Christmas card was the ice in front of the front gate.
I would always, and I mean ALWAYS slip and do a few very inarticulate moves with my hands before I’d manage to stand still and pretend like nothing happened.

I would’ve never thought that I would be capable of spending 11 hours straight in someone’s garage – without being bored.
Also, I never had more fun in making coffees and keeping the fire going.
With my thick gloves on and some ash on my nose, I was an absolute queen of garage heating and making sure that the hardworking people have their hot coffee ready.

Oh, the best thing to do while having a coffee is polishing the wheel covers.
It calms the nerves…

“While in cafes people are chewing on little plastic spoons, we use chrome-vanadium! “- Mladen

At my place, underneath Avala, it does get cold in winter.
Colder than in the city, that is.
But here, on Danube, “cold” is not a word strong enough to explain the conditions we’ve been working/hanging out in.
On Christmas day, on the 6th of January, it was near -20C in some parts of the country.
When we looked over the edge of the backyard, down on Danube, all we saw were giant pieces of ice floating downstream, while the areas closer to shore were completely covered with ice.
The wind was cutting straight trough all the winter jackets and sweaters we were wearing.

Chips got an alternator as a gift for Christmas, as a solution to all the problems we’ve had with his old and weak dynamo.
I will always remember the news that we heard on the radio on that afternoon – there was a major chain crash on a highway close to Niš, because of the snow and the fog…
It isn’t hard to conclude that we’ve decided to postpone the road trip to Niš that we’ve planned on making in order to finish all the paperwork and register Chips in Belgrade.

Putting the wood into the stove every 10 minutes was barely enough for making the garage warm enough for us not to wear gloves and additional 3 pairs of socks each.
Even so, the work was being done and the mission to make Chips strong enough never to remain stuck in the city centre in the middle of the night had to be completed no matter what.

And, the coffee was hot.

By the late afternoon the little yellow devil was as good as new, starting with no problems and with no need for me to put the money into the ashtray or to write an official plea.

I think that on that day I’ve spent most of the wood supplies from the barn behind the garage.
And I got another week of a inflammation of sinuses, but whatevs.

Behind the garage, about 10 meters away down the backyard, there is a cliff.
The only thing that stands in between the edge that looks like it will collapse at any moment and the Danube down below are some roots sticking out from the dirt, and a few bushes.
A blue boat is lying on the sand, waiting for some nicer weather, almost like it’s avoiding the waves of the ice cold river.

In night time, you can see every star in the sky.
Tiny constellations flicker next to the bigger ones, just like I can see them from the ocean.
It feels like it’s -100C, but it’s still beautiful.
Everything is covered with ice and the ground is sparkly.
When the moon is out you can see the Ford MK1 parked underneath a tree.
In the distance there’s only a sound of cars crossing the Pupin’s bridge close-by.
Across the river there’s an untouched forest and a sand beach.

In those quiet moments it almost feels as if nothing exists but that place. There is no noise, no chaos, no rude or strange people, no modern lifestyle that we can’t seem to fit into anyway…
Like there’s nothing else except what we are making for ourselves right here.

There’s a little photo-story about the garage in this album.

“Before you go looking for happiness, check – maybe you’re already happy. Happiness is small, ordinary and incospicuous and many can’t see it.”
D. Radović

About the author:

Čipsov fotograf, bloger, perač, finansijer i mama.

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