Belgrade was called the white city, a literal translation of the word Belgrade. It was seen as one of the most ancient and charming European capitals. My concern was to find a room close to campus. Housing was costly those days, particularly if close to the campus of the university or in the city center. A gathering of house owners used to take place where they would strike tenancy deals. In fact, I used to go just for fun, watching the same faces of the landlords and listening to different stories about them and their cheap methods of deceiving foreign students. I never knew if this was true, but I was extremely cautious and avoided any argument with any of them. as a result, I resorted to newspaper ads.
One day, I was reading a newspaper and found an ad about a room on the same street as campus; I got excited and made the call immediately. On the other end was a lady, who sounded elegant and sophisticated. Our conversation was as follows:
“Good evening ma’am”, I said
“Good evening.” She replied
“I apologize for bothering you, but I am calling to inquire about the room for rent.”
“Yes, sure. Do you like the city? Is everything alright?”
“Yes, ma’am. Everything is fine. Thank you for asking. I was wondering if you could give me a rough idea about the room rent? And any other conditions you may have.” I answered.
“Yes, of course, I can answer all these inquiries, but how about coming over to see the room over a cup of coffee? If you like it, we can discuss the details. Don’t you think it’s a good idea.” she replied.
“Sure, when is a convenient time for you?” I said.
“Tomorrow would be great if that’s ok! Between 5 and 6. Do you have the address?”
“I know this street very well, it is quite close to campus. I will be there on time. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. This is the least I can offer.”
“Thank you loads. See you tomorrow.”
When I hung up, I thought for a while about this nice lady and how warm and friendly she sounded. I was confident she had a personality which gets along with almost anyone.
The next day, I prepared myself for meeting the lady and seeing the room. I arrived on time and rang the bell. A tall, beautiful smiling lady, in her late thirties opened the door saying:
“Are you the young man who called me yesterday?”
“Can I see the room, please?”
“Of course, I will show you the bathroom first, then the kitchen, the living room and finally the bedrooms, mine and yours.”
She was walking ahead of me and reminded me of my mother, who always used to say: “if you want to know if you have found the right house, the aroma is the secret.” This house smelt like lemon blossom. No sign of dust anywhere, the bathroom tiles were terrific, with paintings of bluebirds on the four walls, black marble flooring and beautifully designed mirrors, with substantial round shapes and clean. The facilities of the bathroom were sparkling clean as if new. The curtains were sky blue. All the colors and designs made me feel like I was at the sea! We moved then to the kitchen, which was not less impressive than the bathroom. It had the latest appliances models, and all the utensils were in place with cream walls and plenty of space. It had a window overlooking the main street covered with a beautiful drape with flowery designs and different colors.
Next was the living room. The most noticeable feature in this room was the bookcase. It actually covered an entire wall and contained well-arranged books. The cabinet was dark brown and looked like it was oil finished. It was very glossy and eye-catching. The room itself had five wooden, light brown seats, in addition to a medium-sized table in the centre. A lovely cabinet was placed on the left side of the room. The beauty of the room was embodied in the massive windows that overlooked the street. The blinds were chocolate brown and had embroidered decorations on them. The flooring of the room was covered with a warm woolen carpet. Its colors mixed in musical harmony. The desert colors and size were catchy, and they constituted a stunning picture. This all created an ambience of tranquility and comfort. On the wall was a guitar-like instrument, and a medium-sized television sat in front of the bookcase in the most convenient place ever! As for the considerable phonograph, my guess was that most discs would be symphonies and without lyrics.
We moved afterwards to the bedrooms, she started with my bedroom, a spacious room with a lot of natural light and a huge bed along with a sofa bed of smaller size. The room contained a big wardrobe, two side tables and a little shoe cabinet. The windows had dark brown curtains, and the walls were as white as snow. This suggested how clean the place was. The wall opposite the bed had a cuckoo clock from which a bird came out to announce the hour. An ancient crystal vase, which was stunningly beautiful, was placed on one of the side tables. On the other side table, there was an ivory and brass side lamp, which sounded old but added a lot of elegance of the room.
The flooring was covered by a cotton carpet with its protruding edges. The colors were quiet and delicate like beach sand, and the carpet covered the whole room’s flooring, which suggested a quite comfortable room for sleep. As for her room, I honestly failed to grab a lot of details and rushed out quickly to maintain the privacy of the landlady! However, it sounded more or less similar to my bedroom.
The lady elaborated on details, and, assuming my satisfaction, she went through what I could and could not use, the rules of the house, and the methods of payment.
We sat again in the living room to chat.
“Ma’am, the house reflects very sophisticated taste and is very beautiful. Indeed, it has a lot of natural light and is sparkling clean. It is also close to campus.”
“That you for the kind words and the compliment,” she responded.
“It is not a compliment at all, I do mean it!”
“Thank you, I appreciate it!”
“How much is the rent, please?” I inquired.
The landlady replied, “You need to pay rent, and we will split the power bill in case we agree. We can also split food and drink if you wish.”
“I am a student, so most of my meals would be on campus. I will undoubtedly have lunch on campus and will spend dinner time at the library studying. Therefore, I won’t be interested in splitting food and drink. Saying that, I might eat at home sometimes, especially on weekends or holidays, and if this happens, I will be happy to pay. As for the power bill, I am so glad to split it. However, I am eager to know the cost of the rent.”
“Alright, the rent is 50 US dollars per month plus the power bill, which might range between 15 and 20 US dollars. Therefore, the total would be more or less 65 to 70 US dollars.”
“This is very convenient. Do you have any conditions during my stay? Any instructions?”
“No friends of yours, whether male or female, can come over late. If they must do so, it has to be before seven in the evening. They need to respect the rules of the house, such as no loud music, loud laughter or lively chats. The house needs to stay clean, and I will only allow sleepovers in case of emergencies; however, you need to tell me beforehand!
These are my conditions, which I expect you to respect and observe. If you wish to leave, you need to notify me one month before, and you need to make all your due payments, in case any is outstanding.”
“Thank you, ma’am, for going through all these details. It will certainly help us avoid any kind of dispute in the future! On the other hand, when can I move in, please?”
“You can move in whenever it is convenient for you. It is the beginning of the month. Therefore, you can move in right away, like today or tomorrow.”
“Yes, ma’am, I will bring my luggage tomorrow. However, I need a copy of the house key, please.”
“I do not mind, you will need to pay one month in advance, please.”
“That is fine, here is the money.”
“Thank you,” she said as she handed me the key.
“Excuse me, for now, please, I need to prepare my luggage to be ready to move in tomorrow.”
“That is fine. Goodbye.”
“See you tomorrow.”
“See you later.”
I went out of the lady’s house with strange thoughts. I felt secure and comfortable speaking to her. Besides, the home was very peaceful and reassuring, and I found her highly sophisticated, educated and humane, full of honesty and sympathy. I also sensed her high morals and etiquette. The house was located in a lovely neighborhood close to the University. This neighborhood was very tranquil, peaceful indeed. It was in the centre of Belgrade, which is a strategic location, close to all amenities and services. On the backside of the house, there was the grocery market, the police station, the Faculty of Economics, the Faculty of Tourism, and the Faculty of Civil Engineering. There was also a considerable number of restaurants and cafes, along with the main cinema, in addition to the students’ dormitory, Vuk Karadžić.
The parliament building and the central post office were only a few minutes away. I always used to stroll this area because it was my favorite. I had wished at some point to live there. However, I was trying to write down the name of the street, the house number, and the apartment number. The road was Milana Rakića, house number 20 and flat number 4. I needed to be sure and not forget anything.
I arrived at the temporary residence where I used to live, fixed myself some dinner: cheese and wine, a bottle of milk and a green apple. I started to pack, my belongings were very few. I was a student, after all. Within a couple of hours, I was ready to go. Therefore, I closed the luggage after packing my books and took a shower. I turned off the lights but failed to sleep. Anxiety was looming, and the weirdest scenarios jumped to my head. “How am I going to adapt to sharing a house with a woman? What is she like? Are we going to get along? Should I seek another dormitory shortly?”
On the other hand, I decided to be positive and recalled how respectful and courteous she sounded. She also seemed transparent and honest, which reflected integrity. I fell asleep to positive thoughts, and with the help of the hectic day, I slept through the night. I woke up early, and it felt like I had only snoozed for an hour or less although I had actually slept for seven full hours. For me, it was a good sign of a good day.
When I returned from the university, I moved my luggage to the new house and started unpacking. The lady was nowhere to be found, which allowed me to act freely. A bit after four, I heard the door unlock, and I was sure she had come home. In an hour, she knocked at my door.
“Are you in there?”
I went out quickly, saying: “Yes, what is up?”
“Not much, but I have prepared some food, and I would like to invite you to enjoy the meal with me. I am aware you do not wish to split meals but consider it as hospitality on your first day here.”
“I appreciate it, ma’am. I would love to.”
“I have prepared some sausages with eggs and some apple juice. I also have some brandy, if you wish.
“I prefer juice, thank you.”
“Ma’am, may I ask if we are going to the police station tomorrow for issuing the police registration certificate?”
“Yes, we must. However, you need to know that I know very little about this. This is the first time I have acted as a landlady, and I want to stay away from trouble, especially with the police. We need to go early in the morning so that I can be at work on time.”
“Ma’am, I still do not know your name.”
“My name is Vera Petrović.”
“Mine is Adam. I am a freshman at the university. Where do you work if you do not mind me asking?”
“I work at the bank, I am the vice-chairperson.”
“It is not my ideal job, but it secures income.”
“But you are the vice-chairperson, which means you are doing well!”
“Not as good as you would imagine. I do not get much!”
“Ok then, when should I be ready?”
“8.30 sharp, please.”
“Great, I will be prepared on time. May I go back to my room, please! Thank you for the great meal.”
“This is the least I could offer.”
It was almost 6:30 pm. No one sleeps this early, but I was just not used to living with a lady!”
“Good night, don’t you think it is still early? You can watch television with me if you wish.”
“Thanks for offering. I will try to sleep early tonight because I am exhausted, although I am sure I will struggle to fall asleep.”
“As you wish.”
“Good night, ma’am.”
I went into my bedroom and thought about this lady, how she invited me and took the trouble of preparing food, and how she offered it out of hospitality. I thought what some people would say about these people is not accurate at all. The lady was generous and kind to me, and this reflects her sense of hospitality. She was also classy and had great taste.