Myths and Mythical Creatures

5 Mythical Serbian Creatures and their Habits

Firstly, as you know, I only deal in facts.

It is important that we state this fictional premise from the outset because what I am about to reveal here will defy your imagination, baffle your senses, and may induce a slight headache. In such cases, take a pill.

Many people make the grave error of moving to Serbia without even a cursory knowledge of these Supernatural Beings that walk the streets of Belgrade (and perhaps other cities as well) disguised as us. Unless you are already aware of them, you may even unwittingly engage them. Or get engaged to them. Or worse!

Heed, therefore, my words, O! Traveller! And may God have mercy on your soul!

No. 5 – Ivana the Polite Shopkeeper

Tales are told of Ivana the Polite Shopkeeper. When you enter your shop, she smiles. She allows you to look around. She is at your elbow if you have a question. She seems disappointed to let you know that she does not have the coffee cups you are looking for. She hopes you will come again. 

Accustomed as I am to the brusque and the rude when it comes to commerce in this country, I am still suspicious of reports of this Beast. 

Normally, when you enter a shop, you must be on the defensive. The first attack comes in the form of the izvolite. Meant to mean, “welcome” or “please come in”, the seasoned Belgrade browser knows that izvolite actually issues a challenge: “By what right,” it means, “do you dare enter my place of business?” A raised sword to accompany the phrase is optional but less common. 

Newcomers might answer off-handedly, saying they are just looking. This is a mistake. This allows the shopkeeper to begin a barrage of seemingly helpful follow-up statements, such as “we don’t have any” or “no” or “where are you from”? This last one is used for them to scale the prices according to your country’s GDP. Alternatively, they simply stand between you and the shelves until you state your purpose. 

If you have none ready to hand, you may have to leave.

No. 4 – Milan the Quiet Taxi Driver

A friend told me he once encountered this Creature. He grabbed a taxi from a line on Studentski Trg, he gave his destination, and Milan (apparently) just drove there. He said nothing. He had no ethnic music. He even took the shortest route. My friend was aghast. He spoke provocatively to this Milan, trying to goad him into conversation. Milan politely hmmed and ahhed and nodded his head pleasantly. 

The Belgrade taxi, under normal circumstances, is a raucous affair. He turns down the blasting turbo-folk enough for you to yell out where you want to go. He feigns not understanding for a minute. He looks it up on a map (he has a GPS monitor but no subscription). He then heads out in the wrong direction.

In the meantime, he gives an uninterrupted monologue about international politics, the price of gas, and whether or not this is the most beautiful country you have ever seen (it IS, of course). By the time you arrive at the end of the journey, you wish you had walked the 20 kilometers. Barefoot. In the snow.

No. 3 – Dragojlub the Expert Parker

The basis of this mythical creature is only established by elimination – in the same way Fritz Zwicky posits that dark matter exists. That so many people park in so many convoluted and sociopathic ways must imply the existence of one lone Dragoljub who follows all the rules. In fact, without him there would be no rules to break and anarchy would ensue. 

No one has seen him. But we have faith.

Parking in Belgrade is unpredictable on the best of days. Parking can occur at any time and in any place. Say, for example, you arrive at a red light. The car in front of you has stopped, ostensibly waiting for the change to green. Then the yellow light comes without a discernible reaction. Then it changes to green. The car remains motionless. 

After five minutes and a full symphony of horns (including yours), you notice that the car is empty. The owner is on the sidewalk chatting with some guy called “Brate.” The horns go on, the light turns red again, and you are still stuck. Finally, the sidewalk conversationalist pivots and heads back to his car. He looks up, as if he HAS ONLY JUST NOTICED the frantically honking cars, gives an angry hand gesture and gets in. 

Clearly this was all our fault.

No. 2 – Dejan the Chronographer

This tyrannical martinet is constantly looking at his watch, making sure that all events start on time. This includes movies, scheduled television programming, concerts, lunch meetings, and the New Year.

It is largely agreed that Dejan the Chronographer does indeed exist, but that no one has EVER paid any attention to him. 

Instead, everyone in Belgrade and perhaps in all of Serbia, has their own unique time. A concert that starts at 9 pm, for example, will never get underway before 11. If you plan to meet Nenad and his friend for lunch at 1 pm, you should get yourself a snack and be prepared to wait until 3. On the other hand, if a taxi tells you that he will be there in two minutes, he will give up on you after only one minute passes. 

The New Year (already a double event in a country with its own private New Year) is another instance of subjective time. When it gets to be about 11:58 pm, the countdowns already begin asynchronously – and the New Year gets rung in 23,219 times until 12:02. 

9-8-7-6-9-8-2-1 Happy New- 7-6-5…. 1.

No. 1 – Marica the Change Fairy

No one but small children believe in this one. 

Marica is a whimsical sprite that, unseen by Belgraders and other humans, flits around merchants, kiosk owners, and shopkeepers and magically spirits away all the small change from cash registers and tills. 

This means when you are ready to pay and the bill is RSD 40.78 (never mind that decimal dinars exist only in accountants’ imagination), the world will grind to a halt when you present a RSD 100 bill. 

“You don’t have change? One dinar?”


“Do you have 10?”

“I have 1,000.”


And you get RSD 9,959 in change under very inauspicious circumstances, perhaps even with an Evil Eye. Alternatively, you will be told to bring a dinar some other time (“drugi put”) or you will get short-changed by 10 – just because it is easier. 

“You don’t mind, do you?” they say. 

Marica the Change Fairy just laughs to herself overhead, with a pocketful of change jingling, as you trudge out feeling more than a little disgruntled. 

[Note: The Serbian Tourist Board denies the existence of any of these mythical creatures and hopes you have pleasant stay.]

January 2019

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