BELGRADE, SERBIA (AP) – Stunt-driving enthusiasts waxed nostalgic when the ‘Wall of Death’ came to Serbia’s capital.
A cylinder-shaped wooden structure was put up by the Danube River in Belgrade so motorcyclists could drive up and around its walls, an act that appears to defy gravity but once was a fixture of carnivals in many parts of the world. The round arena serves as a track, and centrifugal force holds up the riders who navigate it vertically. Spectators watch from above as the deafening roar of engines mixes with the smell of gasoline and screeching tires.
A performance in Belgrade thrilled younger viewers. Most never had seen a ‘Wall of Death’ show, which emerged almost a century ago and became a rarity after giving way to other forms of entertainment.
The stunt drivers came from neighbouring Bosnia. Zoran Milojkovic and Drazen Grbic, who are from the northwestern Bosnian town of Banja Luka, are determined to keep up the family business started by their father-in-law when both Serbia and Bosnia were part of the now-former Yugoslavia.
Riding the Wall of Death, sometimes known as a well of death, isn’t easy. The driver must carefully speed up while ascending the barrel-shaped structure and must maintain the right speed and position to avoid sliding down. Before a performance in Belgrade this week, Grbic and Milojkovic made sure their helmets were on properly and their motorcycle tyres were in good shape. As they looked up, audience members greeted and encouraged them.
Once the show finishes its run in Belgrade, the stunt structure will be dismantled and ready to move on to another event in the region, bringing with it a whiff of forgotten times.