Monday, June 3, 2013

I am uber sad to be leaving Belgrade, Serbia, tomorrow night and so I will drown my sorrows in a Serbian Jelen Grejpfruit beer (only 2 % alcohol, so not sure how effective that'll be) while I share my favorite photos of this unique place, which is in the "top faves" category of the trip (along with Split, Croatia and Bratislava, Slovakia).  Like the host who welcomed us to this fine city, you, too, may be bewildered as to its high status amidst world-class destinations such as Paris, Rome and London.  

While my words fail to completely encapsulate its appeal, I will give the top five reasons Harold and I have been able to formulate as to our affection towards Beograd, the White City (formerly known as such for being an immaculate jewel of a city on the Danube).  

1)  The people and their hospitality.  These are honest, dedicated, fun-loving, reasonable folk that like to work hard and party hard.  There is, for the most part, a welcoming attitude towards tourists and a humility regarding Serbia and its potential to attract visitors. 

2)  It is affordable.  Having recently visited many areas where this wasn't the case, we have really enjoyed our ability to eat out a bit, have drinks in the evenings, stay in downtown accommodation, and hop on the trains without breaking our budget.

3)  The "up and coming" vibe.  To call Belgrade "shabby-chic" is a bit too simplistic.  To call it a "party city" is too reductive.  Its tourism industry is still developing, and the city has not been "polished up" for tourists, which is a fundamental part of its charm.

4)  The interesting history.  Serbia has technically only been a country since 2006, before which it was Serbia and Montenegro, after passing through a stint as a part of the former Yugoslavia.  The region has been through quite a few conflicts over the years, which has resulted in a true melting pot of a culture with Austro-Hungarian, Turkish, French, Russian and Greek influences.

5)  Our personal feelings of peace and relaxation while staying in this city, which has somehow refreshed and revived our spirits as we proceed with our travels.

Favorite words learned in Serbian and Croatian, languages which, according to locals, are so similar they can be mutually understood by speakers of either:  

borovnica = blueberry
mlijeko= milk
jelen= deer
hvala= thank you
zelim= I would like
kava= coffee
molim= please, you're welcome
pivo= beer
zdravo= hello
sestra= sister, cousin

And with that, my friends, I present some photos:

Bridge to New Belgrade by night.  Belgrade lies at the confluence of the Sava and Danube Rivers.

Harold chats with our host, Bojan, great company and an excellent guide :)

On a main commercial street, between two buildings.

My very own collection?  Why, thank you.

One of the many charming street scenes that characterize Belgrade.

The military headquarters, bombed by NATO troops in 2000.

A Serbian Orthodox church under construction.

The lovely interior.

Copper manhole covers.

Another Serbian Orthodox church.

The same ticket booth sold movie tickets and cultural event tickets; the sales lady insisted we had requested to see "Hangover 3" instead of the children's traditional dance show, and there was no way of correcting this message that was lost in translation, so we left....

An important government building that Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim recently visited.

Near the government buildings.

Fountain in Skadarlija, Belgrade's Bohemian quarter, the former stomping ground of many of Serbia's thinkers and artists.

More Skadarlija, the most relaxing area of town.

Another street scene.

"Mexican" food has made it to Serbia!

Streets, streets, where the life is.

Garden leading to the old fortress.

The Kalemegdan Fortress, in existence since Celtic times, was rebuilt most recently by the Turks in the 1800s and houses a bunch of old tanks and a military museum.

Here they are.

Old cannon.

Along the fortress wall.

 View from the fortress.

Strolling back from the fortress, viewing the building in perpetual construction (going on 20 years!).  Harold says it looks like it's time to knock it down and start over...

Street art.

This area, known as Stari Grad, was built by the Habsburgs in the 1800s.

A building with no roof!

Another angle.

Danube waterfront.  The barges serve as bars, clubs and restaurants, and locals regularly rent "party boats" for weddings and other events.

This one is in some disrepair.

The trains are quite sluggish, but scenic in these parts.

Item in the monarchy exhibit at the history museum.  Sorry, I can't remember the name of the dynasty, or the specific purpose of this fine piece, and there was not a lengthy description available...

The crown of the last king of Serbia, in the early 1900s.

One of our regular eating spots.  Gargantuan cevapi meat sandwiches for $3!

I don't think they make these anymore...

And we end with a bulldog.  That is Harold, the Dog Whisperer, petting him.  Time for bed!

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