In a month or so it’s time for Easter. This is a time of the year that we usually try to go abroad, often to places that do not celebrate our Easter. In 2013, while still living in Bratislava, we decided to catch a bus and go to Belgrade. Now, the capital of Serbia is famous for a great many things. It has witnessed events of historical importance. Nowadays it’s a center of culture, with a bustling nightlife. We spent a total of three days in Belgrade. For us, it was a chance to walk a lot and spend time in good company.
Getting there was something of an adventure: the bus from Vienna really took its time and during the drive, we (the whole bus) listened to loud music from the Balkans. Especially Susann has a very soft spot for the Balkans, so she really enjoyed the trip. And would not mind going there again!
5 Highlights in Belgrade
The capital of Serbia certainly has a lot to offer. Our first impression of the city was grayness. It really is gray! Actually, the name means “white city”, so maybe it’s just time that has lain its dust on the whiteness. People were also very friendly, they talked a lot. It’s been a while since our journey, but here are some of the highlights as we remember them.
1. The Belgrade Fortress & Knez Mihailova Street
Our hostel was located right on Knez Mihailova Street, the main pedestrian street in Belgrade. The street is about one kilometer long and it features a lot of amazing buildings from the 1870s. This is where you can grab a coffee (or popcorn!), engage in people-watching, or just feel the buzz of the city. We only needed to walk straight until we reached the fortress, majestically overlooking the confluence of two mighty European rivers: Sava and Danube. Belgrade always stood in the borderlands between empires, and Byzantine Emperor Justinian I built a fortress here in 535.
We did not dedicate much time to culture in Belgrade. However, we did see an exhibition (more about it later) and we also visited the Military Museum. Considering the city’s history, it felt like a military museum could give us some clues about the complex past. We were very much reminded of this past when we saw the sign below about the National Library of Serbia. In 1944 it was destroyed, together with a book collection of 500.000 volumes. Oh, the cruelty of people!
2. The food & friendly people
Susann used to have a penfriend in Belgrade, Maja. She turned out to be a great guide, taking us to an exhibition (she’s an artist) and also introducing us to some Serbian treats. The thing about Belgrade is that the people were very nice and friendly. And let’s not forget about the food! We’ve probably never had so much meat in our lives. One day we had pljeskavica, and on the next day, we tried ćevapčići. Add to that tasty Serbian and Montenegrin wines, and we were more than content. The city also has a lot of cafés (that turn into bars at night). In those places, you can enjoy everything from a strong coffee to fancy cocktails. And why not have some delicious Serbian sweets to go with it?
Vintage, urban, and bohemian are the words to describe Skadarlija. This neighborhood attracts locals and tourists alike with its restaurants, galleries, and shops. We enjoyed our stroll there and it felt like completely different from the rest of the city.
We spent most of our time in the old part of town, Stari Grad. One day we decided to walk to Zemun, on the right bank of the Danube. The walk was a little over 10 kilometers and it passed the Park of Friendship and floating restaurants and hotels. We have probably been to more attractive parks, but it was a nice getaway from the center. And the old center in Zemun was lovely. Here we had a tasty lunch before returning back to the Old Town via Novi Beograd – i.e. the new town.
5. The Unexpected
It turned out to be a trip of unexpected events. We did not really know what to expect of Belgrade. Two things usually come up when talking about this trip. The first thing was our surprise when running into Jesper’s flatmate from Bratislava on the main street. He and a friend had decided to go on a road trip during the holidays. The second was when ordering food in Zemun. Ordering a Serbian burger turned out to be more of a surprise than expected. The menu mentioned 300g of Serbian burger and that was exactly what we got. Well, with the addition of a small leaf of lettuce. Luckily Jesper had also asked for a small side order of french fries.
We definitely recommend Belgrade to anyone looking for an adventure slightly out of the ordinary. You do not need to catch the bus (or train) from Vienna. There are also flights. We actually paid Belgrade a quick visit a couple of years later on our way back from Macedonia. We had a few hours to spare before having to pass security at the airport. Београд, надам се да се ускоро видимо!