19/06/2011 at 1:21 pm 2 comments

Here’s a fun free Serbia fact for you all. Since it became a permanent settlement in the 520s Belgrade has been involved in 115 wars and razed to the ground 44 times. There must be something good about the place if the Serbs have been so keen to keep rebuilding it. Either that or they are just very industrious.

Its precarious position in the world has meant that Serbia has frequently passed between Austrian and Turkish rule. The old East-West divide rearing its ugly head once again. It wasn’t until the end of World War I and the demise of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires that things settled down (for a little while at least) and Yugoslavia was formed with Belgrade as the capital. There is then the little matter of an incident that happened in the 1990s, but we don’t like to talk about that.

On the train Chris and I got talking to three Swedish lads who were travelling around the Balkans. We discussed our travel plans and football for much of the journey. It turns out that the Swedish football league isn’t up to much and consequently everyone in Sweden supports either Manchester United or Chelsea. Wherever you go in Europe you can always rely on people sharing a passion for football. Even if you don’t speak the same language, everyone knows the language of football.

The journey through the Serbian countryside was pretty uninspiring. Just lots of flat open boring fields broken up by the occasional dilapidated looking village.

This was the first time on the trip that I really noticed how bad the railways are. The train trundled along at a snails pace meaning that the train was late getting into Belgrade. Apparently crappy infrastructure isn’t taken into account when they do the train timetable. It was about 11pm by the time we checked in at the hostel, so after being given a map and advised of some things to see and do we headed to bed.

In the morning we headed to the Cathedral of Saint Sava. Depending on who you talk to it is either this biggest Cathedral in the Balkans, Eastern Europe or the whole of Europe. Regardless it is an amazing structure and one of Belgrade’s stand out features. In the park surrounding the Cathedral can be seen a monument to Karađorđe Petrović who led the First Serbian Uprising against the Ottoman Empire.

Karađorđe Petrović with the Cathedral of Saint Sava in the background.

Afterwards we took a walk through the city, passing buy Dom Narodne Skupštine, which is the name of the Serbian Parliament building where 250 elected officials hold office. We eventually ended up in Skadarlija which is Belgrade’s Bohemian Quarter. Away from the noise of traffic it is a much more traditional looking part of the city with cobbled streets and buildings dating back to the 19th century. We stopped at a restaurant and both order a traditional Serbian dish called Karađorđeva šnicla which consisted of rolled fried bread stuffed with pork and cheese. It is every bit as delicious as it sounds. Following the huge meal a long sit down was required.

Eventually we got moving again and headed for Kalemegdan (Belgrade Fortress) which is located on a hill overlooking the confluence of the River Sava and River Danube.

The "confluence" of the Rivers Sava and Danube. That B grade GCSE Geography sure is coming in handy.

The fortress dates back to the 500s AD. Much of the walls and towers are original features. Within the walls are a park, a number of monuments and the military museum. Following a good walk around and taking far too many photographs water began to fall out of the sky so Chris and I made a dash for the military museum. It only cost £1 each to get in and if you get the chance is certainly worth a visit. The exhibit showcases hundreds of authentic weapons and outlines the violent history of the region. You start with the Roman period, go through the middle ages and finally end up in the First and Second World Wars. Once you get to the 1990s the exhibition mysteriously ends. Perhaps this was a quiet point for Serbian history?

In the evening we ate at a restaurant called simply “?”. Apparently it used to be called “Cathedral Tavern” but the owner got into a dispute with the religious folk at the church over the road. On the menu were lots of traditional Serbian dishes as well as some slightly stranger dishes like calves head and bulls “glands”. I’m all for trying new cuisine but I don’t like the idea of my food looking at me.


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Budapest Sofia

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Geoffrey  |  19/06/2011 at 3:04 pm

    Glad you managed to get to Belgrade. In the castle there is a restaurant which in the evening contains an amazing collection of flashy women which are either the wives of politicians, or prostitutes, or, more likely, both. I’ve been lucky to go there a number of times on business so I haven’t had to worry about bills but once they hear English being spoken they can’t resist talking to you. In Serbian usually!

    A much better bet is one of the open air bars in the main drag that runs from the castle to the cathedral, mostly at the castle end. There are a number of great bars and clubs in the side bars but you have to risk the lifts which means you don’t know what to expect- I went down one once and it was full of naked girls-can’t remember the address but good luck.

    Try the local spirits but be very careful. Probably wine is a better bet.

    You may not be able to get to Sarjevo from Belgrade as the border used to be closed, but it’s worth it

    At Singapore airport on my way back to blighty. I have a great photo from the Singapore beer festival (in view of my earlier comments re Schneider Weiss)- will try to get it to you


  • 2. Dubrovnik « hashtag.eurotour  |  03/07/2011 at 7:00 pm

    […] my previous post on Belgrade I commented on how “uninspiring” the countryside is. Turns out that it is just the […]


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