A Travellerspoint blog


Belgrade - A Mixed Bag

overcast 16 °C

The Serbian capital of Belgrade was not high on our bucket list. James visited in 1987, before the Balkan War, and had found the city to be uninspiring at best. Despite heavy NATO bombing in 1991 to end the war the city has managed to recover somewhat. However, although Belgrade is one of the great cities straddling the Danube river, it can't hold a candle to its upstream cousins of Budapest and Vienna. There are some elegant buildings on its wide pedestrianised boulevards...
And it has an enormous Turkish-built fortress overlooking the confluence of the Sava and Danube... large_Tanks_at_Fortress.jpgD12DFEFA0B866D9033BBEE59ADE72287.jpg
But the whole place needs a facelift. They could start by cleaning off some of the graffiti that is sprayed on almost every building...
The Christmas lights brought some cheer to an otherwise gloomy scene, although, in truth, Belgrade was considerably better than we expected.
However it was somewhat disheartening when the cafeteria manager at the railway station told us that things were much better under Tito and communism than it is today.
On the positive side: the Belgradians were helpful and friendly; our ultra-modern apartment in the old city was as swish as we could expect anywhere in the world and the restaurants served traditional Serbian food that was not only plentiful, but was excellent value for money. This is Skadarlija street - restaurant central in old Belgrade...
Every restaurant has its own gypsy 'orchestra' who will enthusiastically play at your table until you pay them to go away...
And every restaurant not only permitted smoking but actively encouraged it. Even the small 'non-smoking' sections were littered with ashtrays. The Serbians we spoke too are actually proud of the fact that they almost all smoke – they see it as rebellion against the rules of the EU. Smoking has been the norm on this trip all the way from the Baltics and we have been dismayed to see large number of young people lighting up.
If we were cynical we could say that the best thing about Belgrade is the railway line to Bulgaria. But that wouldn't be true. The train was as scruffy as much of the city and we were the only passengers for much of the 10 hour journey to Sofia. The linesides were littered with derelict factories, crumbling villages and dilapidated rolling stock. Belgrade is not Zagreb, (but we didn't expect it to be).
We left the Eurozone sometime ago so now we are changing currencies as we slip from country to country. We have also left the Schengen area of Europe so have to produce passports at every border. How much nicer it is to travel between countries without borders manned by officious petty bureaucrats who view everyone with a suspicious eye. Travelling here in the ex-Eastern Bloc countries reminds us of a time that we hoped had past – an awful time when fences and walls divided people and communities – take note Donald!

Posted by Hawkson 00:07 Archived in Serbia Comments (6)

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