Belgrade (Beograd in serbian language) is one of my favorite destinations in the whole Europe. Belgrade is not an ordinary city, you will not be amazed by its beauty but you will remember the days spent here, because in Belgrade you really feel the city’s life, by easily getting in touch with locals.
You will understand how unique is the city, when you will discover that it lies on the confluence of two rivers, the Sava and the Danube. The city itself, like all the Balkan region, has a recent base of communist elements, a mix of Austrian and Slavonic cultures with Turkish influence and a Mediterranean flavor in its architecture and view of life (café culture, nightlife). Belgrade has been destroyed many times, its history is fulfilled with battles, changes of political powers and bomb attacks (the last, in 1999, by the criminal nato forces). Do not expect an old historical centre, the old Belgrade’s spirit is however well preserved by the citizens…
– Join the Free Belgrade walking tour
Probably it’s the best walking tour available in Europe, and you will fully understand about the city and its incredible history.
Everyday, starting at 11, from the republic square, the young guide will wear a yellow t-shirt. It will take 3 hours but you won’t get bored!
The tour will show you the very city centre, with many interesting, funny and historical details.
A friendly shot of local rakia will make the tour even more interesting…(in the picture, the guide Zeljko, was incredibly prepared, lots of info about the city)
Serbs are very proud of their food, based on grilled meats and sausages, local cheeses and bread. Local produce is fresh and organic. Most Serbian restaurants offer roštilj, a large plate of various unseasoned grilled meats. Serbian cuisine is famous for its heavy use of varied vegetables, fresh or cooked.
Snacking and eating on the go in Belgrade is easy and cheap. Local hamburger are called cevapcici, available in many parts of the city for a very cheap price. Bakeries (pekara) are everywhere and you will find a wide assortment of breads, sandwich, sweet and savoury pastries. The most common is called burek, a light snack and meal to be consumed together with a drinkable yoghurt (similar to kefir). Some of the bakeries are open 24 hours.
– Sleep at El Diablo hostel
The hostel is a clean apartment turned into a cozy hostel, with a roof terrace where to chill-out.
The owners, Nigel and Dragan are incredibly nice and helpful, always happy to talk and give suggestions to guests. You will feel like at home.
Location is probably the best you can have in Belgrade, in the heart of the former bohemian quarter, skandarljia, where famous restaurants for tourists are (expensive though), many other affordable restaurants and bars are close by. The biggest city market, where you can buy their organic veggie, meat and cheese, is only 2 minutes walking, same for 24hrs a mini market and local fast food stands.
At night, there are plenty of bars, cafés and discotheques that are open, selling cheaply priced drinks. Belgrade is reputed to have some of the best night life in Europe.
Part of local culture are kafana (in the picture of of the oldest in town), a cafe’/pub with serb music and drinks. ‘Kafana is a place where sad lovers cure their sorrows in alcohol and music, gamblers squander entire fortunes, husbands run away from mean wives while shady businessmen, corrupt local politicians and petty criminals do business’. Usually you get in sober and get out drunk and happy…
In summer nightlife moves to the splav, river boats turned into restaurant/bars/disco located along the Sava and Danube rivers.
Best way to enjoy the city is to make a friend, a local one, that will show you the best places and things to do. So I did! 🙂
Since many years I’m lucky to have met and known so many wonderful people in this city. This summer I was even invited to a serbian wedding and, believe me, it is something that I will remember for long…!!!! 🙂
Serbians are naturally welcoming and warm-hearted people, full of nice sense of humor, together with brave and proud attitudes.
If you are going with a local friend, be sure that you will visit/see/eat/drink the best…
Serbs are crazy for sports, not only, they are VERY good at sports! Tennis, basket, water polo…are only few of the sports where this little country is at the top.
The local football derby, between Partizan and Red Star Belgrade (Crvena Zvezda, my second favorite club, after Napoli) is also known as the ‘eternal Derby’ and it’s considered to be one of the most intensive football events in European football, for the incredible supporting atmosphere, despite the poor quality of football. Due to the intensity of the rivalry, it is not recommended to wear either team’s colors outside the stadium during match days between the two sides.
The two clubs have teams in other sports, basket for instance is very popular too. If you have time visit the Belgrade Arena, New Belgrade. It is the second largest arena in Europe and the largest in the Balkans. You will definitely be impressed by the architecture.
In summer is usually very warm and humid, enjoy Ada Ciganlija, a river island on Sava River with an artificial lake.
The lake has an 8 km long gravel beach, which is visited by thousands of bathers during the summer. This is a great place for sports (area for football, basketball, beach volley, golf and tennis) and picnics.
It also contains a lot of cafes and restaurants. In summer, it is swamped with people wanting to cool down in the water; Another option is the great War Island (Veliko ratno ostrvo), a river island at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, for picnics and bird spotting.
Fast photo-post regarding my few days spent in Novi Sad – Serbia.
Novi Sad is the capital of Vojvodina, the northern Autonomous Province of Serbia.
The city is situated on the Danube River between Budapest and Belgrade. One of the symbol of Novi Sad is the fortress of Petrovaradin on the right bank of the Danube. A fortress that no enemy has ever taken.
From Budapest, by train, buy the special train ticket for Belgrade for 15 Euro (intead of 22Euro for Novi Sad, which is closer to Budapest…).
Picture below, Subotica, first serbian station after the border
Stay at Sova Hostel, is a nice apartment in the city centre, owners (Mike and his beautiful wife) are lovely and very hospitable. You will be welcomed with a shot of Rakia, local brandy. Your balkan experience can now start! 🙂 Beds are comfy and big
Take a stroll until the fortress, on the right bank of the Danube and enjoy the view from up there
Nightlife and fun? Walk around street Zmaj Jovina, around Njegoševa and Grčkoškolska streets
Eat a delicious burek/pita at Koliba, one of the best I have ever had in the balkans!
I would like to tell a bad experience I had while travelling on the overnight train from the Serbian capital, Belgrade, to the capital of Hungary, Budapest.
The price of the ticket, € 15, and a good company in the compartment, an American girl who I had met in Sofia and a funny Argentinian boy, made me thinking positively about this long journey.
However few minutes after the train left the platform problems began.
I must start by saying that I consider myself a fairly experienced traveller, I had already traveled the same route last year and I have very good friends both in Serbia and in Hungary, it means no prejudices.
While we were chatting about our travel experiences two agents came for checking the passports and registration of my stay in Belgrade.
The hostel did not gave me anything either when I paid or at my departure, so I did not have the required certificate.
I was asked to follow the two policemen in an empty compartment where a scam play started.
Like in many movies, a young, short blonde hair was the good cop, while the older was the bad one, pretending that he did not even speak English, during a passport control on an international train …
Initially I was told that I risked ending up in court, that I should immediately get off from the train, follow them to the first police station and wait for process, the next morning, expecting to pay about 800 € fine.
After I stated that I had to get to Budapest, that the hostel did not provide me with anything and that I did not have that amount with me, the good cop told me that there was an alternative way to solve the problem.
His boss, the bad cop, could have declared that I had lost the certificate.
This procedure would have cost me only € 80 … It was clear what they wanted.
I had to convince the two officers that I had no money with me, that I was a budget traveller, that I hitchhiked most of my tour, that I spent the nights in hostels or hosted by friends and showing my almost empty wallet, they could not believe me, as for them an italian should carry more money in his wallet, probably they are not aware of historical and economic changes …
Eventually I had to give them € 15, plus 10 leva and 100 czech crowns.
Returning to my compartment I met other people, mostly young and honest travelers, who were waiting for the same treatment, a shameful behavior by the police.
Unfortunately the story is not over.
After the proper passport control, at the border – I was a bit scared that also these cops could have the same behavior – we organized ourselves to sleep, being three, we have combined the seats and we lay. The night was cold, with the air conditioning on all the time, so I slept badly, when we arrived in Budapest, at 6 am, I just wanted to get to the hostel and rest.
We were getting ready, taking our backpacks, when suddenly the Argentinian boy asked if we had seen his shoulder bag. We had a look in the narrow space in which we were, with no luck, there was only an explanation.
He had been robbed! Of everything! About 4000 USD, 300 €, credit cards, passport, cell phone and more.
What a disaster! Of course he was shocked, upset, sad and desperate. I could not believe it too, I spent the night almost awaked and I did not notice everything.
I knew that I could not let him down, without giving him a hand, he was not able to think clearly what to do and how to react at this situation. We went to the police office at the station, where none spoke english, so a translator was called and invited there to help. We spent almost 3 hours in the office, explaining what happened.
First thing he did was to call at home and ask to block the credit cards and, of course to explain the incident occurred.
Later on we went to the hostel I booked for me and a friend, we asked if we could leave also his backpack and go to the argentinian embassy, I also suggested to ask if they needed someone for a casual job, which could give him the opportunity to have a place where to spend the night and some small amount of money.
The story is long and it deserves to be written with all the details, for me it was a great lesson to be learnt, both for the part I was directly involved with police and for the one I was just a spectator.
So, follow me, I will soon tell you how it went…