Any faithful readers of my blog know how much I enjoy travelling without too many plans pre booked – it is, in my opinion, a wonderful way to travel because you never know where your journey could take you – Belgrade was an example of this. We sat down with Wei Jen the day before we left and decided to book a place in Belgrade and arranged a driver to go across the border. Our driver was a fascinating political science lecturer at a European University with a very interesting view of the world and extremely interesting to speak to.
After our hostel in Budapest we decided to take something of a break and booked an Airbnb apartment just outside the centre of Belgrade. After getting some late lunch, we enjoyed a chance to relax a little before heading out to meet a few friends of Wei Jen’s – Sanya.
Belgrade is one of the best European cities for nightlife, according to Lonely Planet – they boast the best. Sanya introduced us to a number of cool little bars around Belgrade, including a pretty trendy outdoor bar, with so many quirky decorations and when the rain started falling we headed to a dive bar where we met a couple of other friends – Georg and Jelena – who we would be partying with a little more in Belgrade.
The next morning, we got off to a slightly slower start, oversleeping our alarms and getting a proper night of sleep for a refreshing change. After polishing off lunch (breakfast at 1pm?), incidentally we could not have timed it any better because the skies opened and we were spectators to an intense storm that was going to slightly hinder our walking tour.
We enjoyed a wonderful afternoon discovering the underground secrets of Belgrade, the hidden bunkers that were constructed during the war, the artwork that calls these bunkers home – even a few interesting tales about one particular well that was constructed in a vain attempt to find water. So the story goes her lover took her to the well and threw her down, and was only discovered by sheer luck, when he went to claim the body he was found with a matching train ticket to his dead lover.
As we continued through the tour, we saw some of the incredible street art scattered throughout the city, it was interesting also to hear about some of the things that are happening in Belgrade – in particular a controversial water front program. We ended the tour in some of the old wine and food cellars of the city – the wine was certainly not a highlight.
As we headed back to our apartment we discovered a delicious cake shop, reminding me so much of my favourite – Birch and Purchesse back home in Melbourne. Luxury deserts were the perfect way to unwind for the evening.
After spending a little time relaxing we ordered some Chinese food before heading out for another taste of nightlife in Belgrade. We headed to a cool area of Belgrade for a few cheeky drinks and we were treated to a taste of some jazz music.
Next stop for us was the popular Shake n Shake – a club where we were the only people who couldn’t speak Serbian, around 3AM there was a brilliant rap group – Bad Copy, one of the biggest rap groups in Serbia, this was an experience to be sure.
Another late start to the day saw us visit the Nikola Tesla museum – a fascinating look into the life of the Serbian inventor who was one of the fathers of modern electricity, developing AC power. His inventions were brilliant
After rushing from the museum we took a walking tour around the city and took in some of the cities spectacular attractions, through the Republic Square and the National Theatre and into Skardavia. Skardavia was described to us as a Serbian Institution – there is the parliament and there is Skardavia! We wandered alongside the river and heard some of the history of Belgrade, the strategic importance of the city sitting at the mouth of 2 rivers, the fact that the city has been destroyed 44 times as a result of this importance.
We also got some history about the former Ugoslavia Republic, their leader ‘Tito’ or Serbia’s biggest mistake and the NATO attacks that took place almost 2 decades ago. It was interesting to hear the attitudes of the locals who were punished for the actions of their leader who was ultimately tried for war crimes in The Hague. What interested me was the resolve of the locals who protected their key bridges by having concerts with thousands of people dancing and partying around the clock.
We finished our tour at the fortress where we could take in some brilliant views of the city – absolutely breathtaking scenery and views from the top, it was a great way to end our afternoon exploring the city.
That night we headed out to the Serbian Institution to get some dinner and headed out on a pub crawl – we met a few cool people, some who may get a mention in later cities – but the night was certainly more tame than previous nights – it was actually all the same bars that Sanya had taken us to on our first 2 nights – so we knew the bars were at least worthwhile if they were recommended by locals!
We spent a final chilled day in Belgrade, visiting the torture museum and seeing the often brutal torture that was dished out to victims – the most brutal amongst our consensus was being cut in half from between the legs to the head while upside down – a particularly gnarly way to go. We also wandered through the Belgrade Manifesto that was happening at the fortress on that day.
That night we cooked a feast fit for kings (or lords) for our last night partying with Wei Jen before heading out with Sanja to enjoy a few quiet drinks, however that quickly turned into a deep house party inside the fortress with the famous DJ – Chris Ceiban playing tracks that saw us out till the earliest hours of the morning. One of my favourite things to do while I am travelling (avid readers know this already) is to see the spectacular sunrise as we walk back from a night out partying – the way the sun hits the cities is absolutely breathtaking, and something that should be seen to be believed.
Our last day in Belgrade we spent relaxing, checked out and then headed for Saint Sava, a spectacular church (at least from the outside) that is still being constructed. The size of this church is significant, inside it will be glorious when its construction is complete.
We then headed to the airport and said our goodbyes to Wei Jen, our travelling companion of two weeks. We had some absolutely incredible times, great times spent sightseeing, unbelievable nights out. All of that stemmed from a 10 minute chat in a bar, the right bar to be in – at the right time. It is hard to imagine doing this trip without him, or not getting up to the hijinks that we did together.
Our next stop is Zagreb – Visa’s sorted this time around, lets do this!