Going underground in Belgrade.  

Today we decided to do all the bits that we couldn’t do as part of the walking tour. We wanted to have Burek for breakfast and wandered for ages trying to find a bakery! We had seen loads the previous days but now we were actively seeking one out they were hiding! Finally we found one and got huge buttery, cheesy Bureks washed down with a coffee.  They were worth the wait!

We found ourselves near the Hotel Moscow and it was around midday so we went in for the recommended cake. We both got walnut inspired traditional cream cakes and they were amazing. The design inside the hotel was beautiful and we felt quite posh sat there. The orange juice was also yummy. 

Once we had finished off the cake we went over to Kalemegdan park again. Walking through the fortress we found out that before the Romans had settled there they had to conquer the Celts that had built the first fortress; Singidunum. 

We noticed you could climb one of the towers so up we went and we were greeted with great views out over the City and surrounding areas. 

I don’t know whether it was because it was Easter or it’s usual but there was loads going on in the park and fortress. Sarah had a go at archery and we found a random dinosaur park! You can also find Belgrade military museum in one of the outer walls. It was nice to get a bit more time to wander around this area as it was beautiful.  

From the vantage points around the park we could see the bridge that people partied on during the NATO bombing. It started off as people holding up giant target signs and standing on the bridge to ensure it wouldn’t be bombed and soon turned into party central every night. It’s a real testament to human spirit and we loved hearing that story.  

We had decided to do another tour today, this time a paid one visiting some underground elements of Belgrade.  We soon found ourselves back at the republic square, we met up with the guide and it turned out there was only one other person on the tour. 

We found ourselves being questioned quite a lot on our existing Belgrade knowledge as we walked back up towards Kalemegdan park. After being told about the monument honouring France’s assistance in WW1 we arrived at our first underground stop…the Roman well that is neither Roman, nor a well! 

The ‘well’ was actually thought to be built by the Austrians in 1700/1800s and it’s notoriety comes from it’s use as a dungeon. Although it’s more likely that prisoners were thrown down the shaft and left to die. We could wander around the upper level but the staircase leading down the outside of the well is closed. 

It’s pretty cool being underground but it would be better if the whole thing was open. We heard a rumour while we were there that they’re thinking of opening up a lot more of the underground sites in Belgrade. 

The second location on the tour was Tito’s bunker. Tito was the 1st president of communist Yugoslavia after WW2. He was the leader of the partisans, a rebel group against the Nazis.  Once in his role as leader he made an enemy in Stalin and built these bunkers across the Balkans in fear of a strike against him from the East but also possibly the West.  

The bunker was mainly designed for a few men with Tito getting his own personal room. It wasn’t a huge place but it was interesting to learn about the history a bit more. 

We walked around the whole place, guessing what certain rooms were and seeing where they would have had anti-aircraft machinery kept. 

The next spot on our list was an old gunpowder store. Located at the bottom of the hill that Belgrade fortress sits upon, it’s a huge open cave that was turned into a nightclub in the 90s during the war. With gum all over the floor and graffiti on old Roman ruins, there was even an old stone tomb that was used to keep drinks in and an old stone table where the DJ played. 

This place was used as a museum before the nightclub and now still holds music concerts, just maybe not quite as wild as before. Sarah couldn’t believe the historical pieces were left there when the club was around! 

The final stop was a bar in an old cave under the hill, on the way was a famous piece of street art. 

It represents peace, war growth and struggle in Serbia which after spending a few days here and learning some more of tge history we could understand. In the chilly cave we tried some Serbian white wine which was lovely, and played a traditional Easter game. Our guides had brought some hard boiled eggs and we had to try and crack each others eggs, whoever won got the eggs. Our guide won overall and was really happy about it, but it was nice to sit in a cave chatting to Serbians about a range of things.  

That was the end of the tour! It was really interesting and we had a lot of fun doing something a bit different. After all the walking we were starving, one of the guides had recommended pljeskavica…basically a burger but huge and with your choice of toppings. Think like five guys but far tastier and better value. 

It was amazing, exactly what we needed. We got it from a small place near republic square where we could sit down outside. We ordered ours with a big lump of cheese and all the trimmings! 

We absolutely devoured it before heading to Casablanca, a film themed pub on Skadarlija. I watched the football and we played some heads up, the barman also looked like Serbia’s most famous export…tennis player Novak Djokovic. Loving food like we do, we got pizza later on and went back to the hostel with a few beers to keep us going. Tomorrow we were off to Novi Sad for our last proper day of travelling! 

Belgrade and the walking tours. 

We had a nice lie in today, after a few early get ups it was quite a novelty. We knew the walking tour started at 10am at the Republic square. We wandered up and our guide was already waiting, we had gone for the free walking tour as we’d both had good experiences of them before. 

The tour guide gave us two options of a historical tour of the older town or a 20th century tour of the new town, we opted for the 20th century tour so we could do the historical one in the afternoon. We soon set off with around 10 of us in the group to our first stop. The Albania Palace was the first skyscraper built in Southeast Europe, it’s not the tallest building you’d expect but built in 1940 it must have been a big deal. This was in Terazije square, where our next stop, the Hotel Moscow was also based. 

Famed for it’s exterior architecture and interior design, we were told about the famous people from history to have stayed there and that we had to try the cakes. Something we’d acheive the next day, we carried on chatting with the guide as we walked. It was meant to rain today but so far it was holding off! 

We stopped by the parliament buildings, city assembley and presidency. The  assembley building has two statues outside, one of a man pushing a horse in and one of a man pulling a horse out. It’s meant to symbolise man’s struggle with nature but Serbians joke that it symbolises the difficulty with which politicians can be removed and new politicians replace them. 

Outside was a big banner representing the Serbians who died in the NATO bombings in the 90s. It was interesting to hear their viewpoint on what happened after being in Bosnia. Saint Marko’s was up next, a pretty big orthodox church that was unremarkable really. Past this was the TV-Radio tower which NATO controversially bombed in the Kosovo conflict.  16 employees died, NATO were largely condemned and more recently the manager at the time of the bombing was sentenced to jail for failing to evacuate the building. 

There’s a memorial next to the building that still stands in ruins as a reminder of what happened.  We continued on the tour, walking through Tasmajdan park through some little streets and past the Tesla museum. Nikola Tesla was a famous inventor and scientist in the electricity field.  He’s one of Serbia’s greatest figures, even though he was born in modern day Croatia and lived his life in the USA. He proudly identified as Serbian and now there are various landmarks dedicated to him. The museum, like many this weekend, was closed due to Easter celebrations.  

Our last stop was the imposing St Sava orthodox church. It is said to be built on the remains of St Sava who was burned to death by Sinan Pasha, a grand vizier in the Ottoman empire.  It’s monumental and can be seen around the city. It took over a hundred years to get built due to the various wars Serbia was pulled into in the 1900s. 

We tipped our guide and asked her where would be good to go out tonight, she looled confused and basically told us no one would be going out due to it being Easter! So if you’re planning a trip to Belgrade don’t go over Easter. The tour had taken around 2-2.5 hours. 

Down but not out, we wandered back towards the City centre, grabbing a burrito for a quick lunch. 

We walked up and down the main shopping street but most things were closed, with just restaurants and one tourist shop open. It’s a nice street with some interesting street art along the way. 

We saw a lot of Go Vegan slogans around the City, which we thought was funny when Serbian food is all about the meat. 

Our next tour was coming up so we wandered over to the republic square again and grabbed some drinks in a restaurant while we waited. 

Our next tour was heading in the opposite direction to the 20th century one, and we’d learn a bit more about the history of the City. We learnt a bit more about the republic square and the statue of Prince Michael. Mainly that it’s the best meeting point in Belgrade! 

We wandered down Skadarlija, here we were joined by a dog who would proceed to join us for the whole tour. The bohemian street was filled with kafanas, we would call them bar/restaurants. Where artists would drink all day looking for inspiration. Here we tried Rakija, traditional fruit brandy found all over the region. The one we tried had honey in and it was so good! 

We passed through streets, discussing the contrasting architecture of a city that has been bombed and conquered countless times. It’s very interesting and although it doesn’t have the charm of other Eastern European cities it has it’s own vibe that’s really cool. We walked past the only mosque in a city that was under Ottoman rule for long periods of history.  We also went by a building with bullet holes from the 1st and 2nd world wars. 

We made it to Kalmegdan park, found near the Sava and Danube rivers it’s main point is Belgrade fortress, built where the Romans settled overlooking where the Sava meets the Danube it was geographically significant and modified/added to by various rulers over the centuries.  

It’s a huge place with towers and walls to explore, unfortunately when part of a tour we didn’t have that freedom, instead we followed our guide as he discussed the naked Victor monument, Belgrade’s most famous statue. Controversial because of his nakedness but inspirational in his meaning. 

There were great views to take in over the rivers, I love the Danube as it holds great memories for me. 

It’s a lovely place to walk around, and we’d see more of it the next day. 

Our final stop was outside one of the oldest kafanas in Belgrade simply called ? because of a dispute with a nearby church. Here we became billionaires as we learnt about the hyper inflation after the 90s war. When the government printed crazy amounts of money such as this note we were given.  Unfortunately we couldn’t spend it!

We went to ? for a beer after all the walking we had done. We weren’t far from the main shopping streets and decided to go back to the hostel and get ready for dinner. 

On the way we saw a group of protesters go by us chanting and singing. Apparently demonstrating against the primeminister elections.  

We chilled out for a bit at the hostel before going back to the same restaurant from the night before. Usually I’d try different places but they were so friendly and the food was so good we thought why not! 

This time we tried traditional schnitzel type food. It was huge and delicious. I had the proper rolled pork stuffed with cheese, Sarah had a take on it, chicken stuffed with meat and cheese. It was almost too much but tasted so good. 

We were stuffed, but it wouldn’t stop us from going out and trying to find some nightlife. We walked over to a few bars we had seen off the shopping street and sat outside in the warm evening. After a couple of drinks we went over to zappa bar, a cool place with great artwork on the walls.  

We had some more rakija and beers before  trying to find a couple more bars, unfortunately the guide was right and most places were shut. We eventually ended up near the hostel and had a few drinks before giving in and going back.  

The walking tours were good, I like wandering around a city, finding hidden gems etc but it’s good to get history and stories from locals that you wouldn’t get from a guidebook. We used this website to find out times etc; http://www.belgradewalkingtours.com

So long, Sarajevo…Ciao Belgrade! 

Today we were up at 4:30am for a bus at 6 to Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. We checked that the trams were running and after a nervous 20 minute wait we were on! We arrived at the bus station and the bus was actually early! 

We hopped on and almost immediately fell asleep. Waking up intermittently the landscape changed completely into flat farmland. We had arrived on the pannonian plains from the Balkan mountains. 

The bus takes 7/8 hours, the border crossing wasn’t so bad and I slept for the majority of the journey waking to eat the sandwiches we had bought the day before. We arrived at the bus station near the Sava river and worked out the general direction to our hostel. 

We were staying at the white owl in Skadarlija, the bohemian quarter of Belgrade. Managing to find the main republic square it was only a 5 minute walk from there. The square is the main meeting point in the City. The hostel was really nice, we dropped our stuff off and immediately left to explore. The sun was gorgeous again as we wandered down the main street past cool looking bars and restaurants. 

One bar grabbed our attention, all wooden outside decking and plants. So we stopped to enjoy the sun with a couple of beers. 

We wandered around the bohemian quarter a little more, picked up some drinks and snacks for the room and went for dinner. We went back to the bar we had sat outside and ordered some tasty cocktails to enjoy the last of the sun. Food was calling to us now so went to Three Tats on Skardalija, unfortunately I had left my phone to charge so there aren’t any pictures of the gigantic meat platter we got. 

A guy next to us started chatting in Serbian and French but we managed to have a bit of conversation with him and he bought us a round of beers! The waiter was really friendly too. Nice to find out that Serbians were just as friendly as the rest of the Balkans.  We had amazing warm bread and a nice cheese filled salad to go with all the steak, cevapi, burgers, sausages and chicken. 

It really was epic, we didn’t even mind when a kid grabbed one of our cevapi off the plate as her family were getting ready to leave! 

After stuffing our faces we were going to have a big night out, but after being up so early we couldn’t hack it, so we just had a few drinks in the cool bars nearby. Maybe we shouldn’t have eaten quite so much! We checked the map for interesting sites and bars ready for the next few days, and found a few walking tours to keep us busy!