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