DAY I – BELGRADE, SERBIA
Before I talk about the city of Belgrade, I need to mention the lovely trip we had. We took the highway from Bratislava, crossed border to Hungary without noticing. Driving on the highway only, we crossed almost all of the Hungary without delay (only some 20 minutes due road works). Pleasant, pleasant, on time. I am happy when I am on time.
Time for lunch – found a rest stop, ate lunch, had coffee. Already had a feeling we must be close to Serbian border. OK. Finish coffee, drink some water, back to car.
Back to highway, stop. Move 2m. Stop. Move 1m. Stop. Move 3m. Stop. This is not a telegram, this is a traffic jam on Serbian borders. Stop. Waiting time 2.5 hours. Stop. Realized we are leaving the EU and probably this will take longer than few minutes. Never mind, just 37°C outside. Inside chilling at 23. Stop.
We wondered what are all these cars with German, Dutch, Belgium and French license plates doing here. Are French, Dutch and German now holidaying in Serbia? No. Stop. 2m. Stop. They did not really look French/German/Dutch, but more Serbian, Bulgarian, perhaps even Macedonian. We eventually estimated, its probably expats going back home. And they were coming in numbers. Over 2.5 hour wait came to an end, only to have the border policeman check our passports without giving much if any attention to it.. meh.
While waiting for 2.5 hours on the border check, we came to appreciate the EU and its Schengen Area.
Apartment we booked was great. Right in the middle of the city, walking distance to main Republic square, lovely Skadarlija street with many restaurants, few minutes away from main market and bus station.
The city in itself is a testament to its socialist history. Besides its very rich “pre-soviet” history, the very first impression gives out strong socialist vibe. Dirt. Unfinished buildings. Trash. Buildings in decay. New buildings. Vibrant night life. Stray dogs. Homeless. Lively. Warm.
Walking from Republic Square over to one of the pedestrian streets, there are plenty of restaurants, bars and vibrant night life. People are very friendly, dancing on the street, enjoying the warm night. Very contrasting to the state the city is in.
I asked our host about where I can find the most “local, authentic” place. As usually in cities, this would be the market place. 6 AM the next morning, I went. Fantastic experience, yet a bit odd. Again, the feeling of ever present socialist past looms over the city and its people.
Very nice experience, overall.