My adventures in Serbia start as soon as I land at the Nikola Tesla airport in Belgrade. As suggested by the WikiTravel blog, I make my way to the city center by means of Bus 72 which leaves me just a mere 5 minutes walk uphill to my hotel Vila Terazije which happens to be located just a few steps from a well-known hotel and just a few meters away from The Republic Square and the pedestrian zone of Knez Mihailova St.
While researching for things to do in Belgrade, I came across the site of Belgrade Walking Tours which provided me with the following bucket list to complete during my stay. Therefore, this blog post will follow such list.
It's worth noting that all tours meet and start here at the famous statue of Mihailo Obrenovic.
For locals and visitors alike, you will start referring to the location of this statue as simply: - "by the horse" -.
So, where should we meet tonight? - By the horse, of course!
Underground secrets of Belgrade
During my research, I found out that Tito had made arrangements for several underground bunkers to be built; one of them can be found at the Kalemegdan Fortress. I would not have know, had I not gone in this tour!
Within, you will experience firsthand what it would have been like to live underground as well as enter a chamber where a warcraft used to be stored.
Within the fortress itself, you will also encounter a Roman well and the history of its uses throughout the years. At the entrance itself, a local artist had on display some paintings of local urban legends used to scare children and non-believers. The most famous of them being Baba Roga who is said to take away naughty kids.
Here is a sample of some of these ghoul-like creatures of the night:
No tour is complete without reliving the good old days under Tito and its Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
In this tour, you are taken by bus to Tito's resting place [House of Flowers] which is also a museum which stores a collection of the majority of gifts presented by foreign dignitaries to Tito as well as a photo gallery of Tito's journeys and travels throughout the world.
This is also the place where I learned a bit more about the Youth Relay Baton which I would say, it used to be the Serbian version of the Olympics. The baton is carried by different young adolescents throughout the country making its way to any given stadium where children of all ages would put on a show celebrating their national pride and identity. This would also be the occasion for this lucky young fellow to be the person to hand over the baton to Tito.
Zemun represents the old part of the city with a totally different story and in its time, a more prosperous beginning than that of Belgrade. Walking through its streets, you'll notice that Austro-Hungarian influence in much of its architecture and way of life.
This is the place with a heavy Orthodox-Christian influence and the place for celebrating the old New Year on January 14th. It is worth mentioning that Belgrade is the home of the world's largest Orthodox church - that of the Saint Sava Temple.
Zemun is also the location for the Gardos hill which after a small hike through cobblestone streets, you will come across an eagle's view of the Danube river as well as getting a glimpse into the not-so-far away city of Belgrade's Kalemegdan fortress; but I do have to confess that the best part of visiting this area was to make my way back to the city walking along the riverbank [I do believe this means I can also tick off the walk along the rivers] , but do stop and sit on a bench and watch both locals and a few tourists go by or enjoy a delicious meal at one of the floating restaurants along the river.
Downtown Walking Tour
Downtown's most emblematic icon is of course Belgrade's statue of "the Victor" which has become the poster statue for the city worldwide. This statue commemorates the victory of the Serbs over the Turks and then the Austro-Hungarian empire.
For those who look closely enough will find that this statue is that of a nude warrior holding a sword in one hand and an eagle/pigeon in the other. Some say that he was place this high as to avoid wandering eyes going too low. Nonetheless, this is the best place to have your picture taken and enjoy the vistas of the modern city.
I am also adding here some vistas of the meeting place of the rivers Sava and Danube by the Kalemegdan Fortress:
... nowadays, an Emirati-based company is building a high end real estate development on the banks of the Sava river called the Belgrade Waterfront or BW that will be referred to as the Dubai of south-eastern Europe and which shall inject a much needed era of prosperity to the Serbian capital.
As you continue your walking tour of the city, you will also come across some captivating street art such as this one named La Santa de Belgrado:
... and continuing on your walking tour, you will be taken to the Bohemian Quarters better known as Skadarlija which is filled with restaurants and cafés ... as well as hear stories about the infamous hyperinflation era (90's) where the country dealt with bank notes that had quite a few more zeroes than we are used to see. Later on, you will make your way through the Silicon Valley neighborhood where the Serbian nouveaux riches flash their luxuries.
Bank notes! btw, head to the National Bank of Serbia's Visitor Center and have your photo taken and put into a bank note for free!
To conclude, my mission on this bucket list was not fully completed, but I do plan to return to Beograd someday soon and tick off my missing items:
... but for now, it's Živeli and Vidimo se, kasnije!