We arrive about 2 hours late, to find we have changed timezones and are actually only an hour late (that’s always nice). We had mechanical problems just out of Belgrade.
So we had finally arrived into Serbia’s capital Belgrade. A lumpy hill flanked by the Sava and Danube Rivers, it was an ideal location for a fortified settlement. Only problem was it attracted enemies and as a result Belgrade has been destroyed and rebuilt oh about 40 times in its 2300 year history (about every 57 years). Some of the fortifications still remain, which we spotted from the train in and they looked quite cool. The Kalemegdan Citadel has been changed by succeeding conquerors and defenders and is now no more than fortified parkland.
We got off the train walked across the street and into our hostel (now that’s how we like it). The lady who greeted us spoke as much English as we spoke Serbian (well ok she spoke more than we did) and was really friendly trying to make us feel at home. We dumped the bags and headed off in search of money and food.
We eventually found both, headed back to the hostel to pay and then it was off to fortified parkland. The Kalemegdan Citadel built of big knuckles of stone, has been fortified since Celtic times and subsequently expanded onto the flood plain below, with much of it dating back to the 17th-Century. There are Muslim Tombs, medieval gates, Turkish baths and a large Military Museum which proudly displays parts of downed American stealth fighter. We opted against the military museum, gloating over shooting a pilot down and displaying it as a trophy wasn’t really what we were looking for.
Having wandered the grounds of the citadel and checked out the tanks along tank alley we headed for the pedestrian street Kneza Mihailova. Its quite a long street filled with shops, gelateria’s, coffee houses, cafes and all along the street are tables and chairs that don’t appear to belong to any shop/café yet food and drink appears almost as if from nowhere – very strange.
At the end of Kneza is Trg Republike, from here the street takes us to City Hall, Parliament and the Presidential Palace. We walk up to Federal Parliament and along to St. Mark’s Church a solid Serbian Orthodox church with massive pillars that contain the grave of the Emperor Dusan (1308-55)
We then jumped on Tram #2 and went for a tour of the city. We passed the Sveti Sava billed as the biggest Orthodox Church in the world and a work in progress. Construction started in 1935, was interrupted by Hitler, communism and lack of cash – its still not finished. We passed by two buildings still bearing witness to the countries war-torn past – the buildings quite clearly have had missiles fired through them (in the evening the hostel lady told us the missiles are still in the building hence no action has been taken on them).
We did a circle on the tram back to Kneza where we had dinner then went back to the hostel. The night lady Leena was brilliant she had so much to tell and ideas on what to do, it was a pity that she hadn’t been on when arrived because we had already organised our accommodation and transport to Sarajevo, which had us on a bus at 10am 🙁
We sat up talking with a kiwi guy, Aussie girl and an Irish guy (Dan, Zoë and Joseph) turns out they are on the 6am bus to Sarajevo and staying where we are maybe – the place in Sarajevo is supposed to be an agency so you may not up in the same place as the reception.