A Travellerspoint blog

Serbia

Belgrade and Novi Sad, Serbia

sunny 17 °C

We flew from Nuremberg, Germany to Belgrade, Serbia on Wizz Air - a discount airline based in Hungary.

The trick to flying cheaply is to have only carry-on luggage.
We paid a bit extra for large carry ons - 55 cm maximum height.
On 29 October they are increasing the luggage size so the extra charge will not be applied.
Random seat assignment still put us together with me in the middle seat and Jeff by the window. We were in row 19 near the wings. For a short flight this is tolerable, there isn't much leg room and the seats seemed a bit narrower than on Norwegian Air, we were fine.

For ten Euros our cosmopolitan landlord from Baroque Apartments picked us up at the airport and delivered us to our beautiful two bedroom suite:
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Belgrade has a storied and turbulent history. In recent memory it has the distinction of having been bombed by the Nazis, the Allies and NATO.

The bombed out building, below, was part of the Ministry of Defence, very central, about two blocks from the main train station, about five blocks from the National Theatre.
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It is warmer here, about twenty degrees C on 13 October. We took a little walk around the neighbourhood and ate dinner on a patio. Indian summer.

We got lost looking for the main square. Jeff was looking at his map and I was taking pictures. A policeman stepped out of his little guardhouse and approached Jeff. We both kind of froze.
We had attracted his attention, now what?
He wanted to help us. He pointed out the correct route. He was a handsome young man with those startling blue-grey eyes we have been admiring in Serbia, spoke good English, calm and helpful. Friendly. That is our picture of a Serb.

Our walking tour started from the statue in front of the National Museum which is currently closed for renovations.
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There is a free (you leave a tip) 2.5 hour tour of downtown that leaves from Republic Square every day at 11 am or, if you prefer, 3 pm.

We walked first through the bohemian section, Skadarlija, former haunt of artists and poets.
Today the streets are lined with cafes and bars, a really happening place later in the day. Serbia has a cafe culture and in the evenings the streets and cafes are lively with people.
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Our tour guide spoke excellent English and besides his engaging manner endeared himself to our international group of about 20 people, by serving the local plum and honey spirit, rakija. Powerful stuff, savour it.
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October 14 was another beautiful blue sky day.
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I ❤️ Serbia!! The people are friendly and many speak English. Perhaps their spoken English is better than the Czech Republic due to English language shows on tv - the subtitles are Serbian but any American or British shows are in English. Our apartment has a large flatscreen tv and has a good selection of English language programming.

Our tour takes us through downtown and up to the Fortress where we can view the confluence of the Danube and Sava Rivers - Belgrade has an auspicious location which contributed to its value to the Romans, Huns, the Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and in fact to the Slavic people themselves.
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The walls of the fortress are limestone and from the distance gleam white - thus the name Beograd - white city.

We are only staying in our baroque apartment for two nights as on 17 October we are taking the bus to Novi Sad to meet up with our friend Melinda. Worse luck they do not have a vacancy for our return visit. I felt like a princess in the opulent surroundings, Chrystal chandeliers and wall sconces. and authentic ornately carved furniture from the seventeen hundreds - cherubs and leaves abound. The colours are gilt and dark Ivory, very elegant.
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We were going to take the bus from the main square to the Nicola Tesla Museum but the buses were crammed so we decided to just walk back to our apartment and chill.
Our landlord brought us fresh organic grapes from his vineyard when we checked out.
The Belgrade main train station is right next to the bus depot and looks a bit like the Norwegian Royal Palace in Oslo.
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We feel a little nervous buying the bus tickets but luckily the ticket agent speaks English and the bus is leaving in ten minutes.
We were issued tickets with assigned seats. There are about 40 bus stalls and there is only one exit to the boarding area where a guard is positioned to collect the tokens - so you get a ticket and a token - we thought the token was change and that the guard was asking for a tip!! (or a bribe, but not so my friends, be forewarned that the coin-like objects are tokens and keep them handy)
One other tricky thing about the Serbian bus - the overhead bins are very shallow and will only accommodate a day pack. There is a small fee to stow your bags in the outside compartment.
On this bus there is no WC or wifi - fairly comfortable but noisy from some kind of roof fan, but the trip in only about 75 minutes so all is good.
It takes 25 minutes to drive through Belgrade, population is close to two million.

Along our route to Novi Sad we cross the blue, blue Danube. It is a very wide and impressive river that meanders through a good part of Europe from Germany to Bulgaria and into the Black Sea in the Ukraine. We saw it in Budapest in 2012.

The scenery varies from the Balkan plains to forests:
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We met Melinda, a Hungarian from Subotica Serbia in 2012. She was our CouchSurfing hostess for one night. I am old enough to have been her teen aged mother.
Funny how you can meet someone, a complete stranger, and forge a friendship. That happened to us. Now five years later we meet again.
Old friends with a high degree of comfort with each other. She and her personable husband - first time meeting him - met our bus in Novi Sad - he greeted us warmly - 'I am happy to see you too!' Old friends.
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Below is an example of the mixed bag of architecture - a brutalist style building from the communist years - designed for function not for beauty - plunked in among soaring church spires on one side (not shown) and much more elaborate buildings across the street.
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We spent the day together, ate lunch, a wonderful venison stew, enjoyed typical Serbian cakes with lemonade - much of the baking has a Turkish flavour from the hundreds of years of Ottoman rule. Baklava and custard cake.
As evening neared we walked through the Danube Park, and spotted a familiar statue: we had seen him in Belgrade also, the poet and painter Dura Jakšić.
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The park was cool and tranquil.
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Our second day in Novi Sad was spent walking to the fortress and just generally looking around.

The bridges are all new. All of the bridges in Novi Sad were bombed by NATO during the nineties war.
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We could have had dinner at our accommodation but instead went into the neighbourhood.
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We ate at the same restaurant as yesterday - the food was good and plentiful and the prices more than reasonable - about twelve dollars covered a filling meal for two. This restaurant was 'authentic' no English menus, offerings change daily and are written on a brown paper bag. Wish I had taken a picture.

As the sun set in Novi Sad we walked to the main square.
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Sidewalk cafes bustled with people.
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We returned to our cozy apartment about 9 pm, we had enjoyed a pleasant evening.
After booking a one bedroom suite in Belgrade for the next two nights - 74 dollars total and an easy walk from both the bus station and the Nikola Tesla Museum, we went downstairs to the restaurant - I ordered a rakija, served in a special long necked glass. 'Where can I buy a glass like this?' I asked the affable bartender. He gave me the glass. I ❤️ these people!

Fortified by the strong spirit I went ahead and booked cheap seats to the opera - we will see Carmen at the National Theatre in Belgrade on our last night in Serbia. Six rows from the stage, there were only four seats left, we are lucky! Two tickets for 25 dollars Canadian. I am stoked!!
Our suite here in Novi Sad is above a restaurant - a large, very clean and well kept studio apartment with a fireplace and hardwood floors.
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It is well located, just a few blocks from the main square, and really quiet after 11. The church bells ring every hour but other than that, no noise. For forty dollars per night breakfast is included - eggs, bread, cheese, red peppers, mouth watering tomatoes, home made peach and plum jams, good strong Turkish ☕️ - way too much food, fresh and tasty.

In 1993 Serbians were the world's poorest billionaires.

Serbia held the record for hyper inflation at that time. Prices doubled every few days and a one billion dollar dinar note might purchase a loaf of bread. In two weeks time, a slice of bread.
In January 1994 inflation was out of control in Serbia. Prices doubled every 34 hours.
In world history Serbia from 1993 to 1995 is in the top five contenders for hyper inflation. Zimbabwe blew their record out of the water in 2009.

We took the bus back to Belgrade on a beautiful blue sky October day.

After walking to our apartment we went to the Nikola Tesla museum. I am a fan of Tesla, a very bright guy.
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We moved Apartments the next day and walked to the Bohemian section for a leisurely lunch. Jeff had the most amazing roast beef - melt in your mouth, extremely flavourful, wonderful.
Our server was fabulous.
This was the best and most pleasant meal you could imagine. A gorgeous day, a beautiful patio, flowers blooming all around and impeccable service - with tip the whole shebang for two people was under twenty dollars and my glass of wine cost more than an entree!! (my mistake as I could have happily had sparkling water or a beer, but extremely pleasant).
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It was a highlight to attend the opera, Carmen, at the National Theatre.
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We had good seats, main level, close to the stage, we were lucky to get seats!

Bright, lively, colourful, Carmen is a super choice for ordinary people. The story is set in Seville and we have seen the tobacco factory where Carmen fictitiously worked.

Below is the statue of Prince Michael who liberated Serbia from the Ottoman Turks in 1867:
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We spent 4.5 days (in total) in Belgrade and we loved it!!

We love Serbia and the Serbian people we met were terrific.

Posted by CherylGypsyRose 09:59 Archived in Serbia Tagged opera serbia balkans carmen belgrade cevapi tesla rakija skadarlija Comments (0)

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