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Thursday, 10 April 2014


Serbia wasn't necessarily on my bucket list for travel experiences and Belgrade hardly tops the list of city weekender destinations, but my weeklong visit made me wish I'd stayed for longer. The initial purpose of the trip was for geographical research and fieldwork (an odd choice you might say) intended to understand the city and immerse our self in Serbian culture and urban society. I'm not sure what my initial expectations of Serbian life were, but I found Serbian people to be welcoming and friendly and the city in general to radiate community spirit generating a sense of homeliness and comfort. Belgrade was therefore such as revelation and shattered my initial pre-dispositions of the post-war Balkan capital. 

Firstly there's the food; cheap, meaty This place isn't for veggies. As best said by our waiter on the first night 'Serbian kitchen is meat'. Speaking of which, Sta Ja Tu Je, near the tramway offers an amazing game goulash of rabbit, venison and wild boar with half a pint of Lav (local Serbian) beer for under a tenner! Serbian food itself is a strange mix of Austrian influenced and Turkish food; expect sauerkraut style cabbage mixed with kebabs and Turkish coffee. If you're getting the meat sweats (as we did halfway through the week) visit Supermarket for edgy Serbian sushi or Radost for communal veggie and vegan delights. Bear in mind Radost looks like it's someone's apartment room- there will be a sticker of an animated broccoli on the door as a marker and that's about it!

For all you history buffs, Belgrade is rich in sites of historical interest. Visit Tito's mausoleum to see about 500 differently engraved relay batons (?). Then there's the bombed out government building in the city centre, still standing as a corpse of its formal self, left as a reminder to the NATO bombings of 99'. Architecture is key in Belgrade, contrast New and Old Belgrade for a fine mix of well-preserved pre and post modernist architecture, demonstrating some of the best socialist planning of the modern era. Lastly take a day trip to Novi Sad; probably one of the prettiest European-esque towns in Serbia; the main square bears a strong resemblance to Vienna and the neo-classical architecture evokes a strong Parisian feel. 

Initially you may be put off the sheer scale of graffiti in Belgrade; most buildings have a scribble somewhere or other. In fact; much of this graffiti is paid for; used to represent and celebrate specific communities. Visit New Belgrade for beautiful painted memorials and references to 1999. Otherwise explore the city yourself; there are some great gems hidden away in residential areas and back streets and slightly less-offensive messages than you'd see in the UK; such as 'Go Vegan!' scrawled away elsewhere.   


Also don't get this place confused with Siberia; you won't need a fur coat in spring! Bring sandals, shades and sunscreen; I spent many an afternoon lazing in the sun in the park (plenty of which offer free wifi). Over summer; the riverside comes to life and floating restaurants, bars and clubs pop up all along the Sava. The locals all have beach-houses on Belgrade island and Kalmegdan (Belgrade fortress and surrounding park) holds huge concerts in the outdoor heat. 

Nightlife, like the food is also very cheap. Cheap cocktails, wine and beer are offered at almost every pub and bar along the cobbled Bohemian district. Live music is also highly popular in Belgrade where traditional pubs play Serbian songs, all of which have lively, drunken atmospheres. If you're into clubbing; house and techno seem to be the main Eurotrash genre of the region. The most popular clubs of which are all situated in abandoned nuclear bunkers or dis-used supermarkets. 

It was possibly one of the surrealist places I'd ever visited; where else can you find a man walking a rabbit down the main high street or a pensioner washing an umbrella in 26 degree heat? Not to mention Disney wine marketed to children and Beer sold in McDonalds. Saying all of that; I want to go back. 

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