A Belgradian Miscellany

It was a bit of a rough start today after going to bed way too late. A have a client that is huge in terms of its importance on my portfolio. It’s not, say, Apple, but I say the name of this company and people have the same reaction as if it were. So when they informed me that they needed to formalise our relationship and sent me a bunch of forms last night, I felt it was imperative that I fill them out right away to show that I might be a one-person outfit, but I’m serious and I have all that information on-hand.

So I finally got up around nine this morning and didn’t get out the door till past eleven. I got as far as a cafe, where I enjoyed an espresso before setting off to find a post office. I passed this sign asking a question I’ve asked myself a million times…

imgp6111

I found the post office easily behind the National Museum. There was no English signage and several queues, so I popped some of the sign text into Google Translate until I found one that said something like “registration for letter mail.” I was rather impressed by the look of the post office, being much closer to what you find in Canada and he US than what I found in the UK and Bulgaria. While waiting for my turn, I Googled “postage stamp” and learned that it’s the same as in Bulgarian, marka.

The clerk spoke English and said that I had to buy a stamp at the “post shop in the hallway.” I went back out and noticed a small kiosk-type thing. I went to the cashier and asked for a stamp (Marka, molim), showing my postcard. She took a glance at it and went, “Ha, yes!” She found a stamp and put it on the card for me. The cost was only 75RSD, about 0.90CAD. She then started to gesture from the card towards outside and I realised she was trying to tell me where to mail the card (there were boxes out front). Wow! What great service! Who would have expected Serbia to have a less intimidating and more professional seeming postal service than Bulgaria, a member of the European Union, or the UK! Now, to see if the card arrives in Virginia!

Next stop was the ethnographic museum, a couple of blocks away. Could that be it?

imgp6113

Yep! It’s here that I have to comment on something that baffles me about Belgrade. Serbia uses both the Cyrillic and Latin alphabets interchangeably. Like in Bulgaria, they make up tourist maps with everything written in Latin letters while the bulk of their street signage is in Cyrillic. So like in Bulgaria, I’m left wondering how tourists who don’t read Cyrillic manage to match their maps up to street signage and why in a country that favours Latin letters, they don’t use them for street signage… I remain grateful that I can go between the two alphabets, even with the few Serbian characters I haven’t learned yet!

imgp6114

The ethnographic museum had a special exhibit on:

imgp6115

imgp6116

imgp6117

I really enjoyed the richly embroidered textiles.

imgp6118

And beaded objects.

imgp6119

The building is quite remarkable and the museum is spread out over several stories. It’s much bigger than I expected and is basically a history of the Serbian people to the start of the 20th century.

imgp6120

The first floor is dedicated to traditional dress in the area, not just within the boundaries of modern day Serbia, but neighbouring countries as well.

imgp6121

I’m rather sad that we live in a time where we don’t dress up. I could see myself wearing a number of these gorgeous costumes!

imgp6122

imgp6123

imgp6124

imgp6125

imgp6126

I really liked this photo showing real people wearing the costumes.

imgp6127

The dresses with the coins reminded me of Native American jingle dresses.

imgp6128

imgp6129

This reminded me of the rug in my room in Malak Izvor.

imgp6130

In the late 19th century, the region became to adopt Western European dress.

imgp6131

imgp6132

We then moved on to exhibits showing transportation, housing, and economic ventures.

imgp6133

imgp6134

imgp6135

The housing style reminds me a lot of what I saw in the more affluent parts of Mexico, being built with inner courtyards to have privacy from the street.

imgp6136

This panel absolutely fascinated me. All those years of studying history and anthropology and I never noticed that humans have gone from living low to the ground to gradually working their way upwards. For example, we’ve gone from kneeling before a cooking fire to standing at a hob.

imgp6137

Brandy distilling.

imgp6138

Some of the local industry included beekeeping, olive growing, viticulture/winemaking.

imgp6140

imgp6141

Cobbler’s shop.

imgp6142

One style of house that is almost like a North American log cabin.

imgp6143

And this one is made of stone. Two different areas, two different kinds of building materials.

imgp6144

I was surprised to learn about the tobacco growing. For some reason, I though tobacco was a New World crop!

imgp6147

I have to share a shot of the unexpected fancy bathroom!

imgp6148

There were models of different house styles, including this single-story house typical of Kosovo.

imgp6149

I thought this was a rather interesting looking hearth.

imgp6150

Wine cellar.

imgp6151

This was a very interesting little museum that gave me a lot of insight into the different classes of people in ancient Serbia.

It was one by this point, so I decided to go back to Burger House for lunch! En route, I passed some beautiful buildings.

imgp6152

imgp6153

imgp6154

My burger was great! Not as good as the first one, but that’s only because I was more reasonable and didn’t get as many toppings. The base was just as solid. Mmm!

I then headed back to Belgrade Fortress to see some of the paid exhibits. Spoiler: I found plenty of ticket takers for the exhibits, but no vendors! I was appalled and disappointed by that. By the time I’d walked the site three times trying to find the elusive ticket vendors, I’d also learned that the exhibit I was most interested in was closed on Tuesdays, so I gave up.

But I did see lots of wonderful things in my amblings!

First, I stopped for an ice cream. The lady did not speak English, but I was, of course, able to say, “Chocolate hazelnut, please.” She pointed to make sure she had the right one and I said, “Yes.” Then she say, “65,” and, get this, I understood her perfectly! The numbers are super close to Bulgarian, but simpler. As she scrambled to find something to write on, I said, “It’s okay. Here’s 70.” The look of surprise she gave me was wonderful! I will never get as far with Serbian as I did with Bulgarian, but such small victories are truly precious!

imgp6155

I didn’t notice this cottage on my tour the other day. Looks like a private residence as there’s even a satellite dish out front.

imgp6156

imgp6157

imgp6158

imgp6159

imgp6160

I got to a good vantage point where I could see all the way to Zemun. I can’t believe I walked there yesterday!

imgp6161

imgp6162

The clocktower is one of the paid exhibits I wasn’t able to visit.

imgp6163

Here’s the Monument to Victory from the front.

imgp6164

It is called Pobednik (the victor) and “built to commemorate Serbia’s victory over Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empire during the Balkan Wars and the First World War” in 1928. He has his back turned away from the Ottoman Empire and is facing the Austro-Hungarian empire. He was put up on a pedestal because he is nude and that was considered scandalous. He measures 14 metres and is one of the most visible symbols and landmarks of Belgrade.

imgp6165

imgp6166

This is a tomb.

imgp6167

I was curious when I came across this archery range. I used to really be into archery some 20 or so years ago. So when I learned it was just 600RSD for lessons and 12 shots, I signed up!

imgp6168

I was rusty but got in a few good shots! This was definitely my favourite part of my day!

imgp6169

I loved these foundations barely poking out of the ground.

imgp6170

It was only mid-afternoon when I decided I’d had my fill of the fortress, so I decided to head across downtown to the Nikola Tesla Museum, which I knew my friend Bast would be interested in. Tesla was, of course, a great inventor who is credited with the invention of AC current and of wireless communication (post-humously winning the battle against Marconi for that claim). It’s interesting that his museum is in Belgrade since he was only here for three days, was born in modern day Croatia, and died in the United states.

imgp6171

It was around here that a young woman in her late teens or early twenties came up and asked me if I would buy her an ice cream. I much prefer to buy food or a beverage for a panhandler/homeless person than I do to just give change if I can afford it. There were tons of gelato vendors around, so I figured she’d take advantage of my generosity. Nope. She went to a convenience store cooler and picked out the cheapest treat that was ice cream, only 60RSD. I’m only sharing this to show that while this world gives us plenty of reasons to be cynical, it also gives us plenty of reasons to rue our cynicism. I will not miss 0.75CAD and I left her stunned that I’d done this for her. I wonder how many people she asked.

imgp6172

imgp6173

imgp6174

The National Assembly.

imgp6175

Here’s the big post office again.

imgp6176

imgp6177

Another one of those buildings that would be impressive after a power washing!

imgp6178

imgp6179

imgp6180

A fountain in glass…

imgp6181

Here’s the home of the Nikola Tesla museum.

imgp6182

imgp6183

imgp6184

imgp6185

The museum is tiny and does not in any way do justice to this genius and everything he invented, but if you can get an English tour, it’s worth a visit and is quite the experience!

Some of Tesla’s articles of clothing.

imgp6186

This plaque shows that the Niagara Falls power plant was mostly built using Tesla’s patents.

imgp6190

imgp6191

imgp6192

imgp6193

We watched a rather enthusiastic, but still very informative, film on Tesla’s life and work before the guide took us to recreate some of Tesla’s experiments.

One of his many coils. This one converts 220V power to an output of something like a million volts.

imgp6194

When the machine is on, sparks shoot out of the top.

imgp6195

I was one of the chosen for this experience. I’m holding a standard fluorescent light tube.

imgp6196

It’s alive! My tube lit up with a bright green light that doesn’t show in this picture, although you can see that it is lit up, using me as a conductor! We all joked that we looked like we were holding lightsabers from Star Wars and the guide claimed that this is how the effect was done in the original movies…

imgp6197

He then showed us the “dragon” coil.

imgp6198

Which illuminates that light.

imgp6200

Then, we moved onto the baby coil, where folks were actually electrocuted, the shock being stronger the farther their hand was from the rod. This one also featured people holding light tubes that lit up and the highlight was that two people were used as conductors. Electricity is magic!

imgp6204

I then saw a few of Tesla’s patents.

imgp6211

And an urn that supposedly contains his ashes! Tesla died in New York, but his nephew, who owned this house (explaining why the museum is in Belgrade) had the body cremated and the ashes brought to the museum.

imgp6212

imgp6213

imgp6214

It was five when I was done and I was absolutely tuckered out. I found my way home without a map (I’m finally starting to get orientated!), stopping at a convenience store for a beer to enjoy with dinner. It was rather neat to join the throng of people heading home at rush hour and, like them, pop into a shop to get whatever I was lacking for dinner! I really missed out not getting urban living experience in Bulgaria.

map

I’ve got lots of work for tomorrow, so I probably won’t get any exploring done. Just a heads up! 🙂

Across the Sava to the Shores of the Danube

Like in many cities I’ve visited, most tourist attractions are closed in Belgrade on Mondays. Since I didn’t have any work, I figured it would be the perfect day to walk to historic Zemun. This community used to be the at the very edge of Austria-Hungary, with the Sava River being the border. Post WWII, Zemun was jointed to Belgrade with the building of New Belgrade and is now part of the city. It was about 7KM to the touristy part of Zemun along the waterfront, so the plan was to walk there and figure out a bus back. Google actually did a decent good job representing my route:

map

To get to Zemun, I had to cross Branko’s Bridge. To get there, I walked down Brankova, which becomes Boulevard Nikole Tesle on the other side. The effects of the heavy traffic on Brankova were evident in the filthy building façades.

imgp6001

It was only in reviewing my photos that I noticed the amazing graffiti on that building!

imgp6002

As I set out across the bridge, I saw this impressive sight, a tow truck pulling a bus with its front all smashed in.

imgp6003

Stopping on the bridge to take pictures was scary as it shook badly!

imgp6004

I learned some interesting history about this bridge on my tour Saturday. During WWII, Belgrade blew it up to keep the Germans from marching into the city. The Germans responded by building a pontoon bridge that still exists today! Luba, our guide, was very impressed by the solidity of German construction! Then, during the NATA bombings of 1999, the bridge was targeted for destruction. The citizens of Belgrade decided that was the last straw (my interpretation of Luba’s tale) and marched en masse onto the bridge wearing tee-shirts with targets on them. The bridge was saved.

imgp6005

Looking out to the fortress and the Monument to Victory.

imgp6006

imgp6007

imgp6008

The boats are all clubs and restaurants.

imgp6009

imgp6010

On the other side of the Sava, in New Belgrade, I went down these stairs to get to the footpath along the water.

imgp6011

The bridge reminded me of the overpasses in Michigan and Indiana.

imgp6012

Quite an impressive staircase. Amazing that the graffiti artists were unable to respect it.

imgp6013

The signage had funny jokes/quotes in English. This one says, “I’m looking to by [sic] a helmet. They come in a tremendous price range and I don’t understand what makes a $200 helmet is better. It only depends on the value you place on your head. $10 head… $10 helmet. :)”

imgp6014

After so many months of mountainous terrain, it was a joy to walk on flat land!

imgp6015

imgp6016

That does not look like Tijuana… 😉

imgp6017

imgp6018

imgp6019

imgp6020

imgp6021

imgp6022

imgp6023

3KM down, 4.5 to go! The quote on this one says, “Geography doesn’t mean much until you have travelled over it.”

imgp6024 imgp6025

This was a lovely walk, with the city feeling very far away.

imgp6026

“Boatel” is genius!

imgp6027

Here’s what a boatel looks like.

imgp6028

Great War Island sits in the middle of the Sava and is a nature preserve. Building on it is strictly forbidden and wouldn’t work anyway since there is flooding. In the summer, a pontoon bridge is built from the New Belgrade side and residents flock to the beaches. I was surprised and impressed that the Sava and Danube are clean enough to swim in!

imgp6029

The pontoon bridge would start from here.

imgp6030

As I approached the Zemun Quay, I found an endless row of ice cream vendors. These are folks standing guard in front of a cooler full of packaged treats. I picked one that wasn’t busy and learned two things. 1) Hazelnut is the same in Bulgarian and Serbian; 2) Milka (an amazing chocolate bar brand) makes chocolate hazelnut ice cream. I couldn’t believe my cone was only 65RSD!

I can’t imagine Americans are popular in Serbia because of the US’ position on Kosovo… I am a guest in this country, so that is all I will say on that subject. Please do not bring it up in the comments.

imgp6031

Zemun at last!

imgp6032

Almost the same name as the best pizzeria in the world

imgp6033

imgp6034

These exterior blinds are exactly like what I have on my building. See how they allow in a little light while maintaining privacy? I’m not sure I like them, at least not this high up!

imgp6035

I started to climb up towards the Gardoš Tower, where I knew I’d get an amazing view. The tower “was built and officially opened on August 20, 1896, to celebrate a thousand years of Hungarian settlement in the Pannonian plain.”

I went through a neighbourhood of small single-family homes and narrow cobblestone streets unsuitable for vehicles. Must be fun getting your groceries home!

imgp6036

But easy to access your roof!

imgp6037

Rather magnificent tower!

imgp6038

imgp6039

I found the back way up, through very old staircases.

imgp6040

imgp6041

imgp6042

imgp6043

I came around the front and saw that I could climb to the top for 200RSD. I was rather tired by this point, so I decided to first have a coffee at the conveniently located restaurant right next door. The view from my table towards Belgrade was incredible and I couldn’t wait to get higher up!

imgp6044

imgp6045

One cappuccino later, I was ready to head up to the “belvedere.”

imgp6046

This was not nearly as high a climb as at St. Paul’s, but just as dizzying!

imgp6047

The view was worth the climb!

imgp6048

 

imgp6049

imgp6050

imgp6051

imgp6053

imgp6054

A very nice man offered to take my picture. I knew I had a new blog header!

imgp6055

He and his wife live in Atlanta, Georgia, but are originally from Belgrade. They gave me lots of interesting info about what I was seeing. I was asked if I’d had anything bad happen in my travels in terms of crime or feeling in danger and all I could think of was being scammed of about 6CAD by a cab driver in Belgrade… I’ve been very lucky!

Through our conversation, it came up that I was off to find lunch and that they were about to go have lunch at a friend’s restaurant. Did I want to join them? Sure! We set off down the vehicular road from the tower into downtown Zemun. That street really reminded me of Mexico!

imgp6057

imgp6058

There are a number of lovely squares in Zemun, which reminded me of Mérida. It’s obvious that Zemun was once its own community.

imgp6059

Here we are at the restaurant, Ze & Z Pizzeria.

imgp6060

The placemats were huge, but gorgeous!

imgp6061

We all had beer!

imgp6064

They went for a salad special of the day and a vegetarian pizza. I went for a Margherita pizza. Like in Bulgaria, pizza in Serbia is delicious, plentiful, and cheap! I may have eaten the whole thing over the nearly two hours we were there!

imgp6065

After we were done eating, she pulled out a homemade dessert. I was stuffed, but had a taste. Yum!

imgp6067

I’m not sure what their bill was, but mine was just 510RSD. I added 200RSD as a tip for the extra attentive service and was told I was being generous. So 8.75CAD for a really good lunch I knew would sustain me for hours!

It was past three by the time we were done with lunch and I wanted to explore a bit. But before I was left to my own devices, they helped me figure out how and where to get a bus back to downtown.

imgp6068

We parted ways at the end of this street. What a wonderful encounter this was! I learned so much about Belgrade and the Serbian language.

imgp6069

I took this picture because I liked the building, but it also shows where I had to catch the no. 84 bus back, just about where that white D in a green square is located.

imgp6070

I was pretty tired and knew there wasn’t really much more to see, so I just wandered for maybe another 30 minutes or so to enjoy the architecture.

imgp6072

imgp6073

imgp6074

Unfortunately named restaurant…

imgp6075

imgp6076

imgp6077

imgp6078

imgp6079

imgp6080

imgp6081

imgp6082

imgp6083

imgp6085

Look at that balcony’s privacy screen!

imgp6086

imgp6087

imgp6088

imgp6089

imgp6090

I went to the bus stop and a no. 84 bus pulled up immediately. I got on and asked the driver if he spoke English. I got a weird look, so I said, “Trg Republike?” and he just waved me back dismissively. A local bookseller had told me I could buy a ticket from the driver for about 200RSD, so I held up a bill and the driver just grunted and motioned for me to go away, obviously very annoyed with me. So I sat down and hoped a ticket inspector didn’t board us as I knew that would be a hefty fine.

Off we went and then… BOOM. Yes, second time on a bus in Serbia, second time with an accident! This time, a car hit the bus!!! The driver was pissed. I’m pretty sure I heard a litany of Serbian curses. Everyone began to get off the bus, so I did so too, feeling a little dejected since I’d have to start all over. And then, I realised we were right at Branko’s Bridge, so I was less than 2KM from home! I couldn’t believe the bus had gone so far (more than 5KM!). I was fine with walking home from where I was, so I set off to cross the Sava on foot once more.

imgp6091

imgp6092

imgp6093

imgp6094

That green bridge is the pontoon one the Germans built. Now, it’s a trolley bridge.

imgp6095

I was rather impressed that there is a lift for cyclists!

imgp6097

imgp6099

imgp6100

imgp6101

imgp6102

imgp6103

Google Maps did a decent job of routing me from the bridge to Trg Republike, and I was, of course, able to get home from there.

Here’s my building. My flat is in the second to last row to the top, with the blind pushed out, like you saw above. I will confess I’ve been using the scary lift to get up there when I come in after doing a lot of walking.

imgp6104

I came in and Skyped my mother. Around 7:30 or so, I found the strength to go back to the Black Turtle Pub for a pint and a bit of music that wasn’t to my taste. I discovered after the beer that I was actually hungry, so I continued on just a bit further along the block to a gyros place that had English on the menu. My chicken sandwich was fantastic and inexpensive, so I might eat there again!

It was another full and wonderful day in Belgrade!

A Mexican Themed Second Day in Belgrade

Warning: Today’s post features photos and discussion on the subject of torture that some readers may find upsetting.

One thing I didn’t expect coming to Europe was that I would have to essentially become a night owl again. It’s been really hard to get to bed early because my friends and colleagues get online late in my evening, so that’s the best time to get in touch. Moreover, things seem to just start later in Europe and there is more nightlife. So midnight has been a normal bedtime for me since I got across the pond, but I haven’t necessarily been able to get up late enough in the mornings to make up for that late bedtime. If the dogs weren’t whining for their walk by 7:30 or 8:00, there was a worker at the house or I was holidaying and needing to get going.

So one of the things I expected is that I was going to need to crash at my next stop. This was one of the reasons why I chose to rent an apartment for the week rather than, say, stay at a hostel in a private room, and also why I was adamant about being downtown. This way, I can rest up, take it slow, and not have to go far to soak in the ambiance. So that’s why my daily plans aren’t particularly ambitious. Moreover, Belgrade isn’t really a city of museums or lots of set things to do. It’s really the perfect place to just amble and see what you stumble across.

This morning, I set off for Belgrade Fortress to visit the military museum and see more of the fortification. Spoiler: I need to go back there a fourth time. There’s just so much!

I finally headed out around eleven and didn’t get farther than Republic Square before plunking myself down at a café and ordering an espresso macchiato. I used some Serbian for the first time, hvala, which is rather like saying “thanks.” Both it and please are two-word expressions, but my tour guide yesterday said that I can just say the first part. So I made sure to use “molim” and “hvala” a lot today, even when doing transactions in English. Baby steps! Hvala (Хвала) has the dreaded X sound that can be like the ch in “loch,” like a k, or like an h, depending on its place in the word, and followed by a consonant. Not an easy word. Serbian doesn’t seem to like vowels much. Trg (square) and vrt (garden) are words!

After my coffee, I took a street that parallels Knez Mihailova Street, but there wasn’t much on it, so I took a shortcut through this magnificent courtyard to get there. Can you imagine living in one of those apartments?!

imgp5850

I got to the fortress and ambled for a bit, finding this tennis court:

imgp5851

The clocktower is one of several bits in the fortress that you have to pay to see. I will do that later this week!

imgp5852

I went through the outer Stambol Gate, built in 1750-1760. On our tour yesterday, there was a young Australian guy who said that the fortress is really cool because they don’t have anything like that in Australia. Then, he turned to me and said, “You must feel the same way!” Um, no, we Canadians actually have several fortress-type things dating back to the 18th century! Citadel Hill in Halifax was fortified in 1749, the Fortress of Louisbourg (also in Nova Scotia) was constructed between 1720 and 1740, and the Citadelle in Quebec dates back to 1673!

imgp5853

imgp5854

I was not expecting to see dinosaurs today…

imgp5856

The fortress site is massive!

imgp5857

Yeah, this was definitely not on the list for today…

imgp5858

Holy smokes they look real and scary!

imgp5859

imgp5860

As a medievalist, this sounded interesting, but also rather disturbing. After some debating with myself, I decided to check it out.

imgp5861

It was on the way to the military museum.

imgp5862

imgp5863

imgp5864

imgp5865

imgp5866

imgp5867

The entrance fee wasn’t expensive, about 300RSD, and I was rather disturbed that the cashier told me to enjoy myself… I stepped into this creepy dungeon setting that had really disturbing audio playing. There were no sounds of torture or anything like that, but the effect was very disquieting.

imgp5869

This panel immediately put me at ease, with the curators addressing my fears that the exhibit might be gratuitous and explaining that their motives are to present  an unemotional, factual overview of a terrible subject that is still a problem today.

imgp5870

A “break-knee.”

imgp5871

This was a type of horrible gag.

imgp5872

The bit on the chastity belt was a revelation to me. They pointed out how it was most likely used voluntarily by women to prevent rape. “We wish to however point out that the belt was nevertheless an instrument of torture to which women had subjected themselves to escape the violence of men.”

imgp5876

The rack:

imgp5878

It was here that I started to have enough of the terrible things humans do to each other. I’ll leave it up to your imagination what this did:

imgp5879

A throne of spikes…

imgp5881

imgp5882

imgp5883

“The idea of mechanizing torture was born in Germany…”

imgp5884

imgp5885

imgp5886

A cloth of very rough fabric that would flay the skin.

imgp5887

This was a horrible exhibit, but well worth going to. I’m getting a little upset revisiting it, but I’m glad I went and I think it was exceedingly well done. Many of these methods — and worse — are still in use today. We are not as civilised as we think we are.

Next up was the military museum. To be honest, I had mixed feelings about visiting it, not sure I wanted to pay to look at a bunch of tanks and various weapons. But entrance was only 150 dinars so I took  a chance.

imgp5888

imgp5889

imgp5890

imgp5891

imgp5892

Coming in, we start with the weapons of the ancient peoples of this land. I really liked how they are presented in this mosaic. Already, I knew this museum was going to be special.

imgp5893

imgp5894

imgp5895

imgp5896

imgp5897

imgp5898

imgp5899

imgp5900

So many of these exhibits, like this map, were beautiful and represented a lot of hard work.

imgp5901

imgp5902

14th century quotes about a battle between Bulgaria and Serbia. Serbia won.

imgp5903

imgp5904

Armour that is a work of art.

imgp5905

Giant cannonball?

imgp5906

imgp5907

First time I’ve seen “Bosnia and Herzegovina” in its own language.

imgp5908

imgp5909

imgp5910

imgp5911

imgp5912

imgp5913

imgp5914

imgp5915

imgp5916

imgp5917

imgp5918

imgp5919

imgp5920

We eventually entered the early 20th century. The museum doesn’t go much further than that, except for showing tanks and missiles outside. While I wish more contemporary history had been displayed, I felt that this was a jewel of a music, well laid out and with really interesting exhibits.

imgp5921

imgp5923

imgp5924

imgp5925

imgp5926

I loved the moss growing inside this gun!

imgp5927

imgp5928

imgp5929

It was past one by the time I got out of the museum and I was famished. I headed back to Knez Mihailova Street and took a side street at random where I found a sushi restaurant next to… a “Mexican” restaurant, Zapata Ciudad! Having had sushi in the last week, I decided to try the Mexican joint. The food descriptions were only in Serbian, but the Spanish dish names were enough for me to have an idea of what I would be ordering. I went with the “burrito traditionale.”

imgp5930

That was rather a lot of food. No, I did not come even remotely close to finishing it!

imgp5931

imgp5932

Here’s my TripAdvisor review of Ciudad Zapata:

I live in Mexico part-time and spend a lot of time traveling through the southern US where there are several American interpretations of Mexican cuisine. So I was curious to see how Serbia would interpret the various cuisines of this part of the world.

My first impression was that the portion size was insane (two huge burritos!) and I wished I’d realised I could order a half portion for 30% less.

Then, I noticed the chips and salsa. The chips are real Mexican tortilla chips like they make in restaurants from their leftover tortillas, not the yellow corn chips that are more commonly used in the US! While lacking in chiles, the pico de gallo was exactly like what I get in Mexico, with perfectly proportioned onion, fresh tomato, a squeeze of lime, and even a little avocado. I was immediately transported back to my Mexican village, even with the lack of heat. Very impressed!

The burritos were… interesting. It would have been nice if they had been heated up. They were wheat tortillas stuffed with kidney beans, plain white rice, mushrooms, marinated sweet peppers, and your meat of choice (I went with chicken, which was marinated and tender — so yummy!). I don’t like mushrooms and picked them out, then found the burritos quite tasty thanks to those peppers. To my great amusement, the only hot sauce on offer was Thai (a Sriracha knock-off), but it added some much needed kick to my meal. The size of these burritos was very American, but there was none of the Tex-Mex/Southwest heaviness since there was no meat or sour cream.

I really enjoyed my little taste of Mexico and the Southwest in Belgrade and would definitely come back to Ciudad if only for the chips and salsa!

After lunch, I ambled down towards Belgrade’s Museum of Science and Technology. Entrance was free!

imgp5933

It was very loud in there at the beginning because a lady was playing this giant organ.

imgp5934

The museum is a series of small collections of themed items showing the evolution of technology. I’m always disturbed when something from my childhood is presented as an antique in a museum!

imgp5935

imgp5936

What a massive camera!

imgp5937

Utensils for roasting, grinding, and brewing coffee:

imgp5938

A mainframe analogue computer. WOW. There were also other similar components that were just part of a bigger computer!

imgp5940

imgp5941

I remember these…

imgp5942

imgp5943

imgp5944

imgp5945

imgp5946

These instruments were used to fasten boats to undeveloped shorelines.

imgp5947

imgp5948

imgp5949

imgp5950

imgp5952

I was smitten by this pretty blue phonograph!

imgp5953

imgp5954

Interesting stove, so antiquated on top, but with rather fancy knobs on the front.

imgp5955

So pretty!

imgp5957

imgp5958

They don’t make appliances like they used to!

imgp5959

What a lovely printing machine!

imgp5960

imgp5961

Typesetter cabinet:

imgp5963

imgp5964

The Science and Tech Museum was small, just one room at the top of the building, but it was filled with treasures. I would have felt I got my money’s worth if I’d had to pay a few hundred dinars in admission.

I decided to head home for a break (it was almost 4:00) and passed the Church of St. Alexander Nevsky (Crkva Svetog Aleksandra Nevskog), which was really beautiful!

imgp5968

imgp5969

imgp5970

There’s always an interesting building around you in this part of Belgrade.

imgp5973

imgp5974

The house of Nikola Pašić, an important Serbian/Yugoslav politician and diplomat for more than 40 years.

imgp5975

imgp5976

I was surprised to see that AXA insurance operates out in Serbia. They are the company that did right by me after my toad was murdered in West Virginia.

imgp5977

imgp5978

I walked up Skadarlija Street, crossed an intersection, took a right, and… realised I was behind my building! I couldn’t believe how close I was to the Bohemian Quarter and promptly made plans to have dinner there!

imgp5981

The reason that I had gone back to Skadarlija Street was that I’d spotted an earring vendor on my tour yesterday. This woman hand makes earrings in a découpage style. I was surprised by how unattractive these look up close when they are so striking from a distance. I think that’s part of why I fell hard for them. They were only 400RSD! So that’s now two pairs of Serbian earrings! These are light as a feather despite their size.

imgp5982

I love the filigree detailing on the bottom.

imgp5983

I went back out to have dinner around six, opting for Dva Jelena (two deer) as it was highly recommended. I started with a cold glass of chardonnay.

imgp5985

imgp5986

imgp5987

I was brought this bread that I didn’t ask for and which was not included, but which was rather yummy. Check out that huge clump of garlic, Vicki! Shame there was a bit too much salt. I ate about half of it.

imgp5989

I forgot to take a picture of my dinner, but wish I had because it was hilarious. Like at lunch in Nuevo Progreso, Mexico, I ordered the bacon wrapped chicken, completely missing that it was actually ham wrapped in chicken wrapped in bacon! I was so glad I’d done the grown up thing and asked to substitute cooked vegetables for the potatoes! The veggies were just frozen carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli, but perfectly tasty. The meal was nothing special, to be honest, but it satisfied my need for some meat and veggies.

After dinner, I ambled down Skadarlija Street to the other end. It’s a very short street! It was still rather early (about 7:30), so music and other entertainment were just starting.

imgp5991

imgp5992

I found another one of those helpful directional signs!

imgp5993

At the end of Skadarlija, I turned left to do a loop back to my place. I passed a hardware store, which fascinated me for some reason.

imgp5994

It was dark, but there were actually a lot of people milling about. Most shops were closed, but there were a lot of fast food places open.

imgp5995

Not the best shot, but it shows one of many buildings, including my own, with blinds on the outside of the building. I find that a mixed blessing in that I have tons of privacy, but they block some of the light.

imgp5999

I popped into a convenience store for an ice cream and got a sandwich. I burst out laughing when I opened it. I found an amazing ice cream sandwich in Mexico where half has the wafer and the other half is chocolate covered. Guess what I bought tonight? It wasn’t quite as good (not as chocolately), but still yummy!

I’m really pleased with how my day turned out. While I did stick to familiar streets, I started to venture outside my comfort zone a bit now that I’m better orientated.

map

Most tourist attractions are closed on Mondays, so tomorrow will be an ambling day as I don’t expect any work. I will have at least a little bit of work the rest of the week, so I’ll probably just go out in the afternoons. I have to check out on Friday, so I’ll definitely have to come up with my next move in the next day or two. I am debating whether going to another Serbian destination or heading straight for Sarajevo. I have a lot of research to do!

First Day in Belgrade, and a Walking Tour

After returning home with groceries this morning, I did some research and then went out in search of lunch before the 2PM walking tour. As I turned onto Knez Mihailova Street I heard the amazing violin playing and discovered it was coming from this little girl:

imgp5786

She needs to be in a world class music school, not busking. 🙁

imgp5787

For lunch, still craving meat, a burger made sense and Burger House seemed like my best bet for an “American-style” burger. But this shot is more about the beautiful building at the end of the street!

imgp5788

Next door to Burger House, these were the pub’s specials of the day…

imgp5789

Burger House is a “build your dream  burger” joint. I asked for one patty with cheddar cheese, bacon, grilled onions, and honey mustard sauce, with a side of half-and-half — fries and onion rings.

imgp5790

This may be the best burger-fry combo in the world and that is not hyperbole. I am going back there before I leave!!!

At the end of Knez Mihailova Street, you get to Belgrade Fortress. We’ll come back here later on the walking tour, but, basically, it’s a giant park that you can wander freely.

imgp5791

imgp5792

imgp5793

Looking down at the confluence of the Sava and Danube Rivers. The Danube!

imgp5794

Notice that bridge in the distance? It so reminds me of the Provencher Bridge in Winnipeg, which is also at the confluence of two rivers, that I wonder if there is a connection.

imgp5795

imgp5796

imgp5797

I’ve seen a lot of this graffiti with Nikola Tesla’s name and this date. I wish I had remembered to ask my guide about it!

imgp5798

One of the words I learned in Bulgaria is “pesh” (on foot). The word carries over to Serbian in that “peshachka” means pedestrian. My guide told me that Bulgarians and Serbians do not understand each other despite these similarities.

imgp5799

imgp5800

I got back to Republic Square around 1:50 to wait for the walking tour. Since I was a bit early, I walked up a side street beside the National Museum and found a jewelry vendor with lovely wares. I was really disappointed to leave Bulgaria without a pair of earrings, but I didn’t find anything I liked there, not even in Nessebar, and, really, I didn’t get a lot of opportunities to browse as I passed maybe five earring vendors total in the three months I was there. There just weren’t stalls and markets with them the way I’ve seen in Mexico. Here in Belgrade, in just the short span of time I’ve been here, I’ve seen heaps of such stalls, running the gamut of prices. I tend to know what I like and be quite impulsive in my earring purchases. These beauties spoke to me and were just 400RSD (5CAD):

imgp5847

I then went back to Republic Square to start the tour, but something weird happened. The guide said to me, “You’re looking for another tour. Go wait at the clock.” I didn’t question why I couldn’t join his tour. I’d done some research and knew there are several different walking tours by different outfits and that the 2PM tour didn’t really have much of what I wanted to know more about. So I took that as a sign to go home for a rest and try again at 4PM with a different tour.

I got back to Republic Square at 3:45 and the guide said we would start at 4:05. It was chillier than expected after the hot afternoon, so I said I was going to go home and be right back, which I was, fleece in tow!

Republic Square is Belgrade’s anchor. People meet at “the horse,” even though the person on the horse (Knez Mihailova — Prince Michael) is more important. But the statue has been called “the horse” since at least the early 19th century.

imgp5801

I learned that the National Museum has been closed for ages and that the reopening keeps getting delayed for lack of funding. 🙁

But the National Theatre has been in continuous operation since it was built in the 19th century, its programs running even through all the wars.

imgp5802

We headed off to the Bohemian Quarter, Skadarlija or Skadarska Street. Let me pause here to say that, like always, my review of a city tour is in no way going to encompass everything I learned. There’s just too much to remember!

imgp5804

This street is lined with pubs and “kafanas,” the Serbian answer to the pub. It’s a drinking district. I asked if it’s safe for a single woman to be out after dark and have a few drinks and our guide, Luba, said absolutely and that Belgrade does not have any “bad” neighbourhoods. The worst that will happen is you will get scammed by a taxi, something that even happens to locals!

I am definitely going to come back here to have a drink!

By the way, it was here that I learned that Serbia is the only European country to have two writing systems that are used equally and interchangeably. Most Serbians favour using Latin letters.

imgp5805

Since it is a drinking street and people have a hard time staying on their feet, this helpful sign tells drunks that the moon is that way, so, obviously, the ground is the other way…

imgp5809

These are kafanas. They have booze, coffee, light local fare, and live music past 8PM. I think they are best described as a cross between a bistro and a pub.

imgp5810

This is where Luba pulled some rakia (fruit brandy) out of her bag for all of us to try!!! I had rakia in Bulgaria, where it is also popular. This was honey rakia and it was really lovely!

imgp5811

This is a statue of a famous Serbian poet outside the house he shared with his wife and ten children. He wanted a house on the drinking street and died from an alcohol-related disease at the age of 40. What a shame. He was actually lauded in his lifetime, so he must have been very good!

imgp5812

This is a chimney from an old beer brewery owned by a Czech.

imgp5813

We continued on and stopped here to talk a bit about the history of Belgrade in terms of armed conflicts and the geo-political situation. Way too much there to get into in this post! The damage on this wall apparently dates back to WWII! Luba explained that Belgrade has such a hodgepodge of architecture — Turkish, 19th century, and Communist, among others, is that every time a building was destroyed in a bombing, a modern building of the day was erected in its place.

imgp5814

This is the Museum of Vuk and Dositej. From Wikipedia (echoing what the guide told us!): “one of the most important memorial museums in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. Founded in 1949, it depicts the life, work and legacy of Vuk Stefanović Karadžić (1787–1864), the reformer of the Serbian language, and Dositej Obradović (1742–1811), a writer who was the country’s first Minister of Education. The museum is a crucial site for understanding the revival of Serbian culture at the time of the First Serbian Uprising against the Ottoman Empire.”

imgp5815

imgp5816

This is where I won a prize for being the tour member who has made the most progress with the Serbian language! Really! LOL This is a special glass for drinking rakia. I’m wondering if I can find a place in my luggage for it as I really would love to get it home…

imgp5817

Here’s the minaret of the last remaining mosque in Belgrade. Most of Serbia’s Muslim population is in the south.

imgp5818

imgp5819

We then made our way to Kalemegdan Park, which is open 24/7, and which is also the site of the Belgrade Zoo and the Belgrade Fortress. The zoo boasts the oldest known alligator in the world!

The fortress is a series of fortifications, but there’s no castle in it or anything like that, as such construction kept getting destroyed and so there was no point to making the effort to build anything. The fortress is on prime real estate to protect the city and so has been a prized treasure during many conflicts.

imgp5820

imgp5821

imgp5822

Here, you can see some of the original Roman limestone that once surrounded the city and gave it is name, ie. “the white city.” Beo is white and grad is city. I forgot to ask how Beo became Bel in English and French.

imgp5823

imgp5824

imgp5825

Looking again at the confluence of the Sava and Danube Rivers.

imgp5826

This is the Sava.

imgp5827

imgp5828

This giant statue of a naked man represents victory.

imgp5829

Looking out to New Belgrade, which was built after WWII on reclaimed marshland. It’s mostly a residential and business zone and Luba told us it’s not worth a visit by tourists.

imgp5830

As we finished our tour of the fortress, Luba spoke some more about conflicts in Belgrade, including the 1999 NATO bombings. I’m exactly 10 years older than her and was 20 when that was going on, so I have a pretty clear memory of news reports about the bombings. It was fascinating to hear what it was like over here compared to the media coverage in Canada. The bombings were announced and were strictly on infrastructure, so there was little loss of life and not much disruption to daily activities. Serbia has yet to recover financially from the bombings.

Again, there is way too much history to go into here, but Luba emphasized that the bombings had nothing to do with the conflicts going on in nearby areas, including what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina, but were in response to Serbia’s relationship with the disputed state of Kosovo. This is a part of the world with a particularly convoluted and complicated history and 20 years beyond peace, it is obvious that there are still tensions that keep Serbia from moving forward.

imgp5831

We then headed out to our final stops. While we were told that New Belgrade isn’t worth a visit, we were advised to try to make it to Zemun, an old community that dates back to the days of the Ottoman Empire and which is now part of Belgrade.

imgp5832

I wish I could remember what this building is all about, beyond it being the home of the mother of Knez Mihailova.

imgp5833

This is the top of the largest Orthodox cathedral in Belgrade.

imgp5834

I learned that each country has its own Orthodox church with its own leader. There is no central Orthodox leader like the Pope for Catholics. This is the seat of the Serbian Orthodox church.

imgp5835

This is the palace of Princess Ljubica.

imgp5836

An example of three styles of architecture side by side:

imgp5838

The Question Mark kafana. It was the kafana by the church, but the priests complained to the authorities. The owner removed the sign and put up a question mark while he searched for a new name, but the question mark stuck!

imgp5839

Our last stop was a school where basketball was first played in Belgrade.

imgp5840

imgp5841

This is where we learned about the time that Bulgarians were billionaires, during a period of hyper inflation. This was around the mid-1990s and Serbia’s hyper inflation was second only to Zimbabwe’s. We all got one of these bills!

imgp5842

The tour was free, but a tip was welcome. I thought 500RSD would be fair and that turned out to be the suggested tip. This was an amazing tour! Luba was very knowledgeable and her English was excellent. I did not come close to doing justice to all that she taught us!

It was just past 6:00 at this point and I was done for the day. I just wanted to unwind with a beer and then get a takeaway to eat at home.

Going down the pedestrian street, I was amused to hear a bagpiper!

imgp5843

In my comings and goings from home today, I had spotted a kafana, Zora, on the opposite side of the block from where I live (basically across the street) and decided to check it out since they make their own beer. I went in and the bartender spoke English, so I was able to ask for recommendations. He said they do a number of fruity beers, but he recommended their lager. That sounded good, and it was! It was a bit cloudy and citrusy. I nursed it for almost an hour, enjoying American music from the ’90s (interesting, that’s what frequently gets played in Bulgaria, too), especially the Bon Jovi! A pint of good beer here was 200RSD (about 2.50CAD). Wow! A pint of average commercial stuff in Canada is about 5CAD and it’s about  7CAD in London!

imgp5845

I then headed across the street to get a slice of pizza. They were down to the dregs, but this looked good, and it was! The salami was super spicy, but the sesame seeds on the chewy crust were inspired. Pizza out here in the Balkans has yet to disappoint! But like Bulgarians and Mexicans, Serbians put mayo, ketchup, and sometimes hot sauce on their pizza and look at you funny if you decline!

imgp5848

It has been a really full and great first day in Serbia’s capital. I will do a few museums tomorrow since they will be closed on Monday. I’m not sure yet what the rest of the week will look like and it will depend on my work load.

map