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?!

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

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

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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!

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I was not expecting to see dinosaurs today…

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The fortress site is massive!

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

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Holy smokes they look real and scary!

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

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It was on the way to the military museum.

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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.

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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.

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A “break-knee.”

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This was a type of horrible gag.

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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.”

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The rack:

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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:

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A throne of spikes…

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

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

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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.

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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.

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

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

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Armour that is a work of art.

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Giant cannonball?

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

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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.

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I loved the moss growing inside this gun!

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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.”

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

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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!

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

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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!

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What a massive camera!

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Utensils for roasting, grinding, and brewing coffee:

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

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I remember these…

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These instruments were used to fasten boats to undeveloped shorelines.

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I was smitten by this pretty blue phonograph!

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

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So pretty!

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They don’t make appliances like they used to!

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What a lovely printing machine!

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Typesetter cabinet:

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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!

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

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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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I love the filigree detailing on the bottom.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I found another one of those helpful directional signs!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

3 thoughts on “A Mexican Themed Second Day in Belgrade

  1. I’m hungry, that bread & garlic looked yummy. All the food looks good there.
    Another full day & great pictures. Love the castle.
    Enjoy HUGS

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