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:

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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Looking out to the fortress and the Monument to Victory.

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The boats are all clubs and restaurants.

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

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

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

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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. :)”

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

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That does not look like Tijuana… 😉

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

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

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“Boatel” is genius!

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Here’s what a boatel looks like.

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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!

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The pontoon bridge would start from here.

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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.

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Zemun at last!

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Almost the same name as the best pizzeria in the world

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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!

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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!

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But easy to access your roof!

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Rather magnificent tower!

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

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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!

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

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

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The view was worth the climb!

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

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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!

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

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

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The placemats were huge, but gorgeous!

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We all had beer!

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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!

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Unfortunately named restaurant…

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Look at that balcony’s privacy screen!

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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!

13 thoughts on “Across the Sava to the Shores of the Danube

  1. Wow, what a wonderful day. Very leisurely it seemed. Nice lunch with the new couple.
    You answered my question…if the rivers were clean.
    Ok!! I’ll be ordering pizza soon 😉 . They really look good.
    Was your beer good?
    Put your feet up & rest.
    Hugs

    • It was a good day and leisurely, but tiring from all that walking!

      My beer was really good! It’s the same kind I had the other night.

      I’m watching some TV then going to bed. Zzzzzz.

      Enjoy your pizza! 😉

  2. Oh this header photo is the best yet! The one taken in London was wonderful, however there is a joy about you, a light in your eyes, a confidence this one broadcasts. You just shine. Very, very nice!

    In the 2nd photo from the last there is a steel door in the foliage to the right. Any idea what that is/goes to?

    I love traveling with you – all places I’d never get to on my own most likely, but feel I’ve been there via your posts. Lovely! As always, thank you my dear.

    • Dean, thanks! Did you notice that the previous header was from exactly three months before? I thought that was a weird coincidence!

      Nice catch on the steel door. I have no idea and was wondering the same!

      Thanks for your lovely comments.

  3. Perhaps it was karma that made the car hit the bus…after that driver was so nasty to you. Love the hedge privacy screen although I doubt it lets in any sunlight. I don’t know how prolific botels or boatels are but I know of a couple of other ones. One is called the amstel botel in the netherlands http://www.amstelbotel.nl/ very neat, I remember booking it for a client when I was a travel agent. Very tiny rooms but very economical in an expensive city

    • Nasty bus drivers exist the world over and don’t faze me. And, besides, I got a free lift! 😀

      I’ve heard of hotels on boats, like what you linked to in Amsterdam, but never heard of the term boatel/botel before.

    • According to my pedometre, I’ve averaged 6KM of walking a day since I left home and that’s just when I go out for the day, doesn’t count my steps at home!

  4. I see you are wearing your beautiful green new earrings. It finally hit me that I had seen the gems before in those earrings. The gem is malachite and a lot of it is mined in Russia along with another green gem (but transparent) that you will probably see for sale technically named chrome diopside but nicknamed Russian emerald (but is not a true emerald). I own them both because 1) right now they are inexpensive and are expected to go up in value over time and 2) when the medium green color chrome diopside (mined in Siberia) is faceted, it looks like a flawless brilliant emerald. You will never regret buying them.

    Looks like you had a wonderful day except for the bus/car accident. And (ha!) you even met a couple living in my neck of the woods.

    Dee

    • Based on what I paid for them, I seriously think they are malachite, but they sure do have the appearance of them.

      The bus accident was a non-event. I mean, I got 5KM closer to home for free!

      The couple made me feel better about skipping Atlanta to visit Savannah!

  5. I am really enjoying travelling with you to places I will never get to. Lots of grafetti in that city. I am impressed with your language skills.

    • There is a lot of graffiti. It was the same thing in Sofia. When I asked my guide there about that, his response rather made me feel like the locals just don’t see it anymore. Maybe that’s the case here. As for language skills, the more languages you’re exposed to, the easier it is to pick up bits of other ones.

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