Trying To Not Get Too Comfortable

It was a working day today, which was tough since I really don’t have a suitable workstation. The best I could do was sit on the credenza and lean against the wall! Needless to say, I worked in short bursts with lots of breaks! But I appreciate discovering that I can work in conditions like these. In Plovdiv, I had a twin bed with the long side against the wall, so I was able to sit on the bed, lean against the wall, and type from my lap. So I’m definitely learning to make my job more portable.

I went out in the early afternoon for a jig around the block and got a chicken gyros to go for my lunch. Yum! I think I got a free upgrade because my sandwich today was bigger than the one the other night!

After much reflection, I decided not to prolong my stay in Belgrade/Serbia and to move on to Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina. So I’m expected there very late Friday night. The bus situation to get there sounds complicated, so I think I’ll put figuring that out on Thursday’s to-do list (tomorrow!) so I know what I’m doing Friday. Housing in Sarajevo is so cheap there are no weekly rates. So I’m only staying six nights, to avoid having to travel again on a Friday, which messes with my work availability over the weekend.

Bosnian and Serbian are essentially the same language, more like dialects, so the bit of linguistic progress I’ve made here will serve me well there! It’s rather surreal to be going to Sarajevo, to be honest. It’s one of those places that I grew up to believe was a nightmare. But I know better and look forward to experiencing this historic city that I’m told has a distinctly Eastern feel and strong Islamic culture.

I gave up on work around 6:30 and headed to Skadarlija Street for an authentic Serbian meal. I never did do that in Bulgaria and I knew Serbian is very similar, with plain grilled meats and even featuring the same “shopska salata,” so that would ease my guilt a bit. All the restaurants on the street are rated at about the same level, so I picked one pretty much at random and ordered a glass of white wine.

The street didn’t have a lot of people, but it wasn’t quiet as there was some nice music playing. The temperature was just comfortable enough to sit outside in a tee shirt. So the ambiance was truly lovely.


Dinner was pretty bad, though, and now I am going to stop kicking myself over never having a proper Bulgarian meal at a restaurant. The salad was excellent, but that’s only because of how fresh the produce is. There’s no dressing on it. You just get chopped tomatoes, sweet red peppers, onions, cucumber, and lettuce, with a salty grated cheese over top. You’re supposed to add your own oil and vinegar, but with the veggies being so fresh, I just had the salad plain rather than try to get the dressing proportions right. I could see myself enjoying the salad with a side of cold salami and bread, but, really, if this is pretty much the national food of Bulgaria and Serbia, it says a lot about how unimaginative the cuisine is and how terrible it must be when there’s no fresh produce.

Dinner turned out to be what was essentially “pork Kiev,” meat rolled around cheese and butter and deep fried. As is the case in Bulgaria, the food was served cold to tepid, to the point that the frozen veggies that I would have normally enjoyed were not edible. I do have to say that the anemic looking fries were actually tasty! The sauce was mayonnaise-based, so I did not have any.


I cut into the meat thing and a real torrent of butter poured out, which is why I liken the dish to chicken Kiev.


I had a choice of cheese or no cheese on the salad. I chose cheese and refused bread. I chose wisely. Yum!


Tipping is slowly becoming part of the cultural and expectations in Serbia and servers are not shy to ask for one! The service tonight was impeccable, so I would have tipped anyway. The meal wasn’t cheap, 1,550RSD, 1,800RSD with the tip (23CAD) and I know I could have had a lot more for my money elsewhere. But of that, a full third of the price was for the salad and wine, which I felt were well worth what I paid for them, I got dinner in a nice setting, and now I can stop kicking myself over not having any traditional Bulgarian meals. I know from talking to locals and reading other restaurant menus that what I had tonight was perfectly average Serbian food at an average price and that I didn’t get taken by this restaurant because of its location.


I then ambled over to Knez Mihailova Street to check out the vibe after dark (sedate on a weeknight) and find an ice cream. I encountered what appears to be the only young person in Belgrade who doesn’t speak a word of English, but I know “chocolate,” “small,” “cone,” “please,” “thank you,” and my numbers, so the transaction went smoothly. Chocolate is pretty much a universally similar word, small is very close to the Bulgarian for small (which was part of the name of the village where I lived, so easy to remember), cone is just like the French but with  a K (kornet), I’ve been practicing please and thank you, and the numbers are similar to Bulgarian. So once again, let me remind you that I’m not some sort of linguistic genius. Just take this as further proof that the more languages you are exposed to, the easier it gets to pick up bits and pieces of other ones!

Coming back, I noticed this sign at the Belgrade Cultural Centre just off Trg Republike and did a double take. That’s the chorus of “the French song” my friends Saskia and Darrel (The Great Plains) sing. I promptly emailed them the picture! Oh, you’re probably wondering what that says: “The joy of love lasts but a moment. Heartbreak lasts a lifetime.” It’s not a happy song. 🙂


This was my first day living my “normal” life in Belgrade and lack of a workspace notwithstanding, it was pretty good! The location here really is amazing. If I’d been at the other apartment I’d booked, I would have been twice as far away from the square. Still close, but not close enough that I would have headed to Skadarlija tonight and detoured by way of Knez Mihailova. I hope that my location in “old town” Sarajevo is as good!

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…


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?


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!


The ethnographic museum had a special exhibit on:




I really enjoyed the richly embroidered textiles.


And beaded objects.


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.


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.


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!






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


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



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


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



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




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.


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.


Brandy distilling.


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



Cobbler’s shop.


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


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


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


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


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


I thought this was a rather interesting looking hearth.


Wine cellar.


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.




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!


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.






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



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


Here’s the Monument to Victory from the front.


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.



This is a tomb.


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!


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


I loved these foundations barely poking out of the ground.


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.


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.




The National Assembly.


Here’s the big post office again.



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




A fountain in glass…


Here’s the home of the Nikola Tesla museum.





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.


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





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.


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


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


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…


He then showed us the “dragon” coil.


Which illuminates that light.


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!


I then saw a few of Tesla’s patents.


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.




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.


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:


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.


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


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


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


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.


Looking out to the fortress and the Monument to Victory.




The boats are all clubs and restaurants.



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


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


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


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. :)”


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



That does not look like Tijuana… 😉








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.


“Boatel” is genius!


Here’s what a boatel looks like.


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!


The pontoon bridge would start from here.


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.


Zemun at last!


Almost the same name as the best pizzeria in the world



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!


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!


But easy to access your roof!


Rather magnificent tower!



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





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!



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


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


The view was worth the climb!








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


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!



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


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


The placemats were huge, but gorgeous!


We all had beer!


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!


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


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.


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.


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.


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.




Unfortunately named restaurant…











Look at that balcony’s privacy screen!






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.





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


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







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.


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?!


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


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


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!



I was not expecting to see dinosaurs today…


The fortress site is massive!


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


Holy smokes they look real and scary!



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


It was on the way to the military museum.







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.


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.


A “break-knee.”


This was a type of horrible gag.


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.”


The rack:


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:


A throne of spikes…




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




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


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.






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.









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



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



Armour that is a work of art.


Giant cannonball?



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














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.






I loved the moss growing inside this gun!




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.”


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



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!


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


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!



What a massive camera!


Utensils for roasting, grinding, and brewing coffee:


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



I remember these…






These instruments were used to fasten boats to undeveloped shorelines.






I was smitten by this pretty blue phonograph!



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


So pretty!



They don’t make appliances like they used to!


What a lovely printing machine!



Typesetter cabinet:



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!




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



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



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.



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!


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.


I love the filigree detailing on the bottom.


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.




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.


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.



I found another one of those helpful directional signs!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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:


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


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!


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


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.


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.




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


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.




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!


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.



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):


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.


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.


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!


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.


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…


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.


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!


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!


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


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.


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.”



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…


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



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.




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.




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


This is the Sava.



This giant statue of a naked man represents victory.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


This is the palace of Princess Ljubica.


An example of three styles of architecture side by side:


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!


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



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!


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!


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!


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!


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.