We decided to head to Belgrade for my 33rd birthday! I was a little worried about getting to the airport due to all of the strikes going on in France at the moment. Nevertheless, the only thing we had to worry about was a little bit of traffic on the way to the airport. We had decided to put Serbia on our list of places to visit since Andrew has had four Serbians working with him in the restaurant (well at the moment it is only one, but that’s a complicated story).
After we had settled into our apartment, we met our tour group in Republic Square. We took the free tour with Free Belgrade Walking Tours and our guide was Mira. We learned that this square can be a popular meeting point. They say “meet me behind, in front, or beside the horse.” The man on the horse is Prince Mihailo.
This is the National Theatre in Belgrade. It is modeled after La Scala in Milan. This theatre continued to show operas even during the NATO bombings in the late 1990s.
Along Skadarlija Street we found a statue of Dura Jakšić. He was a famous Serbian poet, painter and writer. Apparently he tried to give up drinking and after he lasted one day he rewarded himself with a drink. Our guide thought it seemed appropriate to offer all of us a shot of Rakija (a Balkan fruit brandy) next to the statue. The rakija was homemade of course.
Mira talked about the hyperinflation that occurred during the early 1990s. She presented all of us with a copy of a bill with 11 zeros. She explained how this bill was basically worthless and that the paper it was printed on was worth more than the actual value. The value of the currency was always changing and people had to spend their money right away or else it would be worth nothing the next day or even the next hour in some cases. It was a very hard time and I cannot even imagine what it must have been like.
Our next destination along the tour was Kalemegdan, the Belgrade fortress. There were great views of the rivers (Danube & Sava) from there and there was also a music festival going on that weekend. I can see how this was a strategic point in the city. The statue in the picture is the Pobednik or the Victor Monument. It was built to commemorate Serbia’s victory over the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empire. Mira told us that the statue was originally supposed to be in the middle of town, but due to the conservative nature of the inhabitants, they thought it best to have the statue on the outside of town (since that statue was naked).
So, they sell this brand of instant coffee in Serbia. I don’t think the name would fly back in the States…
This is a nice shot of St. Michael’s Cathedral, an Orthodox Christian church.
The French Embassy in Belgrade!
These are some other interesting facts we learned along our tour:
- There were 115 battles in Belgrade and the city had to be rebuilt 40 times.
- Orthodox is the main religion.
- Vampire legends are alive and well! The best-known vampire was Sava Savanovic. When people think of vampires, they should think of Serbia.
We had some good juice at Wooow Go Juice.
That night for my birthday, we had dinner at Sofa Restaurant. Marko, one of Andrew’s cooks, used to work there. The restaurant served Italian cuisine and it was good! Andrew liked my raviolis. Plus the restaurant was next to the water and there were fireworks! Andrew told me they were just for me :). Click here to watch the short video.
We spotted some street art on the way home.
The next morning, we stopped at a bakery for a small bite to eat. Andrew picked out two böreks (one with meat and the other with cheese). We found out later from his cooks that we should have had it with yogurt. We liked the cheese one the best!
We also had lattes at Greenet Café.
After our lattes, we met for our food tour outside Kafana Question Mark. This is the oldest traditional tavern (kafana) in Belgrade. It got its present unusual name in 1892, during a dispute with the Serbian Orthodox Church authorities over the owner’s intention to change its name to Kod Saborne crkve (By the Saborna Church), to which the church authorities vehemently protested, not wanting to see a cathedral’s name in the name of a kafana. So, as a temporary solution, the tavern’s owner put a question mark on the door, and it soon became the official name of the place. (Name origin information taken from Wikipedia, although our guides told us the same thing.) At the kafana, our guides (Jovana and Marko) started us on our introduction to Serbian cuisine. We first had bread and salt. This is a welcome greeting ceremony and is a symbol of hospitality. This is more commonly practiced in the rural areas of the country.
We had a beautiful view of St. Michael’s Cathedral inside the kafana.
Then we were served Turkish coffee. It was accompanied with a tasty Turkish delight called RAHATLUK. Afterwards we turned our cups upside down and Jovana read our fortune with the sludge left in the cup. I see a smiling, alien-like face…what do you see?
They also served us these tasty breaded plums (KOMBOCE).
We had ice cream at Crna Ovca. It was pretty good! I tried banana/lemon/honey and strawberry cabernet cream. They also had a parmesan flavor. It was interesting.
Our next stop was at Klub Restoran Teatroteka. Here we had some rakija and various meats and cheeses (kajmak, bečenica, pršuta, sir iz ulja, sudžuk, and ajvar). They also taught us a Serbian wedding dance called Kolo (it’s actually the Serbian National Dance)! It was fun! Now we just need to try it out at a Serbian wedding 🙂
They didn’t think that we had had enough rakija so they took us to Blaznavac (aka the Moustache Bar) to remedy the situation. The bar was really cool too! Some of the flavors we tried were raspberry and dried plum. I liked these “softer” versions a bit better. Regular rakija can be very strong! Jovana & Marko also taught us how to write our names in Serbian! Jessica & Andrew becomes Џесика и Ендpу. Very cool!
Next on the list was to go to an indoor market with primarily meats and cheeses. We were able to sample a few items (čvarci and duvan čvarci in the top right photo) and they were very good! We also tried some cheese as well.
Then we went to the outdoor (or green air) market where I was able to practice my Serbian to buy some strawberries! Andrew washed them off in one of the fountains so we could enjoy them right away.
Side story…I’m jumping ahead a little in the timeline: There was one place on our tour that we didn’t get to go to because it was closed. Jovana had thought she would be open, but that ended up not being the case. Andrew and I decided to go back the next day after lunch to check it out. We entered the bakery and I pointed at what we wanted in the window. The woman then proceeded to ask us (in Serbian, she didn’t speak much English) about different options for the meat pie. For some reason I had it in my mind that we were going to try something sweet, but it was too late to change my mind as she was already preparing it. She became very frustrated with us as we couldn’t understand what she was asking us. When she sounded like she had given us an option, I tried to repeat one of them not caring what we would be getting. Plus I knew that we were too full and would most likely be giving this bit of food away. She went to the back a couple times yelling at someone back there and I thought maybe someone who spoke English was going to come to the front, but that didn’t happen. To make matters worse she spilled some of the hot liquid on her hand (making her more grumpy)…ouch. We didn’t understand most of what she said, but then we heard a couple Serbian swear words and thought to ourselves, “Understood that one!” and laughed a bit. I felt bad that we couldn’t communicate properly, but that is a learning experience and a funny story.
Now back to the food tour, we were at our last stop (I don’t recall the name of the restaurant). We sampled a salad, bread, and a meat dish. Everything tasted excellent, but we were starting to get really full! In the photo where they are laughing, I’m fairly certain that is when they were discussing Serbian swear words and/or new phrases Andrew would try out with his cooks from Serbia 🙂
The gypsy band came by to serenade us.
Jovana went to the bakery to pick up some Serbian treats for us to take home with us since we had gone way over the allotted time! Time flies when you are having fun! We had these later that night and the next day…I love pastries.
We had such a good time on this food tour! I highly recommend it!
Side note…the guy guide looked like Joel Terry’s doppelganger. Joel’s a guy from my high school who was a few years older. My cousin, Claudia, confirmed my suspicion. I wish I had a picture of Joel to do a side-by-side…
After the food tour, Marko (aka Joel’s doppelganger) led us over to a nice café called Basta not far from Branko’s Bridge. We enjoyed a nice cold coffee drink.
Then we got ice cream because…Ice Box. Plus I’m almost never too full for ice cream…almost never.
The next day was our kayaking day so we started to make our journey from the apartment to the Baracuda. We crossed Branko’s Bridge along the way.
We were using the inflatable kayaks today. A first for us! We were supposed to have a guide, but there was a mistake so we ended up going out solo. The guy probably asked Andrew at least 3 times confirming that we have kayaking experience ha ha. After we were out on the water, Andrew also told me that the guy that was helping him set up the kayaks asked if we needed sunscreen. Andrew told him that we had put some on and the guy replied, “Are you sure? Do you need more? Because she’s very…” Andrew replied, “White?” Ha ha.
It was nice kayaking around the Great War Island. We saw a heron, a cormorant and a couple of swans with babies! There was also a nice view of the fortress from the water.
Walking back across the bridge after kayaking offered more nice views of the city.
Graffiti around Belgrade! We kept finding a common theme… Andrew suspected one of his Serbian cooks who had recently started becoming more of a vegetarian and who had coincidentally just moved back to Serbia for the summer…
We popped into Moritz Eis for some ice cream on the recommendation of our guide, Marko. It was just as delicious as he had described. We tried banana, cinnamon, & cookie with caramel & coffee if I remember correctly. In any case, I am sure that any of the flavors are great!
For lunch we went to Tri Sesira.
After lunch we joined a group for the Underground Secrets of Belgrade Tour. We were able to see an old Roman Well (apparently it is not really Roman, just named the Roman Well to show that they can be powerful like the Romans).
There were military bunkers from Tito’s period.
Walking through the fortress and also seeing great views of the river!
Also an Austrian gunpowder storehouse with Roman sarcofagi, sacrificial altars and tombstones.
Again here is the Pobednik/The Victor (aka naked man statue) that was cast out of the center of town due to conservative viewpoints… Apparently not all of Europe was always as comfortable with nudity.
At the end we visited a 19th century wine cellar with a free tasting! The wine tasted not so good though…more like pickle water or something.
After the tour we were conflicted…we were tired, but still wanted to visit Zemun. We ended up taking the bus out there, but could not find the area of town we wanted to go to. We did snap a few pictures of the area we did land in. However, we ended up just jumping back on the bus and heading back to the apartment ha ha. Word of advice, when you are tired just rest and don’t try to do too much.
The next morning, we got more börek for breakfast.
Then we walked up to see the Church of Saint Sava in the flesh. I couldn’t go inside since I was dressed with fairly short shorts, but it was beautiful from the outside.
Later we joined some of Andrew’s cooks for a drink. He really enjoyed seeing them in their home country 🙂
They insisted that we had to try some Serbian street/fast food. The picture doesn’t really do it justice…that burger was huge and so greasy, but delicious!
Here’s another nice picture of the Prince Mihailo statue.
Our last bit of nourishment was smoothies at Red Bread. They were some of the thicker ones we have had in Europe. Smoothies and especially shakes are not thick here…but that’s something I can cope with 🙂
Headed home! Belgrade, you were wonderful and we can’t wait to visit again!