2013-07-07

Belgrade, in few words.

Greetings from Belgrade, Beograd/ Serbia, July 2013!
Our stay in Belgrade was definetely pleasant. Numerous cafes, great bars in peculiar settings, free wifi everywhere and kinda quiet place to sleep. What more could a tired worker want on holiday? Nothing more.

We enjoyed a lot just walking around and did not take a look to the Belgrade famous party scene (guess I am getting old). The best help for our stay we found from our hostel manager who gave us an insight to Belgrade and took a while to sit with us and showed his favourite places on the Belgrade Spy Map. www.cityspy.info was after that in our bag for the whole stay.

We had booked the accommodation before and it proved to be super. Unfortunately the first 2 nights we were forced to listen to German football fans group trip. Fully drunk the whole time, shouting most of the time, waisted rest of the time...there were some of us who wanted to toss them overboard from our floating hostel, not that I have anything against Germans in general. We stayed at ArkaBarka~ the Danube floating hostel, which was the first of this kind around, and it was also not the cheapest. There are now some similar nearby, as well as maybe not so eco friendly options on older boats. The location was great, next to a big park, halfway between the Belgrade city/bus and railway stations and the famous old town Zemun. There were a lot of famous Belgrade party rafts nearby, and a lot of nice floating restaurants/bars on the Danube river. The hostel served a breakfast that was included in the price and had fully equipped bar. They also had 4 bikes for guests free use.

The most info we got from the web portal called "the Belgradian", also good tips on accommodation and anything you wish to know (tips from locals are included, such as drinking in public, or how to act when someone invites you for a coffee and who pays the bill). This page must be now my favourite of all city guides! The best thing about the page is the detailed map of all places and it is very easy to use. It would be impossible to pick the best places we visited, but I name a few. Basta is a nice 'roof top' ruin bar, we had our best frozen Greek yogurt in MuMu  and the nicest late lunch at Gavez which is relatively hidden on bigger Ada island (no signs and in the woods), where our 2 beers, salads, bean soups and grilled meat barbecue sticks (2) were 1500 RSD. Remember that the food is plenty, when you order! I had trouble eating the appetizers and the main course. Not even a coffee would fit in. The Belgradian portal gives an average estimation on the prices. The coffee was the typical Turkish style option without cinnamon and rose pedals, but many cafes served good cappuccino and latte. And for that I was happy. Also sometimes it was easier to ask for espresso. The coffee prices start from 80RSD and climb up to 130RSD or even higher in classy shopping mall cafes. 

The other sources I found were Urban Travel Blog about Belgrade and an Alternative Guide to Belgrade but I found them a bit more average and not so detailed for my needs. The people who write the Alternative Guide sounded interesting and it would be nice to take a tour in Belgrade with them. Belgrade was also a pet friendly destination and we saw a specific sticker on many windows informing that the dogs were allowed in. I would love to go to a bookstore with my dog, if it would be sure he did not pee on every book shelve! 

The biking option was also present. Not in the older part of the city, but the riversides were almost perfect, only few holes in the asphalt and lines for biking bot directions. I would recommend a bell for the fastest bikers. I heard 2 stories about stealing the bikes, one was that it is not normal. The other opinion was that you really have to fix the locks well and preferably have an eye on your vehicle. There were several places to rent a bike. The Belgradian also has an article on the most famous graffiti artist in Belgrade and it was fun to also take a guided peek to that scene. It is not always that an information portal has information on these things. 

I was also pleasantly surprised to see so many facilities for physically challenged and handicapped people. There was sports facilities and on bridges options to use the bike elevators instead of the stairs. I wish there was similar things in other countries as well, but for that a war might be needed. 

Another language will not be a problem in Belgrade if you speak English. What we heard was good English, not broken, and there was a lot of older 50+ men (full bearded men with friendly eyes!) who spoke perfect English. Who said that the education in Yugoslavia was not excellent?

Getting away from Belgrade and getting to Sarajevo was not fast. Blogger Blonde Gypsy has a good entry in her blog about the whole thing and the times she mentions seem to be still very accurate. We took the bus, since the train is still not going and in fact we were not traveling whole way to Sarajevo. The bus trip cost 2510 RSD (in July 2013) per person and the sales lady offered coins for both of us (me and my travel buddy J) to keep over night that we would be allowed to get in to the bus platform area. The entry was declined without the coin. It cost an additional 60 RSD to put luggage into the trunk and it was paid to the driver. If the driver does not speak English, there is always someone in he bus who does and is willing to help you. 

This bus was not full, but we took several stops on our way because the trunk was loaded with some artifacts/mail/other deliveries to be given to some people on the way. One gray lady waited for the bus arrival in one small town with a wheel barrel next to the road and was happy to receive a 30 kg bag of cement. Due to these events we were late from our schedule. Therefore the 2 stops during the ride were only 15 min each. We were told that normally the stops are 30 min allowing the passengers to eat at the local eateries. We were able to enjoy the views over Serbian flat landscapes filled with corn and sunflower fields. The scenery changed a lot next to Bosnian border and the border crossing formalities were done in 15 min. The policemen were curious about J's new passport. From the border on, it was mountains and hills and serpentine roads. After the ride I do understand why the trip is closer to 8 h. The mountain 'highways' are only one line both ways and extremely curvy. The altitude reaches approximately 2 km. It does lock your ears. I can somehow imagine (because I am from Finland and we do drive in snow) the trip during the winter time, when there is a blizzard, the snow reaches the ultimate height and the temperature gets low. 






 
This last picture is for those who also fancy Amanita Design from Czech Republic! 












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