Heat wave in Belgrade

Belgrade Travel Blog

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Serbian flag is everywhere in Belgrade!
Oh my gosh, it can get really hot in a big city! With little sleep and temperatures near 40C (over 100F) we were staggering around town in a daze. Nevertheless, we managed to explore pretty much every inch of downtown in our two days there.

After dropping our packs at the hostel we set out to explore. Climbing the steep hill separating the city from the train station and riverfront, we found the main shopping street, Knez Mihailova. It's a wide, canyon of a street, lined with tall buildings and closed to traffic. It's where all the expensive shops and restaurants are, along with big business and government offices. What's impressive is how long it is. Most big cities in Eastern Europe have a pedestrian shopping street, but this one goes on forever.
Lots of air conditioners
It was bustling with people during the day, but when we came back at night, that's when it really filled up. People were strolling up and down, street entertainers put on shows, restaurants were filled. The street had much more of a big city feel to it than Zagreb, with people bustling about with flashier clothes clothes and make-up than in Croatia it seemed.

One nice feature we found there was that Tito had installed flowing drinking fountains throughout the city, offering a welcome drink to thirsty passers-by. The fountains were in constant use, with people from every walk of life stopping by for a quick drink, or filling bottles on the way to the office.

We came across Kalemegdan, the old fortified area that makes up one end of the city above the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers.
A typical embassy-lined street downtown
A large part of the ancient walled citadel is devoted to a military museum, with every manner of tank, cannon, mortar, torpedo, and gun on display. Not pleasant for Zvonka who had been at the business end of those guns a few years ago, but the fort was pretty interesting though, with views of the river traffic below.

As the heat grew more oppressive, and we had consumed at least 10 liters of water between us, we made our way back into town, taking refuge in each of the massive Orthodox churches we came to. We walked across to the far end of town to seek out the large botanical garden for a nap and some lunch, but alas, it was abandoned and fenced. The plants had grown wild, then eventually many had died in a tangle of branches and brush. We found a grimy (abandoned) little park next door and crawled into some shade on the ground, pecked at by pigeons as we grabed a quick nap.
The confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers


Zvonka was surprised that the once mighty capital of Yugoslavia was still impressive, but just not the gleaming city we'd seen in the pictures from 20 or 30 years ago. I mean, it's nice there, but it's a typical big, dusty city with aging infrastructure, back streets in a state of disrepair, and some of the parks have seen better days. Coming in and out of town you pass through big refugee and Gypsy camps that line the tracks at the edge of the city.

Back at the hostel that night we were happy that we had the 14-person room with triple bunk beds to ourselves; no other guests showed up. Once they turned off the Reggae music in the empty lobby at 1am..., we at last got some good, deep sleep. I was still catching up from the 27-hour flight from San Diego.
Downtown Belgrade from the river


In the morning we explored what turned out to be the international district, with embassies of every country stacked along narrow streets, including the Croatian and American embassies that were set on fire when Kosovo declared independence... oops! Kosovo is still a hot topic, with graffitti everywhere and t-shirts declaring "Kosovo is Serbia".

I made the faux-pas of photographing what looked like just another crumbling Bureau of Something and a couple federal police ran over and made me delete the pictures from my camera. On closer inspection, it was the Ministry of Defense that the UN bombed in 1999 and it was still in it's bombed out condition. It was kind of awkward feeling that maybe I should apologize for us bombing them, but they didn't speak alot of English and didn't seem in a mood for conversation.
Bagpipes...
Zvonka stealthily disappeared and took pictures of the building and the police while they harassed me.

We didn't eat out in Belgrade, but did try the local beers, cheese, and red pepper paste - it's good. There's a big fruit and vegetable market with all sorts of nice fruit and things to eat, with really good prices for a big city. It's interesting that there aren't many grocery stores in the downtown area, I'm not sure where people buy food... Lots of searching turned up a couple small mini-markets. Even asking people where there was a supermarket brought looks of puzzlement and "hmm, I don't know... I think there's a mini market half a kilometer that way..."

At the end of the second day, while waiting for the night train to Sofia, we went and slept under a bridge over the Sava River (you'll notice that we nap a lot on this trip, night trains get to you.
Really tiny traffic lights
..) We watched a lady play with her 3 daschunds the size of golden retrievers in the river as the sun got low in the sky. The riverfront was another crumbling remainder of a promenade, with statues of revolutionary workers and the hulks of massive party boats tied up along the river banks. Several jet skiers and pleasure boats darted around cargo-filled barges being shoved against the strong current upstream. As always, we stayed too long and had to run with heavy packs to catch the late night train. We'll have to come back and see the rest next time.
satellite779 says:
You should definitely visit when it's not too hot, as I can just imagine how horrible it was on 40C (on asphalt it's probable well above 45C). Train station is not the nicest part of Belgrade and it doesn't make a nice intro to Belgrade. To be honest, I really didn't know people from other countries, that were once Yugoslavia, had such high opionion on Belgrade (I saw you visited Zagreb as well). Belgrade is no Hollywood for sure, but it can be interesting visit, especially if you like going out at night. I can see you went to Sava river. Too bad you were at the ugliest part of the river. If you went few kilometers further you would reach Ada lake, where you could find nice beaches for real, beautiful girls rollerblading and in general, nice place to relax. Also, you should visit Zemun, the part that's on Danube river. There's an old tower and some nice restaurants there. Anyway, if you do decide to come again, let me know, and I'll give you a few tips how to get most out of your visit. ;)
Posted on: Aug 25, 2008
cneoridium says:
Ok, maybe I'll revise it to make it more clear that it's not specifically Belgrade that's dusty and crumbly, it's just like all big cities. I'm just not a fan of big cities I guess. I think that I was influenced too by how much people I'd talked to had built up an image of Belgrade as kind of a gleaming capital of all of ex-Yugoslavia, and when it was just a regular city maybe I was disappointed a little. It's like when people come here, excited to see Hollywood, they're surprised to find out that it's sort of the bad part of town, dirty and filled with homeless people and drug dealers : ) I mean, I liked it; I'm going to come back to see the rest of it next time. I only had two days, so only saw what was in walking distance of the train station.
Posted on: Aug 25, 2008
satellite779 says:
"The streets were dusty and in disrepair, the infrastructure was rusting and crumbling, and a lot of businesses and shops seemed to be closed or abandoned. Large camps of refugees and Gypsies surrounded the perimeter of the city."

Hahaha... You really made me laugh with these comments. If I didn't live in Belgrade I would have thought Belgrade is a horrible place you see in movies. I'm sorry you got this impression of Belgrade, since it's obviously wrong. I mean, Belgrade is no Paris, but it's not "dusty and in disrepair", the infrastructure is not "rusting and crumbling", shops are not "closed or abandoned" and "Large camps of refugees and Gypsies" don't surround the perimeter of the city! You should come when it's not so hot. ;)
Posted on: Aug 25, 2008
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Serbian flag is everywhere in Belg…
Serbian flag is everywhere in Bel…
Lots of air conditioners
Lots of air conditioners
A typical embassy-lined street dow…
A typical embassy-lined street do…
The confluence of the Sava and Dan…
The confluence of the Sava and Da…
Downtown Belgrade from the river
Downtown Belgrade from the river
Bagpipes...
Bagpipes...
Really tiny traffic lights
Really tiny traffic lights
Really tiny cars
Really tiny cars
Serbian Barbie!
Serbian Barbie!
Flowing fountains for drinking are…
Flowing fountains for drinking ar…
A revolutionary with a pigeon on h…
A revolutionary with a pigeon on …
Filling yet another bottle of water
Filling yet another bottle of water
A forlorn park which once adorned …
A forlorn park which once adorned…
Vents to an underground bunker
Vents to an underground bunker
A Yugoslavian Yugo!
A Yugoslavian Yugo!
Long forgotten heroes
Long forgotten heroes
Arhangela Mihaila church
Arhangela Mihaila church
Arhangela Mihaila
Arhangela Mihaila
I liked this antenna head
I liked this antenna head
Serbians weathering the heat wave …
Serbians weathering the heat wave…
The Sava River
The Sava River
Entrance to the fortified section …
Entrance to the fortified section…
Looking out from the ramparts guar…
Looking out from the ramparts gua…
Well weathered stonework
Well weathered stonework
These would have been good for rep…
These would have been good for re…
Soooo hot
Soooo hot
We of course immediately walked in…
We of course immediately walked i…
Shouldnt have walked in the area …
Shouldn't have walked in the area…
Another urine-filled tunnel to pas…
Another urine-filled tunnel to pa…
Tanks a lot
Tanks a lot
A big tank, at its final resting …
A big tank, at it's final resting…
The big guns
The big guns
Quick run through of the safety pr…
Quick run through of the safety p…
Sheltering from the sun under anot…
Sheltering from the sun under ano…
Making poor Zvonka pose on yet ano…
Making poor Zvonka pose on yet an…
Shielded
Shielded
This map gives a feel for the size…
This map gives a feel for the siz…
More reinforced walls
More reinforced walls
Some of the older fortifications -…
Some of the older fortifications …
Lookout tower of the Kalemegdan fo…
Lookout tower of the Kalemegdan f…
The standard socialist heads
The standard socialist heads
Serbian pointy-toed shoes opanci…
Serbian pointy-toed shoes "opanci…
Free rescued cats being given away…
Free rescued cats being given awa…
We cant bring them with us?
"We can't bring them with us?"
A typical street, its a busy city
A typical street, it's a busy city
A hummer with Florida plates?!?!
A hummer with Florida plates?!?!
Saint Marco  Orthodox church downt…
Saint Marco Orthodox church down…
Still under construction, but in u…
Still under construction, but in …
Nice, cool interior of a church
Nice, cool interior of a church
A string of weddings rapidly passe…
A string of weddings rapidly pass…
This band of horn players followed…
This band of horn players followe…
Flag flies over parliament
Flag flies over parliament
4-headed eagle... better than the …
4-headed eagle... better than the…
Black horses in front of the parli…
Black horses in front of the parl…
I dont know about these horses...
I don't know about these horses...
Fortuneately, no one else showed u…
Fortuneately, no one else showed …
Cops harrassing some guy while the…
Cops harrassing some guy while th…
The former ministry of defense, bo…
The former ministry of defense, b…
Kosovo is Serbia painted on wall…
"Kosovo is Serbia" painted on wal…
The largest church we came across
The largest church we came across
Saint Sava Cathedral
Saint Sava Cathedral
Serbian flag over the enterance
Serbian flag over the enterance
The domes were impressive, even fr…
The domes were impressive, even f…
Flocks of birds flying across the …
Flocks of birds flying across the…
Troughs ablaze with candles
Troughs ablaze with candles
Orthodox churches dont seem to ha…
Orthodox churches don't seem to h…
Finally some latin script, soundin…
Finally some latin script, soundi…
Sign asking people to honk because…
Sign asking people to honk becaus…
Dinner on the floor of the room - …
Dinner on the floor of the room -…
Breakfast in an abandoned park - t…
Breakfast in an abandoned park - …
Really good Kosovo style bread
Really good Kosovo style bread
We headed to the botanical garden …
We headed to the botanical garden…
Pigeons advancing on as as we slee…
Pigeons advancing on as as we sle…
Trash for pillows, we were so tire…
Trash for pillows, we were so tir…
Working boats in the river
Working boats in the river
Sunbathing on the lovely beaches a…
Sunbathing on the lovely beaches …
Graffiti
Graffiti
A giant party boat, now stored alo…
A giant party boat, now stored al…
Hanging out under the bridge
Bra…
Hanging out under the bridge "Br…
Playing with the dogs
Playing with the dogs
Sleeping on the river bank
Sleeping on the river bank
Playing in the river Sava
Playing in the river Sava
3-headed dog?
3-headed dog?
I can imagine crowds strolling dow…
I can imagine crowds strolling do…
Running to catch the night train t…
Running to catch the night train …
Belgrade
photo by: tj1777