Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Belgrade Walking tour

Our apartment in Belgrade was right next to the city centre - A two minute walk from Republic Square. Republic Square is, pretty much where it all happens. The area around Republic Square is largely pedestrian and dotted with various eateries and watering holes.
Prince Mihailo (Mihailo Obrenovic III) Monument at Republic Square- His hand is allegedly pointing towards Istanbul, as he had expelled the Turks and freed the 7 sates of Serbia in 1862 and 1867

...with the local Pied Piper at is steps.
 I'd have loved to explore the food scene (especially Cevapi - the breakfast staple of the Balkans, I'm told), but didn't want to end up with a dodgy tummy in the first country we landed up in. So off we went to Vapiano - for lunch. We'd decided to take the walking tour of Belgrade after a hearty lunch.  It was much too hot for a walk, even at 4 in the evening. But our Guide- a lovely girl named Milinie assured us she'd take it slow, even for our little 4 year old.  Miline is a born and bred Belgradian and she joked, `I've belonged to four different countries and held four different passports but never moved out of Belgrade` It gives us an indication of the unrest and conflict that prevailed in these parts not so long ago.
There`s plenty to see for the history aficionado - but the fact that you see not one single structure standing along some of the streets that`s older than the 2nd World War, reminds us of the struggle of of the common Belgradian to just survive.  While we think of history as something to be read in dusty textbooks that happened to previous generations, here was a city that is still living it.

Along the walk we heard and visited about the Bohemian quarter of the city- Skadarlija where poets and thinkers gathered over Rakija to write, create and contemplate at Kafanas. Kafanas, Milinie explained to us was an all-encompassing drinking-and-eating-and-drinking joint which served you liquor until you were under the table. And then continued to serve you under the table.

At the home of Đura Jakšić, famous Serbian Poet, Writer and Painter
And in case you`re wondering what Rakija is, it`s the local brew, manufactured by practically every family in Serbia, from fermented fruit, particularly plum. In fact looking at the abundance of plum trees growing everywhere in the city (even outside our apartment window), I'm not the least bit surprised. And speaking of the foul liquid (believe me, you cannot  have more than 3 sips of this stuff before it burns your throat), Pickwick had his first sip of Rakija, much to my consternation,  from the Baa-Lamb`s cup. Due credit to the little boy for not spitting it right back out in our faces.
Belgrade Fort - we spotted the entrance to Tito's secret bunkers here (they weren't discovered until very recently, and quite by accident)  The Bunkers are currently sealed, but will be opened to the public short, so we were told.

The confluence of the Sava and Danube
As we walked along the streets we were handed out photocopies of banknotes - where we lost count of the Zeros, and technically made each of us billionaires- a stark reminder of the hyperinflation that gripped the country for nearly a decade, and its only now that the economy is slowly limping back to normal.
The Yugo. A car seen only in erstwhile Yugoslav countries. 
What does that do for the average Belgradian? If Milinie is to be believed, it just  means that they live life larger than life, if that makes any sense. They throw themselves passionately into whatever they do, be it supporting the local football club, or getting to work at 7 in the morning or partying til the wee hours of dawn.
Victor, The statue of the naked man. Controversial but a symbol of hope nevertheless
In the evening, we decided to wander around Republic Square and soak in the atmosphere.
musicians playing at Republic Square

The quirky boutique restaurant
We stumbled upon a lovely restaurant called `boutique` where I had one of the most sinful dessert cakes I`ve ever tasted. So, this chewy- gooey cake had: Dark Chocolate, White Chocolate, Coconut, Almonds and a few local flavours thrown in for good measure.The cake was representative of the Serbian spirit - we don`t know what tomorrow brings, so lets make the most of it now.
Sorry. Didn't have the patience to click a snap when it was all there. It was a miracle the snap was clicked at all.
We're headed for Bosnia next. Neighbours who're not on the best of terms (wonder why that sounds oddly familiar). But that's another blog post altogether. 

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