I was apprehensive about visiting Belgrade. Before arriving, I expected the city to be gritty and grey. I expected it to be covered in graffiti and filled with communist architecture.
Belgrade was the place I knew least about in Eastern Europe and I wasn’t all that keen on spending much time there. It was more of a convenient stop off point between Bosnia and Romania, the two countries I was most excited about visiting.
We therefore gave ourselves just 24 hours to explore as much of Belgrade as we could.
After eight countries on this Interrail trip, I had been changing currencies every few days and Serbia brought a brand new exchange rate to memorise and some pretty coloured notes to try not to lose.
And like the currency, it was time to get used to a new language too.
I was surprised to find that while plenty of the buildings in Belgrade were indeed grey, there were a lot of brightly coloured ones too. The streets were clean, there was hardly any graffiti and it didn’t feel scary and unwelcoming like I had expected.
Our first stop was a visit to Belgrade’s beautiful fortress, arguably the most picturesque place in all of Belgrade and a calm refuge from the busy streets running alongside it.
The fortress was huge with tennis and basketball courts, restaurants, museums, an observatory and even a zoo!
As the fortress is located on a hill, there are also some incredible views from the top. We spent an hour or two sitting in the shade of a tree looking out at the confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers in the distance. One of the things I loved about the view was being able to see the overall greenness of the city. While the centre of the city sometimes feels quite grey and dull, when you look at it from above you can actually see more trees than buildings!
After a quick beer at one of the overpriced cafes next to an angry sheep that bleated extremely loudly every five seconds, we wandered down to the Old Town to explore.
The real reason for me wanting to visit Belgrade was so that I could get my physics on and check out the Nikola Tesla museum.
I’d heard great things about this museum, but sadly ended up sorely disappointed. After hearing that the museum had over 160,000 artefacts, I was surprised to discover that the museum consisted of just a few rooms on a single floor. It was tiny! There was a room full of Tesla’s clothes and letters, a room of Tesla coils and transformers where you could watch a short presentation on Tesla’s life and a room containing an urn of his ashes.
I don’t know if it was my background in physics that caused me to feel underwhelmed, but it just wasn’t all that interesting. After ten minutes, we were off again.
To my delight, we stumbled upon Skadarska street, a quaint cobbled street lined with cafes and restaurants. Like much of Eastern Europe, the locals in Belgrade seem to be perpetually on a coffee break and it didn’t take much convincing for us to join them.
For the next few hours we snacked on kebabs and drank coffee and beer. We could have made the effort to see more of the city – the gorgeous St. Sava Temple for example, but we were content with talking, drinking and people watching for the rest of the afternoon.
I didn’t fall in love with Belgrade and I can’t call it one of favourite cities in Eastern Europe. It didn’t really invoke any feelings in me. I had an enjoyable day there but I didn’t leave wishing I had longer to spend there, or feeling desperate to return.
It was a convenient stopover location to break up the journey from Bosnia to Romania.
My trip through Central and Eastern Europe was made possible by the lovely people at Interrailnet.com.