Tuesday, 6 December 2022

Visiting Serbia

 I visited Serbia in August 2022 and it was so much fun.

Hello from the streets of Belgrade

My brother and I flew with Air Serbia from London, the flight took about 3hrs and 40 mins. The plane was neat and had enough leg room in economy. Staff were polite and the flights were right on time. Going back to London, we flew in business class. Business class was the same as economy, only difference was we were offered food, while in economy, we were offered water and biscuits. Those in economy who wanted food and drinks had to pay.

For Nigerian passport holders, in case you were wondering, if you have a valid and used UK or Schengen visa, you won't need a Serbian visa.

First impressions from above...wow! Belgrade looked like such a beauty. Belgrade, the capital and largest city in Serbia sits pretty at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers. Did you know that the Danube river is the second longest river in Europe? The locals say that Serbia connects Western and Eastern Europe.

We stayed in a part of Belgrade called Zemun, it is right by the Danube river bank. We were told that we were on the border of Zemun and New Belgrade. 

It was easy to get around from where we stayed. While I searched for accommodation before the trip, some apartments kept popping up, so I checked, they looked good and equally had good reviews. We stayed in Bellmatini Apartments and our host, Ivan (+381 63 10 35 513), was such a delight. He picked us up from the airport (for a fee). After we dropped our things off, he drove us around the neighbourhood pointing out key places. He was also always available to answer questions and give tips on what to do or where to go. The apartment was a 15 minute walk to the Danube river bank. It cost us  us  150.8 for four nights, that was definitely a steal!

Some of the things we saw in Belgrade were:

Kalemegdan Fortress - this is a must see in Belgrade, recommended online and by locals as one of Belgrade's cultural and historical monuments. 

It is located in the city centre and has a huge park. From the top of fortress, you can see the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers. 
There's a section of the fortress that had military artefacts (the military museum), medieval torture instruments and a part with dinosaurs called Jura Avantura, children would definitely love this part. There were lots of tourists like us visiting and this fortress is said to be the most visited tourist attraction in Belgrade.



Museum of Illusions - I had seen a few of these on social media in different countries, so I was keen to visit. It cost 750 dinar per person. If you are like me, you would want to do everything. We went from the head on a platter, to the fantasy room, to the upside down part , to our faces breaking into pieces like a kaleidoscope, the giant room etc We spent over 2 hours there. It is in the city centre and google maps got us there.





National Museum - This one was so big. On the ground floor, on display were different kinds of antiques; archaeology, aquatic, medals, coins, you name it. On the first floor, there were different things representing the early medieval period, medieval heritage and Serbian Art in the 18th and 19th centuries. 


Finally on the second floor, there was a grand galleria for temporary exhibitions, European 14th to 20th century art and, Yugoslav Art of 20th century. For access to see all exhibitions in the museum, it costs 600 dinar per person, while with 500 dinar, you get to see the ground and first floor. We opted to see everything and that took a while. There were many impressive things to see, I would say plan to spend at least 3 hours if you'd like to visit. The museum staff also recommended that we check out the museum of Yugoslava but after 3, we were done.

 


 






Saint Sava Temple was slightly out of town. Once we figured out which bus to catch, we were fine. Google maps was accurate. The church was a wonder to behold with very flashy drawings and paintings. 



 


 




 


 


It is said to be the largest orthodox church in Serbia and was built on the presumed location of St. Sava's grave. St. Sava is the founder of the Serbian orthodox church. If you are a bible student, while looking at the paintings, you'll quickly identify which bible stories they are.

There was a staircase leading to a lower part of the church, I didn't see people going that way but thought to check it out. I noticed that it was closed off with a rope but as we approached, we were allowed in. I assumed that was the norm. After about 30 minutes looking around, we noticed other people coming in. There was a wedding, a Serbian man and a black woman, reason why the person might have assumed we were guests without asking. We might have been able to get away with crashing the wedding, but we respectfully left.

In the Republic square just outside the museum

On the day we went museum hopping, we noticed the Republic square being set up. The national museum is one of the buildings in the square by the way. Out of curiousity, I went to ask and was told that there would be a basketball match. We decided to wait for it, little did we know how big basketball is in Serbia. It started with a set of matches of people living with disability. It was fun to watch, went on for a few rounds. 


 


 

 


Then agile young blokes came onto the court and then it was all about speed. 15 mins per match and there were a number of teams. While we were there, an energy drink company went round offering drinks and as we were the only black people in the audience, the sexily clad ladies came by to ask for photos with us and the drinks, we didn't mind and obliged. The games went on for hours but we couldn't stay till the end. 

There are some spots in the city centre that definitely have instagram in mind like the Pasteli cake shop we stumbled on. It was so pretty, we had to go in. The attention to detail was impressive. 

 


 

Lots of street art around

Knez Mihailova is a pedestrian and shopping zone in the city centre with lots of spots; cafés, restaurants and lots more. We even ran into a photographer who asked to take our photos. There were street dancers one of the evenings, they did a mix of hip hop, locking and some break dance. I have to say that I've seen much better...

Zemun is a municipality of the city of Belgrade that was formerly a separate town. It got absorbed into Belgrade with the town's expansion and lies on the right bank of the Danube River. It has a Bohemian yet village like aspect to it. It is known for cafés, lively night bars and the restaurants that line the Danube riverside promenade. 

 


 

 

 


 

 


The popular gardos tower is in the Zemun fortress, it costs 500 dinar per person to go up to the tower. You'll climb winding stairs to get to the top.

 

Gardos tower, Zemun

 


 

An unplanned climb

 

Getting up Zemun

The view overlooking the Danube

 

The view was gorgeous

Read the translation. You'll appreciate this if languages interest you

 

We also went to the farmers market in Zemun. The sellers are usually there in the mornings until 2pm. Most people go there for fresh produce, we went mostly for fruit. We also found cured meat, I sure took some with me back to Congo, comes in handy for the field. Some of the Serbian food we tried were Burek, Gibanica, Muckalica, Pqeskavica, Muckalica in bread, Sopska salad, Prebranac and Cevap. Cevap was everywhere and we loved it. We also had Karadordeva Snicla which is a Serbian schnitzel made from rolled up pork or veal stuffed with kajmak and coated with breadcrubs then fried. It is usually served with tartar sauce and baked or fried potatoes. I didn't take photos of all the dishes but you can google to see images :-)

 

Duvec and Karadordeva Snicla

 

Muckalica in bread, was delish

 

Prebranac aka gbegiri

 

We got around Belgrade mostly by bus, otherwise we walked. You won't believe that we got on the buses for free, mostly because the drivers didn't speak or understand English. They couldn't be bothered to try and would just wave us in. One day, a ticket controller came on the bus and asked for our tickets, we explained that the driver could not speak English and let us in. He was asking to go to the same driver to get tickets, we asked if he would help us explain but he was barely getting by with his own English and moved on from us. I loved the part of free transport all around Belgrade. Please do not try this, you might not be as lucky as we were and might receive a heavy fine!

We went on from Belgrade to Novi Sad by train. The train tickets cost 800 per person, one way.


Novi Sad, the second largest city after Serbia, is the capital of one of Serbia's most ethnically diverse regions. People from different parts of Europe are said to have settled here. The city has a modern look and a number of beautifully coloured houses that make neighbourhoods look picture perfect. We stayed in Manoir Apartments at 70 for 2 nights, another apartment that popped up during my search. It was right in the city centre, a 4 minute walk to the Liberty square. We went everywhere on foot. Once the taxi took us to the address, instructions to get into the apartment were accurate and all was as described in the check in e-mail I received, seamless.



Trg Slobode, the Liberty Square in the city centre is one to see. It has the Name of Mary Church, the bronze statue of Miletic, a former mayor of Novi Sad, who it seems was a casse tête for other leaders. 

As you walk a few meters from the square, the Novi Sad Jewish synagogue isn't far off. The synagogue holds painful memories but stands as a reminder to the atrocities that were committed.

The Jewish synagogue

 


 



Dunavska (Danube) street in the city centre is an east to West thoroughfare that is partly pedestrianised and lined with stately mansions and townhouses. We were always around it.
One of the nights as we wandered around, we stumbled on a live concert which was lovely.

The street is lined with bars, restaurants, cafés, etc. There are always people sitting out and living their best lives. The Vladicanski Dvor (Bishop's Palace) is a beautiful building that stands out and lights up beautifully at night. It seems the Bishop still lives there.

We spotted this on the way to the fortress
We saw these picture perfect neighbourhoods on the way, the photos do not do the place justice.

 


 





 


 


Petrovaradin fortress has history behind it but these days, it is more of a tourist site and you'll get a beautiful view of the city once you go on top. 

View from the top of the fortress

From the top, you can also get a close view of the clock tower. The museum was closed on the day we were there, but should be one to see.

 


 


From here, you can see the St. George's cathedral which is Novi Sad's main orthodox church, we walked past it but didn't have the time to go in.


Graffiti is common

One thing to note, people stared at us, a lot. They couldn't help but notice our beautiful brown skin 😀 We had a few incidents, but I generally do not let these spoil my trips as they are not unexpected. The notable ones for me were at the airport. 

1) on arrival, as my brother and I approached the immigration officers, I went to the free counter and it was a lady, who was quite rude. Granted she was doing her job by asking me all the questions in the world and scrutinising my passport like I stole it, but she could have had a little courtesy. It was the same thing on the way back, with a different lady. So maybe they did not like my face. Should I return to Serbia, I would go to the male officers. My brother, on both occasions dealt with male officers and was stamped in and out within seconds. On the way back, he saw how rudely I was treated and was fuming while he waited for me.

2) on the other hand, at check in, 2 older couples came up to the counter while we were checking in at the business class counter and the lady at the counter sent them back to the line. They were all Serbian and were communicating in their language, then she looked at us and said in English, "we are business class". I looked at her and politely said "so are we". 

Overall, Serbia was a fun trip and I would return to explore more places if I have another chance to visit.

2 comments:

  1. I wanna be like you wen i age younger. Nice fun packed trip u had there.

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    1. It was indeed a fun trip. Thanks for reading.

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