Wednesday, October 19, 2022

[BELGRADE] First Time in Beograd


Serbia has always been on my hitlist because I’ve known for a while that a multiple entry US visa can get you visa free in some countries here in the Balkans. I already tested that in Northern Macedonia and Kosovo in 2017 and there weren’t any issues. And so now, the time has come to try it in other countries, beginning in Serbia. Belgrade is the most logical entry point because of the abundance of air connections, but to be honest it was hard to find a direct flight from Tel Aviv, which had me settling for Arkia in the end, which wasn’t that affordable. But now we’re here, so what’s up, Belgrade?


The bus you are looking for to get out of the airport and back is number 72. It costs RSD150 (~PHP75) if you buy it directly from the driver. No worries, he will give you change if you don’t have the exact amount. Legend has it that the same ticket only costs RSD89 (~PHP45) if bought from a Moj Kiosk, but I can’t find one at the airport. I’ve also noticed during my stay here that most buses accept contactless credit cards BUT ONLY MASTERCARD. Anyway, money changers abound in Belgrade and at the airport so don’t fuss.


I decided to book a boutique hotel right smack at the center of Knez Mihailova, a pedestrian shopping street central in location and a stone’s throw away from many tourist attractions. This decision was essential because being in the center of everything, I didn’t feel the need to rush to go anywhere whatsoever. I also have all the creature comforts I need within easy reach. Sightseeing began in the second day with a lovely half hour stroll south to check out the Church of Saint Sava.


Orthodox Churches are so extra and I love them. This has got to be one of the most amazing church interiors I have ever seen. I mean, floor to ceiling paintings! It kinda puts our Roman Catholic churches to shame, in comparison. The Church of Saint Sava, I believe, is one of the biggest Orthodox Churches in the Balkans. It’s beautiful both on the inside and the outside. Be warned that it is a total neck exercise, though, given how you have to look up a lot to appreciate all those larger-than-life paintings!


The stroll also gave me an opportunity to observe the daily lives of the locals in Belgrade. The city is so chill and with a relatively young population. Hip restaurants and bars are not difficult to come by and more importantly, cost of living is cheap, especially coming from Tel-Aviv where prices felt more like extorsion. Back at the center, I stumbled upon the National Museum overlooking a big square teeming with people. It makes you realize how vibrant this city really is. The third day was reserved for my Novi Sad daytrip. Sightseeing in Belgrade resumed the next day.


Normally, I already stop once I see a major tourist attraction. In this case, that was the church. However, the allure of Belgrade Fortress was irresistible given how it’s even closer to my hotel, just 10 or 15 minutes away on foot north of my location. And so, I thought, well we do have a free afternoon, might as well check it out, right? Getting some hot chocolate from Starbucks, I walked farther north and the next thing I realized, I was already entering the park.


Belgrade is located in the confluence of two rivers, and the one we saw today was the Sava, at least according to Google Maps. The park has activities aplenty. There is a choo-choo train if you have kids or simply can’t walk anymore. There are so many busts of different personalities from the country’s colorful history. And of course, the panoramic views are awesome on top of the many hills dotting the fortress grounds. The decision to come late in the afternoon paid off because I got to witness a gorgeous sunset.


The fortress has everything from popcorn and chestnut stands to hawkers selling souvenirs. You also have a dinosaur park and a war-themed display of missiles and tanks on one of the random corners I visited inside. But I guess the highlight of this trip has been the sweeping panoramic views of the river. Despite the multitude of people, there’s just that weird sense of peace you get to internalize when in places like this. I envy these Serbians for having such an accessible escape so close from the hustle and bustle of busy city life.

[BELGRADE] First Time in Beograd

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